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Bebop Spoken There

Dick Katz: "Carmen [McRae] would say some pretty caustic things but, so what? There aren't any people who don't talk caustically to each other at some time unless they're Mother Teresa." - (Lesley Gourse: Carmen McRae Miss Jazz - Billboard Books 2001, 2020)


The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".


11,772 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 912 of them this year alone and, so far, 49 this month (August 13).

Coming soon ...


Saturday 15: Anth Purdy - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm. Free (donations). Purdy’s solo ‘Swing Jazz Guitar’ show. Limited capacity.

Thursday 20: Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Maine St. Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, 27 Sunniside Rd., Gateshead NE16 5NA. 8:30pm. Free.

Friday 21: Lindsay Hannon - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 9:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

New Orleans Swamp Donkeys @ Cobalt Studios & Ernest, Newcastle - July 19

James Williams (trumpet, trombone, vocals); Bryce Eastwood (clarinet, soprano sax, vocals); JP Brion (trombone); Sam Fribush (piano, vocals); Gary Washington (string bass); Tim Rachbach (drums)
(Review by Russell)

One band, two gigs, two venues a stone's throw a part, the Swamp Donkeys were in town! The Ouseburn Delta had rarely seen anything like it. All the way from New Orleans via Leeds and London, James Williams strolled into Ernest, sat down, and began to play. 

Ernest on Boyd Street welcomed its regulars and an influx of expectant jazz fans there to listen (and dance) to the 'real deal' from New Orleans. This, the first of two performances, served as a promo for a gig later in the evening a few doors down at Cobalt Studios. No PA, no amplification, the Swamp Donkeys played it entirely acoustically, just as the music's pioneers did way back when. 

Washington and Lee Swing opened the show. Williams, trumpet and vocals, sat down as though a customer, flanked to his left by Bryce Eastwood, clarinet, to his right by trombonist JP Brion. Standing before them were their fans - yes, Newcastle welcomed its American visitors with open arms. Williams sings like Louis Armstrong but, make no mistake, this isn't mere pastiche, this is what he does! hundred years ago Armstrong would have played gigs like this, no PA, battling to be heard. And here he was - Williams, that is - gigging down in the Ouseburn Delta. To coin a phrase, you couldn't make it up! 

Blue Turning GreyMuskrat RambleRoyal Garden Blues - this way spine-tingling stuff. Veterans of the scene turned out, they weren't about to miss this one. As Williams held court one local bandleader remarked: Fabulous! Terrific!

The stripped-back rhythm section - Gary Washington, string bass, Tim Rachbach, snare drum, and pianist (sans piano) Sam Fribush brandishing a tambourine - laid down a Big Easy foundation upon which Williams did his thing. Yes, this was fabulous and terrific alright. Bring on Cobalt!

A couple of hours later Cobalt Studios' industrial space opened its doors ready for business. A former warehouse premises on Boyd Street, all manner of gigs have been staged beneath a somewhat incongruous glitterball. This evening a genuine Big Easy sextet took to the stage. Ernest's acoustic Swamp Donkeys morphed into an amplified outfit for what would be a highly charged performance.         

The Swamp Donkeys' horns sat on Cobalt's on-stage sofa, it was as if we were in a Storyville saloon bar. James Williams cut a relaxed figure, leaning back, blowing hot trumpet, then singing (RosettaI'm Confessin'), yeah, we were in N'Awlins, for sure. Williams stood tall, engaging the audience, he's a real showman is the Swamp Donkeys' main man. 

The Swamp Donkeys is a drinking band (Jack Daniel's and the like). Mid-set an overly-keen glass collector swept-up Williams' drink from the front of the stage. Williams, quick as a flash: Hey! Where ya goin' with my beer? In N'Awlins that could get you killed! Turning to his band mates...Ain't that right boys?! Our glass collector returned Mr Williams' drink, double quick.

Earlier, Ernest's acoustic set was as a young Louis Armstrong would have played it. Here at Cobalt the amplified Swamp Donkeys moved into Blues Brothers' revue-style territory with Newcastle's swing dancers readily switching to a boogie-on-down style. A storming Everybody Needs Somebody to Love to a chilled Wonderful World to Jesus on the Mainline, Williams and his ace band (Bryce Eastwood, clarinet/soprano sax, particularly impressive) gave the audience what it wanted, and more. St James' Infirmary (a request), it was almost time to go and When the Saints sealed the deal. It had been quite a night down in the Mississippi/Ouseburn Delta.    

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