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Thursday 6: Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free. OUTDOOR gig.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Shirt Tail Stompers @ DJam 2020, Durham Town Hall - Jan. 25

(Review/photos by Russell)

DJam is one of the north east's hidden gems. The long weekend Lindy Hop event in Durham City attracted dancers from far and wide. Classes, workshops, dances...there was something for everyone. Bebop Spoken Here stumbled across the event researching the tour itineraries of one or two high profile musicians. What's this? A gig for such and such somewhere in Durham? A dance event of some kind? Further research confirmed Steve Coombe's Shirt Tail Stompers would be part of DJam 2020 Lindy Hop Festival in the historic setting of Durham Town Hall. This was an event that could not be missed! 

Saturday evening's 'Masquerade Ball' in the Great Hall (stained glass windows, wood panelling, walk-in fireplace) featured swing dance DJs (PerdidoIt's Tight Like That and more), a screening of Bruce Ricker's 1979 documentary film about the Kansas City jazz scene The Last of the Blue Devils, three sets from the Shirt Tail Stompers and, of course, the DJam dancers. Early arrivals practiced their steps, some sat on the sidelines chatting, observing the scene. Some embraced the spirit of the occasion donning masks - after all this was a masquerade ball! 

As the floor filled with dancers the Shirt Tail Stompers took to the stage. Bandleader Steve Coombe led the fashion stakes sporting a pair of gold coloured shoes! The trumpeter's bandmates weren't far behind, suited and booted for the occasion. Lindy hop or swing dancers seemingly favour a particular tempo and Coombe's London septet happily obliged. The band - three frontline horns, guitar, piano, bass and drums - couldn't have been more professional playing to, and for, DJam's many patrons. 

Exactly Like You sang Coombe, Ain't She Sweet? a clarinet feature for Michael McQuaid then, switching to tenor sax, the amiable Aussie followed up on If I Had You. It was a pleasure to sit on the sidelines listening to an ace band and an education observing the many expert dancers doing their thing. All ages and abilities (beginners to advanced) took to the floor in what was clearly a non-competitive atmosphere. So, this was the world of Lindy Hop... 

BSH's readers will recognise some, perhaps all, of the names in the band. To Steve Coombe's left, trombonist Chris Lowe (Alex Mendham Orchestra), to his right, Michael McQuaid, reeds (The Vitality Five) and the boys in the engine room - the impressive Jake Gill (guitar) who performed at the Saville Exchange a little over a decade ago with Nick Gill's Byzantines, pianist Tom Kincaid (Alan Barnes, Scott Hamilton) who'll be in the region next weekend working with Denise Gordon at Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club, superb Belgian bassist Alex  Gilson (Joachim Caffonnotte) and 1920's 'Jazz Age' percussion maestro Nick Ball (The Vitality Five). Over three sets the septet ticked all the boxes; the non-dancing jazz fan dug the music, the dancer appreciated the music and the tempo, and the Town Hall's catering staff were seen to be shimmering, not unlike Kate, between tables. 

In an attempt to encapsulate the musical essence of DJam 2020 think small group Kansas City Basie - on screen in Ricker's film and brought to life by the Shirt Tail Stompers (Jive at Five). DJam 2020 Lindy Hop Festival was a truly memorable occasion. Given the opportunity Bebop Spoken Here would willingly attend DJam in the future! 
                   
The Shirt Tail Stompers: Steve Coombe (trumpet, whistle, vocals); Michael McQuaid (tenor sax, clarinet); Chris Lowe (trombone); Jake Gill (guitar); Tom Kincaid (piano); Alexandre Gilson (double bass); Nicholas Ball (drums).
 Russell.

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