In a further celebration of Birmingham’s laudably loyal support of live British jazz over the years with its major festival event, volume two from Big Bear’s LP archives presents extracts from two live concerts in the 80s, reissued in reverse chronological order on this CD.
The 1987 British Jazz Awards sponsored by Mitchells and Butler included an all-star jam session led by Humph. With characteristic word-play wit, his riffing upbeat “Carolina Diner” is based on the chord sequence of “Dinah”. It kicks the session off in spirited style, with fine solos from Roy Williams and Peter King. Humph’s beautifully expressive duet with Brian Lemon in “If I Could Be with You “is followed by “Cherokee”, a dazzling solo showcase for the seemingly multi-handed Martin Taylor.
Stepping back now to 1984, “Frankie and Johnny” is played as a raunchy strolling blues, with Dick Morrissey’s fired-up driving tenor outstanding. Borrowing Eddie Condon’s idea of featuring two front lines mixing and matching with the same rhythm section, the concert went on to feature one front line led by Humph and the second by Digby Fairweather (who appropriately succeeded Humph in 2008 as patron of the Birmingham Festival). With all hands on deck, the full ensemble rocks away in exhilarating fashion on “Crazy Rhythm” and “The Hucklebuck”.
The jam-session approach of free solos all round allows for some impressive individual contributions, and many minor gems, e.g., the two-trumpet unaccompanied duet chorus in “Honeysuckle Rose”. The Turner/Morrissey duet feature in “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” is likewise something to savour. Both rhythm sections are excellent; perhaps a little too dominant in the balance, with the bass at times particularly prominent. But don’t let this small quibble deter you from hearing this colourful, enthusiastic music. Promoter Jim Simpson wanted ” red-blooded, swinging jazz” in his jam sessions and he certainly got it.
(1) Carolina Diner; (2) If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight; (3) Cherokee; (4) Frankie and Johnny; (5) Crazy Rhythm; (6) Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me; (5) The Hucklebuck; (7) Jumpin’ at the Woodside; (5) Honeysuckle Rose (70.37)
(1) Humphrey Lyttelton (t); Roy Williams (tb); Peter King (as); Dick Morrissey (ts); John Barnes (bar); Brian Lemon (p); Martin Taylor (g); Dave Green (b); Alan Ganley (d). M&B British Jazz Awards, Grand Hotel, Birmingham, 11 March 1987.
(2) Lyttelton (t); Lemon (p).
(3) Taylor (g).
(4) Lyttelton (t); Roy Crimmins (tb); Dave Shepherd (cl); Morrissey (ts); Mike Pyne (p); Jim Douglas (g); Harvey Weston (b); Johnny Richardson (d). Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, 12 August 1984.
(5) as (4) Digby Fairweather (t); Roy Williams (tb); Randy Colville (cl); Bruce Turner (as) in.
(6) as (5) Lyttelton, Crimmins, Shepherd and Morrissey out.
(7) Turner (as); Morrissey (ts); Pyne (p); Douglas (g); Weston (b); Richardson (d).
Big Bear Records 57