In deserved recognition of Digby’s talent and achievements, Acrobat invited him to compile a selection of his own favourite recordings, with written commentary. This musical autobiography shares its title with that of his memoirs, published back in 2002. A skilled author, with considerable experience of writing and radio presentation of jazz, Digby recalls, in substantial and enjoyable detail, the course and development of his career in a wide-ranging selection of recordings spanning 1971-2012. He writes with characteristic enthusiasm, and with generous appreciation, of the numerous talented British jazz musicians whose contributions add to the appeal of this release. The word “notes” in the title neatly covers Digby’s prowess with both pen and trumpet-cornet.
In 1971 he was already showing exceptional mobile technical dexterity and embouchure control, expressing an energetic and busy flow of creative ideas. An early high spot in his career came in deppiing for Alex Welsh, sampled here in some brightly swinging tracks in which he shows confident rapport with Welsh’s sidemen, Roy Williams and John Barnes. From 1978 Having Fun is a spirited, spectacular duet with Alex’s fine pianist, Fred Hunt. In the same year Digby formed his quartet Velvet, and tracks from 1979 feature compelling solos from guitar maestros Denny Wright and Ike Isaacs. Digby is heard duelling impressively in high register exchanges with Denny in I Found A New Baby. A fine ballad duet with Brian Lemon, Looking At You, features sensitively controlled lyricism. Subsequent tracks contain lively brass exchanges with feisty trombone stylist Pete Strange.
As Digby rightly feels, his finest playing is to be found in the superb duets with pianist Stan Barker. He seems inspired in But Beautiful and Nancy with exquisite tone and ideas – balladry of the highest order. The ensuing selection through the years notably features a sizzling, fast-fingered encounter with tenor star Danny Moss in a scarily breakneck Fine And Dandy, and from later years, well-arranged and confidently performed tracks such as Old Man Harlem and It’s A Pity To Say Goodnight. There’s an endearing, husky vocal from the ailing George Melly on When My Ship Comes In, and a special finale in the strikingly arranged jazz interpretations of works by Delius, with outstanding contributions from Julian Marc Stringle.
With his past educational projects and current work at the Jazz Archive and Jazz Centre UK, Digby has given a lot back to British jazz. He well deserves this tribute to his own outstanding contributions throughout a busy and productive career.
CD1: Sleepy Time Down South/Yacht Club Swing; There’ll Be Some Changes Made; One, Two Button Your Shoe; My Hero; Sweet Substitute; Happy Go Lucky You (And Broken-Hearted Me); Havin’ Fun; It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing); Isn’t She Lovely; I Found A New Baby; She’s Funny That Way; Jeepers Creepers; Looking At You; Struttin’ With Some Barbecue; She’s Just My Size; But Beautiful; Mean To Me (73.27)
CD2: Nancy (With The Laughing Face); Fine And Dandy; Samba D’Orfeu; That Rhythm Man; Bessie Couldn’t Help It; Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone; Old Man Harlem; Imagination; Letter Fellow Get Some Sleep; Margie; It’s A Pity To Say Goodnight; My Heart And I; When My Ship Comes In; Running Wild; Summer Evening; Sleigh Ride; Florida Flare-Up (75.28)
Fairweather (t, v) on all tracks with, collectively, personnel including Roy Williams, John Barnes, Fred Hunt, Denny Wright, Ike Isaacs, Brian Lemon, Len Skeat, Chris Ellis, Pete Strange, Ron Russell, Stan Barker, Danny Moss, Martin Litton, Craig Milverton, George Melly, Dave Shepherd, Julian Marc Stringle. Various groups, dates and locations, 1971-2012. Full discographical details in the notes.
Acrobat ADDCD 3322