JJ 10/60: Acker Bilk – Acker

Sixty years ago Tony Standish gave the Bilk band credit for performing so well in the face of ugly clanging. First published in Jazz Journal October 1960

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Despite the fact that this is a reason­ably entertaining LP, there are faint but troubling signs that Acker’s is in danger of becoming the King Curtis of the trad bands.

Just as Curtis has reduced the Texas tenor style to the point of absurdity, so also is there an increasing tendency for the Bilk band to fall back upon the more obvious stylistic devices of the New Orleans idiom.

In addition, a comparison of this record with the earlier Pye LP (“Omnibus”) shows a general coarsening of approach and a marked degeneration within the rhythm section. In place of the light, lifting beat of “Double Eagle” and “Higher Ground” we have the jagged, jerky rhythms of “Good Woman” and “Milne­burg”.

This ugly clanging (in which, it must be said, Ernie Price has no part) inevitably affects the front line, and it is to their credit that they manage to per­form so well. The surprise of the session is John Mortimer, who has improved steadily until he now recalls the roaring Keith Christie of the Christie Brothers’ Stompers days. He displays a big, rorty tone and swings like a good r&b tenor. Ken Sims, too, plays fiery, imaginative solos on “Milneburg”, “Bottom Of The Bottle” and “Snake Rag”, and his economical lead is ideally suited to the constantly active Acker, who wheels through the ensembles with all his usual authority.

It’s just that I’d like to see the “New Orleans” bands making more imaginative use of the potentialities of the idiom, and less of the banjo, an instrument which, in the wrong hands, can turn the best of wine to water.

Discography
White Cliffs Of Dover; Snake Rag; 219 Blues; Fancy Pants; Lazy River; There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder (19 min.) – Original Dixie­land Onestep; Good Night, Sweet Prince; Bottom Of The Bottle; Milneburg Joys (17 min.)
Acker Bilk (clt, vcl); Ken Sims (tpt); John Mortimer (tbn); Roy James (bjo); Ernie Price (bs); Ron McKay (d, vcl). London, 5, 6, 7, 13 April, 1960.
(Columbia 33SX 1248. 12inLP. 34s. 1½d.)