JJ 03/82: Lol Coxhill & The Promenaders at the Seven Dials, Covent Garden

Forty years ago Mark Gilbert enjoyed the satire and the solo saxophone but wished there had been more musical substance in the band set. First published in Jazz Journal March 1982


The Promenaders are a seven-piece band including tuba, cello, guitar, drums and two cigar-box violins; Coxhill fronts the band on soprano sax and takes the role of emcee. The name will give a clue to the band’s style, which is based on hybrid medleys of jazz and popular standards of up to about 50 years’ vintage.

However, as anybody familiar with Coxhill will know, little that he says or does is to be taken at face value. Thus it was no surprise to find him taking a swing solo over The Dambusters theme or Rock Around The Clock, which might be juxtaposed with Night In Tunisia or Side By Side.

The proceedings were liberally seasoned with satire, which became most evident in Coxhill’s mock-urbane patter, epitomised perhaps in that favourite phrase, delivered with great earnestness: “Really, really nice”, or in Steve Beresford’s announcement before My Grandfather’s Clock: “We believe in the deconstruction of patriarchal attitudes.”

On a musical level, and more especially, on a jazz level, the highspot of the evening was Coxhill’s solo set. Removing his great coat to reveal a Caribbean shirt and physi­que not unlike Benny Waters’ (who coincidentally was playing the same night at the Bull’s Head), he revelled once again in the total flexibility that a solo spot allows, nimbly seaming together numerous ideas.

Similar praise cannot be applied to The Promenaders as a whole, and on those in­evitable occasions when one forgot the satirical element of the performance, it left music that did not stand very well alone. Perhaps a short snatch of Ornithology spoilt me, but to a backdrop of Over The Rainbow, I began to wish Coxhill would get a good straight bop band together.