JJ 06/82: Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis at the Purcell Room, London

Forty years ago Peter Vacher saw a tribute to the Basie small groups that included Danny Moss, Brian Lemon and Dave Shepherd. First published in Jazz Journal June 1982

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Eddie Lockjaw Davis. Photo by Bernard Long

Cast to recall the Basie small groups, this warmly received concert combined the distinctive attributes of the one-time Basie tenorman with those of a team of top local mainstreamers. A welcome initiative by the Count Basie Society, it attracted a full house and reaffirmed the merits of high-grade musicianship allied to the cause of swing.

The opening set took in milestones from Basie’s recorded history. Thus Lady Be Good and One O ‘Clock Jump for Danny Moss and Johnny McLevy, with the inven­tive support of Brian Lemon on piano. McLevy, whether on trumpet or flugelhorn, was mercurial, his tumbling phrases and use of mutes delighting everyone. Moss dug in too, deep-toned and resolute. Adding clarinettist Dave Shepherd, the group invoked the Goodman Sextet repertoire, giving guitarist Dave Cliff a run on Royal Garden Blues before drummer Jack Parnell thrashed niftily through Cute.

Davis’s second half set favoured stan­dards, his reading imbued with typical short-fuse creativity. Jaws likes a soft-toned melodic paraphrase, as on I Can’t Get Started, before moving into his familiar frenzied stance, the line perform­ing arabesques around the theme. He’s a stylist, always himself and sounded fine.

The night’s climax came with a massed outing on Woodside, jubilant riffs thrusting each soloist into fevered excellence.