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

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.