Digby Fairweather: Notes From A Jazz Life Volume 3

The third volume of the trumpeter's musical diary works as a chronicle of 70s and 80s British mainstream jazz in general

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Here’s a welcome continuation of Digby’s ongoing musical autobiography for Acrobat, a selection of his favourite recordings over a long, busy and extensively active career in British jazz. As before, the compilation contains an interestingly varied range of personnels, arrangements and style.

In this volume the emphasis is on live performances, mainly from the 70s and 80s. The ever-enthusiastic Digby sounds fired up and in impressive form, mixing readily with all comers. His written notes admire the many fine accompanying UK musicians, far too many no longer with us, but receiving deserved recognition here.

From grass roots Dixieland/swing he extended his style over the years in many ways, eager to learn, developing exceptional technique, and willing to tackle all manner of musical challenges – from solo accordion accompaniment (Vol. 2), to Delius (Vol. 1) and Flanagan and Allan (Vol. 3).

Of all the sidesmen with whom Digby happily bonded, socially and musically, Pete Strange was a particularly inspiring foil. Feistily expressive, with driving dynamics, his jousting trombone pushes Digby to lively response in the Pizza Express session. Their spectacular exchanges are hugely enjoyable in Undecided (heard on the disc actually before Clifford Brown’s Sandu in reverse order to the listing). It’s nice to hear Digby’s old Midnight Follies boss, pianist and multi-instrumentalist Keith Nichols, on trombone in If I Had You and a very lively Some Of These Days.

There are fine contributions on several tracks throughout the album from Brian Lemon, Dave Jones, John Barnes, Johnny Richardson, and from Roy Williams (in the rather hectic Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me). Outstanding on CD1 is Digby’s duet with Stan Baker in Gone With The Wind – a stunning demonstration of exquisitely nuanced embouchure control, effortless range and sensitively thoughtful, creative invention.

CD2 opens with Digby enjoying the company of pianist Keith Ingham (who was later to join Benny Goodman). In Run Rabbit Run and What A Little Moonlight Can Do, Digby cuts loose with guitarist Denny Wright on some exhilarating exchanges at breakneck speed, using an “echo-cornet”. (This has a second bell with a built-in mute, facilitating an instant open/muted duet effect, by means of an extra valve.) Dave Shepherd’s elegant clarinet follows, with old Alec Welsh stalwarts Fred Hunt and Lennie Hastings in support, before Digby locks horns with Danny Moss in a bruisingly breakneck Indiana.

Heights are climbed again in two superb duets with the colourful and Erroll Garner-ish backing of Stan Barker, and in I Can’t Get Started (Stan Greig on piano) with an engaging vocal and a spectacularly inventive high-register coda. This was to become something of  a speciality in his performances, as demonstrated brilliantly in Yesterdays – the only track from more recent years (2014) with Digby still very much, to quote an earlier album title, “live and kicking”.

This album is a welcome and very enjoyable reminder of just how good the best British jazz of those days could be as affectionally recalled in the full notes by a very gifted and foremost figure in the thick of it all – still enthusing, and hopefully planning Vol. 4.

Discography
CD1: Rehearsing For A Nervous Breakdown; (What Can I Say Dear) After I Say I’m Sorry; (2) Some Of These Days; If I Had You; (3) Undecided; Sandu; (4) Jumping The Blues; (5) Gone With The Wind; (6) Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me; (7) I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (68.37)
CD2: (8) Running Wild; If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight; (9) At The Jazz Band Ball; (10) I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good; (11) Run Rabbit Run; (1) Sleepy Time Gal; Exactly Like You; (12) That’s A Plenty; Lonesome Road; (13) Indiana; (5) Lover Man; Something To Remember You By; (11) What A Little Moonlight Can Do; (14) I Can’t Get Started With You; (6) On The Alamo; (15) Yesterdays (75.14)
Fairweather (t, c) on all tracks with (1) Ron Russell’s Band. (2) DF and Friends. (3) The Lennie Hastings Quintet. (4) Fairweather Friends. (5) Stan Barker. (6) The M & B Jam Session. (7) Brian Lemon. (8) DF Quartet. (9) Keith Ingham with Susannah McCorkle. (10) Keith Ingham. (11) Denny Wright. (12) Dave Shepherd Dixielanders. (13) Danny Moss Quintet. (14) Lennie Hastings Band. (15) Cass Caswell’s Trio. Personnels across the album include Pete Strange, Dave Jones, Keith Nichols, John Barnes, Johnny Richardson, Johnny Parker, Roy Williams and Bruce Turner. Various locations and dates spanning 1975-2014.
Acrobat ADDCD3445