Lake LACD 139 2000 13 tracks 68 min

Thriller Rag, My Babe's A Long Way From Here, Bogalusa Strut, Over The Waves, I Get The Blues When It Rains, Dippermouth Blues, Barefoot Boy, My Memphis Baby, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, When I leave The World Behind, See See Rider, Down Amongst The Sheltering Palms, Panama Rag

Well - there is hope after all! Following some years when the combined ages of traditional jazz band members almost equalled the National Debt, along comes Richard Bennett and his Band. Ok, so three of the members, trombonist Ron Milford, Len Mills on bass and Terry Lidiard on drums caused the photographer who took the pictures for the CD insert some concern about masking the reflection from their balding pates. But trumpet player, Richard and his brother Russell on banjo are in their late teens or early twenties and the clarinetist, Adrian Cox, is just 17.

The Band's sound is a mix of Phil Mason and Ken Colyer. The Mason connection is not surprising seeing as Richard and Russell's dad is Martin Bennett who plays trombone for Phil. The Colyer element is a combination of the purist presentation and Richard's sympathetic use of mutes to increase the tonal variation, especially when he uses Ken's favourite Derby. The 50:50 balance of youth and maturity works well and the sound and balance is more early 50's Colyer than late 40's Crane River. Certainly the band has a bright-eyed enthusiasm sometimes lacking in the performances of older and better-known bands. If this were the hey days of the Trad Boom, record companies would be queuing up for their signature on a recording contract. Perfect they ain't, but wonderful to listen to. They are good, and can only get better. The depth of Richard Bennett's abilities can be judged by the fact that 5 of the 13 tracks are noted as being his own arrangements.

Some older jazz fans may consider buying this CD to help encourage some youngsters as they start their careers as jazz musos. To do this would be wrong; all true traditional jazz fans should buy this CD because it is the first opening of a talent that will blossom into one of England's brightest jazz blooms.



Lake LACD 197 2004, 12 tracks, 64 min

Eyes Of Texas, Under The Bamboo Tree, Just Because, Chrysanthemum Rag, St Phillip Street’s Breakdown, Sitting Here Lonely, Drop Me Off In Harlem, Sweetheart Of All My Dreams, That’s When I’ll Come Back To You, Stardust, Bugle Call Rag, I’ll Fly Away


Before actually sitting in front of my PC to write a review, I write in my head whilst listening to the jazz. Having got a good idea of what I wanted to say about this CD I called up the review of Richard Bennett’s earlier album, only to find that what I had worked out I would say about the style I had already said when reviewing the ‘Thriller Rag’ CD!

So, after 4 years between recordings, has nothing changed? Yes it has, the style is the same, but the personal confidence of Richard Bennett on trumpet, Adrian Cox on reeds (he has added an alto to his instruments of choice) and Russell Bennett on banjo has grown by leaps and bounds. Before you could almost see then looking to the older band members to ensure that they were doing ok, now they know they are.

There has been a change in the other band members. Whilst new trombonist, Terry Williams is very similar to Ron Milford, whom he replaced, and new bass player Andy Craddock is not too dissimilar to the previous bassman, Pete Lay on drums is very different from his predecessor and instantly recognisable (in fact it was his distinctive playing that first caught my ear when I put the CD on).

There's lots of good stuff here with an excellent balance of ensemble and solo work. Whether ‘St Phillip’s street Breakdown’ is really a solo or a duet between clarinet and bass (though maybe that should be a "trio-et" giving the contribution put in by the drums) is open to debate. Talking of solos; Richard’s ‘Stardust’ was most interesting and it led me to compare his interpretation with those of Ken Colyer and Pat Halcox and quite favourably too, but wait - there’s more! Richard sings on it, the first recording I have of a jazz band where it has been done. Talking of singing: on ‘That’s When I’ll Come Back to You’, recorded by the Hot 7 in 1927, Richard gets to be Louis Armstrong whilst Andrew tightens his jock strap and takes that part sung by Lil Harding, Satchmo’s wife at the time. Will he ever be the same? Did he do it to help him hit the high notes on the reeds as well as the voice? Will we have to wait so long before this excellent band release another album? I hope not in all cases!