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THE CHURCH ALLEY IRREGULARS

BRIAN CARRICK, GEOFF COLE, TONY PYKE, NORMAN THATCHER

Jazz Crusade JCCD-3098 2004, 16 TRACKS 74 MIN

I WANT TO BE HAPPY, SWEET SUE, MAY THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, THEM THERE EYES, THE BEAUTIFUL OHIO, DALLAS BLUES, MOVE THE BODY OVER, MAGIC IS IN THE MOONLIGHT, ST LOUIS BLUES, I’M ALABAMA BOUND, GATEMOUTH, CHURCH ALLEY BLUES, CHINA BLUES.

So I said to Big Bill Bissonnette, the big brave boss of Jazz Crusade, seeing as you often use Geoff Cole, Tony Pyke and other ex-Colyer sidesmen and also Norman Thatcher (who is stylistically similar to Colyer), why not put them together and re-create a Ken Colyer band?

He came back: ‘Oi vey, have I got a deal for you my boy!’ Yes, well, not quite what he said, and nor is the band quite as I imagined it as Bill likes a four man frontline and couldn’t resist putting another Brit, Brian Carrick, in as the second reedsman.

I must admit I got a trifle sidetracked as I was somewhat bemused by Norman Thatcher’s playing: now on trumpet as opposed to cornet, he had changed his style to a more punchy one, there were fewer prolonged notes and he wasn’t shewing the same tonal shading that he normally displays. I dug out earlier recordings of his and yes, the style has changed, though the most drastic change has been in the past year or so. Is it deliberate? Did he change because this band has an extended frontline and he wanted to give the sax player some ‘air’? Was he not well during the sessions? Did he just feel like a change? I pondered and pondered. Then I remembered: I was supposed to be reviewing the CD and not analysing the trumpet player.

Having decided to blank my mind to the fact that it was Norman on trumpet, I went back to the CD and found out just what an excellent album it was. It is a scratch band, though many of them have played together for years in other bands, so they are not strangers to each other. The quality of the frontline is such that they never trip over each other and the interweaving of the reeds is something to listen out for (as is the fun in picking out who is on what instrument). The back line is not to be scoffed at either, especially with the unmistakable bass playing of ex-Colyer sidesman Annie Hawkins driving things along.

No, not quite what I expected, but well worth owning and playing regularly. Did I mention just how exquisite their version of ‘Dallas Blues’ was? There some interesting interplay on ‘Church Alley Blues’, and then there is the joy of listening to ………..


CHURCH ALLEY IRREGULARS*

BRIAN CARRICK’S HERITAGE JAZZ QUARTET+

REPRISE

Jazz Crusade JCCD-3100 2004, 16 TRACKS 70 MIN

On The Road To Home Sweet Home*, Does Jesus Care?*, The Curse Of An Aching Heart*, Chloe*, Perdido Street Blues*, At The Cross+, Forgive Me+, Smile Darn You Smile+, Lead Me Saviour+, I’ll Be Somewhere Working For The Lord+, What A Friend We Have In Jesus+, When You Wore A Tulip+, Bugle Call Blues*, What Am I Living For?*, Swanee River*, Irregular Blues*

Inevitably when recording good traditional jazz bands you will record more than you can use. Normally you pick the best, bin the bad, and wonder what to do with the rest. Sometimes you add the remaining tracks to others you have and put out a compendium or maybe tag onto another band’s remainders to issue a mixed album of the leftovers. THIS CD IS NOT MADE UP OF LEFTOVERS!!! In fact, listening to tunes such as, ‘Does Jesus Care?’, ‘The Curse Of An Aching Heart’ and ‘At The Cross’, you may wonder if Jazz Crusade didn’t skim the cream off the top of the sessions to put on this CD.

If you have read my reviews of the two band’s own CDs and wondered if I had it right in giving them glowing reviews, then buy this one as a sampler and you will see that I am indeed justified in what I say. Then, no doubt, you will get straight onto Jazz Crusade and order the other CDs as well.

My only worry now is, having just lent this CD to my old dad, will he ever let me have it back?

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