KEITH SMITH

MR HEAFTY JAZZ

LAKE LACD67 1996 17 tracks 78 min

Thriller Rag, Mrs Noone's Blues, Get Out Of Here And Go On Home, Sorry To Leave This City, I Can't Escape From You, ODJB One Step, Franklin Street Blues, Weary Blues, Ting-A-Ling, Blues & Booze, Georgia On My Mind, Milenberg Joys, Blues For Mr Hefty, Sister Kate, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime, Royal Garden Blues, Goin' Home Now

Whilst I would not dare to argue that Keith Smith is not a great jazz man, I mean anyone invited by Louis Armstrong's All Stars to replace the deceased Sachmo in their line-up must be considered great by his peers, I have found that his recordings have been inconsistent going from mind bogglingly brilliant to the somewhat indifferent. Fortunately this album shows Keith at his best, and playing with some outstanding New Orleans originals such as George Lewis, 'Slow Drag' Pavageau, Alton Purnell, 'Pop' Foster, 'Cie' Frazier, 'Capt' John Handy, 'Master Tricky' Simpson, and many others. These are the real MacCoy, not Preservation Hall has beens amusing the tourists, but mean old men with fire in their belly and a desire to let it out. I will only mention two of the above; George Lewis is fantastic, yet not dominating the music as he so often seemed to do when playing with European bands - perhaps he was held too much in awe by the Europeans. The other is 'Capt' John Handy; man can he handle an alto sax.

The bands may be first class, and Keith Smith is up to their standard, but some of the recording standards are not. The first five tracks featuring the George Lewis band were recorded in the San Jacinto Hall, and it sounds as if it must have been empty at the time. The next three tracks are with Jimmy Archey's Hot Six and much better, despite being recorded in someone's attic. The final tracks are by Keith Smith's All Stars. The sound is somewhat flat and lacking definition at the higher end of the sound scale.

Don't let my comments on the sound put you off. This CD is well worth buying to hear the real N.O. sound played by real N.O. musicians and lead by the great trumpet of Britain's own Keith Smith.


KEITH SMITH & HEFTY JAZZ ALL STARS

SWING IS HERE AGAIN

LAKE, 1997 LACD 80, 16 tracks, 79 min

Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird, Patrol Wagon Blues, Just Sittin' & A Rockin', Perdido Street Blues, Sweet Marijuana Brown, Caledonia, Let's Fly Away, I Love You, Medi Two, You're A Lucky Guy, After You've Gone, Red Rides Again, Gee Baby Ain't I good To You, Struttin' With Some Barbecue, It's Wonderful, Dippermouth Blues.

The title says it all- Swing is Here Again, and Keith Smith with a varied line-up sure does swing. The recordings are from 1978, '81, '84 and '91. The '78 tracks are 1-6 and Keith has Bruce Turner reeds and ex-Acker Bilk sideman Johnny Mortimer on trombone with him in the front-line. They play small band swing with a verve that reminds you that swing not only derived from jazz, played well it still is. Tracks 7-8, using Al Gay (ex-Bob Wallis Storeyville Jazzmen) on reeds, are from '91 and are also swing, though they sound more formal. The next set 9-13 sees trombone player Vic Dickenson and clarinetist Johnny Mince come into the front-line and change the style to Dixieland. Tracks 14, 15, 16 are odd tracks from three sessions with differing line-ups. The style for these three tracks is straight traditional jazz bordering on New Orleans. Very smooth and very hot.

So, a great variety, an opportunity for Keith Smith to show not only how versatile he is, but also what a great jazzman. Whatever the style Keith is blowing good jazz, and doing so with powerful enthusiasm. Good stuff.


KEITH SMITH AND HIS CLIMAX JAZZ BAND

GHB RECORDS BCD-27 1965/1994 14 TRACKS 56 MINUTES

Alexander's Ragtime Band/ Sugar Blues/ Slide, Frog, Slide/ Mama's Gone Goodbye/ That's A Plenty/ San Francisco/ Tell me Your Dreams/ Poor Butterfly/ Sweethearts On Parade/ The Second Line/ West End Blues/ Bogalusa Strut/ Them There Eyes/ Weary Blues

Although we owned our house in South London for many years it was not until the late 60's that we gained possession of the ground floor. The alterations that we made included fitting gas central heating. In order to ensure that Bob the gas fitter had his dose of culture, and in the full arrogance of youth, I decided to enlighten him with some New Orleans jazz from a couple of 77 label records by Ken Colyer and Keith Smith. In actual fact Bob turned out to be a jazz trumpeter with his own band that he claimed was far better than Keith Smith's. Much of our subsequent conversation revolved around the use of the clarinet as opposed to reeds (in those days I was rabidly anti sax, but I have mellowed now). This CD is from the same period but is a different 77 record. I have never been a 100% happy with Keith Smith's hesitant trumpet style, but this is quite a pleasant band playing some good jazz, particularly on Mama's Gone Goodbye, and The Second Line. Mike Sherborne's trombone and Frank Brooker's reeds are very good and the rhythm section is solid. However, the band seems to be lacking something. There are two "ring ins" but I don't think it is that; it is something more intangible such as enthusiasm. Maybe it was just the fact that the band had been in a road crash only days before the recording was made. I don't though regret buying the CD I just feel that the band fails to play to its full potential.


KEITH SMITH & HEFTY JAZZ ALL STARS

+CHRIS BARBER + Mr ACKER BILK + PAPA BUE + LOUIS ARMSTRONG ALL-STARS

Hefty Jazz 14 TRACKS 62 MINUTES

I'm Crazy About My Baby, Sweet Lorraine, It's Only A Paper Moon, Struttin' With Some Barbecue, Summertime, Someday You'll Be Sorry, Chinaboy, Please Don't Talk About Me When I've Gone, Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You, Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now, Tailgate Boogie, Baby Won't You Please Come Home, On The Sunnyside Of The Street, Chrysanthemum Rag

I approached this CD with some trepidation as putting a guest trumpeter into a jazz band can cause problems, especially when you take in the fact that the trumpet/cornet usually gives the lead. Some bands cope and others , well they don't. So how did I get on? Hey man, it's Keith Smith we are talking about here, the man that the Frankfurther Neue Presse describes as 'Einer der besten Jazz-Trompeter der Welt!'

Now, despite the CD's title this isn't the Hefty Jazz All Stars, rather Keith Smith playing with the bands of Bilk, Barber, Bue and LA All Stars. First up are three tracks with Acker Bilk from 1998. The style is very much late Bilk: a cross of New Orleans, Chicago, New York and other bits and bobs that Somerset's favoured son has picked up on his way through the jazz world. The music is very sweet and nice to listen to.

Next up are three tracks with the Louie Armstrong All Stars from 1983 when Keith was touring with them as the replacement for the late great Satchmo. The fact that this American band picked Englishman Keith says it all. There is a surprise track here: ' Summertime'. This is an Arvell Shaw feature with the bass man also doing the vocals. The surprise? This is a Keith Smith CD and this track has no Keith Smith!

Chris Barber 1969; ah yes, now I remember why I stopped going to his concerts and buying his records. At that time both Chris and Acker were experimenting and expanding their jazz frontiers. They both floundered in my opinion, Chris especially as he tended to mix styles within a single tune. Acker came out the other side with an interesting and pleasant style of his own. After recently listening to current material by Chris Barber, I think that he is still floundering. I find the mixing of styles both confusing and annoying, and from talking around: I am not the only one to hold this opinion. Ok, so I liked, ' Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You', but then suddenly an electric guitar took the lead playing in a style better suited to R & B than the New Orleans style jazz that went before it!

Finally there are three tracks laid down in 1972 with Papa Bue in Connecticut. I last saw Bue in Copenhagen in 1995 at the Tivolli Gardens' Jazz Huis: he was drunk. Bue only played a handful of numbers all night and when he did join the band he only managed half a dozen notes per tune. I was very disappointed as in the 60s he had been one of my favourites. These tracks are from happier and more sober days and are a pleasure to listen to especially as Keith is playing and singing in Louie Armstrong mode.

An interesting and mixed bag of treats.

The above can be bought from: http://heftyjazz.de


KEITH SMITH

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIE ARMSTRONG

HJ 112 Hefty Jazz 16 TRACKS 71MINUTES

Mahogany Hall Stomp, Perdido Street Blues, Hoagy Charmichael Medley, The Man I Love, Buddy Bolden Blues, Wolverine Blues, Poor Butterfly, I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket, Echoes Of Spring, Stompin' And Rompin' For Satchmo, The Alligator Crawl, Struttin' With Some Barbecue, Love's Dream, Riverboat Shuffle, Steelin' Apples, Dippermouth Blues

When Louie Armstrong died and his All Stars wanted to continue playing they faced a problem that they couldn't solve: who could replace Satchmo? Some years later, someone gave them a record by Keith Smith and they knew straight away that the Englishman was just what they were looking for. Play this CD and you will know straight away why they picked him and why the tours they put on played to packed houses where ever they went.

This CD contains previously unreleased tracks from the 1981, 83 and 84 tours. The band is more pianocentric than I remember the All Stars being but, overall, this is Armstrong 1955-60 vintage.

And how does Keith Smith shape up? Well I know that I am risking being taken out, tied to a stake and burnt as a heretic, but I prefer his playing to Armstrong's. Post the Hot 5 & Hot 7 to my mind Louie spent too much time playing sustained high notes. Sure it shewed his ability to do what few others could do, but very grating nonetheless. Keith's playing is very much in the Armstrong mould, but without the excesses.

If, like me, you missed the show when it was around then get the CD and enjoy.

The above can be bought from: http://heftyjazz.de


KEITH SMITH & HEFTY JAZZ ALL STARS

FROM BASIN STREET TO BROADWAY Vol 3

HJ 111 Hefty Jazz 16 TRACKS 61MINUTES

High Society, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Love For Sale, Indiana, My Resistance Is Low, Pennies From Heaven, Two Sleepy People, Riverboat Shuffle, Nigh & Day, Give Me A Kiss To Build A Dream On, Heebie Jeebies, What Is This Thing Called Love, Blue Lou, Little One, So In Love, In The Cool Cool Of The Evening

This CD should carry the warning: 'Ensure that you are sitting down before playing: the music on this CD is very powerful'.

From four sessions of Keith Smith's show 'From Basin Street To Broadway' recorded in 1981, 82 & 91. A poster I have tells me that in 2002 the show is still on the road, though the musicians in the band have changed somewhat. I am not surprised that there is an on going demand. Remember when tunes were memorable? When you could remember the lyrics? When love led to marriage not lust and debauchery? Then this CD is for you!

Although the line up of the band and the singers featured change, the quality does not: it is brilliant and through it all you have the joy of listening to Keith, Mr Hefty Jazz, Smith's trumpet playing. In addition to ensuring that his band is made up of class players, Keith has chosen his singers with discernment. Although they are all good it was Elaine Delmar who fascinated me with her tone and range.

I doubt if the show will ever reach these far antipodean shores, but if you see an advert saying that it is coming to a venue near you rush out and get a ticket. Then, as you sit there, being blown away by the combined power and beauty of the music, remember this poor Kiwi who only has the CD to listen too, and volume three at that. Now what was that Web site for Hefty Jazz? I must try and see if they still have the first two volumes in stock.

The above can be bought from: http://heftyjazz.de

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