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 The Twin City Stompers

It is noticeable that any publicity put out by the Napier City Council to advertise the place always includes a picture that features The Twin City Stompers. The band is usually in front of an art deco building with a vintage car or two snuck in. Indeed, talk Napier and it is almost compulsory to include the band in the sentence. They are The Twin City Stompers because they are drawn from both Napier and its almost adjoining sister city, Hastings.

It is easy to see why Napier, which is known as the art deco capital of the world, identifies with a band that plays music from that era. Less easy to identify is the exact style of traditional jazz the band actually plays. Mostly it is Trad, but sometimes it blends to the more orchestrated Dixieland, with a more than casual nod to Hot Jazz and sometimes a mainstream break thrown in. It certainly isn’t strict New Orleans, Chicago or even New York traditional jazz. Maybe it is just Twin City Jazz? It is pleasant, fun and easy to listen too. It is good enough for the jazz purists to enjoy and easy enough on the ear and thus ideal for the casual jazz listener to sit down, listen to, enjoy, tap their toes and maybe even get up and dance to.

The sleeve notes and their Web site www.thetwincitystompers.webs.com say that their main gigs are A&P shows, vinyards, corporate functions, weddings, birthdays and funerals. Their style of jazz is ideal for these markets and being a drumless band would be an advantage even.

Their repertoire is wide and varied. The tunes on their albums range from jazz standards to Maori favourites. I noticed many tunes taken from LPs issued by Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball from the late 50s to the early 6os, so they obviously listened to the same records as I did!  Having said that, they do play those tunes in their own way and not as a ‘tribute’ band – they are jazzmen after all.

I had their first two CDs but, despite being in the Hawkes Bay area several times in recent years, lost track of them until recently. Next time I am over that way I really must make an effort to catch them live again.

 

THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

KEEP ON SMILING

18 tracks 62 min 2004

 

When You’re Smiling, Charleston, All Of Me, Royal Garden Blues, Pennies From Heaven, Midnight In Moscow, I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, American Patrol, Sukiyaki, Avalon, Five Penny Melody, That’s A Plenty, The Nearness Of You, Up A Lazy River, I Got Plenty Of Nothing, Savoy Blues, Bring Me Sunshine, Medley Of Maori Songs: Maori Batalion-Hoki Mai-Mehe Manu Rere-Now Is The Hour

 

This is the first CD the band has issued since clarinettist Ian Falconer left the band and moved to Hamilton. Their first CD was recorded in Ian’s front room but since then the recordings have been done in a proper studio and this is apparent in the improvement in sound quality. The band has been fortunate to find a recording engineer who shews sympathy for the music and who has produced a nicely balanced product that allows bass & banjo to give a strong rhythm (essential in a band with no drummer) yet does not allow them to overpower the front line.

The album contained jazz standards from all periods and ends in a medley of Maori songs – there is a lot of nice music here.

As I write these notes the relaxing and mellow ‘The Nearness of You’ is playing, the sun is shining. Excuse me for a moment as I want to drift off. Ah yes: I drifted back to listening to jazz bands on a summers evening in England, sitting in a pub garden with a half supped pint of draught still cider in my hand, and all was well in the world. I drifted off long enough to hear ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and think how appropriate that track was as it was the signature tune of Morecambe & Wise and they always had a jazz band featured in their show.

Enough of drifting: I am sure that many who buy the band’s CDs do so as a souvenir having seen the band perform at a function. However, you shouldn’t wait to see the band live before buying one of their CDs. Go to their Web site and order one, then after it arrives play it and enjoy and maybe, just maybe, drift off and enjoy memories of when the world was a nicer place.

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THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

HAWKES BAY VINTAGE JAZZ

17 tracks 60 min 2008

 

Dans Les Rues D’antibes, Rosetta, Samantha, The Very Thought Of You, Someday You’ll Be Sorry, Dream A Little Dream, Breakaway, Rosie, Sweet Sue, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans, So Do I, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Aint She Sweet, Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet, What A Wonderful World, Undecided, Lady Be Good

 

Of the five albums the band has so far issued this is my favourite. It has a good mix of tunes from the gently lyrical ‘The Very Thought of You’ with reedsman Alan Meakin playing a very thoughtful clarinet to the stomping ‘Sweet Sue’ featuring the treacle smooth trombone of the band’s new trombonist Tom Kerr. The track that to me stands out is ‘Someday You’ll be Sorry’ where they and their excellent trumpet player Roy Wardle give a splendid rendition that has a delightful balance of short solos and ensemble work.

The oldest tune is the 1909 ‘Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet’ and the newest ‘What a Wonderful World’. On the way is many a nod to the repertoire of Kenny Ball.

One rarely recorded track is the late 1960s New Vaudeville Band’s hit ‘Rosie’. I was so pleased to hear their nice interpretation of a tune that I sometimes used to sing to amuse my mother, who was ‘Rosie’ to her sisters. I usually sang it when ‘there’s a pile of dirty glasses, standing in the rack’.

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THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

SHINE

19 tracks 72 min 2010

 

Shine, April Showers, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Georgia, Deed I Do, All Of Me, When I’m 64, Blaze Away, It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie, Winter Wonderland, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, There Will Be Blue Birds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover, Cab Driver, Bay City Blues, So Do I, Charlston, Beunos Sera Signorina, That’s My Home

 

The sleeve notes say that the tunes on the CD are the ones the band’s fans most request. The result seems to be more vocals than the band usually have on a CD. At first listening I was a bit sceptical, especially as the vintage age of the band’s members is apparent in their singing, with a lack of strength in their voices. However, that soon dissipated as first the wife started to hum and sing along with the band, and then I did too (‘When I’m 64’ being very appropriate as that ‘magic’ day was due the day after I listened to the CD). So, while the singing may not be perfect, it is infectious! And I do so like to ‘megaphone’ singing effect on some of the tracks.

The wife insists that I highlight ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’, ‘Georgia’ for especial mention. Myself? Well ‘Blaze Away’ is always a tune that will make me smile. It was the signature tune of the Wimbledon Speedway team and Acker Bilk once played it at my request, dedicated to the team, on his Radio Luxemburg radio show. But, I must confess, I’m still singing ‘When I’m 64” and possibly will be till next year!

 

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THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

WARTS 'N ALL

TCS 01 2001, 15 tracks 51 minutes

Muskrat Ramble, 1919 March, Petite Fleur, Ain't Misbehavin', Teddy Bear's Picnic, Coronation Street, Tin Roof Blues, South Rampart Street Parade, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, Original Dixieland One Step, It Had To Be You, Puttin' On The Ritz, Battle Hymn Of The Republic, Chimes Blues, Marching Through Georgia

The Twin City Stompers come from the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, twin city of Napier/Hastings where they perform at various functions, including the world famous Art Deco Festival.

It gives me great pleasure to be reviewing a local jazz band. The boys may not be professional jazzmen, but they most certainly are not amateur. Which is just as well, given that the CD was recorded in the front lounge in the house of one of the band members and with no second takes (hence the title). Whilst the sound is far from perfect (at times it lacks clear definition and there is the odd 'off mike' balance problem and an occasional 'pop' on the vocals) I have heard far worse on so called 'professional' studio recordings. In fact, given that this is 'live', I am surprised that there are so few flaws in the sound.

Not perfect the CD may be, but it is very honest and if you close your eyes and imagine yourself enjoying the Hawkes Bay sunshine, sitting in one of the regions excellent vineyards sampling the world beating wine, whilst listening to The Twin City Stompers, you won't go wrong.

The tunes vary from jazz standards such as 'Muskrat Ramble' and '1919 March' (from the sound of the opening Roy Wardle on trumpet and Dave Apperley on trombone served their apprenticeship in a brass band), to the surprising inclusion of the theme from ' Coronation Street'. The band certainly doesn't lack for courage with their material: I mean, Monty Sunshine owns 'Petite Fleur' doesn't he? Not now he doesn't, the TCS and the flying clarinet of Ian falconer have made a grab for it!

The unique frontline of trumpet, trombone and the clarinets of Alan Meakin and Ian Falconer works very well. What the twin reeds can achieve is shewn at its best on 'South Rampart Street Parade' with one clarinet on upper register working with the trumpet and the other on lower register working with the trombone. ' Original Dixieland One Step' is another tune where the two clarinets allow there to be greater musical depth to the tune than is usually found.

When that great English statesman and general, Oliver Cromwell, sat for his portrait to be painted by Samuel Cooper, he insisted that his image not be tarted or touched up. He stated that he wanted it to be 'honest' and that he was to be painted 'warts 'n all'. He was a great man, and this is a great band!

To get a copy of the CD, or find out when the band is playing at a vineyard contact Ross Culver, +64 6 876 7290, +6427 441 2358. The Twin City Stompers and a good wine: what a combination!


THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

DECO DE-LITE DIXIE

17 tracks 63 min 2003

Indiana, Jada, Sweet Georgia Brown, Basin Street Blues, Alexanders Ragtime Band, Creole Love Call, High Society, Georgia On My Mind, When The Saints Go Marching In , Bourbon Street Parade, Who’s Sorry Now, Stranger On The Shore, At The Jazz Band Ball, Moonglow, Hullo Dolly, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Bill Bailey

Kiwi band, The Twin City Stompers, have just released this new CD. The big difference between this CD and their earlier one is the quality of the sound. The reason is simple; instead of setting a mike up in a front room they employed a proper music studio and sound engineer to make the recordings. Oh, and they have lost their second clarinet. Ian Falconer has left the Hawkes Bay and its smell of crushed grapes for the Waikato and its smell of the stepped in cow pat: their loss, our gain.

The band plays a very smooth ‘Trad Jazz’ style that takes me back to my roots. Today I tend to listen to mainly purist stuff, which can be fun, but also sometimes a bit scary. TTCS play the type of jazz that hooked me on traditional jazz: smooth without being bland, improvised, but controlled. I have been thinking about the nearest equivalent to their sound and style and have come up with some1963 Polydore recordings of Monty Sunshine and his Band that I bought from a stall down the Cut market in London in 1964. This is the sort of CD you happily lend to someone who has expressed an interest in jazz as it has all the real flavour of the idiom, without the tart kick you get with many purist bands.

The creation of the sweet and smooth sound comes from both front and back lines. The front line is composed of good musicians who can punch, weave and underscore without going over the top. Roy Wardle on trumpet avoids shrill high notes and excessively tricky finger work. David Apperley’s trombone is round and full rather than tailgate and rasping. Clarinettist Alan Meakin employs ‘dulcet tones’ and leaves off the high swoops and swipes. So, that’s where the ‘smooth and sweet’ metaphors come from. The backline comprises of just banjo and bass, and this is where, I think, much of the ‘Trad Jazz’ feel originates. You could always tell British inspired ‘Trad’ from American ‘Dixie' by the British emphasis on banjo and bass. Some bands over did it and the result today is that most British bands, in reaction to this, have ‘de-emphasised’ those instruments to the point of obscurity. TTCS have, I suspect due to their lack of a drummer, brought them back to their rightful place in the sound balance. Having no drummer and, thus, using the banjo and bass to set and maintain the rhythm is fine if you have good players, and in banjo player Nigel Kirkman and bass player Ross Culver, TTCS have just that.

The highlight of the season for TTCS is the Napier Art Deco Festival. I am sure that the crowds who gather to admire the architecture, sip the wine and enjoy the food at the Festival are expected to be the prime market for this CD. The selection the band plays reflects what the general public expects a traditional jazz band to play and their sleeve notes say that these tunes are some of their most requested. I haven’t made it to the Art Deco Festival yet, but if I do, I would be seeking the band out to get them to play one of my favourites, and yes they do know ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, complete with bass solo break, because it is on their CD!

If you can’t make it to Napier to hear the boys, buy the CDfrom www.thetwincitystompers.webs.com .

*****

THE TWIN CITY STOMPERS

CHANGES MADE

TCS6 2013 18 tracks, 64 min

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE, HELLO DOLLY, DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, CARRY ME BACK TO OLD VIRGINNY, SCOTLAND THE BRAVE, PETITE FLEUR, EXACTLY LIKE YOU, BONNIE & CLYDE, MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW, I HATE MYSELF FOR BEING SO MEAN TO YOU, NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU ARE DOWN AND OUT, CREOLE LOVE CALL, SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, GET ON BOARD (GOSPEL TRAIN), SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, IRENE GOOD NIGHT, STRANGER ON THE SHORE, BILL BAILEY

‘It’s Trad Dad!’ Well, almost. Before I start writing a review I run a lot of ideas and words through my head, fortunately for this one I checked what I had written before on this band and found that I covered all my thoughts in the header of this review page. The band continues in the style that they have had from scratch; a mix of Trad, mainstream and hot jazz. They do it so well, why change it? What is different this time is that they have a new reeds player, not only much younger than the rest of the band, but a female! Welcome aboard Wendy ‘Hot Lips’ Caldwell. Wendy certainly adds a new dimension to the band and not only plays clarinet and tenor sax but sings too. In fact, with the Band playing mainly Trad many of the tunes on this album do have vocals which, in addition to Wendy, have trombonist Tom Kerr & trumpet player Roy Wardle also singing numbers.

As you will see from the list above, the tunes are a mix of jazz standards, old ballads and some tunes not normally part of a jazz band’s repertoire, ‘Scotland the Brave’ being one, though I do have it by The Clyde Valley Stompers. I was particularly pleased to see ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ included as it is a tune that should be played by a jazz band, rather than a rhythm & blues group such as Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames.

To quote one of my earlier reviews of one of the Band’s CDs: ‘This is the sort of CD you happily lend to someone who has expressed an interest in jazz as it has all the real flavour of the idiom, without the tart kick you get with many purist bands.’

And with that happy thought you can happily go & buy the CD from their Web site: www.thetwincitystompers.webs.com

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