KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
WHEN I LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND
Lake Records 1991 LACD 19 12 tracks, 74 min
When I Leave the World Behind, Mabel's Dream, Dr. Jazz, Wabash Blues, Down Home Rag, Darkness on the Delta, The Old Spinning Wheel, Old Black Joe, Careless Love, After You've Gone, Give Me Your Telephone Number, Who's Sorry Now ?
This is a welcome addition to the wealth of Ken Colyer albums now available on CD, all the more so as most of the tunes are not currently available on a Colyer recording. The recordings themselves are re-balanced from reel-to-reel hi-fi tapes that were given to recording engineer Paul Adams in a plastic bag ! Recorded in 1963 they feature the Rimington / Cole line up. This was the line up when I first heard Ken Colyer, nice to have some of the modern recordings being issued eh ! This is not my favourite band as I always find Sammy Rimington a bit shrill and far too busy for my taste, I much prefer the later band with Tony Pyke on clarinet. But, no matter what, this CD is a must for any New Orleans jazz fan. The band swings well and Ken has been caught in his prime.
There is not enough space to list all my favourite tracks and why I like them, but I must mention the lyrical Mabel's Dream and an excellent version of Dr. Jazz. Ken's powerful, but unhurried, singing and Sammy's masterful clarinet playing (hang on: didn't I just say I wasn't too keen on him ?) makes this number a "repeat button" job. Then of course there is ..., oh heck. It's no good, this CD is full of beautiful jazz. Don't take my word for it, buy it and you will see for yourself.
I really must congratulate Paul Adams on how he has managed to produce a well balanced sound from less than perfect base material. He has managed to "clean" things up without losing the exciting "live" feel of the band's performance. Well done Paul, may you receive many more plastic bags full of tapes in the future.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
OUT OF NOWHERE
LAKE LACD101 1998, 15 tracks 79 minutes
There's Yes Yes In Your Eyes, Lily Of The Valley, Out Of Nowhere, Old Miss Rag, Darktown Struters Ball, Melancholy Blues, The Lady Is A Tramp, Indiana, Eccentric Rag, Darkness On The Delta, We Shall Walk Through The Streets Of The City, You Got To See Mamma Every Night, Yearning, I Said I Wasn't Gona To Tell Nobody, You're Driving Me Crazy.
I originally bought this album 1966 from Doug Dobell's shop in Charing Cross. A workmate, and fellow jazz fan, and I, were going to the Furniture Show being held at Earl's Court, to help out on the stand of our employer, "Myer's Comfortable Beds". Dobell's was on the way, well, sort of!
This album has always been a favourite of mine, despite the slightly echoing sound caused by it having been recorded in an empty pub room. Also, I acknowledge that the recording balance is, at times, somewhat out, but the jazz is so good and played with such drive and feeling, that any recording shortcomings are soon forgotten. Anyway, this has been a favourite album of mine from way back. And now, it comes with so much more. No, not six steak knives, but six extra, previously un-issued tracks!
The Colyer band's front line on this recording has the Gov'nor on trumpet, Geoff Cole on trombone, and Sammy Rimmington on clarinet. This is the same line up as on the other Lake CD, "Colyer's Pleasure", and the "The Real Ken Colyer", from 77 Records (yet to be reissued as a CD). There had been no records released by Ken for over two years, following his dispute with the recording engineers of the big labels over recording balance and techniques. The aforementioned releases were all from minor labels that were willing to let Ken dictate the way his band was recorded. In fact this album was released under Ken's own KC label. It shows the Cole-Rimmington line-up at its very best.
When I'm asked to provide a compendium tape of Colyer's works, as sometimes I am, I have always included "Out of Nowhere" and "Melancholy Blues", from the collection on it. Now I have the problem of deciding what other tracks to leave off any compendium tape, as the previously un-issued track, "You're Driving Me Crazy" has rather caught my fancy.
The CD is a must for all Ken Colyer fans and, indeed, all traditional jazz fans, don't delay, buy today!
WON'T YOU COME ALONG WITH ME
KEN COLYER WITH CHRIS BLOUNT'S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND
Ken Colyer Trust KCT5CD 1991, 12 tracks 64 min.
Basin Street Blues, Ice Cream, Lord-Lord-Lord, Black And Blue, Cielito Lindo, Indiana, Rum And Coca-Cola, Sporting Life Blues, Redwing My Redwing, Nobody's Fault But Mine, Too Busy, Till We Meet Again
More "resurrected" private recordings of Ken Colyer. This time he is playing with Chris Blount's New Orleans Jazz Band. The tracks are from 1973 when Colyer still had his own band to 1977 when his poor health had restricted him to guesting with other's bands. The quality of the recordings is higher than that of many of the recent re-issues and the quality of Colyer's vocals are of especial note. Apart from "Rum and Coca-Cola" and "Sporting Life Blues", the tracks are all Ken Colyer standards and have been frequently recorded with various line-ups. However, I recommend you buy the CD as Ken Colyer and the Blount band fit very well together with the result that on "Black and Blue" and "Indiana" you may hear the definitive Colyer version of these tunes.
I really enjoy listening to this CD. Apart from the pleasure of hearing the Gov'nor playing well, it lets you hear Chris Blount on clarinet playing the best that I ever heard him play. I like Chris, but at times I have found his habit of repetitive "scaling" somewhat annoying but that is missing from this CD. So the CD will be a valuable addition to any jazz fans collection, not just to Colyer or Blount fans.
KEN COLYER'S HANDPICKED JAZZMEN
DARKNESS ON THE DELTA
Black Lion BLCD 76518 1996, 7 tracks 49min
Lord Lord You've Sure Been Good To Me, Darkness On The Delta, Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula, Gettysburg March, Deep Bayou Blues, Shine, Auf Wiedersehen
Recorded in 1979 at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Den Hague, this recording sees The Guv'nor re-united with some of his best sidemen, including the lyrical Tony Pike on clarinet, the player who I feel was best suited to Ken's ideas, and the powerful Mike Sherbourne on trombone. Typical of the later recordings of Ken Colyer when his cancer had taken some of the fire out of his playing, this CD shows him in a more reflective mood, using tone and inflection more and putting in the hard drive only occasionally. Whilst I miss his distinctive clarion call, normally given as he moves his horn away from the Derby mute, I do appreciate the skilful way he works the mutes and always gets more from a horn than any other player, bar none, ever. Also typical of the later period, are the number of solo breaks that Ken would have had quietly backed by the rest of the front-line in the earlier days.
There are only sparse cover notes, but I do know that this recording is not fully digital, but the quality, never the less is excellent. I would place this CD as being one of the best from the Gov'nor's later period; a CD all Colyer fans, New Orleans fans, and Traditional Jazz fans should buy.
KEN COLYER'S SKIFFLE GROUP
LAKE LACD68 1996 15 tracks 57 min
I'm Going To Walk And Talk With Jesus; No Letters Today; Colorado Trail; Ella Speed; Poor Howard; I Can't Sleep; Muleskinner Blues; Wandering; If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again; Good Morning Blues; Drop Down Mamma; Easy Ridin' Buggy; New York Town; Green Corn; Casey Jones; I Can't Sleep.
Reviewing skiffle on a jazz Home Page? What on earth are you doing you may ask. Well, skiffle is where jazz, blues, and folk meet and sits alongside rent house and juke. Ken Colyer was the man who started skiffle and regularly included it the repertoire of his jazz bands. During his years in the merchant navy, Ken learnt his jazz and practised it on both trumpet and guitar joined by other crew members on whatever instruments they could get their hands on - everything from guitars to kazoo, tin whistles to suitcases. From the 50's Crane River Jazz band to his final 80's All Stars, Ken played skiffle. Ask anyone in Britain to put a name to the music and they would say Lonnie Donegan, but it was Ken who taught Lonnie the music whilst he was a member of Ken's band. Under Lonnie and his imitators the music took Britain by storm and soon every schoolboy was either learning guitar, making a tea chest bass, or borrowing his mother's washboard, just so that he could play skiffle. Amongst those schoolboys were John Lennon and Paul MacCartney. But Ken hated commercialism, and refused to modify his skiffle in the same way as he refused to modify his New Orleans jazz to suit the market. Thus he never became either rich, or even acknowledged the way he should have been.
This CD is from 1965 and features other members of his then Jazzmen, with clarinettist Sammy Rimmington showing himself to be a surprisingly good mandolin player. If, like me, you like juke music, you'll enjoy this CD. If you don't know what juke, or skiffle is, then buy the CD and find out. I am sure you will not regret it.
ACKER BILK WITH KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
LAKE LACD53 1995 12 tracks 63 min
Down Among The Sheltering Palms; Corrine Corrina; It Looks Like A Big Time Tonight; Sweet Substitute; If I Ever Cease To Love; Clarinet Marmalade; Carolina Moon; Mabel's Dream; Liza; Lily Of The Valley.
When a certain unknown Bernard Bilk travelled up from Somerset to join Ken Colyer's Jazzmen in 1954, few would have predicted his transformation into the world's most famous clarinettist Acker Bilk. Acker went on to fame and fortune as his style matured and developed. There is no doubt that Acker's success is as much due to his business sense as to his playing, but his ability as a musician should never be doubted. This 1985 recording shows just how good Acker is. Taking the place of Ken's regular clarinettist, without the other band members being told and without being given a list of the tunes to be played (one, 'Mable's Dream' he had never played before and it had been 30 years since he had tackled 'Clarinet Marmalade'), Acker fitted into the side as if he had always played with them, reverting from his more commercial style into pure New Orleans as if he never played anything else.
I have spoken at length of Acker, but what of Ken Colyer, on this his last formal recording session. Despite what some commentators have said, I have never found any of his last recordings to show Ken off form. His style is less driving, his vocals quite breathless, but what he lacked in puff he made up for in feeling, both in his vocals and in his mute playing.
Many of the tunes are Colyer standards, but only some have been recorded with other line ups. For Acker, only 'Corrine, Corrina' and 'Liza' are regularly part of his repertoire, though the versions recorded here are nothing like those he normally plays! This is a classic album and should be included in the collection of any serious traditional jazz fan. Two of the best the world has ever produced, backed by a band of other class players, buy it, you will never regret it. "Together Again" after 30 years, and you would never has sussed it!
KEN COLYER WITH JOHN PETTER'S NEW ORLEANS ALL-STARS
CMJ CD 008 1989 10 tracks, 72 min
Too Busy, My Old Kentucky Home, Tishomingo Blues, Down Home Rag, The Old Rugged Cross, One Sweet Letter From You, Bogalusa Strut, Snag It, Nobody's Fault But Mine, Home Sweet Home (part).
John Long, who is responsible for most of Ken's recordings from 1971-86, said, regarding Ken's playing, that " by about 1984 autumn and winter followed in quick succession". This CD is of a live session from 1985 recorded by Peter Webber. Despite Ken being in the "winter" of his playing to me it is an essential album to have. The fire may have been going out, but the embers were still burning hot. What Ken lacked in his blowing skills, and complicated by his apparent breathlessness, he makes up for in sheer emotion. This is the man laid naked and raw, and you cannot be unaffected by it. Listen to his breaks on "Too Busy", and "The Old Rugged Cross" to see what I mean, or perhaps listen to the concentrated distillation of emotion on "Tishomingo Blues".
I think the rest of the band should be mentioned for their contribution to what I call a "Classic" album: Dave Bailey, whose controlled yet soaring clarinet, weaves and binds the band's sound together. Les Hanscombe's raggedy doll tailgate trombone; at times riveting and at others disconcerting in its meandering. Tim Phillips on banjo and Keith Donaldson on bass providing a solid and well thought out backing, you might even think he was Keith Sweat with such a strong bass line. Then there is John Petters on drums. Not only is he an excellent musician but the balance and clarity (I still have problems accepting that this CD is only Analog/Digital/Digital instead of D/D/D) means that you are able to hear and appreciate his skills to the full.
All the tracks here have been recorded before, but don't let this put you off, as this recording is unique. To me it is the final handshake of an old friend who knows you will not meet again; maybe not as firm as it has been in the past, but with that extra, knowing, squeeze that reminds you of what has gone between you in the past.
KEN COLYER ALLSTARS
JUST A LITTLE WHILE TO STAY HERE
CMJ Records CD 012 1990 8 tracks 73 min.
Just a Little While to Stay Here/ Saturday Night Function/ Lead Me On/ Lily of the Valley/ Some Times My Burden is so Hard to Bear/ Just a Closer Walk with Thee/ Nobody's Fault but Mine
As with the Chris Blount CD reviewed above; this album has been recorded in a church. Unlike it; it was recorded live. Whether it is this, or the differing acoustics, this recording seems a little less sharp. Even so the recording standards are very high and in the month or so that I have owned it has become a firm favourite. Many of the tunes have been recorded by Ken before, but, as always with the Guvnor, they are all "originals". This is particularly noticeable on "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" where you are expecting the last chorus to be upbeat, as per standard, and it doesn't happen ! Another surprise comes with a string of solos from the rhythm section during the rousing "Nobody's Fault but Mine". I have always said that my favourite Colyer Band was the Cole/Pyke one, having heard this album I am having to rethink. Drive, enthusiasm, quality, unity; this Band has it. I have not picked any favourite tracks as I can't; I love them all. Members of the bands said later that this was their favourite session of spirituals with Ken, and it is easy to see why. The rapport between the band members is such that truly the spirit must have moved them. If you listen to this CD and don't enjoy it; you ain't a jazz fan ! No-one, but no-one, plays spirituals like Ken Colyer and this was one of his best nights.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
UP JUMPED THE DEVIL
Upbeat URCD114 1995 11 tracks 68 min
Sensation Rag, Milneburg Joys, When You Wore A Tulip, Mazie, Up Jumped The Devil, Moose March, Breeze, Bourbon Street Parade, Red Sails In The Sunset, Doctor Jazz, Tiger Rag.
One day I will write a review of a Ken Colyer CD and pan it ! But not this time. I must admit to being somewhat disappointed in this one however. The problem does not lie with either the Guv'nor or the band (Wheeler/Duncan line up 1957-58), but with the quality of the recordings. In recent years there have been many old tape recordings of Ken and the band surface and from them CDs made, I have reviewed many of them and, until now, I have had no complaints but this one is marginal. The sleeve notes warn that the recordings were made using a single mike and that vocals and piano were 'off mike' (I think that the clarinet is also) and that there is distortion from oxide wear; unfortunately when you buy things 'mail-order' you don't get to read the warnings ! Considering that the remastering was done by that most skilled of technicians, Paul Adams of Lake Records you have to wonder just what state the originals were in ! Now, complaining over, what is the music like ? Well it is Ken Colyer right ? And the band is the one most purists claim to be the 'classic' one right ? Say no more ! The music is good and the band truly play as a unit totally supporting and highlighting each other. Ken brays and mutes his way through the tunes in fine fettle. Ian Wheeler weaves his magic as per usual. Mac Duncan thoughtfully underscores. Ray Foxley makes the appropriate pianoforte contributions and the back-line of stalwart Johnny Bastable on banjo, Ron Ward on bass and Colin Bowden on drums provide their traditionally strong backing. Given that there are other CDs available featuring this line-up, and that they are of a better quality, why should you want to buy it ? Well the reason this CD is important to collectors of Colyer's music is the inclusion of tracks that, to my knowledge, are not available elsewhere. It is just a shame about the sound quality.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
Lake Records LACD 34 1993 15 TRACKS 68 Min
Teasing Rag, After You've Gone, Highway Blues, Dardanella, I Can't Escape From You, You Always Hurt The One You Love, Creole Bo-Bo, Honeysuckle Rose, Barefoot Boy, Mahogany Hall Stomp, Gettysburg March, La Harpe St. Blues, Thriller Rag, I'm Travelling, Virginia Strut.
In company with my father, I first saw Ken Colyer's Jazzmen at Battersea Park in 1962. My father, who had seen Ken before, found the style "too primitive". Whilst at first somewhat stunned, I quickly grasped the beauty of the music. The following Saturday I searched the record shops, and all I could find was the 1961 EP "Too Busy". My father must have had his patience tried by my continual playing of the four tracks it contained as he came home one Saturday with an LP for me by Ken and the boys on the Society label called, you've guessed it, "Colyer's Pleasure". Thirty years on the LP now has more snap, crackle, and pop than a box of Rice Crispies. My delight at the reissuing of the album as a CD knows no bounds, the more so as it now has five additional tracks from a later unpublished recording session. The clarity on the CD is far superior to the LP, even when it was new, and Sammy Rimmington's clarinet is less shrill than on the original recording and nearer to real life. Talking of Sammy; his increasing maturity shows in the later recordings, particularly on the beautifully played and structured "I'm Travelling". The sleeve notes claim that at this time Ken was at the height of his power and skills, and who am I to disagree.
This album is of historical interest as it is the first of the "real" sounding recording sessions Ken made. The reason being Ken's resolve to use small labels who would allow him his say over the set up and balance he desired, rather than continue his battles with the sound engineers of the major record companies who manipulated the band's sound to make it more commercial. Nostalgia apart: this is one good CD. As often with a Ken Colyer CD I find it difficult to single out any preferred tracks (and I promise not to mention my old favourite "Barefoot Boy") as they are all class items. This is a real cracker, so snap one up !
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
KEN COLYER - THE GUV'NOR -1959-61
PHILLIPS 830 782-2 1989 19 tracks, 65 min
Somebody Stole My Gal, Heebie Jeebies, Dusty rag, Papa Dip, Working Man's Blues, Hilarity Rag, Salutation Rag, Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, Sweet Fields, Cheek to Cheek, Riverside Blues, At a Georgia Camp Meeting, The Happy Wander, Maryland, My Maryland, Postman's Lament, Maple Leaf rag, Darkness on The Delta, Cielito Lindo, Too Busy
I was in Marbeck's in Auckland when I saw this CD and as soon as I saw it I had to have it. Not only is it the Guv'nor, and with many tracks by what many consider to be his best front line, but it consists of tracks from an EP and LP I already had and thus would allow me to retire the poor scratchy things. Tracks 1 to 12 are with the Duncan / Wheeler front line, 13 to 14 Stewart / Rimington and the balance Cole / Rimington. The Duncan / Wheeler tracks, and Stewart / Rimington tracks, I had on an LP called 'The Real Ken Colyer', though with its heavy engineering I don't think that Ken would have agreed with that title, in fact I suspect that it was as a direct result of the tinkering of the engineers with the band's balance on this album that influenced to Ken stop recording with major record companies. Four of the Cole / Rimington tracks were on the first Colyer record I ever bought 'Too Busy'. In addition to the LP and EP material there are two previously unissued tracks.
Now, how good is the CD? Essential buying. The tracks all appear to have been rebalanced, though the earlier tunes still have over dominant bass and banjo. On the original LP the Stewart / Rimington tracks were so tinny as to be almost unlistenable; not quite the 'chainsaw on a Sunday morning', but almost. This problem has been overcome and the tracks are now good to listen to. To hear Ken playing at his strongest, though for many his best, most expressive, playing was yet to come, is a joy. Ian Wheeler was peaking at this time, and Mac Duncan was playing lyrical and powerful trombone. I couldn't resist buying it; can you?
KEN COLYER'S ALLSTARS
THE SUNNY SIDE OF KEN COLYER
Upbeat Recordings lC 6043 1972-94 9 tracks 59minutes
Side Of The Street/ Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula/ Canal Street Blues ( fast version)/ Royal Garden Blues/ Bill Baily/ Chloe/ You Always Hurt The One You Love/ Everywhere You Go The Sunshine Follows You
What do you want for Christmas dear? A Ken Colyer CD ! With so many Colyer CD's on the market, often with them featuring the same tracks, one tends to look at the personnel of the front line to judge which is worth getting. On this typical jazz club recording there is Sammy Rimming on alto sax/clarinet and Barry Palser on trombone so how could I not want to have it? I have said before and I am quite happy to repeat myself; Colyer never plays the same tune the same way twice; always varying the arrangement and sometimes the pace. The change in pace is highlighted on this album with 2 versions of Canal Street Blues ( slow and fast - though I must admit my favourite fast version is by those wild Scotsmen "The Back 'o Town Syncopators", they with the rampant tuba and stereophonic banjos). There are also 2 refreshingly different renditions of 2 Colyer standards; Royal Canal Blues and Chloe. The cover notes state that Ken was experimenting at the time and it is uncertain whether he was playing trumpet or cornet (personally I think it is the trumpet). Because of this note I made an especial point of listening to Ken's playing. Even after being a fan of his for many years I was astounded at the tonal variations he was able to extract from his chosen instrument. Much use was always made of mutes, in fact on one occasion I saw him use six different mutes during a course of one tune, everything from his favourite Derby to a tin mug. Ken Colyer was a genius in many respects, but his total mastery of the trumpet/cornet was his highest achievement; never falling into the trap of high or sustained notes to demonstrate his skills. On first playing the CD I thought the overall sound was somewhat thin, but on subsequent plays this has not been apparent. I continue to be amazed by what is being achieved with non-professional reel-to-reel recordings by masters of re-mastering such as Paul Adams. This CD will make excellent addition to your Traditional Jazz collection.
KEN COLYER ALLSTARS
PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE
BLACK LION BLCD 760501 1990 6 tracks 56 min
Should I Reveal, Painting The Clouds With Sunshine, Uptown Bumps, Jungle Town, When I grow Too Old To Dream, Snag It.
What was that ? Did I hear you say "Not another Ken Colyer CD ?". Ok, I know that after a long drought there is now a flood of both re-issues and new Colyer material. But it is not a bad thing as Ken never was anything other than very good, and mostly excellent. This recording is a live one from 1979 and Ken himself is quoted as saying that this is the best that he made, and who am I to argue ? Although from '71 onwards Ken did not have a fulltime band, he gathered jazzmen as he needed them. However as this, and other recordings from that period, show these "gathered" bands were not junk scratch ones just thrown together. You must always bear in mind Ken's genius for welding a group of players into a cohesive, complementary unit, even if they had never played together before. The music on this CD is very much the smooth, laid back stuff that Ken and his bands were so rightly famous for: like honey it flows golden, sweet and rich. There is no way that you would think that these players had not been together for years, such is their professionalism, and Ken's leadership. I will leave the analysis of where and when these tunes have been recorded by Ken before to others. Suffice it to say that of the six tracks I have more than one other version by Ken of three of them. You must always remember, though, that with Ken that he never played a tune the same way twice, if you compared a hundred versions of the same tune it would be the equivalent of a hundred different tunes by a lesser jazzman. All the tracks are beautifully played, and long enough to explore the tune to the fullest. Add this album to your collection, you won't regret it.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN LIVE 1967
SUMMER CD 9216 13 tracks, 69 min
Maria Elena, Everywhere You're Going Is Sunshine, Get It Right, Georgia Bobo, Creole Bobo, Stardust, My Life Will Be Sweeter Someday, In The Sweet Bye And Bye, Ain't You Glad, Pallet On The Floor, China Town, By And By, Auf Wiederseh'n
In the late '60s I seemed to be permanently skint, and as a result my buying of jazz records became restricted. That is not to say that I wasn't increasing my jazz collection. Rather that I tended to only get birthday LPs, Christmas LPs, or the "I saw this going cheap, so I thought of you" LPs; these I then offered to mates for taping in exchange for the right to tape their LPs. The chap who later served as my Best Man was a fellow Colyer fan and one of the LPs he lent me for taping was a live recording of the Band taken at a concert in Hamburg. When this CD was released I assumed that it was a re-issue of the aforesaid LP; on playing it I found out that I was wrong though the tracks would appear to be from the session. Now I don't know whether to be disappointed that I still do not have a pristine copy of some of my favourite Colyer tracks, or be delighted that I have some new additions to my collection. This is a cracker of an album played by my favourite front line from Ken's professional bands. Tony Pyke on clarinet and Geoff Cole on trombone give the band that 'smooth unity' that is the quintessential quality of Ken's style of New Orleans jazz. Perhaps the real key is that Pyke never tries to dominate but contents himself with weaving the music thread that binds the front line together. I know others will disagree with me and sing the praises of either Ian Wheeler, or Sammy Rimington, so perhaps it is all a matter of perception (if you want a good comparison of clarinet styles listen to Creole Bobo and then compare Wheeler's version on "Serenading Aunty" Upbeat URCD 111 and Rimington's on "Colyer's Pleasure" Lake LACD34). The back line is solid with regular Johnny Bastable on banjo, reliable Bill Cole on bass, and my favourite loose N.O. drummer Malc Murphy on drums. Like a good malt these tracks have improved with age ( if only via the improved recording medium), and like a good malt they have flavour, strength, smoothness, and character. Now when are the other tracks from this concert going to be re-issued cos I want them bad !
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
Upbeat URCD 111 1993 21 tracks, 67 min
Carolina Moon, In The Evening, Papa Dip, Tell Me Your Dreams, My Blue Heaven, Perdido Street Blues, Clarinet Marmalade, When I leave The World Behind, Eccentric Rag, Riverside Blues, Thriller Rag, Hilarity Rag, Yancy Stomp, Heliotrope Bouquet, Creole Song, Chrysanthemum Rag, You've Got To See Mama Every Night, Ice Cream, Dinah, Going Home, The Worlds Is Waiting For The Sunrise.
This is a long awaited release of BBC recordings form 1955 to 1960. Up until now the only way you could get hold of the many tunes Ken did on TV or radio was to know someone who had the foresight to tape them at the time. I didn't get a recorder until the mid '60s, so I missed these tracks, but I have gained some popularity amongst Colyer fans with the few radio recordings I did make before emigrating to NZ. The tracks on the CD are all the more valuable as the BBC did not in those days see any commercial value in retaining taped recordings of their programmes. These tracks only survived due to the initiative of a BBC engineer who transferred the recordings to acetate disc and thus preserved them. Was it worth the effort? Some Colyer fans will buy anything that features the Guv'nor, others will only buy re-issues, they being professionally engineered. Me? I'll buy 'em, but if they ain't no good I will say so. And this one? It is good, and I have no regrets about spending the house-keeping money on it and risking the wrath of my wife. The band line-ups are either Duncan / Wheeler (15 tracks) or Stewart / Rimmington (6 tracks). Both line-ups were good and it is interesting to contrast the changes in sound between the two, particularly the clarinet techniques used by Sammy Rimmington and that of Ian Wheeler. Sammy soars like a skylark, whilst Ian chortles like a blackbird, with both a joy to hear. The only misgiving I have is that some of the tunes seem a bit fast, which is most unusual for Ken Colyer who rigidly followed the old maxim that no jazz tune should be played faster than you can walk. Did he go faster then or did the tracks get speeded up a mite in order to fit the TV or radio programs time slot? I wonder. The quality of the recordings are good with the later Stewart / Rimmington tracks having greater definition. I suppose this was to be expected as tape technology improved immensely between 1955 and 1960, as indeed it continues to do. This is one nice album, and I hope that the Ken Colyer Trust can get their hands on some more BBC records / tapes.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
COLYER PLAYS STANDARDS
Lake Records LACD 144 2000 9 TRACKS 43min
Swanee River, Over The Rainbow, All Of Me, Pretty Baby, Oh You Beautiful Doll, Under The Bamboo Tree, The Curse Of An Aching Heart, Bluebells Goodbye, Dinah.
According to Paul Adams, Lake Record's owner, this CD comes as something of a mystery. In 1988, Lake issued an album called, 'Lonesome Road'. It consisted of largely un-issued material that appeared to be a stereo version of an LP called 'Colyer Plays Standards'. It would now appear that, although the tunes (with exception of the title track, 'Lonesome Road'), were the same, they were from two near dated recording sessions. Why this was, even Ken could not say. The first session was a live one at a pub, the second was done at Decca's recording studios. This CD is the second session, yet surprisingly the audience 'effects' from the first session have been dubbed in!
If you missed getting the earlier LP/tape, then this CD is well worth getting, One could say that having this CD in your collection is essential, if you are a Colyer devotee. But the classy, relaxed jazz being played some of British jazz' finest means that it deserves to be in the collection of all traditional jazz fans. The only improvement I could see was if this was in stereo, One wonders why Decca dumped the first session, which was in stereo, for this mono recorded studio version. But if Ken never knew the reason, why should we?
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
THE REAL KEN COLYER
Cadillac Records SCG 77CD 2000 17 TRACKS 76min
Eccentric, Someday Sweetheart (take 2), Wolverine Blues, Swipsey Cakewalk, The Entertainer, King Porter Stomp, Down Home Rag, As Long As I Live (take 3), Chilly Winds, Michigan Water Blues, Give Me Your Telephone Number, Down Among The Sheltering Palms, Georgia Bo Bo, 1919 Rag, 1919 Rag, As Long As I Live (take 1), As Long As I Live (take 2),
I left school just prior to my 17th birthday to become a Civil Servant working for the Home Office. Until the age of 18 they were obliged to send me to the Westminster College on 'Day Release' to try and further my education and fit me for promotion. To reach the next level I needed two GCE 'A Level' passes. I took Geography and History, but it was never going to work out. The Geography was heavy geophysics that I couldn't get to grips with, and the History was the second year of a two-year course that covered two history topics I had never studied before. Besides, I was heavily into making a nuisance of myself on motorcycles and chasing girls, in that order. The result was that the most I got out of Westminster College was its location near the Army & Navy Store and its large record department where I could spend the lunch hour browsing and seeing what LP I could buy that month after I paid my board, train ticket, HP installment on the bike, petrol, and the necessary money to buy tea for myself and whatever girl I was pursuing at the time.
This CD contains the material on one of the LPs thus bought, plus some additional tracks. That LP was always my favourite album by the Rimmington/Cole version of Ken Colyer's Jazzmen. I have been waiting years for the material to be re-issued on CD so that I could retire my poor old worn LP. I am not the only one who was interested in the material being re-issued. Paul Adams of Lake Records says that he had been chasing Cadillac for some years to let him publish it. Well Lake didn't get to do it because Cadillac has put it out themselves.
This magnificent album was originally 77 album from the stable of that renowned English jazz entrepreneur, Doug Dobell. Doug himself named the album, 'The Real Ken Colyer', and I agree with him. This CD captures the Rimmington/Cole Colyer band at its best.
KEN COLYER'S JAZZMEN
IN STORYVILLE JAZZCLUB
Music Mecca CD 2986-2, 12 tracks 62min 2002
We Shall Walk Though The Streets Of The City, Under The Bamboo Tree, Get It Right, One Sweet Letter From You, Sweet Loraine, Original Dixieland One Step, My Life Will Be Sweeter Someday, In The Sweet Bye And Bye, Ain't You Glad, Arkansas Blues, Stardust, Chinatown My Chinatown
As an old mate of mine is apt to quote when he comes into my house and sees the wall to wall library 'There is no end to books'. It would seem that there is also no end to unreleased Ken Colyer material as well! This recording is a live recording from the Storyville Jazzclub, Oisterwijk, Netherlands and recorded in 1968.
I will defend to the death my opinion that in Ken Colyer New Orleans jazz had its most expressive and understanding interpreter. In addition to his own musical abilities, Ken could inspire even mediocre mussos to play their jazz well above their previously thought capability. So, when you hear him with what I feel is his best balanced front line of Geoff Cole on trombone and Tony Pyke on clarinet you expect, and on this CD get, New Orleans jazz at its best.
Whilst most of the tunes can be heard on other Colyer CDs (though often with a different front line) Ken never allowed anything to be played the same way twice, so duplication is never an issue with anything put out by a Colyer band. The only issue I do have with this CD is the fact that Ken's unhurried vocals are off mike (the sound desk man forgot to up the volume when Ken stopped blowing and started singing). I know the words to the vocals so well that I find my brain compensates, but I was a little peeved at 'Sweet Lorraine' as, although I have heard Ken sing that song live, I have not got it on CD. Still, is there such a thing as perfection this side of Glory?
This is another must for any Colyer fan and highly recommended to anyone who has never heard The Guv'nor before.
Music Mecca CD 2087-2 2004 8 track 63 min
Bugle Boy March, Highway Blues, Weary Blues, Climax Rag, Darkness On The Delta, High Society, Winter Wonderland, Jambalaya
Knowing my love of reading and writing an old boss of mine was fond of quoting to me that; ‘There is no end to the making of words’. I sometimes wonder if there is no end to the finding of unreleased Ken Colyer tracks!
Like Buddy Holly and Jim Reeves, Ken has had more recordings released since his death than before it. There is never any doubt about the quality of what The Guv’nor will produce but there are some releases where the sound quality is suspect – THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM! The sound quality is superb and the only fault I could find was too low a volume on Ken when he sings ‘Winter Wonderland’.
Recorded at Einhoven in the Netherlands in November 1974, Ken is backed by a pick-up band. You would never know it. I have read elsewhere bandsmen saying that any jazz band Ken played with became Ken Colyer’s jazzmen within a bar or two bar (though knowing Ken’s love of a drink that could have more than one meaning). They may say it as a joke, but it is astounding how Ken got players to not only lift their standards but fit in with the idiom in which he played. Now hands up those who know of trombonist Cor Fabrie, clarinettist Tom Blade, Pianist Eddie Lokerse, bass player Gijs van Helden, banjo player Rob de Louw or drummer Hein Trimbos? I don’t see too many hands uplifted out there. Well put them with The Guv’nor and you have a jazz band that stands next to the best Ken ever led!
The whole thing swings and Ken’s beautiful tonal variations, especially on mute, brings tears to my eyes. I saw Ken live many times but I just wish I had done it more often. Now, with this CD, I can close my eyes and go back in my mind to The George at Morden, Wimbledon Town Hall or Battersea Park in the 1960s. This is magic stuff and I want to thank Music Mecca for finding this treasure for me to enjoy.
If only Ken were still alive and he could play alongside New Orleans Delight. Come on you computer wizards, take that as a challenge! Now if you want to fill your time with joy whilst awaiting the sound engineers to take me up on the challenge I have set them, you can purchase this CD from http://www.cdjazz.com and enjoy one of the finest Ken Colyer albums around.
THIS IS THE BLUES
Lake LACD 188 2003, 13 tracks, 61 min
St Louis Blues, Aunt Hagar's Blues, Breeze, Tishomingo Blues, Sobbin' Blues, See See Rider, Chimes Blues, Sentimental Journey, When The Sun Goes Down, Take It Easy, Postman's Lament, Darkness On The Delta, Buddy Bolden's Blues*
*with Little Brother Montgomery
This is the blues I sing: I ain't ever heard this album before!
Lake have worked hard to get the rights to re-issue Record Supervision's EMI recordings (put out under the Lansdowne Jazz Series). It is fitting that this Colyer CD is the first as it was through re-issuing Colyer's Decca records that the company got started (indeed I made my first contact with them after my late mother brought me home a couple of their Colyer tapes from a trip to England). The tracks here are from 1960-61 and Ken is joined in the front line by Graham Stewart on trombone and Sammy Rimmington on clarinet (who at the time was a skinny teenager who wore suits and shirts 2 sizes too big for him, presumably to get the sleeve length he needed!). There are three bonus tracks: 'Postman's Lament' and 'Darkness On The Delta', which can also be heard on the Phillips CD KEN COLYER - THE GUV'NOR -1959-61 (see review above) and have Geoff Cole on trombone.'Buddy Bolden's Blues' is with Ken providing background to blues singer Little Brother Montgomery in a style similar to those you often hear on Bessie Smith tracks. Apparently there are two more tracks but Lake's Paul Adams was unable to get permission to include them. I, for one, hope that he does before the next Colyer CD is released by Lake as I want to hear them.
This is Ken Colyer at the height of his career, what more do I need to say? All right I will say a bit more then. The sound is less 'commercial' than those on EMI's earlier Colyer LP 'This is Jazz' (reproduced on the aforementioned Phillips CD) and has a more natural balance. Apart from the last three tracks, however, there is more re-verb than there perhaps should be. Here I will digress a bit: from my own experience in re-balancing music (tape and vinyl to CD). I have found that, whilst using both skill and software you can do many things to improve a track's sound, there are two things you can't do: restore sound fidelity when the original is well knackered and take out re-verb (add it yes, take it out - no). The re-verb is most noticeable in Ken's vocals. However, it is a very minor point and one you really have to listen out for and has gone on the last 3 tracks. Now this CD does have Ken singing more than he does normally on an album. So, listening out for how much re-verb had me paying a lot of attention to Ken's singing. I have always liked his singing, but this close attention I had been paying to it caused me to come to a rather startling conclusion: Ken could be said to use his voice in a very similar way to the way he played his trumpet - honestly, just spend some time listening and see if I am not right.
Seeing as I have got you doing an exercise, why not listen to Ken's playing here of 'Tisomingo Blues' recorded when he was at his height of power, and the more restrained and wistful version on CMJ's TOO BUSY (see review above) from 1984 just prior to his death. Both beautiful, but both so different. You could also occupy yourself in comparing the 1961 style where even the solo breaks have the other frontline bandsmen sotto voice (on stage they used to turn off mike, and even turn their backs to the audience) to the later albums which often have true solo breaks.
Some CDs are nice to have, some important to have. This CD falls into the category of essential to have.
KEN COLYER & THE CLASSIC JAZZBAND
COLYER IN STOCKHOLM Volume 2
JCCD-3103 2005 10 tracks, 69 min
Yearning, Trouble In Mind, Carolina Moon, You're Driving Me Crazy, Sentimental Journey, Sing On, Ciribiribin, Tiger Rag, Sporting House, Clarinet Marmalade
According to Big Bill Bissonnette this is the last recording Ken made before his death (though I have since heard that apparently there is a later home recording that has been issued and a video that hasn't). The sleeve notes tell the story of Ken being invited to play at the Stockholm Jazz & Blues Festival in 1986 and of a band of New Orleans enthusiasts being gathered to back him. Trombone player Jens Lindgren says that, despite being told that the Guv'nor was a 'difficult' man, neither he nor the band saw that side of him and found him to be friendly and talkative. They also say that he was 'authoritative' and encouraged players to bring out their best. Which is interesting as from the first note you know that this is a 'Colyer band' and not because Ken dominates it; it just has his sound. Marvelous, considering they had never played together before. Ken's terminal illness is apparent; the sustained notes, especially the 'clarion call' and 'bray', you expect to hear are missing. Ken is, though, still wonderful to listen to and especially so with the muted solos on ' Trouble In Mind' and 'Sing On', which can literally bring a tear to your eye with their emotion and expression.
The Swedes backing Ken do an excellent job. The sound is rather reminiscent of the Sammy Rimmington/Graham Stewart lineup of the early 60s. Drummer Cacka Ekhe is more a Malc Murphy than a Pete Ridge, though he could be giving Colin Bowden a nod. I think the main reason I have chosen this comparison is that clarinetist Goran Eriksson has the higher tone and 'busy' action of Rimmington rather than the more laid back playing of either Ian Wheeler and Tony Pyke whilst the trombone Jens Lindgren is not as forceful as Stewart's replacement, Geoff Cole.
This is a recording that deserves to belong in any New Orleans jazz collection not because it is The Guv'nor's last hurrah, but because it is wonderful jazz,
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