JACK McLAUGHLIN PLAYS Eb CLARINET - IF WE NEVER MEET THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN
Jazz Crusade 2003, 18 tracks, 72 min
If We Never Meet This Side Of Heaven, Flee As A Bird/Nearer My God To Thee/Pleyel’s Hymn, If I Ever Cease To Love, Just As I Am, Oh Didn’t He Ramble, When I Move To The Sky, Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet, Shall We Gather At The River, Scatterbrain, Whistling Rufus, Ice Cream, Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, Plastic Jesus, Let The Great Big World Keep Turning, I Like Bananas, Smokey Mokes, If We Never Meet This Side Of Heaven
For the past eight months or so my wife and I have been regularly making the 180km trip to Coromandel, first to be with my sick aunt, and then to handle her estate. The journey takes almost exactly 3 standard length CDs each way, so I have often used it as an opportunity to listen to jazz albums I intend to review. Now for those of you who have not had the blessing of coming to NZ and seeing this part of Godzone, I had best tell you that the last 80km are first a narrow twisting coastal road with a sharp drop to one side and then a narrow twisting mountain road with a sharp drop to one side. Needless to say, my wife prefers me to be playing more subdued music whilst on that section of road: she doesn’t like me too ‘buzzy’ for obvious reasons.
On our last trip, having bounced along through the Waikato and over the Hauraki Plains with the Jam, Session CDs of ex-Easy Rider bandsmen, we arrived at Thames. After a water and rest break I passed the wife Jack McLaughlin’s CD for the final part of the journey along the coast and over the mountains. Now I knew that Jack wouldn’t set my adrenalin pumping as I had in the past bought two of his tapes recorded at the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission in New Orleans. I had played them a few times before passing them on to a young lass at Chapel who plays clarinet. Given Jack’s quiet style I felt that the wife would have a relaxed ride.
Well, my wife soon felt that, despite the sedate ride she was getting, the music didn’t do anything for her, in fact her comments were: ‘I’d like to get hold of the members of that band and give them a good shake up’ and ‘I bet they make a living touring old people’s homes, that’s why they don’t have any real drive’. A might harsh perhaps, as Jack is technically very interesting. I suspect that much of the problem lies in Jack only having a rhythm section playing with him. I love Acker Bilk’s clarinet playing, but I find that after half an hour of just him playing solo even I have had enough, and Jack is no Acker Bilk, and my wife isn’t me. Maybe things would have been more to the wife’s liking if Gavin Anderson had sung a bit more, or maybe not, as he didn’t seem to impress her either.
As the title tells you, Jack plays Eb clarinet. In this case it is an 1850 metal model made in London. If you have ever heard old records or cartoon sound tracks and wondered at the fact that the clarinet sounded ‘strange’ it would inevitably be because it was a metal Eb jobbie. My wife likens the sound to that of a French torch singer, and if you listen to track two, you will see what she means. I must admit it was Jack’s choice of instrument that attracted me to the CD as it is very different.
Will the CD get played often? No. Will it get given away? No. But, rather than using it as a Coromandel road temperament tamer (at my wife’s request we didn’t have Jack with us on the way home, we had Hillsong praise music instead - maybe she felt she needed the Lord's hand to keep her safe from my driving on that part of the road), I will wait until she is out and give it a spin on a Sunday afternoon just to hear that unusual clarinet sound.
So, was it all negative comment from my wife? Despite her comments she drove me mad the whole weekend humming and whistling impersonations of Jack McLaughlin playing ‘There’ll Be a Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight’.
On checking the cover, I see that Colin Heath made the original recordings using an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Nice to see a contact and fellow Kiwi based POM getting a mention for providing the original recordings, though I think he owes me a drink after this one.
JACK McLAUGHLIN & KJELD BRANDT
OF A SUNDAY MORN IN OLDE NEW ORLEANS
Jazz Crusade 2005 JCCD-3102 18 tracks 74 min
Where He Leads Me, Sometimes My Burden*, Near The Cross, In The Sweet Bye & Bye, In The Upper Garden, Just A Little While To Stay Here, The Last Mile Of The Way, Nearer My God To Thee, Sing On, Does Jesus Care, At The Cross, Down By The Riverside, His Eye Is On The Sparrow, I Shall Not Be Moved, In The Garden*, Lord Lord Lord, When I Move To The Sky*, Royal Telephone
Some felt that my review of Jack’s last CD 'If We Never Meet This Side Of Heaven' was a trifle harsh. Maybe, but as a reviewer you do have to call it as you see it, or lose respect. Anyway, it was the third album of Jack’s that I had acquired and now I have this latest one, so you can’t say that I don’t like him. I felt the last CD lacked something and needed more drive and depth. Well, with fellow metal clarinettist Kjeld Brandt joining him things have changed dramatically. (Wicked thought for the day: do metal clarinettists rust if they stay too long in the shower?)
The change in dynamics is astounding and this CD is a gem. The styles are different and very complimentary; Kjeld is rather loose limbed compared to Jack and lacks his emphasis on vibrato. From tune one it is easy to identify the players. If you haven’t picked it straight away then tune number 2 will set you right as on this number and on two other tracks* Jack plays Eb rather than Bb.
It is not just the extra depth of having Kjeld alongside Jack that lifts this CD for the other members of the group, John van Buuren on banjo, Craig Goeldner bass and Rachel Goeldner (nee Hamilton) on piano, get swept along too. The earlier CD was for aficionados, this CD is for everyone.
Very nice and well worth having
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