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DAN PAWSON

1966-1971 - A TRIBUTE (The Lord Richard New Orleans Sessions Vol 3)

La Croix 504/LA CROIX CD93, 2007, 18 tracks 70 min

Hindustan, Blues In F, There's Yes Yes In Your Eyes, Country Boy Down In New Orleans, When You Wore A Tulip, Whooping Blues, Linger Awhile, Indian Love Call, Deep In The Heart Of Texas, West Lawn Dirge, 452, Lord Lord Lord, Red Roses For A Blue Lady, Ladies Of Calcutta, La Golondrina, Je Vous Aime, Sweetheart Melody, Take Her To Jamaica

Taken from recordings by 'Lord' Richard Ekins for his La Croix label, this CD is, in many ways, three different bands with the link being the late Dan Pawson. I must admit this is the first time I have listened to Dan leading his own Artesian Hall Stompers, previously I had heard him only as part of the front line of someone else’s band. I suppose the thing is he came to the fore at around the time I left the UK for NZ and, as he was Birmingham based, I wouldn’t have come across him in the jazz clubs that I knew south of the Thames.

The first 13 tracks are previously unissued. 1-6 are from a 1966 session at the Cambridge Inn, Birmingham. The first thing that struck me on hearing them was how much they sounded like the early recordings of the Crane River Jazz Band (though Dan sounds less like an early Ken Colyer than an early Keith Smith). It was not just the primitive but powerful New Orleans jazz; it was the primitive recording standards! I have heard better sound quality and balance on CDs that are based on jazz club member’s reel-to-reel 4 track tape recorders, so to hear such sound from a professional record producer is surprising (I have since been advised by a person involved in these tracks that they were not commerical recordings but, rather, private ones done on a home reel-to-reel recorder). The jazz is so good, yet so hard to hear, with parts of the frontline often disappearing almost completely, especially the trumpet when using a mute. Oh to be Dr Who and time travel back to that session with lots of good microphones and a decent multi-channel sound desk so that the band’s performance got the recording it deserves.

Tracks 7-9 are by Louis Nelson’s Serenaders, with Dan leading on trumpet. Instantly you appreciate the improvement in recording standards, even though this was recorded just a year later than the earlier tracks. The music is a recreation of New Orleans jazz dance music of the ‘Kid’ Thomas style. It is very New Orleans, but very danceable (my parents both being keen ballroom and old time dancers I know about these things).

Tracks 10 & 11 are by The Eagle Brass Band, again led by New Orleans trombonist Louis Nelson. Well, I ain’t a fan of street bands, but this one is quite the ticket and I especially enjoyed ‘West Lawn Dirge’ as so often all you ever hear of a funeral dirge is the clipped beginning of one in ‘New Orleans Function’.

The final tracks are from the re-constituted Artesian Hall Stompers and a session at the Birmingham Arms in 1971. Again the sound is good. The jazz is good too, though rather than the purist sound of the first tracks it is a blend of that and the more dance orientated tracks with Louis Nelson’s Serenaders.

It is a good CD with good jazz, but it is one that I find so frustrating; if only the 1966 session had been recorded properly.

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