THE SAVANNAH JAZZ BAND
Lake Records LACD 29 1993 15 Tracks 69 min
I Can't Escape From You, Kinklets, Sing On, I Don't See Me, All Alone By The Telephone, Smiles, Gravier St. Blues, Shake It & Break It, A Miner's Dream Of Home, Lead Me Saviour, Buddy's Habit, The Curse Of AN Aching Heart, Trog's Blues, At The Cross, South Rampart St. Parade
In 1988 I was still in a state of jazz starvation so when my parents returned to the UK for a holiday, like the good son that I am, I gave strict instructions that they were to try and get me some jazz tapes. The result was some of the Lake Ken Colyer re-issues. I wrote to Lake asking for more, and they put me in touch with the Wellington Jazz Preservation Society - oh what a tangled web we weave. The W.J.P.S. at that time were selling various tapes and records, and I took a punt on one by the Savannah Jazz Band. I have bought everything they have released since. They are a beautiful, well balanced band. Most bands have something about them that is a bit off, but not this one. The trumpet is clean cut and attacking, the trombone underlines in a good tailgate style, the reeds weave in and out in a powerful and emotional manner, and the rhythm section is excellent; complementary not competing. There are no stars, and no heroes, as I said balanced. The recording standards are to Lakes usual high quality and are as clean cut and well balanced as the band itself. Balance also comes into the material recorded: some standards, parade music, blues, ragtime, many well known favourites, but there are also some less frequently recorded numbers. Wally Fawkes' haunting "Trog's Blues" is one, Irving Berlin's "All Alone By The Telephone" another, together with the popular, but rarely played by jazz bands, gospel number "At The Cross".
This CD is ideal for summer. A chair on a shady veranda, a glass of cold beer in your hand, a gentle scented breeze, the Savannah Jazz Band swinging in the background; pure bliss.
THE SAVANNAH JAZZBAND
OUT IN THE COLD
Lake LACD82 1997, 16 Tracks 70 min
Running Wild, Yellow Dog Blues, Save Your Sorrow, Mama's Gone Goodbye, African Queen, When My Dreamboat Comes Home, Wabash Blues, Nobody's Fault But Mine, Willie The Weeper, Savoy Blues, Ole Miss Rag, Out In The Cold, Tipi Tipi Tin, There's Yes Yes In Your Eyes, Out Of Nowhere, Original Dixieland One Step
Well, this band has to be my favourite contemporary New Orleans style band, so you won't be surprised if I say that the CD is wonderful and you should all rush out and buy it. What makes the Savannahs so good? Well take 7 of the best jazzmen for a start, then get them to work in the co-operative ensemble style needed for NO jazz. The key is that no-one dominates the ensemble, making it a kaleidoscope of sounds, tones and nuances that blend, merge, part, and then come back together to make magic music. Don't believe me? Well the cover notes are by Pat Halcox, and he says they are great too! There is a change in the front-line for this CD. Trombonist, Brian Ellis, had had major surgery only a couple of months before the recording. His place is taken by a pleasant sounding Dave Morrell, with Brian sitting in on piano. Trumpet player, Tony Smith, plays his usual confident lead, with excellent mute work thrown in. Martin Fox plays clarinet in his distinctive style to warm your heart. The back-line is just as good with a solid and together underlay of rhythm: Tony Pollitt on bass, Jack Cooper on banjo and John Meehan on drums.
Whence next in England I hope to get to Huddersfield and listen to the Savannahs in their home setting. Until then I will just have to do with sitting on the veranda looking over my sun drenched garden, sipping cold beer, as I appreciate the lyrical sounds on the stereo. Huddersfield? Well, one day, but not at Christmas - it's too bloody cold!
THE SAVANNAH JAZZ BAND
IT'S ONLY A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE
Lake, 1995 LACD51 16 tracks, 77 min.
Swannee River, Hilarity rag, Bouncing Around, Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, Redwing, Gatemouth, Second Line, Move The Body Over, Only A Beautiful Picture, Love Songs Of The Nile, Creole Belles, I Double Dare You, Chloe, Home Sweet Home, I Get The Blues When It Rains, Let Me Call You Sweetheart.
Man I hated having to review this CD, a task I put off and off. Now before you move onto the next one thinking that the Savannahs have turned out a load of crap, let me explain. This band must be one of the best bands around, certainly in England. The band plays a mixture of standards, dance tunes, rags, spirituals and marches in a smooth New Orleans style. All the musicians are of world class and in the occasional solo breaks demonstrate their skills, but it is in the seamless and totally balanced ensemble work that they excel, with all of them playing with verve and understanding, but without anyone dominating. Why my reticence at reviewing this album if I admire the band so much and always enjoy listening to them? Well I said it before when I reviewed their earlier Lake CD, and I can't find any new superlatives to use! To be honest, after Ken Colyer this is the band I enjoy listening to most. I regard this CD as a 'must have' for any jazz fan. I enjoy listening to the Savannahs most when I am on my own and can sit and pick up every tonal intonation, nuance and inflection - magic. When I started this I promised myself that I would not pick out any of the tunes, or any of the band members as they are all superb, but I am going to break that promise by saying just listen to the slow and beautiful 'Love Songs Of The Nile', and that, although I can only play a trombone in my head, that if I could play one in reality, I would wish play to play it like Brian Ellis!
THE SAVANNAH JAZZ BAND
Lake Records LACD112, 1999 15 tracks, 74 min
Millenburg Joys, In The Sweet Bye & Bye, Dauphin Street Blues, Gettysburg March, Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again, Froggie Moore Rag, Wolverine Blues, Under The Double Eagle, Someday Sweetheart, Sensation Rag, Friendless Blues, Under The Bamboo Tree, Tuxedo Rag, Big House Blues, Nothing Blues.
Paul Adams, owner of Lake Records, describes the Savannahs as one of the best bands within their chosen style, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. This is their fourth CD for Lake. I have all four, plus some earlier tapes of theirs. The CDs have all been recorded at, The Wheel, Golcar, Yorkshire. It is obviously a venue that suits as the CDs show the band as far more relaxed than on the tapes, and the recordings are far better, being clear, bright, and well balanced. In fact that pretty well sums up the band itself: no stars or heroes, just a balanced team; sympathetic and complimentary.
I always look forward to a new release by the Savannahs, and if they continue to put out material of this quality, I will continue to do so. The tunes are the usual balance of standards and lesser know tunes played in a distinct New Orleans style. I often wonder how they keep finding new material from the older jazz period. Maybe they will next time try and 'jazz up' some modern pop tunes as some of the bands did in the 50s and 60s, Ken Colyer included (A Walk in the Black Forest). If any band can do a good job of that task, The Savannah Jazz Band can.
All up, a very nice CD. Can I have some more please?
THE SAVANNAH JAZZ BAND
Lake LACD181 2003 15 tracks, 78 min
First Choice, Red Man Blues, The Streets Of London, Ciribiribin, On A Coconut Island, When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano, Jerusalem Blues, South Of The Border, Sweethearts Of Sigma Chi, See See Rider, Bright Star Blues, The Eyes Of Texas, When I Come To The End Of My Journey, L’i’l Liza Jane, Climax Rag
I have been buying this band’s material since 1988, which is a long time. I love their approach to the music and, given my tendency for using strange descriptions, I thought I’d say they were like an apple fresh from the tree; clean & crisp. Since Paul Adams of Lake ‘found them’ the label have put out a steady stream of CD’s by The Savannahs. Suddenly it stopped and I wondered why. Now four years later Lake has issued a new CD and the reason for the delay is apparent: the frontline has two new members - Geoff Wilde on cornet and Gabe Essien on clarinet. A change in a backline is not often too dramatic, or a replacement member in the frontline can be reasonably easy to adjust to, but two new frontsmen, well that is a big change and one that can take a while to shake down, and in some cases I remember, fail miserably.
It has been a long wait. Was it worth it? Is the new line-up as good as the old? Yes and yes. As with most men using technology and/or mechanical things, I tend to follow the rule: ‘If all else fails – read the instructions’. So I played the CD before reading the cover notes. I thought: ‘They sound a bit different, definitely the Savannahs, but, hmmm ...... where’s that cover note with the band’s line–up’. In summary: Geoff Wilde’s cornet is punchier and more stabbing than Tony Smith’s trumpet and Gabe Essien’s clarinet has a lighter tone than the late Martin Fox’s: the style is similar in some ways, but very different in others. I think that the band, and us listeners, are fortunate that The Savannahs were able to find two musos who were able to fit in so well; bringing their own interpretations to the music, but never overwhelming the sound we have all come to expect and love.
As always The Savannah’s have brought a rich mix of material to the CD. There are jazz favourites, some of jazz ‘s sadly neglected tunes and a few surprises (the biggest being a very nice interpretation of that thought provoking tune ‘The Streets of London’).
It is good to see the band back after such a long break. Long may Lake keep producing CDs by them.
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