ALEX WELSH AND HIS BAND
MUSIC OF THE MAUVE DECADE
LAKE LACD62 1996 15 tracks 53m
The Charleston; The Black Bottom; Lonesome and Sorry; Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; Shimme Sha Wabble; Don't Leave Me Daddy; Nobody's Sweetheart; The Needle; Tell 'Em 'Bout Me; I Cried For You; Mammy O' Mine; Down Among The Sheltering Palms; I Cover The Waterfront; Bye Bye Blues; Sleepy Time Gal.
Alex Welsh and his Dixieland Jazz Band kick this CD in with an almost Dutch Swing College sound and continue in this strain for the next track. Originally playing in the broad Dixieland idiom, the band moved on to be a mainstream outfit. This 1959 recording is from the transition period, and this become apparent in track number three where they get very orchestrated and then perform a series of insipid solos. The fact that it was a transition stage is very apparent by the continued return to either 'Dixie' or 'Chicago' style jazz. This is a pleasant, smoothly performed CD by competent musicians, though I get the suspicion that often they are reading the music rather than living it. In addition to the original tracks, there are three by the Archie Semple Quartet. Archie is a good clarinetist, but not in the league of Acker Bilk, Monty Sunshine, or Ian Wheeler, the three who dominated this period of jazz history. As I said, a pleasant album, but never inspiring. Now if you want to hear Alex Welsh and his band at their best, get the 'Live at the Royal Festival Hall 1954/55' cassette (LA5008/C) put out by Lake a few years back.
ALEX WELSH AND HIS BAND
LAKE LACD 107 1998, 14 tracks 55 minutes
Louisiana, I Wish On The Moon, Open Country, Davenport Blues, I Got Rhythm, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, Bluesology, Oh Baby, That Old Feeling, Strike One, My Blushing Rosie, When Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabam, Sunday, Broken Doll.
I was sitting listening to this CD of 1966 recordings for the first time, thinking to myself: "Very pleasant but rather mainstream", when my wife called out on the kitchen, "Hey, come on, turn that up, it is good jazz!" A wise man learns very quickly in life to never argue with his wife, so I have to say of this album: "it is good jazz".
I have always had an admiration Alex Welsh, despite his and my taste in jazz styles not always coinciding. There is something about his wonderful trumpet style, and the absolute professionalism of his bands, which has meant I have always had some of his material in collection. The CD is a welcome addition.
At times the band gets rather "Ted Heathish", especially on to the tracks "I Got Rhythm", and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea". However, on the last four tracks the band seems to relax and loosen up. Maybe during a break in the recording sessions they had a chance to sup an ale or two. Whatever the reason, they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves a lot more towards the end. I especially like the track, "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabam". It reminded me of a balmy summer's night in Battersea Park listening to Alex and his boys perform. It even has the traditional cry from legendary drummer, Herr Lenny Hastings, of "A Hulu, A Hulu"!
ALEX WELSH AND HIS BAND
LIVE AT THE ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL 1954/55
LAKE LACD8 2000 12 tracks 65m
Panama Rag, Memphis Blues, Clarinet Marmalade, Clark & Randolph Blues, New Orleans Function, Maryland My Maryland, Wild Man Blues, New Orleans Stomp, Maple Leaf Rag, Black Mountain Blues, Mississippi Mud, Mama Don't Allow/When The Saints.
It was 1954 and a new boy was in town - Alex Welsh had left his native Edinburgh for smoky old London. It was good timing as the break up of the Mick Mulligan and Christie brother's bands had meant that there was a pool of talented jazzmen looking for new berths. In addition to picking up quality jazzmen sympathetic to the style of jazz he wanted to play, Alex managed to get the occasional services of the exuberant vocalist, George Melly.
This CD is a re-issue of Lake's 1988 album of the same name but with an additional track. The fact that I have put my hand in my pocket to acquire what I already had must indicate to you the value I put on just that one extra track (burning tape to CD is NOT beyond my current capabilities!). The sleeve notes say that it is Dixieland, though the use of the guitar rather than the banjo would perhaps make it more Chicago jazz, but this is not over orchestrated as some Chicago jazz is and certainly not as castrated as mainstream jazz. Whilst later in his career Alex became smoother, he also to my ear lost some of the all consuming enthusiasm that is so apparent in theses recordings.
Whilst all the tracks are memorable, I find some tracks even more enjoyable than others. I am especially enamoured of the down tempo ' Clark & Randolph Blues' and ' Wild Man Blues' which allow the band to shew their skill in both ensemble playing and solo breaks. George Melly? Well George is just George - the best!
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