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Debbie Arthurs’ Sweet Rhythm

Thank You Mr Moon

LAKE LACD233 [50:35]

 



1. My Baby Knows How
2. It's Wonderful
3. Ain't That A Grand And Glorious Feeling
4. When The World Is At Rest
5. Into Each Life
6. Aincha
7. Say It Isn't So
8. Just The Way You Look Tonight
9. Ain't He Sweet
10. Big City Blues
11. Thank You Mr. Moon
12. Ho Hum
13. Me Myself And I
14. I'm Somebody's Somebody Now
15. Travellin' All Alone
16. Get Out And Get Under
17. If You Want The Rainbow
Debbie Arthurs (vocals and percussion), Norman Field (clarinet and saxophones), Spats Langham (guitar, ukulele, vocals), Nick Gill (piano), Andy Woon (cornet), Mike Piggott (violin) and Malcolm Sked (double bass and sousaphone)
rec. Huntingdon Hall, Worcester. July 2006. DDD

Fresh from my audition of Spats Langham’s recent disc (review) comes the core of that band under the leadership of percussionist, singer and Charleston Chasers regular Debbie Arthurs. It’s her Annette Hanshaw inspired singing that’s very much to the fore on this outing and as before – and as ever – she sings with clear refinement, no ersatz American accent and a fine appreciation of period style. She even takes a Boswell Sisters look at the title track accompanied by Linda and Susan Adams.

A look at the head note will alert you to her confreres, some of whom - Nick Gill, Norman Field and Malcolm Sked – joined her on Langham’s record. The repertoire is a mix of standards and more out of the way material and that always makes for an enjoyable mix. I should note in passing that three of the songs are ones collectors will associate, on disc at least, not with Hanshaw necessarily but with Billie Holiday in the 1930s – Me, Myself and I, Travelin’ All Alone and Just the Way You Look Tonight. Arthurs reclaims them as it were with total independence, both of tone and in the nature of the arrangements.

All seventeen tracks are underpinned by a beguilingly crisp rhythm section, a springy and aerated texture that always lends a sense of drive to the proceedings. Norman Field, that versatile maestro, turns his hand to stylistic niceties, emulating Frank Trumbauer (maybe a hint of Bud Freeman too) on It’s Wonderful and elsewhere pays eloquent tribute to Adrian Rollini – is there a better such stylist in the country at the moment? Mike Piggott takes on the mantle of Joe Venuti, though he can also sound quite like another and very under-sung violinistic soloist of the time, Matty Malneck. On Ain't That A Grand And Glorious Feeling, a loyal and colourful recreation of late twenties style, Debbie Arthurs even pays nudging and subtle tribute to twenties percussionist supreme Vic Berton.

Arrangements are tasteful and varied; the occasional guitar and vocal introduction fuses with instrumental fluidity to create a real sense of style and texture. Cornet player Andy Woon, often playing muted, gives us hints of Manny Klein in his playing – and that’s certainly no bad thing; he plays especially well on the title track, one that should have been retitled Thank You Mr Woon.

Langham plays a most fetching Eddie Lang-inspired solo on Ho-hum, some of his very best playing on the date, and infuses some welcome blues in If You Want The Rainbow. Elsewhere his propulsive playing sounds inspiring. Malcolm Sked, whose sousaphone playing I so admired on Langham’s disc, here concentrates very much more on string bass chores at which he is so adept. Nevertheless hear his outstanding brass playing on Get Out And Get Under. At the piano there’s Nick Gill. One moment he pays tacit homage to Frank Signorelli, another he’s Harlem Striding vigorously behind Arthur’s vocals. I sense a brief homage to Teddy Wilson’s treble descending runs on Say It Isn’t So and a strong command of the James P Johnson idiom – it adds complexity to the mix.

In fact what I like about this band is that, despite the apparently close focus on the Hanshaw-Klein-Rollini-Venuti-Lang matrix, they sometimes actually seek inspiration from a somewhat wider range of influences. That’s not to deny their lively and colourful recreationist spirit, merely to point out that stylistically other things are happening as well. For Debbie Arthurs this is a splendid first disc under her own name – for an established company at least. Let’s trust there will be many more.

Jonathan Woolf



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