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Ken Colyer – Vintage Ken Colyer - Volume 2
Featuring tracks by The Christie Bothers Stompers (1951), Ken Colyer's Jazzmen (1954 & 1955) and Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group (1954 & 1955).

LAKE LACD 236 [78:35]

Creole Song
Heebie Jeebies
Black Cat On A Fence
Salutation Stomp
Hiawatha Rag (version 1)
Bogalusa Moan
Chimes Blues
Cradle Song
Corrine Corina
The Entertainer
It Looks Like A Big Time Tonight
The Sheik Of Araby
Hiawatha Rag (version 2)
Dallas Blues
If I Ever Cease To Love
Midnight Special
Casey Jones
K.C. Moan
Take This Hammer
Go Down Old Hannah
Down By The Riverside
Streamline Train.

This is a triptych of early Colyer. First there’s the band led by the Christie Brothers, Ian and Keith, and called the Christie Brothers Stompers. Then there’s Colyer’s own Jazzmen. And finally that brief offshoot, the Ken Colyer Skiffle Group, which took advantage of the craze for broom handles and embarrassing accents.

Pianist Pat Hawes was quite right to note that despite the austerity of Colyer’s pronouncements on the subject of the purity of New Orleans jazz, his recordings with the Chrsitie Brothers prove faithful adherents of the Mutt Carey-Kid Ory model, not that of Bunk Johnson-George Lewis. The tight, forceful rather whinnying lead practised by Carey – a much underrated player – finds an apostle in Colyer and Keith Christie’s powerful Ory-ish trombone shows only vestigial signs of any Jim Robinson influence. Their attempt at a Rag, later a Colyer forte, simply proved that back then enthusiasm triumphed over elegance. The recordings are all rather tough and ready but certainly acceptable to the many admirers of this invigorating and exciting band.

Now with his own band and once free of those arch modernists Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber (one track here) - with their reprehensible taste for the de Paris brothers and Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Colyer donned sackcloth for the remainder of his career. Here we have possibly the finest of his bands with Mac Duncan and Ian Wheeler on board. The Rags are much tighter, better rehearsed and more consistently impressive than ever before, and the band has by now settled into its familiar repertoire and style. By far the best performance comes on If I Ever Cease To Love where the fire and the ebullient swing are a real tonic. Elsewhere there are signs of the many Colyer bands to come with their sometimes leaden tempi and unvarying front line responsibilities. We can search for this less pleasing side in Dallas Blues where for all the varied colour up front – notably Duncan’s righteous trombone – there’s a seeping air of predictability to the proceedings.

Nasal American accent to the fore the skiffle tracks are interesting not least for the titanic Alexis Korner whose guitar and mandolin playing enhance the session. By the time we get to Go Down Old Hannah the skiffle group is relaxed and in full cry, not simply mouthing Leadbelly witticisms – and generating plenty of heat as well.

Maybe the standards here vary from session to session but this is otherwise a rather compelling summation of five years in Colyer’s musical life.

Jonathan Woolf

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