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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Spats LANGHAM

The Hottest Man in Town

rec. Ephemeral Recording Facility, Broadway, UK
LAKE LACD 228 [55:09]

 

I’m Wondering Who
The Hottest Man In Town
You’re The Cream In My Coffee
Passion
Dreamer’s Holiday
Palesteena
How Am I To Know?
Eddie’s Lullaby
Good Little, Bad Little You
Wide Awake (The Insomniac’s Lament)
I Like To Do Things For You
Persian Rug
Ukelele Lady
Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe
Just Like A Melody
Stage Fright
Turn On The Heat
Thomas "Spats" Langham (banjo, guitar, ukulele, vocals)
Keith Nichols (piano)
Norman Field (clarinet, alto and C melody saxophone)
Debbie Arthurs (percussion, vocals)
Malcolm Sked (sousaphone, double bass)
Danny Blyth (second guitar, mandolin)
Nick Gill (piano)

The booklet picture sets the scene. Spats Langham, sporting a Ronald Colman moustache, is ready to croon into a microphone. He is the cutout record label of a mock-up 78 record sleeve; slightly crumpled but doing the job nicely (the sleeve, not Langham). Alongside are the names of his fellows on the bandstand, names that will resonate for admirers of the Charleston Chasers and of hot music generally. Keith Nichols is here and Norman Field, a fine and versatile player much valued on the circuit. The Chasers’s drummer Debbie Arthurs is here as well.

So all is set for an enjoyable romp. The repertoire takes in Langham originals as well as things one associates with the ODJB, Whiteman, Bix and Tram, Sam Lanin and of course Ukelele Ike – one of Langham’s very earliest inspirations. Unlike another eminent practitioner in the field, the guitarist and banjoist Martin Wheatley – who also works regularly with Nichols – Langham tends to mine novelty and popular songs with greater avidity. Where Wheatley digs Eddie Lang, Spats digs Ike.

Not that Langham is averse to turning on the soloistic heat. He can also veer closer to the Django-Oscar Aleman scheme of things – try Passion – than ever Wheatley would. This Andalusian take is quite appropriate given the song’s provenance but also shows the breadth of Langham’s influences. It’s good to hear Palesteena with peppy twenties sax and the exotica of Persian Rug. Abetted by Nichols (and his replacement Nick Gill on three tracks) Langham is generous in allocating solo space to Fields. The tribute to Bix, Tram and Crosby on Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe is crowned by fine breaks and there’s more than a touch of the Langs, at last, on Raggin’ the Scale, the final track.

None of the vocals suffer from that dread affliction Trans-Atlanticitis. And there’s plenty of variety in the band. I’ve not mentioned the sousaphone playing of Malcolm Sked but it’s a tower of witty strength and Danny Blyth takes on his guitar and mandolin chores with distinction. Full marks to the band for not ploughing the same old field.


Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Tony Augarde



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