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


Norman Field
14 Regent Road
Birmingham B17 9JU

Hello Baby! - The Rhythm Boys featuring Spats Langham

Tom ĎSpatsí Langham (banjo, guitar, ukulele, vocal); Mike Durham (trumpet, vocal); Paul Munnery (trombone); Norman Field (clarinet, alto & C-melody saxophone); Keith Nichols (piano, vocal); Frans Sjöström (bass saxophone); John C. Hallam (string bass); Pete Soulsby (drums)
Rec. 1 March 2006

WVR 1002 [72:05]



I Lost My Gal From Memphis
Down Among The Sugar Cane
My Sweet Tooth Says I Wanna
That Rhythm Man
An Evening In Caroline
I Believe In Miracles
Hello Baby
Tíainít No Sin
Harlem Madness
If You Donít Love Me
Washboard Blues (piano solo)
Cheerful Little Earful
Rhythm King
Letís Pretend Thereís A Moon
Old Man Sunshine, Little Boy Bluebird
Think Of Me, Thinking Of You
Goodnight Angel

This is the first WVR Iíve come across but it wonít be the last as Iím reviewing a brother disc. It teams Spats Langham with some regular partners Ė Iíve already reviewed his summit meetings with Norman Field and Keith Nichols on this site Ė in classic jazz and hot dance music that takes in popular numbers and more esoteric tunes with equal aplomb. Iíve noted before the stylistic versatility inherent in these kinds of performances so in the first track I Lost My Gal From Memphis, for instance, we find Nichols mining Willie "the Lion" Smith and the impressive trombonist Paul Munnery taking on Tricky Sam Nantonís role. Thereís also a vivid banjo solo from Langham.

Moments of pleasure abound in this well crafted and expertly researched disc, complete with first class arrangements. Trumpeter Mike Durham, who also writes the booklet notes, plays a firm lead in That Rhythm Man in which Munneryís righteous preaching is an arresting sound. Nichols sings on this one and Pete Soulsby kicks the rhythm with swinging vitality. Influences on the band, apart from things Ellingtonian, include Ted Lewis, Fats Waller, Bing Crosby the Goofus Six and its satellite bands, Bix and Tram and their circle and others less well known. The intelligent arrangements ensure that each song is treated on its merits. Thereís a Nichols tribute to Fats on I Believe In Miracles where Langhamís bluesy guitar hints add strongly to the atmosphere and of course Norman Field features prominently Ė hear his rhythmically pointed and lyrical playing on the title track. There are splashes of percussive colour - period chiaroscuro - that attests to the absorption of fine models; Vic Bertonís drumming for example, or the brass bass and bass players who influenced the excellent Frans Sjöström and John C. Hallam respectively.

Plenty of the tracks allow the band time to stretch out rather more than is perhaps the norm Ė longer in fact than the three minute 78 - and this allows longer solos and front line exchanges. On Rhythm King the band evokes Bix and Tram with unselfconscious brio and here one notes with pleasure how well Munnery has absorbed Bill Rankís playing Ė and especially his command of the Rank style in ensembles. Sjöströmís Rollini inspired playing is also spot-on without being slavish. Some of Durhamís very best playing comes in Letís Pretend Thereís A Moon where heís full toned and lyric. There are touches of Teddy Wilsonís fulsome playing along with the Fats influences in Nicholsís playing here and some good clarinet as well.

Langham is a singer of course and takes the vocal duties extensively; Bing is a reference point but he also mines more vaudeville sources as he does in Old Man Sunshine, Little Boy Bluebird which he then lards with the Old Groanerís special brand of avuncular scatting.

The band has been very well recorded in the West Jesmond Cornet Museum Ė is this a Mike Durham hang-out? - and looks attractive down to period microphone and Gennett record label motif. Donít underestimate the hard work that goes into a disc such as this, another most enjoyable one from this fine stable of musicians.

Jonathan Woolf


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