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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

Hot Stuff. The Three Pods Of Pepper (And a Couple of Hot Tamales).

Tom ‘Spats’ Langham (banjo, guitar, ukulele, tenor guitar); Norman Field (clarinet, alto, C-melody & baritone saxophone); Frans Sjöström (bass saxophone); Keith Nichols (piano, on six of the tracks); Mike Durham (cornet on three of the tracks, plus vocal on one)
rec 2 March 2006.

WVR 1003 [55:56]



The Man From The South
Riverboat Shuffle
What Are You Waiting For, Mary?
Birmingham Bertha
Little Buttercup
Doing The Raccoon
Slow River
My Baby Knows How
It’s The Talk Of The Town
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Feeling No Pain
I’m Going To Give It To Mary With Love
Keep A Song In Your Soul
She’s Got "It"
Never Again
Reaching For Someone
My Sweetie Went Away
Singing A Song To The Stars

The Three Pods of Pepper is the band-within-a-band that comprises Tom ‘Spats’ Langham, Norman Field and Frans Sjöström. The Hot Tamales of the album’s title – you’ll need to know your Freddie Keppard to get that one – consist of pianist Keith Nichols and cornet player Mike Durham and they turn up on a number of tracks. The bigger aggregation consists of that preaching trombonist Paul Munnery and the fine bass John C. Hallam alongside Vic Berton-influenced drummer Pete Soulsby.

The picture of the Pods that graces the cover shows three elegantly dressed but sombre gentlemen; they look as if they’ve downed a vat of moonshine between them and have suffered the inevitable medical reverses. Don’t be fooled – they play with natty command and a sure awareness of period style; hot dance and classic jazz are in safe hands here.

We notice immediately the springiness of the rhythm and the Tram-and Rollini front line makes itself splendidly apparent in Riverboat Shuffle – very well worked out breaks all round. Frans Sjöström has the Rollini style and tone down pat. Nichols joins in with some naughty Bix-inspired pianism in the intro to the Bing classic What Are You Waiting For, Mary? And he’s joined in the next track by the Manny Klein derived playing of Mike Durham – who’s especially evocative when playing muted. Elsewhere we find a kind of homage to Chelsea Quealey on My Baby Knows How. The Pods and Tamales together produce the goods throughout. The arrangements are deft and thoughtful and the playing on a high level.

Mike Durham writes the notes, which mention famous historic performances of the tunes they play with reverent knowledge. Allow me to add a piece - Doing The Raccoon was also a splendid vehicle for Eddie South and His Alabamians in the late 1920s. Langham alternatives incisive chording and excellent single string work on this one. His solo outing on It’s The Talk Of The Town is first class. The University Six and its variants are apparent elsewhere, as is Langham’s Bing-derived scat singing. In that echt-Crosby vehicle Reaching For Someone Langham even picks up on Nichols’s earlier interpolation and quotes some more Bix. Note though that the tempo adopted is slower than the classic Crosby and this brings a greater sense of tristesse with Field’s clarinet strongly to the fore. The final bonus track gives us Langham enjoying himself – his vibrato is positively fruity, the musical equivalent of Terry-Thomas.

The Pods and Tamales impress once again. Those attuned to their period style will find a storehouse of songs classic, old, and obscure. No Pain is guaranteed here – though you don’t have to embrace that Chicagoan euphemism for alcoholic stupor to enjoy the musical goods on offer.

Jonathan Woolf


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