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

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5 Steps to Dankworth/Journey into Jazz

Vocalion CDNJT 5303

5 Steps to Dankworth

1. Export Blues
2. Somerset Morn
3. Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’
4. One For Janet
5. Somebody Loves Me
6. Hullabaloo
7. Horoscope
8. Stompin’ at the Savoy
9. Magenta Midget
10. Limehouse Blues
Bonus Tracks

11. Firth of Fourths
12. Coquette
Journey Into Jazz

13. Adios
14. Jersey Bounce
15. Take the ‘A’ Train
Itinerary of An Orchestra

16. Speech - Johnny Dankworth's Introduction
17. First Section (1st Theme)
18. Second Section (2nd and 3rd themes)
19. Third Section (inc. slow movement)
20. Fourth Section (finale)

I am old enough to remember Johnny Dankworth before he became a bit posh and changed his name to John Dankworth. He was an important figure in the development of British modern jazz, not only because of his ability as an alto-saxist and clarinettist as well as composer and arranger, but also because his groups nurtured many of the up-and-coming jazz players who were to become stalwarts on the jazz scene for many years. The Johnny Dankworth Seven, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, included such great names as Cleo Laine, Jimmy Deuchar, Don Rendell, Bill Le Sage and Tony Kinsey.

After the Johnny Dankworth Seven broke up, Johnny's agent suggested that he should form a big band. This CD contains two of that band's albums plus a couple of bonus tracks, all recorded in the mid-1950s. Like the Seven, the big band was full of prestigious British jazzers, including Danny Moss, Tommy Whittle, Dave Lee and Kenny Clare. Although there were several other big bands touring Britain at the time, the Dankworth ensemble was more predominantly a jazz group than most of the others. Even though their nearest rival, Ted Heath's band, often played jazz, it sometimes tended to be more populist than Dankworth's. This is not to say that Johnny couldn't be commercial when it suited him - in 1961 his big band had a hit with African Waltz, which stayed in the British pop charts for 21 weeks. This recording was preceded by Dankworth's other chart hit - the gloriously parodic Experiments With Mice in 1956.

The tracks on this CD illustrate the composing and arranging talents of Dankworth and fellow-arranger Dave Lindup. But their main appeal is in the many splendid jazz solos by members of the band. For instance, the first track (Export Blues) features fine solos from Dankworth's pure-toned alto, Danny Moss's punchy tenor and Dave Lee's piano. The big-band tracks are interspersed with tasteful small-group recordings led by trombonist Laurie Monk and trumpeter Dickie Hawdon.

The other original album, Journey into Jazz, contains three jazz standards and Johnny's long suite entitled Itinerary of an Orchestra. Inspired by Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, this takes us on a guided tour of the jazz orchestra and its instruments, with variations on a theme that resembles Frankie and Johnny. It uses some interesting orchestration, some of it clearly influenced by Duke Ellington. Newcomers to jazz will learn something of the different timbres available to jazz groups, although the individual instruments are not clearly defined. Throughout this piece - and, indeed, the whole CD - Kenny Clare's drumming is a source of great strength.

I don't know if the Vocalion people realise that the Avid label has already reissued these two albums, along with Cleo Laine's She's the Tops, on a double CD which retails at £6.99. Let's hope this doesn't have a deleterious effect on the success of this reissue, which is also very reasonably priced.

Tony Augarde






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