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


Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra salute the Kings of Jazz

LAKE LACD261 [65:50]




Mahogany Hall Stomp
Mandy Make Up Your Mind
Blues For Kenny Davern
Stompy Jones
In A Mist
West End Blues
Sorry; Morning Glory
Sweet Like This
Jitterbug Waltz
Buddy Bolden’s Blues
Georgia Swing
Singin’ The Blues
Down South Camp Meeting
Billy Hunter (tpt, flugel), Phil O’Malley (tbn), Dick Lee (reeds), Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor sax), Martin Forster (reeds), Tom Finlay (pno), Roy Percy (bass) and Ken Mathieson (dms/arranger)
rec. Sound Café, Penicuik, Scotland.


Ken Mathieson has an eight-piece band; two brass, three reeds and three rhythm. It’s neither too big nor too small and can play big band arrangements whilst also attending to the demands of small group improvisation. With this disc the band, and its leader in particular via his charts, salutes various Kings of Jazz – Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, Beiderbecke, Waller and Fletcher Henderson.

One of the strengths of the band lies in not surrendering corporate identity when playing songs associated with such disparate origins. The mainstream ethos is maintained throughout, and the soloists prove to be strong players with their own sounds and ideas. Dick Lee for example takes a fine solo on Mahogany Hall Stomp where we find Martin Foster’s baritone anchoring things with his confident pedal notes. Trombonist Phil O’Malley, an experienced player, has something of the suavity of Roy Williams though there’s grit in his tone too when he stretches out on Mandy Make Up Your Mind. Mathieson worked with Kenny Davern over many years and has penned a tribute to the late American clarinettist in the lineage of Blues for Jimmy Noone. But the Davern Blues is a rather elliptical tune, not really funereal, and affords Lee the opportunity to pay oblique homage in his sudden soaring to the upper register, a Davern forte. Mathieson tweaks Davern’s tail slightly by including the bass clarinet, an instrument Davern apparently loathed.

In A Mist is taken at a slower than usual tempo. When he heard it played by Mathiesen at this speed in another band Speigle Wilcox, an old friend of Bix Beiderbecke’s, queried the tempo adding that this was Beiderbecke’s own. He’d apparently speeded it up for the recording. There are plenty of other pleasurable moments. Try the Johnny Hodges drenched Morning Glory or Lee’s turn on soprano sax on Sweet Like This and its fine, loping tempo suffused with bluesy hues. Picking good tempos is another strength of the band.

The group often plays Morton tunes and they do justice to those presented here. Similarly the Ellingtonian clarinet choir on Bojangles is attractively voiced and Singin’ The Blues works well with Bix’s solo recreated by a five-horn front line and which elsewhere affords excellent opportunities for O’Malley to lead.

The whole band plays tightly and engagingly and the set is very well recorded.

Jonathan Woolf





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