Mandy Make Up Your Mind
Blues For Kenny Davern
In A Mist
West End Blues
Sorry; Morning Glory
Sweet Like This
Buddy Bolden’s Blues
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.