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Vintage Acker Bilk


LAKE LACD 257 [71:36 + 73:48]





All The Girls Go Crazy
East Coast Trot
Franklin Street Blues
Over the Rainbow
Salutation March
Travelling Blues
The Old Rugged Cross
Bye And Bye
Dauphine Street Blues
Trouble In Mind
Corrine, Corrina
Over In The Gloryland
Gladiolus Rag
Goodnight Sweet Prince
Careless Love
St. Louis Blues (version 1)
St. Philip’s Street Breakdown
Our Monday Date
Darkness On The Delta
King Joe
Dippermouth Blues
St. Louis Blues (version 2)
High Society
Snag It
Sing On
Baby Doll
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
We Shall Walk Through The Streets Of The City
Postman’s Lament
Savoy Blues
I’ve Found A New Baby
Sweetie Dear
Climax Rag
Delia Gone
Audientor March
Carry Me Back To Old Virginny
Acker Bilk’s Paramount Jazzband, The Storyville Jazzmen, The Hugh Rainey All-Stars and Johnny Bastaple’s Chosen Six

This double album, priced as one, finds Acker Bilk still deeply embedded in the New Orleans Revival. He had only fairly recently left Ken Colyer’s Band, and whilst it’s true that Bilk’s own Paramount Jazzband had begun to record in 1955, the five or six months covered by Lake’s conspectus witnessed a veritable burst of studio recordings.

Whether by accident or design some of the tracks here have the same kind of boxy acoustic that was shared by the pioneering American Music sides made in New Orleans. It certainly gives – intended or not – an acoustic verisimilitude to the sides. Trumpeter Bob Wallis is a strong presence throughout; he sounds very much like Bunk Johnson on Franklin Street Blues – vibrato, note placement et al – though Bilk is the superior soloist, even if he’s over-recorded in the balance. Some of Wallis’s bizarre, laryngitic vocals are included, as well as some stylistically incompatible work (nanny goat vibrato and swing phrasing on Careless Love for instance).

The virtues of these forty-one tracks lie in their wholehearted embracing of a genre, in their enthusiasm, and in those flashes of instrumental excellence that raise recreative playing to a higher level. But there is a frenetic element to many of them that precludes relaxed rhythm – Over the Rainbow is especially pernicious with a heavy on the beat approach that saps it of life. And the attempt at a New Orleans marching band style on Salutation March sounds messy if, once again, enthusiastic. Some of the titles are enlivened by the punchy, Manny Paul-like alto playing of John R T Davies. Another fine instrumentalist, Dick Heckstall-Smith pops up on a couple of numbers – a fine player but the arrangements aren’t helpful and the front line ensemble sounds congested.

Hugh Rainey’s group had Ginger Baker on drums, in the days when Cream was merely an alternative to milk, not a Supergroup. He keeps good time though once or twice he forges out on his own, stylistically speaking. But of course it’s Bilk who offers the finest moments, weaving contrapuntal lines with flair, fine tone and sure harmonic appreciation. The few instances of rhythmic over-emphasis are more than compensated for in the variety, and tonal attractiveness, of his playing. And his singing, even then, was a much-underrated facet of his musicianship.

Jonathan Woolf





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