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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



SPATS LANGHAM and his
HOT COMBINATION

The Night Owl

Lake LACD 274

[56:10]

 

 

  1. 'leven Thirty Saturday Night
  2. Night Owl
  3. Got A Date With An Angel
  4. Gotta Getta Girl
  5. Sing Song Girl
  6. God's River
  7. Bonzo's Tango
  8. Mysterious Mose
  9. My Sweet Virginia
  10. Words
  11. It All Belongs To Me
  12. Moanin' Low
  13. New Orleans Shuffle
  14. Ghost Of The St. Louis Blues
  15. Melancolia
  16. Shepherd Of The Hills.

Spats Langham and his Hot Combination, with special guests
rec.2009


Dressed like Bogie but sounding like an Edward Hopper. The Bogart aspirant is Spats Langham and the title of his new album has that Hopper ring. It's not how I think of Tom Langham, that pre-War recidivist, whom I imagine driving an open-topped British Racing Green tourer to Shuttleworth, a picnic basket clinging precariously to a boot full of champagne, and a Flapper giggling in the passenger seat. Maybe a portable HMV gramophone somewhere about the place as well, with some Eddie Lang and Lew Stone ready to receive the thorn needle.

Actually it turns out that Langham drives a 1931 Austin Seven and wears Harris Tweed. The man is an incorrigible throwback. He and his Hot Combination, with some guest stars, have carved out just shy of an hour's worth of good honest pleasure in this Hopperesquely titled disc. The song selection satellites around things by Ukelele Ike, a special favourite of Langham, Emmett Miller and a number of tunes that won't be over-familiar to listeners. Astute song selection ensures interest is maintained and choice arrangements similarly ensure that aural fatigue is kept splendidly at bay.

Kudos to Malcolm Sked, who pumps away so splendidly throughout, not least in the opener where Danny Blyth's rhythm guitar keeps things springy and swingy. Norman Field multi-tasks on clarinet and saxophone and Spats takes the vocal and a solo strong on vitality.

Keith Nichols, piano meister, guests on trombone on Got A Date With An Angel and elsewhere. Another guest, Langham's guitar confrere Martin Wheatley, lays out some Hawaiian guitar wares on Gotta Getta Girl. Chinoiserie vogue haunts Sing Song Girl whilst Bonzo's Tango is a Langham composition, a sinewy affair, full of shining teeth and hips. I reckon Maurice Elwin and the Rhythmic Eight are the inspiration for this version of Mysterious Mose - a good tune that should be heard more often despite the period vocal. Most certainly though Al Bowlly and Roy Fox resonate behind My Sweet Virginia though it's just possible that an archivist extraordinaire such as Langham has had access to Bowlly's rare recording of the song with Arthur Lally on Durium; the result in any case is exciting and highly effective. Talking of which the rhythmic brio and panache that launches It All Belongs To Me is searing; what a punch is packed by the chaps, not least by Wheatley sitting in again, and by Spats's excited vocals. Debbie Arthurs lends her vocals to Moanin' Low and her pure Annette Hanshaw voice is, as ever, a splendid asset, and so too her skill behind the drum kit, as she displays throughout. Good on the band for revivifying the Halfway House's 1925 New Orleans Shuffle. (If they came to the song by another route, good on them anyway.) Langham admits that the song long associated with Argentinean jazz guitarist Oscar Aleman, Melancolia, is 'dangerously modern' for the early 1940s but it's good he has graciously crept over the boundary rope separating darkness from light to revive it. Langham and Wheatley both share admiration for Aleman but neither, I suspect, much goes for Django. Chaps, for shame!

The hot quintet of like minded confreres - Langham, Blyth, Field, Sked and Arthurs - produces a splendidly authentic ensemble sound. The music is vibrant, swinging, and investigates reportorial byways well worth exploring. Nighthawk or not Langham proves a fearless and finger-sure revivifier of true accomplishment.

 

Jonathan Woolf  



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