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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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WILD BILL DAVISON

With Alex Welsh and his Band

Lake LACD 279

 

 


1. Beale Street Blues
2. Sugar
3. Surf Side Samba
4. Oh, Baby!
5. Blue Again
6. Love is Just Around the Corner
7. That’s A-Plenty
8. If I Had You
9. Sweet Georgia Brown
10. Blue and Broken-hearted
11. After You’ve Gone
12. Royal Garden Blues

Wild Bill Davison - Cornet
Alex Welsh - Trumpet
John Barnes - Clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax
Roy Williams - Trombone
Fred Hunt - piano
Jim Douglas - Guitar
Gerry Higgins - Double bass
Lennie Hastings - Drums

 

If there was one British ensemble extremely well-suited to accompanying Wild Bill Davison, it was Alex Welsh's band. Wild Bill always sounded most at ease when playing with the groups assembled by Eddie Condon - and Condon obviously appreciated Davison, as he used him whenever he could. Alex Welsh's band was closer than any other British ensemble to matching the spirit created in Eddie Condon's jam sessions, with that easy-going Dixieland/Chicago style.

This session was recorded at Manchester Sports Guild in 1966 when Wild Bill was visiting Britain - the first of many visits. It is a pity that the album mis-spells Bill's name as "Davidson" but otherwise this is a CD to enjoy.

The session opens with a bang, as drummer Lennie Hastings introduces Beale Street Blues with one of his perfectly-formed breaks. There is a fine baritone solo from the immaculate John Barnes, and an outspoken solo from Davison, who is clearly enjoying the occasion. Roy Williams, Alex Welsh and Fred Hunt stoke the fire with their solos, and Jim Douglas is slightly more restrained but melodic. Lennie Hastings leads back into the theme with a short but excellent drum solo.

This stimulating opener sets the mood for an evening which was understandably enjoyed by the appreciative audience. The band members also shout encouragement to one another. Sugar includes further noteworthy solos from John Barnes (on baritone), the punchy but husky Davison, and the always dependable Roy Williams. You can credit Alex Welsh with good taste for choosing some of the country's best musicians for his band. The rather tinny-sounding piano is the only thing that lets this track down.

Surf Side Samba is a piece of exotica - perhaps added to the programme because of the craze for the bossa nova, although it also has hints of the calypso. John Barnes wails on the alto sax, and his baritone is marvellous in the following Oh, Baby!

Blue Again opens with the tinny piano but it is primarily a feature for Wild Bill, who switches between throaty emotion and uninhibited declamation, proving what a superb ballad player he is. Love is Just Around the Corner has a neat piece of counterpoint at the start of the final chorus. That's A-Plenty speeds along at an intense tempo, impelled by Lennie Hastings' driving drums. The number ends with one of those Eddie Condon-type series of four-bar swaps which always manage to raise the temperature. If only Lennie Hastings had resisted the temptation to add irritatingly random drum beats at the end of so many numbers!

Matters calm down for If I Had You, where John Barnes blossoms on clarinet and Wild Bill solos with feeling, as do Roy Williams and Alex Welsh. The ending of this tune exhibits the band's sensitivity during Davison's closing flourish. Sweet Georgia Brown does its rabble-rousing work, after which Wild Bill again shows his ballad credentials on Blue and Broken Hearted.

After You've Gone has excellent clarinet from John Barnes and classic cornet from Wild Bill. The concert closes with a short, flag-waving Royal Garden Blues which consists entirely of those irresistible four-bar sequences. Wild Bill Davison's first visit to the UK clearly yielded a night to remember, and we can thankfully experience it through this album.

Tony Augarde



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