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

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Ken Colyer – 1957-58 – Lonesome Road
Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen, Ken’s Colyer’s Omega Brass Band; and Skiffle Group
rec. 1957-58
LAKE LACD 267 [75:56 + 77:25]



Heliotrope Bouquet
Fig Leaf Rag
Bourbon Street Parade
Dauphine Street Blues
Bill Bailey
Ham ‘N’ Eggs
Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
Down By The Riverside
Bye & Bye/When The Saints Go Marching In
Midnight Hour Blues
This Train
Go Down Sunshine
Ella Speed
Swanee River
Over The Rainbow
All Of Me
Lonesome Road
Pretty Baby
Oh You Beautiful Doll
Under The Bamboo Tree
Bluebells Goodbye
The Isle Of Capri
Tiger Rag
Gettysburg March
Over In Gloryland
Bugle Boy March
Just A Closer Walk With Thee


The Guv’nor’s many admirers are eagerly awaiting the forthcoming biography, one that will - one hopes - set the record straight. Colyer’s own autobiography, as well as being hard to find, could certainly do with objective analysis, as befits one of the most important figures in British Jazz. Meanwhile his recorded legacy continues apace. Lake has reached tracks set down in 1957 and 1958 by his Jazzmen, Omega Brass Band and Skiffle Group. They happily sum up Colyer’s striving for his kind of authenticity – in ragtime, in the alfresco evocations of the New Orleans marching band and in his very special skiffle forays.

The ragtime tracks in the first CD – two for the price of one by the way – featured the very honky-tonk, or rinky-dink, piano played by Ray Foxley, a most adept player but it’s not a sound that gives me any pleasure. The actual performances are delightful. Colyer’s fluid lead on Sensation has an admixture of fiery authority that is unmistakeable. Clarinettist Ian Wheeler is as ever a versatile front liner – his tripping, strongly on the beat phrasing on Bourbon Street Parade contrasts nicely with his lower register work on Dauphine Street Blues whose George Lewis-derived registral ascending lines are strongly emulated. Mac Duncan’s muted trombone is strongly effective and Foxley’s whorehouse piano – this and other tracks were recorded in Hamburg – offers its own pleasure.

It’s probably best to pass over Duncan’s vocal expeditions and to concentrate instead on his tight contrapuntal work. More idiosyncratic vocals come via the skiffle band where Colyer mined country blues, spirituals and work songs alike. He turns in a rather affecting Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen where the diminuendi do the work for him.

There’s an entertainingly told stereo mystery enshrined in the June 1958 tracks – I won’t spoil the surprise for you – and the band certainly sounds well here, as recorded in the Railway Hotel, Hampstead, something of a frequent venue for bands at the time. An example of how functional – in the best sense – the shifting patterns in the Colyer front line could be can be heard in Under The Bamboo Tree. Here the tonal qualities and tensile command are palpable. The band invariably played Bluebells Goodbye well and here is no exception – a springy rhythm underlies all. The Omega Brass Band tracks are perhaps a more specialised, acquired taste. Ian Wheeler played a B flat not E flat clarinet so his sound doesn’t cut through the brass texture with acidic independence. It’s certainly fun to hear the brass band take on The Isle Of Capri but the aural congestion sometimes impedes genuine musical direction. The Gettysburg March is perhaps the most successful of these brass band recordings – rugged and appealing; elsewhere things can get a bit sluggish and lurching.

Nevertheless this two CD set is a mandatory purchase for acquisitive Colyer followers – and others besides.

Jonathan Woolf




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