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



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THE 1930s JAZZ RECORDING PROJECT

Lake LACD 289

 

 


1. Hop Skip and Jump
2. Rose Room
3. Drop Me off in Harlem (version 1)
4. Rent Party Blues
5. Russian Lullaby
6. Time on my Hands
7. My Honey's Lovin' Arms
8. Mood Indigo
9. Oh Baby!
10. In the Dark
11. The Jeep Is Jumpin'
12. Stardust
13. A Smooth One
14. Empty Bed Blues
15. Limehouse Blues
16. Drop Me off in Harlem (version 2)
17. Session Film Clip (My Honey's Lovin' Arms)

John Hallam - Clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax
Andy Woon - Trumpet
Ian Bateman - Trombone
Martin Litton - Piano
Thomas "Spats" Langham - Guitar, banjo, vocals
Richard Pite - Drums
Malcolm Sked - Bass

 

Paul Adams, supremo of Lake Records, had an urge to record a small jazz group using only the sort of equipment which was available in the 1930s. Using a restored ribbon microphone and a valve pre-amplifier, Paul recorded this album in mono, trying to capture the sound of the 1930s. Despite the problems, the recording balance is fine. The process taught Paul several things - such as that the instruments needed to be placed at particular distances from the microphone and the band had to be very careful about dynamics.

Such findings may be of interest to recording engineers and studio buffs but the average listener will be more concerned with the music that results from the experiment, and it has to be said that the results are patchy. Playing tunes from a particular period can invite comparisons, which may be odious. If one compares these recordings with those by the top small groups of the thirties, such as those of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, this album doesn't quite reach those heights. For example, the two versions of Drop Me off in Harlem have little of the spirit that informed Duke Ellington's original, although the second (slightly faster) version is livelier than the first. The opening of Oh Baby is rather scrappy. And Rent Party Blues is rendered pedestrian by the heavy off-beat, although The Jeep is Jumpin' replicates the easy swing of Johnny Hodges, especially in the Sir Charles Thompson-style piano of Martin Litton.

Overall, the seven musicians pay tribute to the music of the era without being too reverential (although not all the tunes are from the 1930s). Among the outstanding tracks is Russian Lullaby, which "Spats" Langham performs with Django-like guitar and heartfelt vocals that evoke the freedom felt by emigr‚s from Russia like its composer, Irving Berlin. Richard Pite adds some excellent drum breaks. Martin Litton delivers Bix Beiderbecke's In the Dark as a touchingly atmospheric piano feature, and the rhythm seems to perk up whenever Martin takes a solo. Trombonist Ian Bateman and reedman John Hallam also contribute some worthy solos. Trumpeter Andy Woon is less reliable, committing some fluffs in some of his solos. The CD ends with a bonus video of My Honey's Lovin' Arms being played by the band.

To sum up, this is a pleasant album, although listeners may wonder how much was gained by making the recording with old-fashioned equipment.

Tony Augarde



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