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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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JACK PARNELL

Two Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1016

 

 


CD1
1. The Hawk Talks
2. Sure Thing
3. The Carioca
4. April in Paris
5. Cottontail
6. Catherine Wheel
7. Trip to Mars
8. Summertime
9. The Champ
10. Skin Deep
11. Johnny's Idea
12. Mean Old Bed Bug Blues
13. Jazz Band Jump
14. I'm Coming Virginia
15. Jazz Men Blues
16. Ja-Da
17. Why Begin Again? (Pastel Blue)
18. Sugar
19. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?
20. That's A-Plenty
21. Ugly Chile
22: Indiana
23. Someday Sweetheart
24. Get Happy
25. Singin' the Blues
26. Prince of Wails
CD2
1. When the Saints Go Marching In
2. Sugarfoot Stomp
3. East Meets West
4. Twilight in Turkey
5. Kick Off
6. Topaz
7. Fuller Bounce
8. Knock Out
9. Dixon's Dilemma
10. Blue Lou
11. Quickie
12. Jukebox Jumba
13. Old Man Re-Bop
14. Sweet Lorraine
15. Scrubber Time
16. On the Sunny Side of the Street
17. On the Alamo
18. I'll Never Be the Same
19. Soft Noodles
20. Just You, Just Me
21. Can't We Be Friends?
22. Stompin' at the Savoy
23. The White Suit Samba
24. Route 66
25. A Sky Blue Shirt and a Rainbow Tie
26. Shake, Rattle and Roll
27. Topsy
28. The Golden Striker

Jack Parnell was a man of many talents. As a drummer, he drove the Ted Heath band along for several years and then formed his own band before becoming a musical director for television, where he stayed for about 20 years. His work included conducting the orchestra for The Muppet Show! He was also a fine composer, writing such pieces as the marvellously moving theme for the TV series Love Story.

Sadly, Jack died in August 2010, so this double CD makes a useful reminder of some of his many musical roles. It contains some material which I shan't review again because I have already written about it on this website.

This new compilation includes not only the LP Trip to Mars and the EP Parnell on Parade but also numerous other tracks including all the recordings Jack made with the band that he co-led with Vic Lewis in the mid-forties. Vic Lewis later became an aficionado of Stan Kenton's modernist music but the group with Parnell was unashamedly a swing band, containing seven or eight musicians. Lewis should have resisted adding his rather corny vocals to several tracks, but the band was lifted by the contributions of such excellent players as soprano saxist Ronnie Chamberlain, pianist Dick Katz and of course Jack Parnell on drums.

Parnell was a drummer with first-class technique, which meant that he constructed drum solos which made sense instead of being mere thrashing about, and these recordings show how his technique improved over the years. This is clear on the second CD which, after the aforementioned Parnell on Parade, includes a stunning drum duet recorded in 1954 by Jack with Phil Seaman for the title-track of the EP Kick Off! Both Parnell and Seaman undermine the idea that British drummers of the 1950s couldn't swing.

The previously-unissued tracks 9 and 10 of the second CD are by Kenny Baker's Swing Group from 1947, with some mellow trombone work from Jackie Armstrong in Dixon's Dilemma and a bustling arrangement of Blue Lou with red-hot trumpet from Kenny Baker.

The remaining tracks are by various Parnell bands, including all eight tracks from the LP Jack Parnell Selection, recorded between 1946 and 1950. These display the influence of bebop, notably in Quickie which, like Jukebox Jumba, comes from the soundtrack of the film The Blue Lamp. The latter tune has a pleasantly relaxed solo by tenorist Tommy Whittle. The bebop influence illustrates how many British musicians at this period were virtually imitators of American jazz. This is also noticeable in the performances on the first CD of The Hawk Talks and Skin Deep, which try to emulate Louie Bellson's recordings with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In a way, this mimicry was a pity, as it held musicians back from creating their own individual styles and sounds.

The remaining tracks are a pot pourri of recordings ranging in date from 1946 to 1959. Jack Parnell sings rather ordinary vocals, including The White Suit Samba, which incorporates the stomach-turning "Guggle Club Gurgle" from the film The Man in the White Suit. There is even a big-band version of rock 'n' roll in a 1955 cut of Shake, Rattle and Roll (by "Jack Parnell and the Crackerjacks"). These final tracks are saved from ignominy by swinging interpretations of Topsy and John Lewis's The Golden Striker.

This is an interesting collection of mostly unknown material. My only complaint is the usual one of Avid's parsimonious approach to sleeve-notes. Full personnels and some original sleeve-notes are given, but in such small type that even my old person's magnifying glass has problems deciphering them. For a double album of 54 tracks, a sleeve booklet of eight pages is inadequate - despite the bargain price.

Tony Augarde



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