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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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Nat GONELLA

The Early Decca Recordings

SOUNDS OF YESTERYEAR
DSOY 859

 

 


CD 1: Nat Gonella and his Trumpet
1. I can't believe that you're in love with me
2. I heard
3. Rockin' chair
4. When you're smiling
5. Sing
6. That's my home
7. Stormy weather
8. Nobody's sweetheart
9. Georgia on my mind
10. Sweet Sue
11. Moon country
12. Troublesome trumpet
13. Carolina
14. I can't dance, I got ants in ma pants


CD 2: Nat Gonella with the Bands
Tracks 1-8 with Roy Fox
1. Whisperin'
2. Oh, Mo'nah!
3. Jig time
4. Georgia on my mind
5. You rascal you
6. Corrine Corrina
7. Kickin' the gong around
8. How'm I doin'?
Tracks 9-25 with Lew Stone
9. Junk man blues
10. Lying in the hay
11. Look what I've got
12. Lazy rhythm
13. Lazy bones
14. Nagasaki
15. Blue Jazz
16. White Jazz
17. Eadie was a lady
18. Tiger Rag
19. Milenberg Joys
20. Emaline
21. That's a plenty
22. Isle of Capri
23. Miss Otis regrets
24. Judy
25. The Continental
rec. London, 1931-1934 [39.56 + 73.00]

 

I must confess to being a huge fan of Nat Gonella, a fine trumpeter whose talents shine throughout this pair of CDs containing a generous 39 tracks. Gonella was born near London's Kings Cross, had a poor background but benefited from an education at a school in Islington where he was also given the chance to learn to play the cornet. He was a huge fan of Louis Armstrong and unashamedly copied his singing and playing styles at a time when Armstrong was far from accepted or acknowledged as the genius Gonella perceived. His associations with both Roy Fox and Lew Stone are covered on disc two, whilst the first is given over to his own group. Troublesome trumpet with its top B flat miraculously sustained for an amazing seventeen seconds is one of two highlights for this reviewer, the other being the concluding track I can't dance, I got ants in my pants. Gonella was technically secure, his tone pure and clean cut with barely any split notes, and all that with a curiously lopsided embouchure with the mouthpiece to the right side of his mouth. His light, high baritone voice tends towards parlando rather than accurate pitch, while the rougher the sound, the more it reminds one of Satchmo - his scat singing, like Armstrong's, is among the best you'll hear. His impressive patter from start to stop in Nagasaki (virtually his signature tune, which he sang into old age) would come later. Here it is the members of Stone's Monseigneur Band who do the honours. Another track in which Nat is clearly enjoying himself with his chorus is in Oh Mona complete with a sneezing chicken. Gonella keeps excellent company. His backing musicians include among them the guitarist Al Bowlly and the violinist Harry Berly. Junk Man Blues (1932) is not to be confused with the harp-led Junk Man recorded by fellow brass player, trombonist Jack Teagarden's band just two years later.

Humphrey Lyttleton made no bones about his respect and admiration for Gonella, who was a hugely significant figure in British jazz. It was in the doldrums in the 1930s, the era in which dance bands held sway, but Gonella forged ahead and carved himself a career which endured for three decades until the Beatles arrived. Nat could be heard performing around the country nevertheless, even singing in pubs in Gosport where he settled and died aged 90.

Christopher Fifield



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