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British Traditional Jazz at a Tangent

volume 4, The Territory Bands




Ken Ingram’s Eagle Jazz Band

1919 March

Irish Black Bottom

The Gateway Jazz Band


Where Did You Stay Last Night?

Bill Croft’s Blue Star Jazzmen

It’s A Long Way To Tipperary

Buddy’s Habit

Archie Semple’s Capitol Jazzmen

Mississippi Mud

Clark & Randolph Blues

After You’ve Gone

Mick Gill’s Imperial Jazz Band

Black Bottom Stomp

We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City

The Zenith 6

Dusty Rag

Steamboat Stomp

Riverside Blues

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

The Back o’Town Syncopators

Ragtime Tuba

Royal Garden Blues

London Blues

Waiting for the Robert E Lee

The Avon Cities Jazz Band

Greasy Rag

Study in Sepia

Swing Out

Recorded 1949-62 [76:50]



Humph used to play a lot of records by so-called Territory Bands on his much-missed BBC Radio show. He savoured the loose-limbed and lesser-known outfits that roamed the States. It’s probably more romantic to refer to British bands thus, because ‘British Traditional Jazz at a Tangent; the Regional Bands’ has something of a prosaic ring to it; all waiting at Crewe Station and mugs of cocoa. Instead we criss-cross the country, North to South, taking in local heroes and indeed those who later made a national name for themselves.

Ken Ingram’s band hailed from Birmingham, the second city and industrial powerhouse, and these rare private 78s show a committed band sporting an Old School tuba in 1959. The Gateway Jazz Band – thus named because it was formed in Carlisle, gateway to Scotland - was led by trumpeter Mick Potts. The sound is very telescoped on these equally rare live 1951 tracks – compiler and Lake eminence grise Paul Adams really has done some digging to acquire these and many others for issue. Nine of the 23 tracks are in fact first-ever releases which should gladden the heart irrespective of some sound limitations. This band in any case has a really nice front line. Bill Croft’s Blue Star Jazzmen came from Newcastle and were recorded in that city in 1959. The trumpeter here is Derbyshire-born John Walters, later better known as producer for John Peel on Radio 1. Hearing his lead re-writes my own personal history. Now I know why Peel would very, very occasionally spin a Bunk Johnson disc. The first time I heard Bunk’s band, when I was a boy, was indeed on Peel’s programme, and it must have been Walters behind it, given that he sounds saturated in the New Orleans Revival. So I salute Walters, and Peel, who both began my enthusiasm for the music.

Archie Semple, from Edinburgh, is a known quantity of course but these cramped live, rare and previously unissued 1951 sides aren’t. Alex Welsh is the cornet player, yet to really sound like the great lead and lyricist he was to become, whilst John Semple, Archie’s brother, is at the piano. Archie takes his most distinctive solo on After You’ve Gone; the band was enthusiastically rough at this stage. The earliest tracks are the 1949 trio from Mick Gill’s Imperial Jazz Band, from Nottingham. Tight instrumental work here in solid Revival fare, let down by that insistent, rather leaden rhythm section. Drummer George Hopkinson, long associated with Humph, loosened up later. The Zenith 6 recorded for Tempo. These four pieces were recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1955 and feature John Barnes on clarinet, the band’s stand-out personality – he takes a really fine solo on Riverside Blues. The Back o’Town Syncopators – Paul Adams is dead right here – rather sing from The Firehouse Five hymn book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it rather depends how far one takes things. In my book, though, two banjos in one band is at least one too many. But there’s compensation inasmuch as none of these four tracks has been released before. Finally there’s the much better known Avon Cities Jazz Band from the West Country. They are spruce and neat, and full of good arrangements in their trio of pieces. This is fine mainstream playing and trumpeter Geoff Nichols reveals his Red Allen-inspired chops on Swing Out.

This is a good continuation of this invaluable series, complete with excellent notes and restoration as good as we could reasonably expect.

Jonathan Woolf

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