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



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BOB WALLIS

A Jazz Club Session with Bob Wallis
and his Storyville Jazzmen

LAKE LACD326

 

 

CD1

St Louis Blues

Easy Does It

Where Shall We Be

Travelin’ Blues

Big House Blues

‘S Wonderful

Moose March (version 1)

Temptation Rag

Bobbin’ Along

Sleepy Time Down South

Carless Love

Do What Ory Say

CD2

Moose March (version2)

All of Me

Martha

Meet Mr Rabbit

My Old Kentucky Home

Savoy Blues

High Society

The Old Rugged Cross

In a Little Spanish Town

Breeze

New Orleans Stomp

You Rascal You

Bugle Boy March

Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen: Bob Wallis (trumpet and vocals); Keith ‘Avo’ Avison (trombone): Al Gay (clarinet, soprano and tenor saxes): Gerry Williams (clarinet replaces Al Gay on CD2): Pete Gresham (piano); Hugh Rainey (banjo, guitar); Brian ‘Drag’ Kirkby (bass): Alan Poston (drums)

Recorded at the Dancing Slipper, Nottingham c1960-62 [6:23 + 70:34]

 

Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen were in hard-driving form at the famed Dancing Slipper in Nottingham early in the 1960s. The first disc of two – priced as for one – is the undated one and the second disc, located to ‘late 1962’, features one band change, Gerry Williams replacing Al Gay. All the qualities one would look for in this band – steely, Armstrong-derived lead, swinging clarinet, and booting trombone – are present and correct in the very first track, St Louis Blues. It also includes a ‘club vocal’ from the leader.

I’ve always greatly liked the oboe-like tone Al Gay managed to extract on the soprano sax. He displays this quality on Easy Does It, a tightly arranged number though he enjoys the righteous Gospel of Where Shall We Be just as much as Wallis himself, whose hoarse vocal leads his children home. The Wallis band was a much livelier, more invigorating and free flowing band in concert. In contradistinction, some of their studio outings are the equivalent of scripted radio talks – stilted, efficient and lacking warmth. One listen to the rolling piano and the piping clarinet on Travelin’ Blues will dispel any notion that the Wallis band was an example of commercialised Trad. Gay delves into his Blues lexicon for the soprano solo on Big House Blues and Pete Gresham shows that he knows a thing or two about bluesy licks on the keyboard on Sleepy Time Down South. If the more extended opportunities for long solos reveal some weaknesses of construction – Gay was occasionally a verbose soloist for instance – they offer much more chance for the band members’ individuality to emerge. Careless Love shows both these sides of the band – Gay facile but too loquacious and Wallis mining some of Red Allen’s lower register work but with less mobility.

The band updates classic material nicely, as shown by Do What Ory Say and when Gerry Williams replaces Gay on the second disc we have some second versions of material heard on the first disc. Williams was a more New Orleans-orientated player than Gay and less stylistically pluralist. That could work to the advantage of a tune like Moose March where he sounds pipy and woody in fine Albert Nicholas fashion, though he does push a little too much. There’s an appropriate Jump Band feel in Johnny Hodges’ Meet Mr. Rabbit. Banjoist Hugh Rainey gets some good chances to solo, peppering the resultant breaks with some naughty quotations (Savoy Blues is the worst recipient) and supported by drummer Alan Poston he goes to town on In A Little Spanish Town. The arrangements throughout are consistently tight and swinging and the recorded sounds picks up the band’s nuances well. This is a fine couple of sets from the Wallis band, and shows its range and fire in live performance.

Jonathan Woolf



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