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Ken Colyer with The crane river jazz band

The Cranes Fly Again

Upbeat URCD281

 

 

1. Oh! Lady Be Good

2. Ja Da

3. When You Wore a Tulip

4. I Can’t Escape from You (You Can’t Escape from Me)

5. Chimes Blues

6. Gettysburg March

7. Someday Sweetheart

8. If I Ever Cease to Love

9. The Miner’s Dream of Home

Ken Colyer – Cornet, vocal

Sonny Morris – Trumpet, vocal

Monty Sunshine – Clarinet

Len Baldwin – Trombone

John R. T. Davies – Alto sax, horns

Pat Hawes – Piano

Ben Marshall – Banjo

Julian Davies – Bass

Colin Bowden – Drums

Recorded at the 100 Club, Oxford Street, London, on Jan. 17, 1975.

In my review of URCD272 - The crane river jazz band with ken colyer • ReunitedI (1972), I ended by saying:

Inevitably there can be no more reunions as almost all of the musicians on this recording (exceptions, I believe, are Marshall and Bowden) are no longer with us. However, possibly there are other private recordings of other concerts that will emerge and become available to Upbeat—and Liz Biddle can be prevailed upon to release them.

Well, John and Renee Long made their recording of this reunion concert of over forty years ago (1975) available to Liz Biddle of Upbeat Records, who fortunately agreed to issue it, and all Ken Colyer / Cane River Jazz Band fans will rejoice as a result. As lagniappe, the quality of the recording is excellent as the Longs had acquired the best recording equipment available to them at the time and the transfers by Bernard Harris are first-class.

The personnel on this disc consists of all the Cranes still extant at the time, with a couple of substitutions: Colin Bowden again replaced Ron Bowden (no relation) on drums, and Len Baldwin came in on trombone since John R. T. Davies was ailing somewhat and moved over to play alto sax and various unidentified horns. So we have an augmented band, nine pieces rather than the usual eight.

The tune list runs from a composition by King Oliver to one by George Gershwin and from those recorded by the early Crane River band at the start of the fifties to others that, if in the book, went unrecorded back then. All are given a thorough exploration, except perhaps the old Mardi Gras favourite If Ever I Cease to Love, which comes in at a shade over three minutes. After the opening roll-off by Bowden, the ensemble proceeds to the breaks, all of which are taken by clarinet here, as opposed to the usual sharing of these with drums. It is a stirring rendition which is well received by audience.

With the exception of that track, all of the others are a bit on the lengthy side, allowing everyone space for the occasional solo but such solos being interspersed between the many ensemble choruses. Since the occasion was a concert rather than a dancing one, lengthy renditions are the norm, the longest being that of the last track, The Miner’s Dream of Home—a tune which goes back to the days of the early Cranes. On all of these tracks everyone listens carefully to everyone else, creating beautiful counterpoints and harmonies in the ensembles, which, in turn, create interest and excitement for the attentive listener.

Although they did not get together regularly, all the musicians came together for the engagement, ably led by the Guv’nor himself. As is almost always the case, Colyer’s cornet, whether open or muted, comes through in the ensembles with that rich tone, the volume comfortably low, the vibrato deliciously soft and winning, witness Chimes Blues. Morris’ trumpet is also on a par in terms of volume with Colyer’s but unlike Colyer he eschews vibrato for the most part. The two horns work well together, particularly in perfect unison as they cover Bunk’s descending and then ascending figure at the coda of I Can’t Escape from You (You Can’t Escape from Me).

The others follow suit, with no blasting, no upstaging. Perhaps Sunshine’s clarinet is a bit piercing in the upper register—I found myself cringing a little sometimes—for example in Gettysburg March, but there is no complaint about his weaving figures around the rest of the front line during these ensembles. Baldwin’s trombone can be appropriately rasping, growling, muted by turns, always making a positive contribution to the group’s sound. Davies’ contribution fills out the front line, regardless of the instrument he is playing, and what these instruments are is a puzzle. Even Mike Pointon, in his booklet notes, is at a loss to know.

The back line, as was the case in the group playing on URCD272, does not, with the exception of Hawes, solo; but of course they provide the solid floor for the front line. Hawes will drive the band from time to time with his two-fisted chording, exemplified in his piano solo on Chimes Blues where he begins with a triplet figure, then moves to the block chords so typical of his playing. Bowden, too, can drive the band with various accents—on tom tom, on wood block, or on cymbal. Occasionally these are a bit loud, especially the tom tom work, and as on URCD272, his bass drum pounds out a rather distracting 4/4 on most of the tracks, seeming to abate somewhat on the later tracks. However, his drum introduction to the great Mardi Gras tune If I Ever Cease to Love nicely sets the tone for the rest of the number. But he is not given a set of stop time breaks, as is usually the case with this tune—all are given to the clarinet.

So there it is—another very nice Crane River Jazz Band recording, courtesy of the Longs and Liz Biddle. Since the Longs recorded Colyer extensively, perhaps they and Liz can be prevailed upon to release some more in the near future. Colyer and Crane River fans would surely welcome that and will want to have this CD.

Ordering information is available at the Upbeat web site at www.upbeatmailorder.co.uk and from web sources such as Amazon or CD Universe.ere

Bert Thompson

 


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