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Update from our January Meeting
I have taken on the task of reporting - albeit a much reduced version - of our Chairman's Newsletter for last month.
As it turned out, January became a pick'n'mix of artists, as our main presenter, Mark Prendergast reluctantly had to cancel due to a family member having Covid.However, our library of CDs came into their own as members picked a CD to play, and what a variety we had !I kicked off the proceedings with my Secretary's Choice, this month..Quincy Jones with the following tracks....Tuxedo Junction - for my money a far better rendition than Glenn Miller, Blues in the NightAfter Hours - with some great piano playing from Patti Bown, and Parisian Thoroughfare. Tony Sudweeks chose Duke Ellington - Wanderlust. Rob Jones chose Billie Holiday - The Very Thought Of You and I Can't Get Started. David Short picked Keith Jarret - Staircase, Suite 1.
This was followed by a mixed bag of quiz and music from Bernie.
Linda, LJAS Secretary
December 2021 MEETING:
Well, friends, that’s it for another year! On Tuesday night we happily celebrated with no lack of festive cheer our last ding-dong of 2021, with our annual members' Christmas bash.The never-stuffy AGM heard accounts from our latest Committee contributors, all reporting positively about achievements and future hopes and aspirations:
Secretary Linda Plant described her enthusiasm to bring new developments to her role, recognising that Bob Wright’s established achievements and responsibilities would be an immense task to replace, but I know that we’d all agree that she has risen to the challenge most ably, and we welcome her innovative new monthly feature, Secretary’s Choice, that provides fresh, lively jazz selections based on her musical knowledge,experience, insights and enthusiasm.
Media-Co-ordinator David Wakelin told us of the progress that he has made by continuously updating and developing the LJAS website https://www.letchworthjazz.org.uk/ to include all our Society doings, news of local and national jazz events, and contemporary in memoriam pieces of jazz figures. He welcomes contributions of all jazz news of interest. David’s role here has been invaluable in promoting and publicising our Society, and most welcome. He is now developing a system whereby – once we have created an practicable index – members might be able to order LJAS Library items from a navigable but comprehensive list.
Keith Simpkins as Assistant Chairman has ensured that we not only enjoy the regular provision and setting-up of the CD player, but that – following its frustratingly intermittent performance in earlier sessions – it now works perfectly following his analysis and repair of electrical faults. Keith kindly collects Raffle prizes and obtains and returns some Library items from Bob’s extensive stock.
As Chairman, I summarised our strange year of interrupted operation, where, from 2020, the LJAS suffered the effects of government measures intended to combat the Covid 19 virus, though, mercifully, no members have been fatally afflicted by it, but like all institutions throughout the country our meetings and activities were severely curtailed. We concluded meeting in our former premises in February 2020, only resuming in July 2021 (yes, that long!), although continued our contact through internet correspondence throughout this time.
The good news is that we enjoy new premises at the Garden City Brewery, offering a congenial and well-supported home for our monthly meetings, and we now greatly benefit from our expanded Committee, being joined by the above figures in respective roles actively supporting and ensuring the successful progress of LJAS, to whom I am most grateful, in addition to Rob’s and my existing roles.
After many years of enthusiastic and effective support and encouragement, Bob Wright retired from his invaluable role as Secretary, and while we have not yet enjoyed his presence at our meetings, he has continued to provide active support by maintain the extensive LJAS Library, and offering ever-popular Raffle prizes.
Likewise, Chris Jeffs regrettably found himself unable to continue his role of Treasurer, and we miss his and Shirley’s attendance at our resumed sessions. Despite being utterly unqualified and ill-disposed to master financial affairs, your Chairman has most reluctantly had to assume these duties, and can report that our Society bank account remains healthy, and we recently benefitted from the most generous contribution of £100 from Shirley and Chris towards our Christmas bash and other special events, and all present were able to sign a card of thanks to them. However, we still desperately require someone to take up this essential post.
Our Library resources were recently benefitted by the kind, generous donation of recorded jazz and books from the family of Ron Baker who were delighted that his enthusiasm for this music was commemorated in this way for our further appreciation.
As we have resumed our meetings, the Society has enjoyed the provision a full programme comprising excellent main presentations by a good array of members, with diverse support presentations, and some most welcome short features.The music has comprised diverse jazz styles, artistes and periods, reflecting the broad interests and knowledge of our valued members. I’d like formally to express my thanks to everyone who has so ably contributed to the provision of our Jazz menu and our chief purpose and occupation to enjoy listening to some fine music, accompanied by some learned, enthusiastic and entertaining commentaries.In our most recent November do, we enjoyed (I believe!) our first ever full presentation of live jazz, featuring two LJAS members with support from musical friends, and we plan to repeat this feature next year. It has been encouraging to see visitors coming to enjoy and share our company, and heartening to welcome new members as we see our Society growing in number. I appreciate the continued support of all members, to whom I offer sincere thanks.
Following this AGM – where each Committee member’s accounts were roundly applauded and generous praises offered by various happy members – we proceeded to conclude our LJAS year with festive fun! Despite our changed circumstances, our safe-format Christmas Buffet was delicious with a choice of both savoury and sweet delights to be enjoyed, all lovingly prepared by Jackie, with further welcome contributions, and accompanied with the fine choice of distinguished refreshments from the splendid bar. Our happy socialising was accompanied by some exhilarating jazz sounds from the aforementioned Ron Baker collection!
Here’s hoping that all continues well, and that we’ll be in one another’s musical company once again on Tuesday, 25th January. Until then, I wish everyone – including our old friends in the far corners of the nation who we haven’t seen for a good while, a very joyful Christmas, and blessings for a healthy, peaceful New Year!
November 2021 MEETING:
Thank you to all who were able to join us for our last jaunt that featured a full programme of live music for the first time ever! Those present expressed appreciation for what they heard from the combined efforts of our very own tenorman, Keith, very welcome guests bassist Phil, guitarist Barry, and me on the skins. Considering that all four of us had met and only ever rehearsed once before, we were reasonably satisfied with what emerged, and were all hopeful that we might have further opportunities to create even better-honed jazz after a few more get-togethers. I’ve attached the notes for those who weren’t able to join us. I was somewhat reserved in letting everyone know the full nature of what was planned for this It’s About Time presentation, and didn’t wish to raise expectations, but in retrospect I realise that Slightly fewer than usual members made it, but we were pleased to enjoy the company of two very happy guests all the way from Manchester!
October 2021 MEETING:
Fauré, Schuman, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Rubinstein, and (reputedly) Henry VIII. Not the names or composers who we might usually associate with our musical expositions of jazz recordings, however diverse our range! However, Margaret Moore succeeding in entertaining us with just these for her fine main presentation of our October outing; all played by one Kenny Ball in good company of a very tight and happy sounding band on a bargain CD from the early 2000s, discovered by Colin (who also deftly provided some skilful illustrations for the printed programme). This was an excellent discovery for us, too, who did not recognise Mr Ball’s adoption of this oeuvre, that employed some very good arrangements I must confess to not recognising many of the pieces from the titles, but on hearing the first couple of bars was instantly familiar with them (such as Mozart’s Rondo from Sonata in A). Some of the further highlights were a latin-rhythm Pavane by Fauré, a furiously fast Für Elise by Beethoven, featuring some stunning piano by Hugh Ledigo, that I thought reminiscent of Jacques Loussier, and Mozart’s Horn Concerto rendered in New Orleans funk-then-Dixie style, featuring the magnificent drumming of Nick Millward; Mozart’s Eine Kleine provided some very hot trumpet, and Dvorak’s Largo from the New World Symphony was rendered very successfully in bossa nova form. A reprise of Pavane, featured an exciting extended drum solo by Mr Millward, concluding a very original and popular presentation, and Margaret’s first full one – many thanks; we hope that there will be more, Mrs Moore!
Following his earlier forays into his theme, Colin Moore continued his BRITtens musical presentations, this time based on male vocalists, and a few firsts for LJAS.
George Melly gave us a characteristic Rockin’ Chair with (appropriately!) swinging backing, new kid Rod Stewart perhaps surprised a few of us with an expressive, tender These Foolish Things, and the great, dear Al Bowly very musically explained that My Hat’s on the Side of My Head. A very original, Arabesque arrangement of It Was Just One of Those Things by Bryan Ferry was distinguished by authentically re-creating the sound of a ‘20s or ‘30s recording – wonderful! I regularly travel to Nottingham to visit our elder son and his wife, and whatever other entertainments on offer, we have yet to discover a Barber Shop Quartet there (though, like elsewhere, no shortage of the Barber Shops). Beale Street Blues was the harmonious by these East Midlands Coiffeurs, before Tom Jones sung a soulful, swinging Mess of Blues more than ably supported by Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra – not messy at all, just magnificent! Nat Gonella(‘The Street Singer’) concluded in celebratory form with a rousing The Lawd Wants His People to Sing. Amen to that! Thank you, Colin for another well-constructed set that was very well received by our good-sized crowd!
Linda’s Secretary’s Choice, featured that magnificent Gallic/Gypsy pair Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt (with Hot Club support) and her welcome choices of some jolly jazz was accompanied by very informative biographical notes. Swing Guitar, Minor Swing, and Limehouse Blues were Linda’s choice examples of their art, and all very buoyant, refreshing stuff. You could almost smell the aromatic smoke of Gauloises Disque Bleu or Gitanes (former favourites of mine). Of note here was the quality of recordings that all sounded fresh, clean and very present, unlike ones heard earlier. It’s also encouraging to see such a revival of Gypsy Jazz over recent years, often in the able hands and fingers of some superb young players. Thank you, Linda, for more musical pleasure that complemented an evening of some excellent jazz!
It was great to be able to enjoy all this music on our CD player that worked with utter smooth reliability throughout the night! Thank you, Keith for all your restorative work that contributed to this relaxed and happy night!
September 2021 MEETING:
We began our night with a reading of some members’ memories and commiserations to our much-missed Tom Westrope, and listening to Louis Armstrong’s Twelfth Street Rag from 1927 as a musical tribute. David Wakelin then entertained us with our main presentation on ‘Blues Shouter’ Jimmy Witherspoon, proclaimed by David as the very best of his kind (above oft-cited contenders Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing), and with plenty of evidence in the subsequent 14 recordings.
David provided meticulously detailed, witty and informative notes to accompany a thorough programme that spanned Mr Witherspoon’s extensive musical career. One song that David chose to illustrate ‘Spoon’s musical development was Leroy Carr’s How Long Blues, from a fine ’47 recording, but culminating in a superb live 1959 take that featured Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar and Mel Lewis all propelling the expressive vocal and featuring an inspired Gerry Mulligan solo. Jay McShann was a most frequent – and welcome – swinging accompanist throughout the years and configurations heard here; I was reminded of his appearance in the recommended film The Last of The Blue Devils (we have the CD in the Library, but I can’t see the DVD listed). David kindly included a Woody Herman contribution to recall tonight’s postponed Chris Jeffs session, and other legendary players throughout the set included Roy Eldridge, Memphis Slim, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Wilbur de Paris, and Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes, to name but a few. It is always interesting to learn how members first encounter their love of jazz – here David recalled hearing Jimmy Witherspoon on the family radiogram at home on an afternoon Jazz Record Requests broadcast, and duly recording it on a reel-to-reel tape recorder.. We all enjoyed a very well-arranged, enjoyable, and comprehensive selection of this talented bluesman’s musical life; many thanks, David!
Linda Plant introduced a new feature ‘Secretary’s Monthly Choice’, here offering us a great selection of songs performed by pianist, singer, and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. It is astonishing to see the immense range of hit songs composed by this man in Linda’s excellent biographical notes, from 1924’s Riverboat Shuffle to 1953 and When Love Goes Wrong with dozens of standards and classics in between. One astonishing non-musical piece of history revealed by Linda (and a timely one, this, given the current cinematic interest) is that Hoagy was Ian Fleming’s personal choice of what James Bond should look like! His features, however, were deemed too ‘old-fashioned’ for the film producers of the time. Thank you, Linda, for an inspired choice of subject and some wonderful, original music! We look forward to more such choices.
As we happily begin to fill our calendar with presentations and features for next year, we were treated to some very appetising samples of next March’s Axes and Saxes (Guitars & Saxophones in Jazz), by our resident horn player Keith Simpkins. Again, we were provided with well-written notes and accreditation for the chosen music. We were able to relish Acoustic Alchemy, Herb Ellis and Jimmy Giuffre (a definitive guitar/sax pairing), Benny Carter, and a recent groovesome New Orleans-tribute CD by George Benson. Thank you, Keith, for a sterling set that leaves us all keenly anticipating your full March presentation
Another further reminder of our remaining Programme for 2021: 26th October: Margaret Moore Jazzical Classical! (A British Trad Trumpet Treat) and Colin Moore BRITtens 30th November: Bernard Pritchard It’s About Time! Drums, Rhythm & the Pulse of Jazz and Tony Sudweeks Bag’s Groove – Milt Jackson Favourites 14th December: AGM Christmas Social – Quiz + Food + Fun!
AUGUST 2021 MEETING :
One of the special delights of our meetings is the unique opportunity to discover music and artistes never heard before. Tonight, Chris Waldock provided another wonderful presentation based on a singer unknown to any of us present, a former early workmate of hers whose youthful ambition was apparently always to perform. Thus we were introduced to the wonderful song stylings of Grace Knight, who clearly fulfilled her early aspirations to sing and entertain, although, Chris explained, her musical roots were in 1980s’ pop, and following requests to sing jazz as a cruise ship singer, she clearly has mastered the genre with complete success. My only disappointment was after first learning that Chris knew and was in contact with the subject of her presentation, I assumed her to be local, and there would thus be the potential for a live LJAS performance, accompanied by a couple of the Society’s resident musos. No such luck, however, as the singer lives and works in Australia!
Chris played a well-chosen selection of Miss Knight’s material, culled from various commercially released CDs: a good array of both jazz standards and also familiar tunes followed (with which it was good to be re-acquainted) including the poignant Guess Who I Saw Today?, a superbly arranged Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean, a WW2 Propagandabased Loose Lips Sink Ships, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Sugar in My Bowl, Don’t Know Much About Love, I’m Drinkin’ Again, and the classic swinger Love Me or Leave Me. A very popular presentation, and one wonders just why Grace Knight is not a much more familiar name. She has commanded musicians of the very best quality, and also consistently sparkling arrangements that both compare with the best international fare. (I‘ve since found that Grace Knight has quite some internet presence, so there’s more opportunity to hear and see her.) Thank you, Chris for a welcome new discovery and most enjoyable set!
What other less-known gems remain to be brought to our wider listening attention? Your entries sought and most welcome for future Main and Short Presentations or Features! To continue a consistent evening of song, Tony Sudweeks provided a welcome follow-up to his October 2019 Presentation Jazz? Singers? with Jazz? Singers? Encore, again providing a worthy selection of chanteurs and chanteuses of jazz, who are not amongst the familiar ranks of vocal celebrity. Cole Porter’s You’re the Top was delivered in a rare, if not unique, outing to LJAS, by Rosemary Clooney, swinging along nicely with Scott Hamilton, Cal Tjader and more; Kat Gang (a NY female singer whose name sounds more like a group) gave us In My Solitude, before quiz time and a challenge to discern the rich tones of the singer of Drop Me Off in Harlem; only a couple of folk identified Helen Shapiro! George Shearing and Quintet performed a masterly I’d Love to Make Love to You sung by the distinctively mellifluous tones of Dakota Staton, of whom, I contend, we don’t hear enough at this Society. The deservedly classic I Can’t Believe that You’re in Love with Me opined the less well-known, but superb Carol Sloane, while Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Sid Catlett and pals recorded a 1947 take of Stars Fell on Alabama with Satchmo on both horn and those growling tonsils, before we concluded with an astonishingly 74-year-old Maxine Sullivan with You Were Meant for Me. Many thanks, Tony, for a very enjoyable set of classic songs spanning the years by less familiar singers!
JULY 2021 MEETING:
Oh, what a night! Thank you to all who were able to join us for our first meeting of 2021, our first meeting since February 2020, and our first at our new venue at the Garden City Brewery! It was so good to celebrate being back together again, to catch up on news and, of course, to share some fine music. Everyone, I believe, expressed appreciation with our new location, and Holly the Manager and Bartender of the evening, provided great service, including candles on tables to add even more atmosphere to the occasion. We all appreciated our exclusive use of the premises for the evening, and whilst the range of beverages is less than the vast array otherwise on offer here, the quality and choice of ales, beer, cider and wine easily surpasses that of any previous venue! Furthermore, we were all most luxuriously seated, thanks especially to Linda’s kind provision of free cushions! The seating layout and spacing was comfortable anyway, but please remember to bring your cushion back next time. As I looked around our happy group, I did notice what a well-turned out bunch we are – smarter than the average society! And no-one seemed to have aged a jot, though a few new stylish spectacles were evident! We had no real idea of just how many people might attend our momentous do, so were pleased to see that fifteen members did.
To begin our proceedings, we took the unprecedented step of each member introducing themselves in turn by describing our favourite music and how we came to discover that thing called jazz, and some good tales emerged. We were delighted to welcome once more David Short, who LJAS has not seen for a few years, but who retains his youthful vigour provided by the outdoor life! Many will recall his excellent presentations, and we hopefully look forward to more such contributions. Oh yes, the music! An immensely stylish Colin Moore offered a timely and optimistic The Only Way Is Up! The ever-creative Mr Moore fashioned his selection around a musically creative narrative telling the tale of one Dinah, who undertakes an adventurous, nostalgic journey in search of her drafted love, Johhnie… Along the way, we variously heard Dinah Shore (of course) and Dinah’s Blues, Bob Crosby Orchestra’s Fidgety Feet, a young Buddy Greco’s But Not for Me, It Could Happen to You by the greatest female jazz singer Anita O’Day (all right, a subjective opinion!), Count Basie’s Jive at Five, Peggy Lee’s I’m Confessing, Tommy Dorsey-era Frank Sinatra with Everything Happens to Me, Errol Garner’s It’s All Right With Me, and concluding with the greatest jazz drummer (see above) Gene Krupa and an early I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music.
A very original musical story, spanning the years, styles, and nations. Thank you, Colin! What a good start to resurrect our new year in jazz!
Colin was due to present his piece for our abortive March 2020 do, but, as explained, we are intending to continue the sequence of postponed Main and Short Presentations. Consequently, the proposed forthcoming dates and programmes are: 31st August: Chris Waldock Amazing Grace and Tony Sudweeks: Jazz Singers? Encore! 28th September: Chris Jeffs Woody Herman and David Wakelin: Jimmy Witherspoon 26th October: Margaret Moore Jazzical Classical! 30th November: Bernard Pritchard It’s About Time! The Pulse of Jazz and David Short: Lockdown Behind Us! 14th December: AGM Christmas Social – Quiz + Food + Fun! Please keep the dates in your diaries!
Following our request for folk to bring any jazz discoveries you have encountered over our time apart, we just had room for a couple of pieces: Rob Jones (as svelte as ever!) provided a little-known, and very poignant, I’ll Keep Going Back to Joe’s by Nat ‘King’ Cole (an artiste I believe that we don’t hear enough of at LJAS), and David Short introduced us to Sunset, an atmospheric, skilful piece from the CD New Encounter by Migration Project, comprising Gaetano Di Giacomo (drums and group leader), Marco Marconi (piano) and Tom Farmer (bass).
Given the quality of victuals, please feel free to enjoy visiting https://gardencitybrewery.co.uk/ at other times! And please remember to bring debit or credit cards, not cash, to pay your Bar bill! J Apologies for any omissions, but thanks, everyone – it’s great to be back together again, and we look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, 31st August!
All very best wishes, Bernard Pritchard