KEN COLYER WITH THE CRANE RIVER JAZZ BAND— The Cranes
Fly Again (Upbeat URCD 281). Playing time: 72 mins. 29 secs.
Oh! Lady Be Good; Ja Da; When You Wore a Tulip*; I Can’t Escape
from You (You Can’t Escape from Me); Chimes Blues; Gettysburg
March; Someday Sweetheart; If I Ever Cease to Love; The Miner’s
Dream of Home.
Recorded at the 100 Club, Oxford Street, London, on Jan. 17, 1975.
Personnel: Ken Colyer, trumpet; Sonny Morris, trumpet; 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.
In my review of URCD272 - THE CRANE RIVER JAZZ BAND WITH
KEN COLYER • Reunited (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
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
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