There’s Yes Yes in Your Eyes; Blue Skies; New Iberia Blues; Gate
Mouth; My Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day; Salutation March;
Storyville Blues (a.k.a. Those Draftin’ Blues); Sing On; Just a Little
While to Stay Here*; ereGettysburg March.
Recorded at Langley Vale Village Hall, Epsom, Surrey, on Dec., 20,
Ken Colyer – cornet, vocal*; Mike Pointon – trombone; George Berry –
clarinet, tenor sax; Ray Foxley – piano; John Griffith – banjo; Alyn
Shipton – tuba; Colin Bowden – drums.
At the outset, let us get the caveats out of the way. Upbeat and Mike
Pointon, who wrote the note on the back cover of the DVD case,
readily admit to the shortcomings of this DVD—it is of amateur
quality with grainy black-and-white photography, uncertain focus at
times, sound that is less than hi-fi, and a slight lack of sync between
video and sound. Small wonder that Liz Biddle of Upbeat had to think
long and hard about issuing it.
Fortunately, however, she decided to go ahead, and the result is
Upbeat has made another contribution to documenting the history of
jazz in the U.K. by making it available. Ken Colyer is generally
acknowledged as being one of the central figures in traditional jazz in
Britain, but the film offerings of him in performance are slim; so this
video, some sixty-eight and a half minutes long, helps augment their
number. Although this was not the “classic” Ken Colyer band, it is a
very respectable one, given the personnel, and as is almost always the
case, is molded by Colyer into a “Colyer band.” Some were members
of previous Colyer bands, including Bowden and Foxley, and
intermittently Pointon had played with Colyer.
Other than Just a Little While to Stay Here, with a largely off-mike
vocal by Colyer, and Gettysburg March, the tunes on this playlist are
not among those frequently recorded by Colyer to my knowledge, so
there is the opportunity to hear some less-than-familiar Colyer
renditions. Despite his having been ill and, not long after this date,
having to give up playing his horn, he is still on good form here. His
wah-wah mute work is fine, but despite the hat mute’s being there, he
does not make much use of it, unfortunately. His band mates follow
along, handling flawlessly the segues in the marches from march time
to four-four and providing support as necessary for the rest. Colyer’s
solos are all worth listening to, as is usually the case, and in the New
Orleans tradition he backs those of the others with sympathetic
riffing, just as they do for him. Adequate opportunity is given
everyone to explore each number, the selections’ lengths varying
between five-and-a-half and eight-and-a-half minutes duration, but
only the front line and piano avail themselves of such chances to solo.
Musically the performance overall is very satisfying.
In addition, we also get a good sense of the club and the club
atmosphere (smoky!) as the videographer, from time to time, has the
camera pan the audience, which at one point includes a woman
knitting as she listen to the music and at another a young lad sitting in
front wearing a shirt and tie (!) who seems to be engrossed with the
music. Later in the video we see he has moved to the rear side of the
band to be close to Bowden to get a proper look at what he is doing.
These shots establish a kind of intimacy, pulling us into the
proceedings—we get the feeling of being there.
I have no hesitation in recommending this video disc, given the
caveats listed above. The folks at the Upbeat label have been very
forthright in bringing these to the buyer’s attention, so there should be
no surprises. Liz Biddle and Upbeat have to be congratulated for
making this video available and adding to the story of British jazz.
Colyer aficionados will want to waste no time in adding it to their
One final note: this video is in the PAL format, although it is region
free. It played on one of my DVD players but not the other. It also
played on my computer with no problem. Before purchasing, it might
be a good idea to check the compatibility of one’s DVD player and/or
Ordering information is available at the Upbeat web site, www.upbeat.