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CD Review:  Ken Colyer's Jazzmen "Live"
Rediscovered Treasures from the Classic Years
(Upbeat URCD 257)
Bert Thompson
CD Review
Bert Thompson

CLASSIC YEARS" (Upbeat URCD 257).  Playing time:  71 mins. 58 secs.

Walkin’ with the Kingº*; Baby Won’t You Please Come Homeº*; Trouble in Mindº†; I
Can’t Give You Anything but Loveº†; Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Homeº†;
Careless Loveº†; Sweet Lorraineº; Meeting at the Building‡*; Winin’ Boy Blues*;
Working Man Blues; One Sweet Letter from You*; Dusty Rag; Joplin’s Sensation.

Recorded in the late 50’s, most likely in Studio 51 and Eel Pie Island, London.

Personnel: Ken Colyer, trumpet, guitar‡, vocal*; Ian Wheeler, clarinet; Mac Duncan,
trombone; Ray Foxley, pianoº; Johnny Bastable, tenor banjo; Ron Ward, string bass;
Colin Bowden, drums. Rosa Scudder, vocal†.  Barry Palser replaces Dyer, trombone;
Rimington plays alto.

This latest Ken Colyer Jazzmen CD contains recordings that have never been issued
previously, although most of the tunes themselves have appeared on other Colyer
albums.  The configuration of the Jazzmen on this CD is what is often called the “classic”
one, or what John Griffith, the owner of the tapes from which it derived, calls “Colyer’s
finest band.”  Colyer is at the top of his game here, totally in command of the derby mute
and of the broad vibrato that were among his signatures.  He adroitly guides the band in
the direction he wants through each of the selections. Duncan and Wheeler provide
superb accompaniment and support, making for a fine front line.  As the opening track
Walkin’ with the King illustrates, there is always excitement from the ensemble playing,
another all-important component of the Colyer interpretations.  The rest of the program is
typical Colyer fare, the selections featuring the collective improvisation that Colyer
deemed essential to the New Orleans style he was after.

One problem, however, that dogged so many of Colyer’s recordings is the difficulties
with tempo consistency. As seemed to have happened so often, the “controlled
acceleration,” otherwise known as “rushing,” that was associated with the band is
present.  More often than not, Bastable was the guilty party, although he was not the only

Another is that the recording quality falls a bit short.  While there is no certainty as to
who recorded the performances, there is no doubt that it was portable equipment run by
a non-professional.  The balance is off in many of the tracks—probably only one mike
was used.  The result is that the piano and string bass are almost inaudible on most cuts,
and the banjo is over-recorded on others.  Also as might be expected, vocals suffer
somewhat.  All but four of the tracks contain vocals, either by Colyer or by Rosina
Scudder, a singer I had never heard of prior to this release.  (According to Mike Pointon’s
liner notes, she was a diminutive person, “not much more than three feet tall,” but she
did not have a voice to match.)  Regrettably, much of her singing is off-mike to one
degree or another.  Like hers, Colyer’s vocals are also victims of the “off-mike”

Despite these relatively minor shortcomings, Colyer fans will surely want this release,
especially those who are completists.  Others less familiar with Colyer’s work will gain an
insight into what made his bands tick once they get past the recording problems
mentioned.  It is all there on this CD.  In many respects, then, this is “classic Ken Colyer.”
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