|NORMAN THATCHER & JOHN SCANTLEBURY WITH THE WESSEX NEW
ORLEANS JAZZ BAND—Norman’s Last Album (P.E.K. SOUND PKCD-370).
Playing time: 70m. 14s.
The Old Spinning Wheel; Any Time†; Just a Little While to Stay Here; Ciribiribin;
See See Rider*; In Spain They Say Si Si†; Sweet Fields; He Touched Me‡; Girl of
My Dreams*; Careless Love Blues*; St. Philip St. Breakdown‡; Bluebells Goodbye;
Lead Me, Savior; Ice Cream*.
Recorded live at the Wessex Hotel, Street, Somerset, Nov. 20, 2011.
Personnel: Norman Thatcher, cornet, tenor sax; John Scantlebury, clarinet, alto sax,
vocal*; Tom Whittingham, trombone; Dave Soby, piano; Sarah Thatcher, banjo,
tenor guitar; Peter Berry, double bass; Pete Winterhart, drums. † John Minnion,
cornet (replaces Thatcher). ‡ Thatcher and Whittingham out.
Jazz fans in the U.K. who favor the uptown New Orleans style are fortunate in that
many bands and musicians are dedicated to that style. One such band is the Wessex
New Orleans Jazz Band which had, as trombonist, Norman Thatcher, a multi-
instrumentalist who also played trumpet/cornet, trombone, bass, and drums.
Thatcher also led several other bands, and his sudden passing while on vacation in
Turkey last April before he reached the allotted “threescore and ten” took the
traditional jazz community in the U.K. completely by surprise and left it with a large
hole which will be difficult to have filled. Living over 5,000 miles from the U.K., I
didn’t have too many opportunities to hear him in person, but I did manage to catch
him a couple of times at the Bude Festival in Cornwall and to chat a little with him
on those occasions. I found him to be not only a fine musician but very personable,
as I’m sure everyone else did, too. Fortunately this performance last year was
recorded, and its dedication to Thatcher’s memory is a fitting tribute as he and the
others provide fine renditions of the tunes included.
Thatcher plays mainly cornet on this occasion, although he takes a few choruses on
several tunes on sax but none on the other instruments. The disc opens with
Thatcher playing sax on The Old Spinning Wheel, leading the ensemble on that
instrument the first two times through and then reverting to cornet thereafter. (The
other tracks on which he plays both instruments are See See Rider, Careless Love
Blues, and Lead Me, Savior.) As one can readily hear, Thatcher was not the kind of
horn player who tried to blow down the back wall—instead he was happy to keep
the volume down (and on occasion would use a mute). One could then easily relish
the musical lines he laid down. Although fairly spare, his lead is always thoughtful
and melodic, leaving spaces for the others to utilize.
Thatcher was always a devotee of the uptown New Orleans style as was Ken Colyer,
whom he admired and whose style he was very adept at assuming, as he did for so
long while leading the Ken Colyer Trust Band—indeed, one can hear on this disc
Colyer-like touches throughout. The other members of the Wessex Jazz Band,
along with guests John Scantlebury and Tom Whittingham (filling in for Thatcher
on trombone), amply support Thatcher, participating in the musical conversations
that are a feature of the collective improvisation that is a key ingredient of the New
In addition to filling admirably the role of the reed player in the New Orleans front
line on clarinet and alto sax, Scantlebury is featured on two tunes, He Touched Me
and St. Philip St. Breakdown, where the rest of the front line lays out. He has
obviously listened to George Lewis, but does not try to simply copy him. This is
quite clear on both of these numbers, especially the second, a Lewis composition,
where it would have been tempting to merely replicate the Lewis treatment.
Instead, he wisely keeps the spirit of Lewis but adds his own improvisations
throughout. Scantlebury also contributes vocals on a few of the tracks.
This is a CD that is easy to recommend. Obtaining it will be doing not only
yourself a favor but also Cancer Research U.K. as “£5 is to be donated from the price
paid for each copy of this CD” to that organization, according to the liner notes.
Some P.E.K. Sound CD’s are carried by CDUniverse, but the best bet would
probably be to go to http://www.peksound.co.uk/pekProduction/shopping.php and
order it directly.