by Bert Thompson
THATCHER-BLOUNT NEW ORLEANS BAND—MEMORIES OF BUDE 1990
(RAYMER SOUND RSCD888). Playing time: 67m. 20s.
Precious Lord Take My Hand, Lead Me On; When I Grow Too Old to Dream; Love
Songs of the Nile; Ole Miss Rag; Salutation March; The Old Rugged Cross; Blame It
on the Blues; Sometimes My Burden Is Too Hard to Bear; Down in Jungle Town;
Cielito Lindo; Memories; On the Road to Home Sweet Home.
Recorded at Flexbury Park Hotel, Bude, Cornwall, U .K., Aug. 31, 1990.
Personnel: Norman Thatcher, trumpet; Chris Blount, clarinet; Pete Child, trombone;
Ben Marshall, banjo; Tony Sharp, bass; Dion Cochrane, drums.
This disc, which was only recently released despite its having been recorded almost
two decades ago, is devoid of liner notes. It is part of the Raymer Sound Archive
Series and will be a joy to all those who love the New Orleans Uptown style:
ensemble almost all the way with some judiciously interspersed solos, and those
often backed by the others, even if that backing is just a riff. It was recorded at the
third Bude festival.
All of these musicians are thoroughly familiar with the style but come across like
what a black uptown New Orleans band with some formal musical training might
have sounded. Despite Thatcher’s Bunk Johnson influence and Blount’s George
Lewis one, the band is very smooth without the slight touch of roughness that is the
hallmark of so many of the uptown bands, like those of Johnson, Lewis, Kid
Thomas Valentine, etc. They pay close attention to dynamics, never playing loud
on any chorus to start with, but dropping down to delicious lows on tunes such as
Ole Miss Rag, Salutation March, and Down in Jungle Town on occasion to give a
varied treat to the ears.
Thatcher makes a tune his own: even when playing the melody lead, he creates
small melodic variations, so instead of what is expected, one is given a slight—but
pleasurable—surprise. His mute work, too, is superb. Blount is always in complete
command of his instrument: no fluffed notes, all fingered surely. He provides the
counter melody so necessary in the New Orleans style. This CD provides a
poignant reminder that his death a week before Christmas in 1998 was most
untimely. On trombone Child supplies the appropriate fills.
The rhythm section is superb—rock solid in tempo, Sharp’s bass in two or four as
appropriate and Marshall playing straight four on the chording on banjo, apart
from the few solos they offer. Cochrane’s drumming is tasty, with sparing use of
cymbals and nice underpinning of the front line with quiet pressed rolls and
accents where needed.
It would be difficult to pick out a favorite track. Precious Lord Take My Hand,
Lead Me On, taken at a slightly brisker tempo than I am used to hearing, is a fine
introduction, creating an anticipation that the rest of the disc goes on to fulfill.
Perhaps if I had to opt for one tune here it would be either that or On the Road to
Home Sweet Home. But all the rest come only a short way behind; on all of them
the band swings like mad. There are no vocals, which is not necessarily bad.
Those who were in attendance on that day in August almost two decades ago were
fortunate. As I said above, if New Orleans Uptown style is your thing, then this disc
is definitely for you. It can be ordered from Raymer Sound at their website http:
//www.raymerjazz.co.uk/ and possibly may be obtainable from some of the mail
order houses as well.