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CD Review:  VARIOUS -
Remembering Monty Sunshine
(Lake LACD 344 – double album).  
CD Review
Bert Thompson

Disc One        Playing time 73m. 55s.             (Tracks 1, 4, 6, and 7
previously unissued.)                
Wild Cat Blues; Slow Drag Blues; Blue Blood Blues; That Eccentric
Rag; St. Philip Street Breakdown; Careless Love; Old Stackolee;
Original Tuxedo Rag; Saturday Night Function; South; Jacqueline; The
Sunshine of Your Blues; Gimme a Pigfoot & a Bottle of Beer; Sobbin’
& Cryin’; Creole Love Call; 1919 March; Coney Island Washboard;
Sunstroke; Down Home Rag; Young Woman Blues; Cakewalkin’
Babies from Home; I Keep Calling Your Name; Saratoga Shout; Seven
of Hearts; Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet.             Recorded between
March 1953 and 1965, no locations given.
Disc Two  Playing time 78m. 36s.   (Tracks 6-14 previously unissued.)
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree; Monty’s Blues; Gonna Build a
Mountain; Hushabye; Spain; Ole Miss Rag; I Want a Big Butter & Egg
Man; Up a Lazy River; Muskrat Ramble; At the Jazz Band Ball;
Squeeze Me; Riverboat Shuffle; Too Busy; Goin’ Home.           Recorded
between April 1962 and March 1984, no locations given.  
Personnel:   Monty Sunshine – Clarinet on all tracks
All of the others are too numerous to list here, but they include Chris
Barber, Ken Colyer, Pat Halcox, and Rod Mason.  All data are given in
the CD booklet.
Back before the advent of the Beatles, the traditional jazz revival was
underway in the U.K., spear-headed by bands such as George Webb’s
Dixielanders, the Crane River Jazz Band, and the Chris Barber Jazz
Band.  Monty Sunshine, born in Stepney, a district in London’s East
End, on April 8 1928, was a member of the last two named bands.  A
young man with the rather unusual last name, apparently an
anglicisation of the surname by Sunshine’s great-great-grandparents
who were Romanian immigrants to England, he was the clarinet player
with the Crane River Jazz Band and later of the Barber band from its
inception until 1960, as those of us of a certain age will remember,
when he left to follow his own course, leading his own groups.  This
double disc set gives a fair sampling of the Barber and later periods in
Sunshine’s musical career, showcasing well the attributes of his
The 1950s saw a wealth of clarinet talent emerge in the U.K., including
Acker Bilk, Cy Laurie, Terry Lightfoot, and Ian Christie, but none
surpassed Sunshine.  His tone was always liquid and full, and his
control over his instrument was firm.  No squeaks, squeals, squawks
or other imperfections sully his playing.  Fast fingering and perfect
glissandos, when called for, as well as his mellow tone are hallmarks.  
While he tends to favor the upper two registers, especially perhaps the
middle, he has no problem negotiating the lower one.  And, of course,
he is a fount of ideas, making his solos eminently listenable, as well as
a composer, as some tunes in this set illustrate.
The first disc opens with a rendition of Wild Cat Blues that even the
composer, Sidney Bechet, would have been hard pressed to top.  It
simply swings and illustrates how comfortable Sunshine was leading
a quartet just as much as he was completing the front line of an
ensemble.  Another facet of Sunshine’s playing is the discipline it
involves, whether he is with a small group or with a full band.  We
never hear—or fear—his going off the rails, and while not tending to
read from charts, he has obviously carefully constructed the harmonies
with which he backs other instruments, as is very apparent in the
manner he and Rod Mason complement each other in pieces such as
Down Home Rag or Saratoga Shout.  His obbligato behind Beryl
Bryden’s vocal on Young Woman Blues is superb.
The  first disc contains material from the earliest days with Ken
Colyer’s Jazzmen and the Chris Barber Jazz Band through tracks by
Sunshine’s small groups—trio, quartets, and quintet.  There is also a
pair of tracks with Sunshine bands that include Ian Wheeler on
soprano sax or second clarinet.  The second disc is given over to
Sunshine’s own jazz band with varying personnel, except for the last
two tracks, which provide a nostalgic coda as they revert to the 1984
Chris Barber Jazz and Blues band with a front line of the original
Barber band with Colyer on trumpet, the last track being, somewhat
fittingly, Colyer’s composition Goin’ Home.
Finally, while Sunshine’s best-known recording feature, perhaps—
Bechet’s Petite Fleur—is absent, it is more than made up for by there
being no fewer than thirteen tracks total that have never been issued
previously.  That, coupled with this being a “two-for-the-price-of-one”
set, makes acquiring it an easy choice.  Those new to Sunshine have a
good introduction here; those familiar with him have a good
opportunity to revisit the past as well as hear some “new” (i.e.,
unissued) material.

This CD is available on Amazon and elsewhere on line and also from
Lake Records at http://www.fellside.com.
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