[Dixielandjazz] Old, But New!

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Thu Dec 13 16:09:15 PST 2012

Hi Folks,

I agree with the comments that a broad repertoire enables a band to rotate material and this obviously prevents the musicians in the band from getting bored and it also encourages audiences to come back to hear a band since they never know what they're going to hear from gig to gig. I also go along with the principle that everyone in a small audience has paid 100 per cent of his or her ticket money and deserves to hear a 100 per cent performance. Maybe I'm fortunate that all the guys in my band think the same way, so it's never been an issue. We played a jazz club gig last year where the promoters forgot to advertise and at one point the band outnumbered the audience. We often offer small clubs a discounted fee as it helps to keep the band working and encourages the grass-roots of the jazz scene, so there was little incentive for the musicians to give their all: no audience, no atmosphere and lousy bread, but they're all pros, so we gave them the full show and everyone went home happy.

Since the band's repertoire covers everything from Jelly Roll Morton to Charles Mingus (for real!), we can easily switch repertoire around to keep us all on our toes. However, we do get booked to provide a lot of themed concerts (Bix, Louis, Jelly, Duke etc) for festivals, so we look forward to the occasional gig where we get to play what we want. We had a couple of these recently which were promoted by clubs which tend to more contemporary jazz, but my view is that it's really all the one music and, if it's a catchy tune played with energy and passion, audiences can be very broad-minded and accept pretty much anything. The programme we played for these recent gigs was just about as eclectic as they come:

Dicky Wells' Moondog (a line on I Got Rhythm),
Cannonball Adderley's lop-sided blues Nippon Soul (I say lop-sided since the solo choruses start on bar 5 of the blues and finish at the end of bar 4 of the next chorus),
Antonio Carlos Jobim's Waters of March (a punchy, slow-burn bossa with some interesting dissonances),
Louis' Big Butter and Egg Man (featuring trumpeter Billy Hunter in a Chappie Willett-style arrangement),
Bob Brookmeyer's Open Country (featuring our superb trombonist Phil O'Malley)
Billy Strayhorn's lovely smoochy Snibor (an extended arrangement exploring Strayhorn/Duke colourings),
Buck Clayton's punchy blues Outer Drive,
Sadik Hakim's gorgeous ballad Idlin' from Buddy Tate's repertoire (featuring our stunning tenorist Konrad Wiszniewski who, as usual, brought the house down),
Jelly's Black Bottom Stomp (a riotous raver at 280 bpm).

The second set was just as varied:
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me (an original chart from our CD with Duke Heitger),
Buck Clayton's mid-tempo Swingin' Along on Broadway,
Gerry Mulligan's easy-going down-home piece Out Back of the Barn (featuring guest Allon Beauvoisin on bari sax; this piece could just as easily have been played by King OIiver's 1929 Orch),
Antonio Carlos Jobim's lively jazz-samba Cap'n Bacardi,
Duke's Love You Madly (a feature for our fine pianist Tom Finlay),
Barney Bigard's gorgeous slow-paced Pelican Drag (featuring clarinettist Dick Lee and Allon on bass clarinet),
Sam Jones's melodic hard-bop piece Del Sasser (featuring our young stars Konrad and Phil),
My original blues piece for Clark Terry - Mister Mumbles,
Benny Carter's up-tempo closer Bright Future (from his unpublished Glasgow Suite on our CD with Alan Barnes).

Our regular bari player, Martin Foster, was unavailable for the gigs otherwise we would have played some Bix material which normally features Martin on bass sax. The capacity audience loved the gig, it got a rave review in the local press, yet we didn't play a single warhorse, so I guess Trummy Young was right along: 'T'ain't Whatcha Do, Hit's the Way Whatcha Do It.

Incidentally, at the secret gig where the band outnumbered the audience last year, Martin Foster had to restrain my 2 year-old grandson from trying to touch his soprano sax: he said "don't touch it; these things are usually sharp!"



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