It seems to have been a busy month catching up with what’s been and what’s coming up in jazz in the Four Shires. Banbury Jazz Club’s December session brought new blood to the Banbury House Hotel in the form of The Jazz Biscuits. This is a young band, based in London, but with local connections. Guitarist Dylan Kaye hails from Brailles and as well as performing with the whole group can be seen locally teamed up with the band’s bass player, Andy Marks. Drummer David Bouet and saxophonist Stephen band complete the line-up. They have a wide repertoire, from smooth standards by the likes of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, through fifties and sixties styles with tunes by Miles Davis et al to their own tunes.
I first heard about them when they were looking for a venue in the locality to perform and publicise the launch of their first CD, Unvoiced. This CD represents a broad spread and appeals to the die-hard 'Modern' jazzers as well as those slightly younger who like parts of the seventies and eighties scene.
The Jazz Biscuits were also at The White Bear, Shipston-on-Stour the following Sunday evening, albeit in a slightly depleted format as Stephen Band was unable to play. Not deterred by this, the trio performed a terrific set that was far freer (and louder) than their BJC gig. Sax lovers were not disappointed either as the guys were joined by Banbury sax player Steve Suttee for a few numbers in the second half. Another good evening and the White Bear seems to be a good place to hear live music on a Sunday night.
Meanwhile, back at The Mill in Banbury, the December Jazz-in-the-Foyer coincided with the launch of the latest art exhibition and a packed Millstream Bar were treated to a selection of musical delights. The music started with a small group from the regular Tuesday night jazz jam sessions performing some acoustic numbers. Led by Teresa and Steve Suttee, the young performers had their first taste of live jazz performance and did very well.
The main act of the evening was Martin Moyers (guitar) and Ian Hill (saxophone) augmented by singer Julie Dennis. This duo worked really well together, especially when this was their first time out together. A nice array of songs and known tunes kept people tapping and there was certainly a lot of approval for Julie’s singing. One can only hope that some of the audience feel motivated to return.
Another regular visitor to local jazz venues is artist Daphne Polglaise. Often to be seen perched on stool at the front, pad in one hand, pen in the other, Daphne is well-known by many local bands for her fine line drawings. Inspired as much by the music as by the visual, Daphne’s work is featured here with a drawing of The Jazz Biscuits.
Banbury Jazz Club next meets at the Banbury House Hotel at 8pm on Tuesday January 19th when pianist Sean Hargreaves appears. Jazz-in-the-Foyer at The Mill is on Tuesday 12th (8.30pm) with top London vocalist Trudy Kerr. Jazz-in-the-Foyer is free entry.
As well as keeping up with the times, I’ve been delving back into the areas musical past. The Banbury Advertiser of April 1956 contained a snippet reporting that a group of local jazzers had ventured up to London to see Stan Kenton and his band.
The early months of that year saw much speculation in the music press about a proposed British tour by this band. At the time, Kenton led one of the leading big bands of the day, which was one of the few to survive into the fifties as the age of the crooner took over. After many years of a Musicians’ Union ban on American bands playing in this country and a reciprocal one by the American Federation of Musicians, based on the suggestion that the visitors would take the jobs from the home guys, a band exchange was organised. The USA would get Ted Heath and the UK, Stan Kenton.
The local contingent were treated to such Kenton standards as ‘Peanut Vendor’ and ‘23° North 82° West’. The line up included many luminaries of the day – Carl Fontana, Ralph Baze, Bill Perkins and the great drummer Mel Lewis. Indeed, one local drummer (possibly Brownie Lay) was reported to have been so impressed that he said he thought Lewis to be “the finest ever”.
At about this time, the Melody Maker announced that the line up was to change due to two members returning home. Saxophonist Spencer Sinatra was replaced by Britain’s Tommy Whittle who was greatly enjoyed the experience. Latterly Tommy still performs with the BBC Big Band and played at Banbury Jazz Club’s thirtieth anniversary in 1997.
A belated complements of the season to you all – and be sure to make one of your New Year resolutions to see at least one live band a month, jazz or what you fancy.