Remembering Russell Bennett

 

Russ and Rich at their last 100 Club Concert.

 

Back in October Jazz&Jazz featured

 

Russell Bennett – A Jazz Legend in His Lifetime

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Russell Bennett – A Jazz Legend in His Lifetime

 

Russ(LC)

Jazz UK has been stunned by the tragic news of Russell Bennett’s untimely death. His father, Martin Bennett posted this very brief message on Facebook: “Russell Bennett died on Saturday evening at 6 pm. Funeral arrangements later. Devastating.”

As many of you who have access to Facebook will have seen, messages of condolence have been flooding in from across the jazz community. Please also see the message from Rich Bennett about his brother’s funeral at the foot of this post.

Russ was an incredibly versatile trombonist, a very special, friendly person, and a jester – his antics on stage were legendary. I first met him at The Hemsby Autumn Jazz Parade a few years ago where, during an interval he invited me backstage to share cake with the band.

He will be sorely missed by scores of musicians and fans alike, particularly members of the “Bennett Brothers” band, and above all, by his family.

With his feel for the music, his flamboyance on stage and his countless fans, his future in jazz was firmly assured yet so tragically cut short.

Russ_Rich_Juxtaposition

I took the rather iconic photo above of Russ and Rich in juxtaposition on stage a while ago. I use it in the masthead on my “Jazz and Jazz” Facebook page where it will remain for the duration in Russ’s honour. Included below is a collection of some other Jazz&Jazz photos of The Master.

Many of his fellow musicians and fans have already paid tribute to Russ on Facebook but it would be a wonderful to see your memories of him included in “Speak Your Mind” below.

RussRich(LC)

Russ

RussBennett1

Russ_Rich_James

Thank you, Russ, for the years of sheer enjoyment you have given jazz fans everywhere, so tragically cut short, but not before you had made a lasting impression on us all.

Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

(Photos by Laurence Cumming & Peter M Butler © Jazz&Jazz)

Richard Bennett has asked for his brave message about Russ to be shared.

“Never thought I’d be saying this…… My brothers funeral is a week Friday. That’s Friday the 30th of October. It will be held at St Michael’s church. Bude at 3pm. Please share this as there will be a lot of people wanting to know who I may not be fb friends with. Any musicians who know they are coming please let me know. I’m hoping to put on a party afterwards n would be good to know who’s around. Thanks to everyone of you for all your lovely messages. Russ would be overwhelmed. Cheers all. Rich X”

Russ’s Funeral

Martin Bennett has emailed details of Russell’s funeral: “The funeral service will be held at St Michael’s Church, Bude, Cornwall, on Friday 30 October at 3pm followed by a musical celebration of Russell’s life at The Carriers Inn, Bude. The funeral will take place the following day at 1 pm at Landscove Church, S Devon – more of a family function”.

The Old Green River at The Winning Post – Remembering Russell

 

Band-1

“It was a wonderful session at The Winning Post, Twickenham, on Thursday, 5th November, with Martin Bennett’s Old Green River Band and Richard Bennett on trumpet – plus unexpected but very welcome guest, Adrian Cox on clarinet and alto. The audience of approximately 100 gave a huge welcome to the band following the tragic loss of son and brother Russell and we were rewarded with some fine jazz and blues.”

Kay Leppard

Thank you Kay for sharing with Jazz&Jazz this very special commemorative event at The Winning Post and Laurence Cumming for your empathetic photographs.

"For you, Son."

“For you, Son.”

"… and for you, Brother."

“… and for you, Brother.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

" … with feeling."Rich-with-John-Finch2Band-2

Martin-Keyboard

Resolute

Empathy

Empathetic

 

!!!

In commemoration


Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

(Photos by Laurence Cumming © Jazz&Jazz)

“Just A Closer Walk With Thee” Martin Bennett’s Tribute To Russ

Martin Bennett and His Old Green River Band pay a brave tribute to his son Russ at Lemsford Jazz Club on Sunday, 25th October.

Please visit “Russell Bennett – A Jazz Legend in His Lifetime”

Martin has emailed details of Russell’s funeral – “The funeral service will be held at St Michael’s Church, Bude, Cornwall, on Friday 30 October at 3pm followed by a musical celebration of Russell’s life at The Carriers Inn, Bude. The funeral will take place the following day at 1 pm at Landscove Church, S Devon – more of a family function”.

Rich Bennett’s Band Brings the House Down at The Autumn Parade

The Rich Bennett Band at the Autumn Jazz Parade, Hemsby, Norfolk

Announcing the Rich Bennett Band at September’s Autumn Jazz Parade, both Pete Lay and Mike Pointon warned fans to take a tight grip on their seats and be prepared for a walk on the wild side! And they weren’t far wrong!

Back in November last year in an article featuring The Rich Bennett Band  I wrote “jazz oldies by far outnumber younger fans and if trad jazz is to make a powerful comeback we need to applaud it’s rising stars”.

Rich Bennett and his brother Russell do just that with their group of young musicians who share their joyous, driving style. And although their father Martin Bennett might beg to differ, the two of them are not so old themselves!

Richard’s passion for the New Orleans sound and its revival never fails to fire up audiences all over the UK and the Hemsby fans were no different. They may be a tad long in the tooth but if they hadn’t already taken to the dance floor they were on their feet applauding the band’s youthful exuberance. A riotous time was has by one and all and what’s more, the CDs were a sell out!

So what better than to share here the photos which I took of Rich and Russ Bennett, James Evans, the charming Dorine De Wit, Baby Jools and guest bassist Trefor Williams in full flight!

(Photos © Peter M Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

Russell and Richard in Jazz Juxtaposition

Russell and Richard in Jazz Juxtaposition

Rich and young star Dorine de Wit

Rich in characteristic pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brother Russell

Cheeks fit to burst!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Evans

… on sax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julyan (Baby Jools) Aldridge

Dorine De Wit: Jazz Starlet on Banjo and Vocals

 

Stars of the Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trefor Williams, starring as guest bassist.

Jazz Duet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell, Richard and James

 

The Rich Bennett Band – Keeping the Spirit of Jazz Alive

Richard Bennett (Photo © D J Mastin)

Jazz oldies by far outnumber younger fans and if trad jazz is to make a powerful comeback we need to applaud it’s rising stars.

So JazzandJazz.com seeks to promote and revive the unique ethos of traditional jazz not only by featuring modern day greats but also by focusing on the vitality of its emerging stars.

But Richard Bennett got there first! The Rich Bennett Band includes Richard’s own selection of hand picked younger musicians who share his own exuberant and driving style. Richard’s passion for the New Orleans sound and its revival never fails to fire up audiences all over the UK. Just what’s needed if we are to enthuse a new generation of jazz fans. He and his younger brother Russell are the sons of pianist, vocalist and trombonist Martin Bennett who played with Phil Mason’s New Orleans All Stars.

An extremely exciting trumpet player, fine vocalist and respected band leader, and although based in North Cornwall, Richard is in great demand on jazz circuits and has toured extensively all over Britain and Europe. You can get the latest news about the band and their gigs at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Richard-Bennett/262333177113568

Pete Lay, Gambit Jazzmen’s leader and drummer has also starred with Richard, and has now booked The Rich Bennett Band for the Autumn Jazz Parade in Hemsby, Norfolk, from Friday, 28th September to Monday, 1st October, 2012. Full details can be found under Autumn Jazz Parade 2012.

Jazzers’ Debate No 1: Younger Jazz Bands and Musicians

EXAMINING FUTURE PROSPECTS


Jazzers’ Debate No 1


Younger Jazz Bands and Musicians

 

Initiator

Peter Mark Butler

The best introduction to my one of my recent Jazz&Jazz features is from an email I received today from my close friend Ray in Castaic, California: “Good interview with Trefor Williams. One observation from a jazz outsider: it seems as if all the groups are quite elderly. Are there no up & coming younger jazz artists in the UK or the US or elsewhere?”

I replied, “There are, Ray, but admittedly they are few and far between. But that is changing as this feature and other posts in Jazzers show”.

Not just any old festival, this is an Inspirational Jazz Fest! www.jazzandjazz.com

Perhaps I should have rephrased my reply to say that could be changing, so before continuing the debate here is a very apt passage from Pete Lay’s Editorial in Just Jazz, March, 2013:

“We strive to promote youngsters in jazz, but I did get irritated when we received notification of the National Youth Summer School to publish. Great in principal but any youngsters wanting to attend are confronted with various criteria, funding applications, bursaries and more off-putting auditions. More importantly, I do not see any provision where youngsters will be instructed or lectured on the era of jazz which we promote and that our readers enjoy. It seems most young musicians who will attend will have already attained some level of proficiency. I do hope their teachers haven’t ignored Armstrong, Morton, Ory, Henderdson, Russell, etc!

“I understand that Alyn Shipton and Keith Nichols are certainly doing their best to keep the history of jazz alive with their pupils, and are to be congratulated. I just wish there were a lot more like them.”

Clare Gray was first to respond, commenting with a link to http://swungover.wordpress.com and an article on A Quick Note On Training Bands To Play For Dancers.

Ken Taylor then recommended we watch this video recorded at The Hive, Shrewsbury – “the young band “Brownfield Byrne Quintet went down a storm!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqznrXpp0QQ

upon which Chris Barber commented “nice thoughtful version of one of my favourites..congratulations.”

This set the ball rolling and  to give the debate a boost I posted:

Peter Mark Butler 

IT’S TIME FOR JAZZERS TO GET INVOLVED!

Time to reinforce the aims and goals of Jazzers and Jazz&Jazz.com.

“The art of life is to know when to seize on accidents and make them milestones.” Chairman Humph. (A gem from Humphrey Lyttelton’s autobiography, “It Just Occurred to Me”).

I stumbled back into jazz just a few years ago, started to paint portraits of jazz musicians, joined the Southern Sounds New Orleans French Quarter Festival tour in 2010, and realised that jazz has reached a woeful low in the popularity stakes.

Frankly put, with ageing bands, musicians and fans, if action isn’t taken soon, jazz and in particular New Orleans jazz will simply fade away, even in New Orleans. Yet there are younger bands, musicians and fans out there to carry the torch, and they need all the support and encouragement we can give them if they are to stay on track.

One solution lies in the forging of relationships between the “oldies” and the “young’uns” – bands, musicians and fans! Cross fertilisation of the skills and thrills of jazz … forging a partnership between older, well established bands and dynamic younger bands and setting a pattern for bringing New Orleans back to the UK.

But it’s not just a matter of watching this space. We want members of the Jazzers Group to get involved. How? By inviting bands, clubs, musicians and fans to join Jazzers and work together to achieve a not so impossible lift off to a sustained revival of New Orleans Jazz, the source of all of our popular forms of music.

I would welcome a proliferation of posts along these lines from north, south, east and west. Let’s get the show on the road.

Read the “About” section of Jazzers. It has more to say about these goals.

Peter Butler
Founder of Jazz&Jazz.com & Jazzers

The following exchange of views ensued:

Martin Bennett As a generalisation, one of the main reasons for what seems to be a lack of interest in the young, is the venue itself. Most of the venues are places modern youngsters wouldn’t be seen dead in. Places full of chairs and tables are of no interest to them. People under 25 prefer to stand – as you will see at festivals and many jazz clubs in Holland, all of which have cheering youngsters to a point of overflow – places where the over 40s wouldn’t want to be seen dead in here in the UK.

Peter Mark Butler A very valid point, Martin, which we need to pay attention to! Such limited venues include pubs yet even pubs are turning jazz away these days. But fans are not prepared to pay sufficient for their jazz to make that difference. As Pete Lay recently wrote to me: “That is why the audience mentality has to change, and it will do, if we can get the younger audience on board – they are used to paying for their nights out.” Somehow we must learn from Holland and Germany. Perhaps it will take a concerted effort to get daring with venues! In fact I included a post on Jazz&Jazz recently based on developments at the Leeds Jazz Club addressing just this point: http://www.jazzandjazz.com/?p=2206 Perhaps we should check up on how Leeds is doing now.

Martin Bennett Leeds Jazz Club runs a Jump Jive dance group in conjunction with the jazz nights. It works very well and all of the Jump Jive dancers are under 30. There is a similar group of dancers from Greater Manchester which turns up at clubs suitably set up. There are no clubs I know of in Manchester working on a regular basis so they have to travel – usually to Jump Jive Bands. Leeds has it sorted.

Peter Mark Butler I believe Jeff Lewis and Speakeasy Bootleg Band are doing something similar in Liverpool, so it can happen. We need to get more on board! As I’ve stressed in my Just Jazz articles and on Jazz&Jazz, fans and even bands must learn not to be so precious and be prepared to “mix it a bit” if traditional jazz is to regroup for a revival.

Clare Gray Jive swing and similar is absolutely thriving at the moment – go to the TwinWood website http://www.twinwoodevents.com/index.html to see what they have on and pics of this year’s great events. We went and although big band is a different ‘fish’ to what most folk in this group are aiming at, there were some other decidedly more jazz-orientated bands there also, as well as a lot more of the 50’s vibe. I’m not suggesting Twinwood is the ideal venue for Trad, Dixie etc, but I think it’s likely that the young ‘keenies’ that we meet at our LindyHop classes will naturally progress to the cooler shades of jazz – in fact I am noticing a lot of them ‘liking’ tracks and bands that definitely are smoother and just as good for them to dance to. So the upshot is, keep the music alive and as public as possible. Keep on pushing it out there and they will come. I agree that it might be that pubs are a dying source – they’re up against so much attack on their profits (non smoking, rising beer prices, more people drinking at home etc) that they can’t really take a punt on bands that might not bring in the drinkers (a lot of these youngsters only drink softies anyway these days – horrors!- whatever the media says about binge drinking). So perhaps the secret is to start looking for big, open venues where jazz events might be held and start building it from there. There is interest in dinner jazz from smaller restaurants and while I know that some bands might blanche at that idea, its all getting the good stuff out there, so don’t knock it if you can get it.

Twinwood Festival is The No. 1 Vintage Music & Dance Festival! www.twinwoodevents.com Twinwood Events hosts the annual Glenn Miller Festival and Rhythm Festival at the historic Twinwood Airfield.

Martin Bennett Jeff’s a good chap and certainly does his bit over in Liverpool and has developed a wider range which works very well.

Clare Gray Good for you Peter. With your determination and contacts you’ll get this party started! Am really hoping the scene starts to open up a bit soon. I’m itching to get into something new – using the Trad, blues, dinner, dance band and other ‘grooves’ I’ve got into since the late 90’s. I’m determined to find some folk to enjoy that with. As a ‘younger’ jazz fan I find it frustratingly difficult to break in with the hardened older players who seem to enjoy ‘noodllng’ (nothing wrong with that) but don’t really want to gig or to push it much. Can’t say I blame them, but where are all those players who want to make a noise??? Get them out of the woodwork and you’ll start a fire!…..

Chez Chesterman Trouble is, if you mention the word jazz the kids will not turn up. To them jazz is a naughty word. Call it swing, play the right tempos and they’ll come flocking in. Forties swing is the one that gets everyone hopping.

Clare Gray I agree. Amongst my fellow jive swing/lindy dancers (many quite a bit younger) there’s a nose-wrinkling at the ‘J’ word – yet they’re tapping their feet and swinging along to it all the same. Perhaps you’re right – give it a different hat and they’ll all want to put it on!

Dave Mayor Members of the Bude Jive club also belong to the Bude Jazz club, most welcome they are too.

Peter Mark Butler It seems all is not lost. Yet, taking the comments received so far, there is a long way to go. To Chez and Clare I’ll respond with a conversation had at the Hemsby Autumn Parade last year. Barry Price asked the girls serving behind the bar if they liked jazz. “No!” was the answer. So, pointing to the stage he asked, “Do you like this kind of music?” And they said yes they did! So he told them this was original, traditional jazz. So the jazz that put them off could well have been ultra modern jazz – you know, the self indulgent stuff you can’t even tap your feet to!

Clare Gray Funny you should say that Peter. When I first started doing the Trad stuff with Bob Thomas, a friend and former colleague laughed when I told him and said “you’re not doing all that dreadful scatting stuff and singing to Shakespeare sonnets are you?” He thought it was hilarious and took the mickey whenever I said we had a gig . One day I was playing some trad in the car when he came with me on a business trip. He was really enjoying it and I turned and said “this is what we do”. He was quite impressed, and although I would never say he’s going to be listening to it by himself, he came along to a gig and had a good old time. I was a bit worried I might offend the group mentioning the truly ‘modern’ jazz, but in my opinion it is that stuff – where no one is playing the same tune or in the same key it seems, and the drummer appears to be building flat pack wardrobes in the background – that puts people off sometimes. This probably makes me sound like a total Philistine, but if we want to draw people in, we must start with what good old Bob calls ‘Happy Jazz’ as well as ‘Dance-y Jazz’ and then we have a better chance of keeping this bird in the air.

Peter Mark Butler I’m keeping this vital debate on the boil on Jazzers for more members to have their say. I will also cross reference it to Jazz&Jazz.com and invite followers’ comments there. We’ve reached the blatantly obvious conclusion that if “traditional” jazz is to make a comeback we, fans and musicians alike, need to be less precious about the purity of the genre. I’m all for “mixing it a bit” and am not against mainstream per se, but we shouldn’t forget the roots of New Orleans jazz and of jazz dance, because I believe if that could be reintroduced the kids would go for it and follow jazz, even if they adapted the dance styles to their own modern tastes. “New forms of jazz dance developed with new music, such as the Charleston, swing, rock and roll, and the Caribbean reggae” (Dancin’ Unlimited: http://goo.gl/X1lOu).

Oh, to be young again!

Jeff Matthews I named my band ‘The Chicago Swing Katz’ because the word ‘Jazz’ has a bad name with many people. Very sad really. I have left ‘jazz’ concerts early because even I was bored with the music. And I am an enthusiast of all kinds of ‘jazz’!

Jim Lodge For me, part of the problem seems to revolve round the “purist” attitude. Some bands and listeners (and some musicians) project an “if it isn’t a carbon copy of (insert original of choice) it’s wrong”. This leads to a situation where we end up with a glut of what “Popular Music” refers to as “Tribute Bands”, and their musician equivalents. Such a path can only lead to a joyless stultifying conformity, without life or excitement.

Jeff Matthews Ref: Jim’s purist comment, I know musicians who say that “if you are not black and born in New Orleans before 1939, you don’t play jazz”. My trip to New Orleans to attend the jazz course there showed me that many purists are equating all New Orleans jazz with the revivalist Music they heard which didn’t reflect all the different jazz and characters involved. It was a city filled to the brim with music of all kinds played by musicians of different technical abilities. Most had remarkable facility and many were highly proficient music readers. They had to be in order to survive. And there is room for all styles. It’s all wonderful music.

Tim Penn Well Jazzers – I think this may be what Peter may be talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9esH2rw-wF8&feature=g-upl Note – saxophones and electric bass!!! And this was preceded by a version of Junco Partner and followed by Ray Charles’ ‘What I Say’ (His birthday on Sept 23rd – so we paid a few tributes this night). The evening finished off with a funky version of The Meters Hey Pocky Way – which veered off into using some of the Miles Davis “So What” minor inversions and a little bit of Cecil Tayloresque Free Form piano over the Funk.

Is this a step too far for the traditional audience for Jazz? I guess only time will tell. But many of us see this 20th century evolution of New Orleans based music as something to be celebrated and embraced. But then I remember my dear departed friend Mac McGann telling how he was summarily kicked out of the trad jazz band he was playing in in the late 50s / early 60s – because he brought a guitar along to a gig instead of the tenor banjo.

Peter Mark Butler Right on the mark, Tim! If jazz is to make a comeback fans have got to accept change, or as I put it, “mixing it a bit”. After all, the story of jazz has always been about improvisation, mixing it a bit, and it’s no different today. Especially if we are to appeal to younger fans.

“Kicked out for playing guitar instead of banjo,” you say! Don’t tell Tony Rico this. Martin Bennett recently commented: “There are plenty of clubs I could name that won’t have bands that don’t have a clarinet as the main reed. Saxophone is a dirty word that has to be kept away from clubs that promote what they refer to as British Trad. This has been said to me by several club organisers who refuse to book bands with saxophones – and there are hundreds of jazz followers who think that way. Howard Murray, our reed player, was challenged by a man in Colchester Jazz Club who severely berated him for playing saxophones and soon left but not before HM had said to him ‘when I started playing music I didn’t have you in mind!'”

Peter Mark Butler An elderly fan recently cornered me to voice his criticism of a particular very impressive trombonist for being too flamboyant, “not subtle enough, not smooth enough.” At that very same gig I heard a youngster asking his mother if she could she buy him a trombone because “I want to play jazz like that!” This speaks a thousand words! Because jazz isn’t inert, it’s exuberant, dynamic as well as soulful.

Jeff Matthews May I add to the discussion by first stating that a style is a style. New Orleans, traditional jazz is a style and different sound hewed out of the western scale by years of experience and love. Although originally from New Orleans, it was developed and embraced by people around the world. It is still extremely popular wherever it is played. But since the demise of Louis Armstrong as Ambassador for jazz and in the UK, the finish of Kenny Ball’s appearance on TV in the Morecambe and Wise show, traditional jazz has had no profile. You can have the best product in the world but if nobody knows about it….!

There are many forms of trad played up and down the UK to enthusiastic fans but it is almost a forgotten style of music because of the deliberate culling of music in other forms, apart from ‘pop’ music which is played ‘for the many’ for the financial benefits of the few. The wonderful interpretation of traditional jazz by Brian Carrick is just as valid as any other even if it’s band members and fans are in the senior part of their lives. Age is not the issue nor is whether a sax is acceptable. Most bands are well past that point. Let’s just play the music.

But, what is true and to me is the null point of all of this is promotion. Not a changing of the music to accommodate ‘pop’ culture, but a promotion of the best elements of the music to the general public which consists of people of all shapes, sizes, colours, education and age. We need some of the ‘names’ in trad jazz to step forward and promote New Orleans/Traditional/Dixieland/Chicago style jazz. Call it what you may. A new set of ‘Ambassadors for the Tradition’. Where are you guys?

All that ‘ageing audience’ stuff will take care of itself if the music is brought back into the public eye. Get some good looking musicians ready who play the music well – not bending it to rock ‘n roll – but playing what we already have with heart and conviction. Then get those ‘names’ involved. Where are you Jools Holland? Where are you Jamie Cullum? Stop mis-educating people about what real jazz is and stick to some time honoured definitions.

It’s time for us jazzers to start influencing our ‘world’ and look for ways to insist that we have a cultural right to play and ‘broadcast’ our musical art. Time to make the general public aware of our music and embrace it once more. The rest will follow. And there will be bands in the Ken Colyer mode as well as those who will play jazz in a more R&B way. But people must hear it and have a choice. By the way, there are already enough ‘knock out’ musicians in the UK, young and old who already hold the professional stage. Let’s get THEM heard on jazz shows and on TV shows. Good presentation, good arrangements, good foot stomping tunes, that infectious NO rhythm. We did it in the recent past. Why not now!

Peter Mark Butler Excellent, Jeff! A couple of your lines are worth emphasising: “We need some of the ‘names’ to step forward and promote New Orleans/traditional/Dixieland/Chicago style jazz. Call it what you may. A new set of ‘Ambassadors for the Tradition’. Where are you guys?”

BETTER YET: HERE’S A CHALLENGE FOR STAR BAND LEADERS, FOR ACKER BILK, CHRIS BARBER, TERRY LIGHFOOT AND SAMMY RIMINGTON. FOR THE SAKE OF NEW ORLEANS JAZZ, TO GIVE IT THE MASSIVE REVIVAL IT NEEDS AND ENSURE IT’S FUTURE, HOW ABOUT SHARING YOUR ENDURING FAME WITH THIS YOUNGER GENERATION OF MUSICIANS? BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME GREAT YOUNG BANDS READY FOR THE FULL BLAZE OF THE SPOTLIGHTS. SO THE CHALLENGE IS TO SHARE YOUR STAGES WITH THEM, TO BUILD ON THE PUBLICITY THIS WOULD ATTRACT AND SO LAUNCH A JAZZ REVIVAL TO DEFY ANY BBC CLAIMS THAT “JAZZ IS DEAD”. AND PLEASE REMEMBER TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE, SADLY KENNY BALL PASSED AWAY THE VERY DAY OF POSTING THIS DEBATE – 23RD MARCH, 2013.

Jazzers’ Debate No 9: 
Clarinet versus Saxophone

AVOIDING PAST PITFALLS


Jazzers’ Debate No 9


Clarinet versus Saxophone

 

This debate resonates loudly with Debate No 8: New Orleans & UK Traditional Jazz

Initiator:
Trefor Williams

Recently I had a close encounter while on a gig. The band was steaming and we had a strong attacking alto saxist doing his business. However, during the interval, I was confronted by a guy giving me a lecture on the necessity of having a clarinet and not a saxophone. I thought this neanderthal attitude had disappeared by now, but this guy was a definite throw-back. How sad he’s missed out on nearly one hundred years of great saxophonists. I half expected to see his body split open and an alien leap out. Later he was heard shouting about being ripped off because the club announced it would have to increase the admission by £2 next year.

Perhaps he should return to the old comforts of his “Jazz club at the end of the universe”. The trouble is there is no atmosphere there.

Trefor Williams.

Martin Bennett We still suffer from the mouldy fig listeners who haven’t yet developed a taste for saxophones. There are plenty of clubs I could name that won’t have bands that don’t have a clarinet as the main reed. Saxophone is a dirty word that has to be kept away from clubs that promote what they refer to as British Trad. This has been said to me by several club organisers who refuse to book bands with saxophones – and there are hundreds of jazz followers who think that way. Howard Murray, our reed player, was challenged by a man in Colchester Jazz Club who severely berated him for playing saxophones and soon left but not before HM had said to him ‘when I started playing music I didn’t have you in mind!’

Andrew Fawcett thought everybody liked saxophones…….

John GodsillHi Trefor, Yes it seems that English people prefer clarinets to saxophones and they feel that a clarinet is the “correct” jazz instrument! I’m a saxophone player so am aware of this. Basically English “trad” bands use clarinets and hardly ever have a saxophone, but in New Orleans the reverse is true. Two years ago I was there for 18 days and had 19 jobs

Regards,
John Godsill.

Peter Mark Butler April, 2010, John. I was there during the French Quarter Festival when you played sax with The Liberty Hall Stompers in Preservation Hall.

Chez Chesterman Eurotrad police still at work, eh?

Bob Ironside Hunt Some years ago I was playing in a particular Midlands jazz club along with clarinet and sax player Zoltan Sagi… We were getting the instruments out when a bloke sat at a front row table, arms folded, nodded towards Z’s tenor and said “Are you going to play that thing?” … to which Z replied “I thought I might….”

Without another word, the bloke got up and left, never to be seen again.

Andrew Fawcett when I was in New Orleans for about 18 hours in 1982, I went to five gigs in one night, finally crawling into bed at about 5 a.m. Only one of these was “trad”, and it was by far the lowest energy and lowest quality of all I witnessed.

Bob Ironside Hunt Theoretically “trad” shouldn’t exist in New Orleans… But there are so many ex-pats out there now that I guess they took it with them. “Trad” is a peculiarly British form, though its dubious influence spread onto the continent (particularly Germany) during the 50s/early 60s. There is an especially idiosyncratic form of the idiom we refer to as “Euro-Trad”… it has to be heard to be believed…..

Andrew Fawcett OK, I said “Trad”, but what I meant was I saw tired old New Orleans musicians playing tired old music rather poorly.

Christine Woodcock I’ve had that happen to my band. We were playing at a club run by a rabid New Orleans fan. My reed player, who had only been playing with us for a short time, picked up his alto sax, as required by the arrangement. The organiser of the club, sitting in the audience, shouted at him to put that damn thing down! My poor guy didn’t pick it up again for weeks. But what ignorance! The Sam Morgan band in the 1920s – and you can’t get more New Orleans than the Sam Morgan band! – used saxophones all the time. Grrr…

Jim Lodge Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, Sidney Bechet, Lorenzo Tio, Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, Albert Nicholas, Buster Bailey, George Lewis etc, etc all played saxophone at one time or another in a jazz context. Others who more surprisingly played the instrument occasionally include Kid Ory and Ken Colyer. How anyone faced with such evidence can claim that saxophones are unacceptable in New Orleans/Trad jazz is clearly incapable of rational thought. As an afterthought, Lester Young played wonderful jazz on the clarinet that would have sounded terrific in any jazz unit of any persuasion.

Bob Ironside Hunt What we are failing to understand here is that these so-called fans have a very restricted view of what they think is “THE” music. Lets not confuse “trad” with New Orleans style for a start… and also its different again from “dixieland”… Most of the “die-hards” in the UK jazz clubs will have grown up listening to British “trad”…. Ball, Barber and Bilk, Lightfoot etc etc… They probably would have hated Alex Welsh because his band swung in a different (American) way. We all know how the “fans” treated Humph’s sax player, Bruce Turner at Birmingham Town Hall in 1953… a big banner saying “Go Home Dirty Bopper”!!! These “fans” know nothing about New Orleans, Chicago Style, Dixieland or, God forbid, Swing….. Its just a nostalgia trip for most of them, harking back to their younger days when for a few brief years in the 50s British Trad ruled the roost.

Maggie Peplow We had a regular at the Waterworks who every time anyone picked up a saxophone would march up to the desk and demand his money back and leave. When Sammy Rimington came and we were sold out, I was advised that we could squeeze a few people in who hadn’t got tickets. Sure enough he turned up, I told him we were sold out but he said he’d phoned and been told he could get in. I then told him that I couldn’t let him have a ticket because as soon as Sammy picked up the sax he would want his money back thereby not only depriving the club of a tenner but also probably depriving a real jazz fan, who didn’t mind what Sammy played, of a ticket. He left without another word.

Jeff Matthews Interesting points indeed. I play clarinet and sax. Plus because I can read music and arrangements I have been treated with suspicion by some musicians on both sides. I confess I love clarinet in N.O. style bands. Yes I do know the frontline history too. See my doco for free on www.trad jazzonline.com. It is not bias it is preference. I do play sax and clarinet in my ‘Chicago style’ band. Some tunes suit clarinet and others benefit from a ‘voice’ change to sax. That is the musical answer to the debate to my mind. I see tired bands playing modern jazz badly too. I can give you names of musicians who play NO jazz (and modern too) who would knock your musical socks off. I saw great trad in NO. Most of the pros play all styles plus show music. They have to show energy otherwise it’s their last pay check. No different to the musicians of the 1920’s. Is music an art, entertainment or a business?

Chez Chesterman Bob Hunt has got it right. There are none so blind etc etc. Most of these critics have not even listened to the originators of what became traditional jazz – Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, Dodds, Keppad etc, so they have no knowledge of the feel and structure of that music. Most of the British players of the 40s, 50s and 60s did learn from recordings of the greats and from those discovered in the revival, like Bunk and Lewis. Most of us copied them and attempted to ape the style of our favourites, just like apprentice painters who learned their trade by copying the works of masters before evolving our own style.

However in the late fifties and beyond, when British, European and other revivalist players started to be able to make a living at playing and clubs sprang up here and on the Continent, recordings of such bands became cheaply available and the emphasis amongst the jazz public changed. They wanted to hear music played by their peers, and that music evolved into the trad and Eurotrad that abounds today. No matter, since jazz is a music which evolves and everybody is entitled to an opinion. However it is not “strictly New Orleans” jazz, it is a largely British invention – a parody if you like. Take the banjo, for instance. It was scarcely used in NO prior to the invention of recording during which it enjoyed a popularity for some three years before electric recordings got better and double basses and guitars could be properly recorded. The banjo then faded out until the American jazz collectors like Bill Russell, started putting bands together insisting on the inclusion of a banjo. But British and European bands and in particular the people who go to see them, regard the banjo, a wonderful instrument when properly played, as the essential instrument for playing traditional style jazz. However, the guitar, string bass and drums were certainly the principal rhythm section used in NO, latterly augmented by the piano. If sax players get it on the nose from the jazz ignorantii, just imagine what a traditional jazz band that chooses not to use a banjo has to put up with.

John Petters I played at a well known jazz venue in Essex, with the Gresty White Ragtimers. John Crocker was depping for Goff Dubber that night and got there early to set up. A woman walked in and saw no banjo. Where’s the banjo, she asked. JC replied, there isn’t one. She sat there with a hatchet face the whole session.

Jeff Matthews Just watching an interview with Alice Cooper, Rock Deva. He says that he fears for the next rock generation. They all wear the same clothes and have nothing distinctive about them. Probably sound the same too. I am paraphrasing and interpreting what he said. Is the same happening in classic jazz?

Peter Mark Butler I consider it important to include here Pete Lay’s opinion as Editor of Just Jazz, in his December, 2012, editorial in response to Trefor and all those who have posted comments:

“Well, well, well, what is wrong with saxophones? It seems the proverbial clarinet versus saxophone argument is rearing its head again. It is something that seems to recur every couple of decades.

“In this month’s edition [of Just Jazz], not only do we have an argument in favour of saxophones, we also an excellent thought provoking response in favour of the clarinet having its rightful place in a traditional jazz band. Then, in my presence, we have a conversation that took place with one of our top clarinettists/saxophonists, which was not only highly embarrassing, but also showed the ignorance of the chap who commented: “I do hope he doesn’t play the saxophone.” Just to say, the exchanges between the two men did bring up a very interesting point, and that is how much do our jazz club audiences know about jazz?

“From the creation of jazz in the 1900s until the New Orleans Revival and the British trad revival of the early 1950s, the saxophone had its rightful place in jazz, with it being omnipresent in most jazz bands and nobody questioned its presence.

“The blame for this ignorance lies squarely on the shoulders of the British Trad Band, which favoured the clarinet over the saxophone and thus created its own enigma.

“Some of the best jazz has been played on a saxophone – Sidney Bechet (soprano sax), Capt. John Handy (alto sax), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax) etc, so please give the saxophone the respect it deserves.”

Pete Lay, Editor, Just Jazz

Bill Bissonnette And Pete Lay himself made a wonderful album with saxophonist George Probert.

Speakeasy Bootleg-Band We have sax and NO banjo. God Save The Duke.

Chez Chesterman The ignorance of some so-called traditional jazz fans is astounding.

Louis Lince To say nothing of some bands

Christine Woodcock In my band, we have a banjo, a sousaphone, and a guy who plays clarinet AND sax, which is what you need if you want to play classic 1920s jazz. If you don’t know the rightful place of the sax in jazz, you don’t deserve to call yourself a jazz fan. Once, playing at a jazz club, the organiser – a rabid New Orleans fan – shouted from the audience for my reed player to put that damn sax down. What! He’s never heard the Sam Morgan band? Prat.

Jim McIntosh In my band we have a bassoon, a xylophone, an accordion, bag-pipes, pan-pipes, didgeridoos and a bugle and castanets.

Christine Woodcock I’ve also got a didgeridoo. Trouble is, I haven’t mastered the circular breathing….

Jim Lodge It ain’t what you play, it’s the way that you play it. That goes equally for choice of instrument as for choice of material. Those who bind others with rules of their own making are bigots, and should be ignored.

Jim McIntosh Agreed. On Friday night I have to play solo banjo in a clock shop in Schwerin. I may even SING!! Must practice my circular drinking!

Christine Woodcock As a slide bone player, I’m not a big fan of the valve trombone. However, I AM a big fan of banjos and classic 1920s jazz. Nevertheless, I still think this is the coolest jazz clip ever: Jazz On A Summer’s Day – Jimmy Giuffre Three

Kay Leppard That Jazz on a Summer’s Day film blows me away every time I see it. Visited Newport last time we were in the US – great place.

Peter Mark Butler THIS DEBATE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. TIME TO END SUCH BRITISH TRADITIONAL JAZZ PETTINESS AND GET BACK TO NEW ORLEANS ORIGINS.