Alex Welsh (1929-82) is best known as a hard-driving trumpeter who led bands in England that were inspired by Eddie Condon. His clarinetist during 1955-64 was Archie Semple (1928-74), whose sound was at times reminiscent of Edmond Hall and Pee Wee Russell (although without the latter’s eccentricities). In 1960 Semple had the opportunity to lead two albums (one with Welsh) that were reissued by the Lake label on the single-CD Night People.
Based on the music they made in Welsh’s group, one might expect this CD to be filled with no-nonsense Dixieland, but the results are actually surprising. The performances are intimate with Semple joined by pianist Fred Hunt, bassist Jack Fallon, and (on half of the music) Welsh.
Mostly avoiding warhorses, the trio/quartet plays plenty of sophisticated swing songs along with some blues and a few standards. Such unexpected material as “Carolina Moon,” Alec Wilder’s “Lady Sings The Blues,” “After My Laughter Came Tears,” “Solitariness,” “Summer Is A-Comin’ In,” and “Just Another Day” offer rich melodies and an opportunity for Semple and Welsh to play thoughtful solos.
While there are some ballads, the material covers a variety of tempos (“I’ll Get By” is particularly hot) and moods, with Welsh (who hints at Harry James, Wild Bill Davison and some of Condon’s other trumpeters) occasionally causing the music to become unexpectedly explosive. Hunt is excellent whenever he gets to solo while Fallon swings throughout, even on the slower numbers.
This is a delightful if somewhat obscure CD, one of the highpoints in the careers of both Archie Semple and Alex Welsh.
(Lake LACD 187, 22 selections, TT = 79:30)