Banjoist Eric Silk may be somewhat forgotten today but during 1955-58 he and his Southern Jazz Band recorded 32 songs for the British Esquire label; the first 16 are reissued on Blues Down South. It is surprising that the group, which also recorded an album in 1966, was not documented much more for it existed for 24 years (1949-73) and the music on this CD holds its own with most British trad bands of the time.
The first 12 songs on the reissue have both Dennis Field and Alan Littlejohn on trumpets, trombonist Ken Shepherd, either Don Simmons or Harry Lock on clarinet, Peter Rees or Ron Weatherburn on piano, Lester Roberts or Colin Thompson on bass, and drummer Tony Budd in addition to the leader. The last four numbers have a similar group sound even though the lineup is a lot different with only one trumpeter (Dennis Field), trombonist Pete Strange, clarinetist Teddy Layton, pianist Weatherburn, bassist Thompson or Norman Bunce on tuba, and drummer Stan Lewis.
The group, which despite the two trumpets does not sound like Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band, has its own subtle but often hard-driving style. Silk took advantage of the added time that LPs had over 78s with the result being that many of these performances are 4-7 minutes long, letting the band take longer solos and a lot more ensembles. On such numbers as “Tiger Rag,” “Milenburg Joys,” “Sensation Rag,” “Hiawatha,” and “Just A Little While To Stay Here,” one is grateful for the added time.