A few months ago, I wrote about George Lewis With Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen, a CD that contained the second set of an April 27, 1957, concert that teamed together the clarinetist with the British classic jazz group. Lewis referred to that collaboration as one of the highpoints of his career, and Colyer was always very fond of that meeting with one of his idols. It was quite logical for Colyer’s band was always most inspired by the groups of Bunk Johnson and George Lewis.
Now comes out George Lewis With Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen Vol. 2. Although Lewis again gets top billing, his participation on this CD is actually fairly minor. The first four numbers, from Apr. 8, 1957, are from a rehearsal that Lewis had with the band at the beginning of his British tour. He is prominent on “Over The Waves,” taking the first half of the performance at a slow tempo with the rhythm section before the full band joins in for the rousing second part. Otherwise, Lewis is a bit buried on the ensemble-oriented pieces including two on which the group (trumpeter Colyer, trombonist Mac Duncan, banjoist John Bastable, bassist Ron Ward, and drummer Colin Bowden) are joined by their regular clarinetist, Ian Wheeler.
The rest of this CD is comprised of the first set of the April 27 concert, which was before Lewis came out on stage. Colyer’s sextet is in excellent form on six numbers including “It Looks Like a Big Time Tonight,” “You’ve To See Mama Every Night,” and “Just A Little While To Stay Here.” The focus of his group was on sincere emotions rather than virtuosity, and on ensembles rather than individual solos. In fact, it is remarkable how Colyer’s unit could stretch out on a song such as “The Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” for chorus after chorus, keeping the melody around while gradually building up the performance and playing an endless series of fresh variations despite the repetition.
Also included from the opening set are three numbers featuring guest pianist-singer Bob Kelly, and Colyer himself singing four skiffle tunes. On the latter, Colyer switches to guitar and is joined by Kelly, Bastable, Ward, and Bowden (on washboard) for blues and folk numbers, showing that Monty Sunshine was not the only early pioneer in this popular style.