Golden Eagle Jazz Band: From Out of Nowhere

Golden Eagle Jazz Band From out of NowhereThe U.K. has always been fortunate, it seems, in the number of traditional jazz bands that have emerged over the years. One of them is the Golden Eagle Jazz Band which, like many others have done from the beginning of the revival, subscribes to the New Orleans style of collective improvisation.

This band is driven by its rhythm section, led by leader Kevin Scott, who is ably accompanied by its bassist Chris Thompson (not related to me) and veteran drummer Malc Murphy. Unlike so many banjoists, Scott does not rush but provides a rock steady anchor, and the other two musicians in the back line complement him perfectly.

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No track is kicked off at a rapid tempo, but at one which, in each case, seems perfectly adapted to the tune and allows the band to stretch out and explore it fully, as is the case with “Dr. Jazz.” While many times a vocalist is hard put to get all the words in, so fast is the number going, this is not the case here. Murphy has no trouble at all fitting in the lyrics, and he is not distracted from adding all the little accents and fills on the drums while singing.

While Murphy does not solo per se on this disc, he has many nice little touches that add so much, such as the two taps on the cowbell to kick off the closing number, “Give Me Your Telephone Number,” and the judicious tom tom accents and the drum backing of the fanfares on “Moose March.” On bass Thompson provides that good floor, and he is also adept at bowing as he indicates on the fine “Far Away Blues”—a tune that is not heard too often.

The front line also works well together, no one attempting to hog the spotlight or upstage any other member. Richard Church plays a very fine cornet lead, and his use of the mutes, his occasional growl, his vibrato, and his clean tonguing are all clearly delineated on “Black Cat on the Fence”—one of my favorite tunes from the early Colyer days.

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Church also dovetails beautifully with Alan Cresswell on clarinet as together they weave superb harmonies on this number. Cresswell is facile in all registers, as he displays particularly in his clarinet gymnastics on breaks and throughout his solo on “Up Jumped the Devil.” Although not as prominent, perhaps, as the other two front line members, Roy Stokes is a crucial presence, too. Listen to the trombone/clarinet duet with on “Black Cat on the Fence” as he deftly—and softly—plays behind Cresswell ‘s chalumeau register solo.

As one can see from the program, there is a broad range of tunes here, ranging from the familiar such as “Dr. Jazz” or “Swanee River [Old Folks at Home]” to the relatively more obscure, such as “Up Jumped the Devil” or “Give Me Your Telephone Number.” “Louisiana Fairy Tale” may be familiar to those who have watched the PBS television series This Old House, which from the show’s debut in 1979 until 2002, used Louisiana Fairy Tale” as its theme music.

Another tune that may not be in one’s ken is the peculiarly titled “Bluebells Goodbye.” It seems that a love song from a soldier to his inamorata titled “Bright Eyes, Goodbye” (ca. 1905) was rescued from oblivion by Bunk Johnson, but by accident or design, he called it by the title by which it is known today. Regardless, it is a fine number as played by the men here, beginning as a march in 6/8 time, and, as many such do, morphing into 2/4 time.

The generous 78 minutes of playing time allows for leisurely, complete exploration of each tune, and there is something here for everyone. Almost all of the tracks are first class. The only exception for me is “Out of Nowhere.” I find it very dull, lacking the liveliness and passion that are present in all of the other tracks. In short, it doesn’t swing. But all of the others do, and thirteen out of fourteen ain’t bad. More information can be had at the band’s website.

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From Out of Nowhere
Golden Eagle Jazz Band
(Practical Sounds GECD001). Playing time: 78m. 01s.

There’s Yes, Yes in Your Eyes; Sweet Fields: Dr. Jazz*; Out of Nowhere*; Up Jumped the Devil; Moose March; Louisiana Fairytale*; Swanee River; Black Cat on the Fence; Bluebells Goodbye; One Sweet Letter from You; Far Away Blues; Tie Me to Your Apron Strings Again*; Give Me Your Telephone Number.

Personnel: Richard Church, cornet; Alan Cresswell, clarinet; Roy Stokes, trombone; Kevin Scott, banjo, leader; Chris Thompson, bass; Malc Murphy, drums, vocals*.

Recorded at Southend Jazz Club, Southend-on-Sea, U.K., on April 10, 2017.

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