Humphrey Lyttelton’s Conway Hall Revisited is a reunion of the frontline of his most popular group. Trumpeter Lyttleton, clarinetist Wally Fawkes, and trombonist Keith Christie first came together in 1949 to form a very influential band that took its inspirations from 1920s jazz and Louis Armstrong, setting the standard for the many British groups to follow. When Christie departed in 1951, Lyttleton did not fill his trombone spot until John Picard joined in 1954. By the time Fawkes left in 1956, Lyttelton had outraged many of his fans by turning his band into one that played mainstream swing. However the trumpeter never lost his love for early jazz and he retained the ability to switch gears and play the older music whenever he liked throughout his career.
Conway Hall Revisited is a live session from May 31, 1969, that, for the first time, reunited Lyttelton with Fawkes and Christie. They are joined by pianist Mick Pyne, banjoist Charlie Bentley, bassist Dave Green, and drummer Pete Staples in what Lyttelton called his “Traditional Jazz Band” to distinguish them from his regularly working group. The trumpeter is in excellent form, not only showing that he was able to effortlessly play in his vintage style but displaying a larger range than in his earlier days.
The recording quality is unfortunately a bit rough with Fawkes (who sounds a bit rusty) often low in the mix. Christie and the rhythm section are solid and the spirit is there, but the music sounds more primitive than one would expect from a Lyttelton date. The length of the performances (ranging from 5:20 to 10:42) is longer than expected and some of the music is erratic but it is always fun to hear such numbers as “Fidgety Feet,” “Cakewalkin’ Babies From Home,” “Snake Rag,” and “Panama.” Lyttelton and Fawkes would have other reunions in the future that are more rewarding but this historic encounter has its fun moments.
Conway Hall Revisited
(Upbeat URCD 305, 11 selections, TT = 76:27)