The Whitley Bay Jazz Festival, held in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the north of England has been well known for many years. Mike Durham, a great devotee of traditional jazz and a great trumpeter, became the steward of it in its later years. After several years Mike wanted to try something new and the result was the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, or CJP as it has come to be known.
Mike’s vision was to recruit musicians adept in the classic jazz style, from wherever they might be—USA, Europe, Asia, even Australia, and to assemble them in various combinations and have them play classic arrangements from the repertoire of the likes of King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Bix and his Gang, and others.
After ample room and time were given to preparations and some rehearsal, the performances would be held in one room at one location. The program would be a mixture of big bands, trios, octets, and the occasional piano solo to allow for re-arrangement of stands and chairs. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, no doubt lots of things—after all it’s a live performance and Murphy’s Law is always at bay. Success triumphed and the Classic Jazz Party is now at in its 29th year. Mike himself passed in 2013, but with the dedicated efforts of his widow, Patti, and many enthusiasts both in England and around the world it has become noteworthy on the traditional jazz scene.
Pleasure Mad is two CDs full of music recorded on October 27th, 28th, and 29 of 2017 at the CJP, held that year at the Village Hotel in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Featured are 21 different permutations of an impressive roster of master musicians of the Classic Jazz style from the US, Europe, and Australia. From the moment you press PLAY the enthusiasm hits you full force. The Georgians (not Paul Specht’s but a group playing their original arrangement of “Hot Lips”) featuring Mike Davis, trumpet; along with Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Aussie-now Londoner Michael McQuaid and Richard Exall on reeds; From New Orleans Dave Boeddinghaus, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo; Malcolm Sked, tuba; and from Davenport, Iowa, Josh Duffee (taking the part originally played by Chauncey Morehouse) on drums.
The disc goes on to include a King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band recreation featuring Andy Schumm on cornet along with Duke Heitger; Matthias Seuffert and Claus Jacobi on reeds. Later on is a Duke Ellington Orchestra circa 1927 recreation that calls for the efforts of a full ten-piece aggregation…Heitger and Jamie Brownfield are the trumpet section. The reed section includes Exall, Lars Frank, and Jean-Louis Bonnel; Keith Nichols and Spats Langham are in the rhythm section. Martin Littleton does a wonderful version of the 1946 David Raskin tune “Laura” (from the film noir of the same title).
Then it’s onto Fletcher Henderson, the 1923 edition with Davis and Schumm returning, Jim Fryer straight from New York on trombone; Claus Jacobi is on bass sax and we hear some great drumming by Richard Pite. A Luis Russell tribute which features Malo Mazurie and Jacob Ullberger joining eight other greats from the list above. Most notable in the disc is a fantastic vocal on the classic “Keep a Song In Your Soul” by “Chanteuse Nicolle,” Nicolle Rochelle. A Trombone trio featuring Kompen, Graham Hughes, and Fryer do a solid job on Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone.” Lastly a Whitley Bay assemblage of The Fat Babies led by Andy Schumm do a couple of tunes, including the title tune “Pleasure Mad.”
The second CD starts off with a Louis Armstrong-charged performance of “The Charleston” by “The Alternative Hot Five” led my Malo Mazurie. A tribute to Jabbo Smith follows with Jamie Brownfield taking on the trumpet duties on “Ace Of Rhythm” and “Boston Skuffle.” A group called simply Hot Dance Music does a nice job playing the Ben Pollack chart of “’Deed I Do” (with a rare vocal by Mike Davis).
Nicolle Rochelle joins them for “The Syncopated Jamboree.” Next, Andy Schumm takes on the Original Dixieland Jazz Band with a fantastic arrangement of “Margie.” Bennie Moten gets some attention from the group as they put together a great take on “Band Box Shuffle.” Keith Nichols does well on the accordion. Chanteuse Nicolle joins them for “That, Too Blues.” Vocalist Joan Viskant joins a group featuring Andy Schumm, Graham Hughes and Michael McQuaid for “Lookie Lookie Lookie—Here Comes Cookie.” Lastly a really hot group charges through “Shimmy Sha-Wabble” and “The Man From The South.” Musically, the two-disc set is a tour de force all around.
Technically the recording, while energetic and mostly well balanced, has some shortcomings This was recorded live and as with many live recordings presenting ideal balance/perspective of the various instruments is a challenge. Mono compatibility (listening to the CD with both channels together—such as it would be on AM radio) is not good. Many solo instruments are distant and almost disappear in mono. Overall the sound engineers opted to use electronic level adjusting (AGC and Compression) to achieve the overall balance and on some tracks the resulting sound is flat and one dimensional when one would have wished it to be a little more relaxed, open, and softer. The results are still decent for casual listening, most listeners will be overjoyed at the results.
Pleasure Mad: ‘Live’ Recordings from Mike Durham’s International Classic Jazz Party 2017 Lake Records WVR1007
Pleasure Mad is only available at present from the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party website (whitleybayjazzfest.com) for £12 ($15.75) plus shipping.