On this, their fourth, CD, the Golden Eagle Jazz Band demonstrate that they have not strayed from their founding tenet as stated on their on-line home page: “… [to play] New Orleans jazz the way it was meant to be played, that is, with a powerful and melodic front line and a hard driving rhythm section.” Banjoist Kevin Scott anchors the rhythm section with an unwavering hold on tempo, assisted by Chris Thompson on bass and Malc Murphy on drums, both of whom do not push the beat.
This, along with the solid chording platform they provide, allows the front line maximum opportunity to improvise, to concentrate on what they are producing from their horns without having to also hold back a galloping rhythm section or, conversely, to speed up a dragging one. All too often that is a luxury not afforded when playing traditional jazz in some bands. The only problem—and it is a slight one—is the uncertainty of some of the endings, such as occurs in “Sail Along Silvery Moon,” and “The Cat’s Got Kittens.” That can be, as it is here, a problem occasionally encountered where there is collective improvisation and the recording is of a live performance.
From the first one on, all tracks are eminently suitable for dancing. The band has a relaxed feel, resulting in fluid music that glides along smoothly, no unevenness or roughness. Even when there is a change in rhythm, such as on “Gettysburg March” where the time signature changes from 6/8 to 4/4, the transition is flawless, initiated by a fine drum break leading into the 4/4 rhythm. There is a nice mix of tempi and rhythms, from the slow foxtrot “Magic Is the Moonlight” to the habañera of “Maria Elena” to the Charleston of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” to the 3/4 waltz of “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?” and to the ragtime of “Climax Rag.”
There is also much variety in the tune list, a good mixture of the familiar and the less well-known. Few bands play “Sail Along Silvery Moon,” “The Cat’s Got Kittens,” “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?” or “Magic Is the Moonlight,” to name some. Then there is the fine closer, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler”—an admirable admonition to all lovers of good traditional jazz.
Along the way there are some fine musical moments to be savored. Richard Church’s trumpet laying down a solid lead, Roy Stokes’ trombone playing counterpoint, and Bernard Stutt’s clarinet weaving exquisitely around these other two front liners on “Isle of Capri” is one instance. Another is Church’s plaintive trumpet lead, accompanied only by rhythm at the opening and first time through of “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?” Yet another is the interpretation of George Lewis’ great composition “Burgundy Street Blues.” Stutt does not try to copy Lewis, but he does capture much of the passion of Lewis’ version. These are just a few of the highlights.
Information on obtaining this CD can be had at gejb.webeden.co.uk, the band’s website. It is another fine offering from one of the United Kingdom’s premier traditional jazz bands.
Sail Along Silvery Moon
Golden Eagle Jazz Band
Practical Sounds GECD002
Tracks: Isle of Capri; Gettysburg March; In the Sweet Bye and Bye†; Maria Elena; Yes Sir, That’s My
Baby; Sail Along Silvery Moon; The Cat’s Got Kittens†; Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?;
Magic Is the Moonlight§; Climax Rag; Somebody Else Is Taking My Place*; Burgundy Street;
Blues; Careless Love; Laissez Les Bon[s] Temps Rouler§.
Personnel: Richard Church, cornet, vocal*; Bernard Stutt, clarinet; Roy Stokes, trombone;
Kevin Scott, banjo, leader, vocals†; Chris Thompson, bass; Malc Murphy, drums, vocals§.
Recorded at Southend Jazz Club, EKCO Social and Sports Club, Southend-on-Sea, U.K., on
Sep. 10, 2018.