Two Top British Clarinetists Remembered

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In the 1950s and ’60s, Monty Sunshine (1928-2010) and Terry Lightfoot (1935-2013) were household names in the world of British trad, playing in styles inspired by George Lewis and the best New Orleans clarinetists while finding their own way in the music. The Lake label, in their large and valuable catalog, has reissued many of their finest recordings including the two sets covered in this article.

Two Top British Clarinetists RememberedMonty Sunshine, was a steady and consistent member of the Chris Barber band during 1953-60. After he was showcased on what became a million selling record of Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur” in 1959, he became a star. Sunshine led his own New Orleans style combos for decades and had occasional reunions with Barber. The two-CD set Remembering Monty Sunshine is comprised of 39 performances, 13 of which were previously unreleased including the opener, a hot quartet version of “Wild Cat Blues” from 1958. While there are three numbers with Barber (one from 1955 and two from a reunion date in 1984) and one with Ken Colyer in 1953 (before the band became Barber’s), the bulk of the twofer features Sunshine’s groups from 1953-54 (units that he just led in the recording studios), 1961-62, 1965, and 1968. Best-known among the sidemen are trumpeter Rod Mason, guitarist Diz Disley, pianist Johnny Parker, and singer Beryl Bryden. The five numbers from 1962 have Sunshine leading a 12-piece group that includes tenor-saxophonist Danny Moss and baritonist Joe Temperley. While not the best setting for the clarinetist, the numbers reissued in this set are considered the most freewheeling from the session.

Remembering Monty Sunshine is a fine overview of the clarinetist’s post-Barber work and serves as an excellent introduction to his playing.

Two Top British Clarinetists RememberedTerry Lightfoot led one of the most popular trad bands of the early 1960s, having hits with “True Love,” “King Kong,” and “Tavern In The Town.” However Vintage Terry Lightfoot Vol. 1 1956-1957 dates from before that period, consisting of most of Lightfoot’s earliest recordings. A fluent clarinetist who could play both New Orleans jazz and hot swing, Lightfoot is featured at the head of pianoless quintets that also include Colin Smith or Sonny Morris on trumpet, John Hunt or John Bennett on trombone, and (in Oct. 1957) a drummer named Ginger Baker! A decade before he became a major force with Cream, Baker was part of the British trad scene and, although he is not featured on the two jazz renditions of Christmas songs, it is quite novel having him be on the session.
Ranging from “Lady Be Good” and “When You’re Smiling” to his own “Good Time Swing” and “Winter Wonderland,” Vintage Terry Lightfoot Vol. 1 will certainly satisfy fans of hot jazz.

Remembering Monty Sunshine (Lake LACD 344, 39 selections, TT = 2:32:27) www.fellside.com
Vintage Terry Lightfoot, Vol. 1 (Lake LACD 264, 19 selections, TT = 74:31) www.fellside.com

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