We had the MARDI GRAS JAZZBAND at FARNBOROUGH JAZZ CLUB (Kent) on Friday, 24th June 2016. They had a couple of changes to their usual line-up, giving us band leader and trombonist, ROB PEARCE, with LEIGH HENSON on trumpet &vocals, JOHN ELLMER on reeds-a-plenty, PAUL HIGGS on piano (that’s right, not green trumpet), STEVE SMITH on double bass and PAUL BAKER on drums. I said it promised to be spectacular, and it was. We had a lovely treat, as we also had a couple of guests, one being Pete Smith, who was drummer for Monty Sunshine. Pete is Steve Smith’s father, so they got to play with one-another, when Pete had a couple of sit-ins. The other guest was singer, Barry Vegas, yes he entertained us last time and everyone loved him, he was very professional. It was a great pity, because poor Mike, who takes photographs for us, was not with us. He had broken a rib – quite painful, so no photographs. Luckily, ‘Brown Ale’ Pete was there and took a couple, because he was ‘roadie’ with Monty Sunshine, so took a couple of Pete Smith. Unfortunately, the pics didn’t cover all musicians – such a pity, sorry to our two Paul’s. Steve and Pete (father and son) were only just captured together in one. [If anybody else took photos, please could you send copies to me for publishing here, thanks].
So here’s how the evening went anyway. Their first two numbers were ‘Aint Misbehaving’ and ‘Darktown Strutters’ Ball’, which was sung by Rob, with fabulous solos from the two Pauls, one on piano (what a star) and one on drums (yep, another star). ‘Dinah’ is a fun number, sung by Leigh with John (playing tenor sax) singing in harmony. As for ‘St. James Infirmary’ I jotted down that John, not only sang, but played brilliant bass clarinet – I should think quite a hard instrument to play (he obviously has an enormous set of lungs). Fantastic piano from Paul, plus Rob and Leigh wonderful on trombone and trumpet. It is so hard to describe how amazing the evening was to someone who wasn’t there. It is that magic, I often speak of. They were playing their hearts out – having so much enjoyment themselves. Such a lovely bunch of guys, it’s why Keith and I will not give up until hopefully, we ‘kick the bucket’.
To continue … They have to play the next one, ‘Mardi Gras’ (John on clarinet this time), with Rob singing. It is so hard for me not to mention all of their numbers, such as ‘Memphis Blues’, especially because I wrote no notes, just remembered it was great. Then they invited Barry over to sing. Oh what a super voice he has – I’m sure he sings at lots of high class night clubs, he’s certainly worth being booked. He sang ‘Almost Like Being In Love’ and yes we were all up dancing too. Then he sang ‘Alright, Okay, You Win’, plus others. What a great guy he is – thanks Barry. Their third set had songs such as ‘If I Had You’ – and in the middle, John played the theme song of ‘007’ and absolutely brilliantly – not only is that talent, but so full of humour – don’t you just love it. Paul also ‘replied’ and played something with the same humour, but I missed it! Another great tune they played with ALL of them playing just beautifully – John on bass clarinet and then clarinet to ‘Tin Roof Blues’. Then, ‘Wang Wang Blues’ (a (No.1 hit for six weeks in 1920, selling over 1million copies and winning a gold disc) sent us all on our way, with that Paul Whiteman number ‘swinging’ in our heads, but not before I had a terrific dance with Keith (with Keith’s legs akimbo and me having a hard time keeping up with him – I think I landed on my feet though! Mardi Gras will be back on 30th September. See you next week for Mike Barry’s XXL Band.
Your hosts, Diane and Keith