Heebie Jeebies

I was looking through Youtube this morning and found this, which I noticed was recorded exactly 60 years ago today, on 14th August 1951, which gave me an excuse to post it. Not that I needed an excuse. It’s a bit of contrast with my previous jazz post, but I’ve never had a problem with loving New Orleans traditional jazz as well as its more modern varieties.

Apart from the fact that this is a joy to listen to, it also gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to a much underrated figure in the history of British jazz. I don’t mean, “The Guv’nor”, Ken Colyer, who plays super lead cornet on this track (and who, incidentally, was one of John Peel’s favourite musicians), but the fabulous trombonist Keith Christie who led this band together with his brother Ian, who played clarinet.

Before forming the Christie Brother Stompers, Keith Christie was a mainstay of Humphrey Lyttelton band that made many wonderful recordings for the Parlophone label. Together with Humph on trumpet and Wally Fawkes on clarinet he was part of  the finest front line of any band of that era. His characteristically rumbustious trombone playing can be heard to particularly good effect on this track, a version of the classic  Heebie Jeebies, first recorded by Louis Armstrong and his famous Hot Five way back in 1926.

Clearly inspired by Kid Ory, Keith Christie’s always seemed to bring out the comic  aspects of the rorty old tailgate trombone style without ever mocking it. It’s interesting to reflect that although this kind of music is suffused with a robust humour, the musicians themselves were deadly serious. When he was with Humph’s band, Humph tried many times to persuade Keith Christie to tone down the humorous aspect, something that he admitted in later life was entirely the wrong thing to do.

Indeed, Humph’s band at one point in 1949 had the chance to do a recording session with the great Sidney Bechet, after which Bechet summoned Humph into his dressing room and gave him a kind of end-of-term report on the band, pointing out little criticisms of their playing. Humph recalled in radio programme many years later the unqualified admiration with which Bechet spoke of Keith Christie’s trombone playing then. I can’t think of  higher praise.

When Keith left to form a band with Ken Colyer it was a topic of great speculation how his playing would go down with the Guv’nor, a name Colyer acquired because of his strict adherence to New Orleans principles. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but it is a fact that the band didn’t stay together very long.

When this particular record was made it was heavily influenced by the revivalist records coming over from the USA at the time of Bunk Johnson’s 1940s band and also the Kid Ory band, so the “recorded in garage” sound was sedulously acquired. It might be low-fi, but you can hear well enough to enjoy it, especially Keith Christie’s absolutely brilliant trombone, both in solo and in as part of the front line collective passages.


One Response to “Heebie Jeebies”

  1. kaitlynn annoymous Says:

    this article is awesome for school projects about songs in the roaring twenties and dirty thirties THANKS!!!! :3

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