The Dormouse

Just spent an extremely enjoyable Saturday morning on the Sussex University campus for one of our Applicant Visit Days; there’ll be several more of these occasions over the next few months and I only hope we have such glorious weather for the others!

I thought I’d celebrate the fact that it all went well by posting a bit of old-fashioned good-time jazz. It’s getting on for seven years since the death of the great Humphrey Lyttelton, who was not only a fine trumpeter and bandleader but also blessed with wickedly dry sense of humour. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Humph’s band had a terrific front line consisting of Wally Fawkes on clarinet and the superb Keith Christie on trombone, led by himself on trumpet. Apparently when they did late-night gigs, Keith Christie had a habit of occasional dozing off while someone else was soloing. Not unreasonably, this behaviour reminded Humph of the Dormouse at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, so he decided to write a tune with that name in honour of Keith Christie. I have the studio recording of The Dormouse, which was released on Parlophone as a 78rpm single, and it’s such a blast that I love it to bits, but this is a live performance which I just came across a few days ago. It comes from a famous concert at the Royal Festival Hall in July 1951 sponsored by the National Federation of Jazz Organizations (NFJO) which featured a number of bands as well as Humph’s.

Anyway, it’s a delicious helping of New Orleans jazz served with a generous side order of English eccentricity, guaranteed to bring a smile to the most crabbed of faces. The trombone introduction and fills by Keith Christie, in whose honour the tune was written, are typically full of humour, but the improvised ensemble playing is absolutely terrific, especially from about 1.55 onwards. Humph’s band of this time didn’t have the greatest rhythm section – Humph himself joked that they often sounded like they were wearing diving boots – but the front line was world class.

ps. It definitely should be “The Dormouse” not “The Doormouse”…

pps. Unless my ears deceive me I think this number is announced by Kenneth Horne…

5 Responses to “The Dormouse”

  1. Video not availablešŸ˜¦

    Martin

  2. Looks like it’s a UK only video. (I’m in Holland.)

  3. Doesn’t work from Germany as wellšŸ˜¦

    • Right. If there hasn’t been an agreement about the royalties in the corresponding country, then the “not available” message appears. The country in question, of course, is that where the browser is, not the server.

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