Rum & Coca Cola – The Christie Brother Stompers

And now for something completely different in the form of a lovely bit of British revivalist Jazz from 70 years ago. Once upon a time I had a 7″ EP record with this track on it, but I’m afraid I lost it along the way. I’ve been hoping someone would put it on Youtube and it seems about six months ago somebody did!

The song Rum and Coca Cola was a hit for the Andrews Sisters in the immediate post-war years although it began as a satirical calypso with clear references to prostitution. Anyway, it’s a catchy tune and it’s no surprise that it was picked up by traditional jazz bands during the New Orleans revival, including this terrific version by the Christie Brother Stompers made in 1951; note the calypso-style piano intro.

When this particular record was made, British bands were being heavily influenced by the discs that were coming over from the States at the time – especially from Bunk Johnson’s 1940s band and the Kid Ory band – to the extent that a recorded-in-a-garage sound was sedulously acquired. Despite the somewhat muffled sound quality, I really love this record for the general exuberance of the playing, especially that of the superb trombonist Keith Christie whose style of tailgate trombone was clearly influenced by Kid Ory.

Keith Christie was for some time a member of the front line of Humphrey Lyttelton’s band and when Keith Christie passed away in 1980, Humph devoted full hour on his weekly radio programme The Best of Jazz to examples of his work (including this track). I remember Humph drawing attention to the robust humour that permeated Keith’s playing and admitting that when he was with the Lyttelton band they had several band meetings in which he tried to get him to temper the playful side of things. Quite wrongly, he admitted because while Keith Christie often brought out the humorous side of trombone he never mocked it.

The revivalist bands of that day were indeed a bit po-faced about their jazz and although the music they produced is great fun to listen to, they were all deadly serious about it. I think “The Guv’nor” Ken Colyer (who plays cornet on this track) was even more grave than Lyttelton and I’m not sure how he felt about Keith’s propensity to emphasize the knockabout fun of the music, though it is true that this band did change personnel rather abruptly shortly after the 1951 session.

The full line-up is: Keith Christie (trombone); Ian Christie (clarinet, Keith’s brother); Ken Colyer (cornet); Pat Hawes (piano); Ben Marshall (banjo); Micky Ashman (bass); and George Hopkinson (drums). I think Keith Christie’s playing on this is absolutely terrific, not only his solo – built in Kid Ory style around a single phrase – but his rumbustious contributions to the ensemble from about 1:45 seconds. And what a head of steam they build up together! Enjoy!

2 Responses to “Rum & Coca Cola – The Christie Brother Stompers”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    It’s too sweet, though. As a ‘tropical’ drink I recommend rum and tonic water.

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