Archive for Keith Christie

Rum & Coca Cola – The Christie Brother Stompers

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on December 11, 2021 by telescoper

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!

On Treasure Island

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on November 6, 2015 by telescoper

After a long and very trying week I thought I’d sign off for the weekend with a lovely old bit of jazz. This is what I think was Humphrey Lyttelton’s band, vintage 1950, playing a tune, On Treasure Island, that Humph almost certainly got off a copy of the gorgeous record Louis Armstrong made of this song in the 1930s, although the Lyttelton version is very different in tempo and character.

The front line of this incarnation of the Lyttelton band was the best ever: Humphrey Lyttelton himself on trumpet, Wally Fawkes on clarinet and Keith Christie on trombone. The ensemble playing after Humph’s trumpet solo, from about 1.47, is an absolutely fantastic polyphonic blend of three great soloists. Enjoy!

It makes my love come down

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , on February 23, 2015 by telescoper

A very busy day back in Sussex meant that I had no time for a post until I finished lecturing at 6pm, so there’s just time for a bit of music before I head home. I thought I’d put up another track by Humphrey Lyttelton, from the same concert at the Royal Festival Hall in July 1951 sponsored by the National Federation of Jazz Organizations (NFJO) from which I posted The Dormouse some time ago. This is an excellent performance of a blues called It makes my love come down, which Humph probably transcribed from the classic original recording by the greatest female blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith. Again it shows the Lyttelton band’s front line in fine fettle, especially when they come together for the last couple of choruses.


The Dormouse

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2015 by telescoper

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…

Heebie Jeebies

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on August 14, 2011 by telescoper

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.