Archive for Wally Fawkes

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…

The Onions

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , on May 4, 2009 by telescoper

I’m not going to make excuses. This is a piece of pure nostalgia.

We had this old record in the house when I was a little kid. It was quite an innovation at the time. Most of the jazz records my dad had collected were on 10″ shellac discs to be played at 78rpm. This was a very limited format in that you could never get more than about 3 minutes on each side. They were also extremely fragile. Most of the ones we used to have ended up broken into pieces.

But when Humphrey Lyttelton’s band did a concert in 1954 at the then very new Royal Festival Hall in London, the Parlophone label decided to release four tracks on a vinyl EP (extended play). This allowed them to get a longer playing time but also meant that the actual discs  survived a bit longer than 78s used to.

I was born in 1963, about nine years after the record was released but I distinctly remember as a kid sitting in our house in Benwell with this record playing on our little gramophone. I never seemed to be able to shout “Onions” on the right beat in the little two-bar interval left for the purpose. But, then again, neither did many in the audience.

Humph himself (who died a year ago) does the announcement in that instantly recognizeable voice of his. The whole band plays wonderfully too, but I’d like to single out the clarinet of Wally Fawkes for special mention. In case  you didn’t know,  Wally Fawkes  is actually a pseudonym for the award-winning cartoonist Trog. Anyway, on this track he gives an object lesson in how to build a solo: starting off in the smoky lower register then gradually building up steam until just after 2 minutes in he steps on the gas, switches to the upper register and wails like  a banshee. He never plays anything very complicated and I must have heard that moment hundreds of times over the years but it still gives me a buzz!

They sure don’t make them like this any more.