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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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NAT GONELLA

Georgia on my Mind

Retrospective RTR 4146

 

 


 
1. Tiger Rag
2. Oh, Monah!
3. That's My Home
4. Moon Country
5. Troublesome Trumpet
6. Nagasaki
7. Black Coffee
8. Chicago
9. Capri Caprice (Isle of Capri)
10. I Want to be Happy
11. Sweet Music Man
12. The Music Goes 'round and Around
13. Singin' the Blues
14. Ride, Red, Ride
15. Bugle Call Rag
16. Crazy Valves
17. Trumpetuous
18. He Ain't Got Rhythm
19. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
19. I Can't Dance, I Got Ants in my Pants
20. Jubilee
21. Music, Maestro, Please!
22. You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
23. Jeepers Creepers
24. Georgia on my Mind
 
 

Popular music in Britain during the 1930s was dominated by the dance bands, where jazz raised its head only occasionally, despite the presence of such fine jazzmen as Tommy McQuater and George Chisholm. Visits to Britain by eminent American musicians like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Benny Carter seemed like oases in an otherwise comparatively barren landscape for jazz. But Louis Armstrong certainly had an effect on one British trumpeter - a Cockney born in King's Cross. His name was Nat Gonella.

After working in bands led by Billy Cotton, Roy Fox, Ray Noble and Lew Stone, Gonella formed his own group - the Georgians - who helped to keep British jazz alive during the 1930s - the decade when all but one of the tracks on this album were recorded. The influence of Louis Armstrong on Gonella is evident on most of these recordings - not only in Nat's trumpet playing but also in his singing, which often had a tongue-in-cheek humour similar to Armstrong's. Louis's influence is also clear in some of the repertoire, which includes songs that Armstrong often performed, like Tiger Rag, That's My Home and Jeepers Creepers. Gonella recorded this last tune with John Kirby and his Orchestra when Nat visited New York in 1939. Gonella holds his own in such exalted company as Benny Carter, Buster Bailey and Billy Kyle.

In fact Gonella was a fine trumpeter, with a style which admittedly owed much to Louis Armstrong but which tended to have a mellower tone.  Nat composed tunes like Crazy Valves and Trumpetuous to feature himself on the instrument. On Tempestuous Trumpet he holds an incredibly long note, and he tackled tunes like Ride, Red, Ride (originally a feature for "Red" Allen) to show off his trumpeting skills. His serious side is also audible in his fluent interpretation of Singin' the Blues, which Bix Beiderbecke had famously recorded.

The other side of Nat Gonella was as a charismatic singer and entertainer. Some of the songs here are undoubtedly "novelty" numbers - like Nagasaki and The Music Goes 'round and Around - but Nat put them across with musicianship as well as humour.

The album ends with Gonella's theme-song, Georgia on my Mind, although this is the 1941 version recorded by the New Georgians, not the performance that Nat originally recorded with Lew Stone's band, where the Georgians started as "a band within a band".

Humphrey Lyttelton admitted that he was influenced by Nat Gonella, in addition to pointing out how Nat's enthusiasm for Louis Armstrong spread Louis's fame among the British public. But as well as being influential, Nat was a musician and entertainer in his own right - and some of the evidence is here on this reasonably-priced disc.

 
Tony Augarde

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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