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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


NORMAN THATCHER &
JOHN SCANTLEBURY WITH THE WESSEX NEW
ORLEANS JAZZ BAND

Norman's Last Album

p.e.k. Sound PKCD-370

 

 

1. The Old Spinning Wheel
2. Any Time
3. Just a Little While to Stay Here
4. Chiribiribin
5. See See Rider
6. In Spain They Say Si Si
7. Sweet Fields
8. He Touched Me
9. Girl of My Dreams
10. Careless Love Blues
11. St, Philip St. Breakdown
12. Bluebells Goodbye
13. Lead Me Savior
14. Ice Cream

Norman Thatcher - Cornet, tenor sax (all tracks except #2, 6, 8, and 11)
John Minnion - Cornet (tracks 2 and 6)
John Scantlebury - Clarinet, alto sax, vocals (tracks #5, 9, 10, and 14)
Tom Whittingham - Trombone (all tracks except #8 and 11)
David Soby - Piano
Sarah Thatcher - Banjo, tenor guitar
Pete Berry - Double bass
Peter Winterhart - Drums
 
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The sudden passing of Norman Thatcher on holiday in Turkey before he reached the allotted "threescore and ten" took the traditional jazz community in the U.K. completely by surprise and left a large hole to be filled. We are fortunate to have this final recording by Thatcher, made some five months before his passing, and its dedication to his memory is a fitting tribute as he and the others in the band provide fine renditions of the tunes included.

A multi-instrumentalist, playing trumpet/cornet, tenor sax, trombone, bass, and drums, Thatcher plays mainly cornet on this recording, although he takes a few choruses on several tunes on sax but none on the other instruments. The disc opens with Thatcher playing sax on The Old Spinning Wheel, leading the ensemble on that instrument the first two times through and then reverting to cornet thereafter. (The other tracks on which he plays both instruments are See See Rider, Careless Love Blues, and Lead Me, Savior.) As one can readily hear, Thatcher was not the kind of horn player who tried to blow down the back wall-instead he was happy to keep the volume down (and on occasion would use a mute). One could then easily relish the musical lines he laid down. Although fairly spare, his lead is always thoughtful and melodic, leaving spaces for the others to utilize.

Thatcher was always a devotee of the uptown New Orleans style as was Ken Colyer, whom he admired and whose style he was very adept at assuming as he did for so long while leading the Ken Colyer Trust Band-indeed, one can hear on this disc Colyer-like touches throughout. The Wessex Jazz Band is one to whom this New Orleans style is also clearly congenial, and they, along with guests John Scantlebury and Tom Whittingham (filling in for Thatcher on trombone), amply support Thatcher, participating in the musical conversations that are a feature of collective improvisation-a key ingredient of the New Orleans style.

In addition to filling admirably the role of the reed player in the New Orleans front line on clarinet and alto sax, Scantlebury is featured on two tunes, He Touched Me and St. Philip St. Breakdown, where the rest of the front line lays out. He has obviously listened to George Lewis, but does not try to simply copy him. This is quite clear on both of these numbers, especially the second, a Lewis composition, where it would have been tempting to merely replicate the Lewis treatment. Instead, he wisely keeps the spirit of Lewis but adds his own improvisations throughout. Scantlebury also contributes vocals on a few of the tracks.

This is a CD that is easy to recommend. Obtaining it will be doing not only yourself a favor but also Cancer Research U.K. as "£5 is to be donated from the price paid for each copy of this CD" to that organization, according to the liner notes.

Bert Thompson



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