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



TOMMY SANCTON'S
Black Eagle Jazz Band - 1971

Featuring Chester Zardis

Own Label BE[LECD]4010

 

 

1. Shake It & Break It

2. Perdido Street Blues

3. Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll

4. New Rag

5. Dippermouth Blues

6. Snake Rag

7. Dallas Blues

8. Ice Cream

9. Red Man Blues

10. Lord, Lord, Lord

11. God Bless the Child

12. St. Louis Blues

13. Bogalusa Strut

Recorded at Het Congres, Breda, The Netherlands, on November 1, 1987.

Tommy Sancton – Clarinet

Tony Pringle – Cornet, vocal (tracks 3, 7, 8, and 10)

Jim Klippert – Trombone

Peter Bullis – Banjo

Eli Newberger – Piano

“Pam” Pameijer – Drums

Chester Zardis – Tuba

Bonnie Bagley – vocal (tracks 11 and 12)

Recorded at Intermediate Studios, Boston, on May 8 and 9*, 1971.

This is the tenth in a series of fourteen limited edition CD’s, reissuing material by the band that previously appeared on LP’s—mainly on their own label but also on a few other small labels, such as Philo, Philips, and Dirty Shame—and on cassette tapes. Some of these cassettes were issued simultaneously with the LP’s but also contained additional tracks. Other cassettes with different material were issued in that format only. When the company that produced the cassettes went out of business, the digital masters were returned to the band. These form the basis of most of the material on this CD set.

This CD reissues the recordings made by the first edition of the band, which was started by Tommy Sancton and Tony Pringle and called the Black Eagle Jazz Band. (After several personnel changes, the “New” was added to distinguish the later group.) The liner notes from the original LP written by Sancton are included here and tell the story of how it all came together. All of the tracks from that LP have been retained and three previously unissued tracks— God Bless the Child, St. Louis Blues, and Bogalusa Strut—are added.

As a glance at the personnel will show, four of the seven of the early group were in at the creation of the New Black Eagles Jazz Band, and with the exception of Newberger, are still with the band today. When Sancton left for England, several clarinet players came and went until Billy Novick became the regular clarinetist. Also about that time, Klippert headed to California, and Stan Vincent came in on trombone. The band back then had no regular bass player, so they opted to send for Chester Zardis from New Orleans, with whom they had played when down there at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, for the recording date. When the New Black Eagles formed, Newberger switched from piano to tuba, and Bob Pilsbury came in on piano. Interestingly enough, after Newberger’s departure the band reverted to using the string bass.

Even at this early stage in the band’s development, many of the features are already, even if nascent, in place. The driving ensemble passages are to be found in almost every tune on the disc. Solos are invariably backed by more than just the rhythm section. Stop time is invariably clean and precise—witness Perdido Street Blues and Dippermouth Blues, to cite just a couple of instances. The same can be said of the harmonic runs, most often between cornet and clarinet, Snake Rag offering the best example here. One senses the whole band is really focused and on top of the number. This is particularly true of tunes that are taken at tempos that invite train wrecks, such as Snake Rag and Bogalusa Strut—but such disasters never occur.

While the tune list on this CD contains many standards, they are not given tired renditions, as can be inferred from what has been said about the band’s approach to them. However, not all the selections are standards. New Rag is one such, a beautiful rag by Scott Joplin, the king of ragtime, that is given a full band treatment here, with many difficult harmonic figures traced immaculately by the cornet and clarinet. Red Man Blues is another piece not often heard, with its memorable staggered clarinet pattern over the stop time of the rest.

Before closing, I must draw attention to Sancton’s clarinet playing. It does tend to dominate here, perhaps in part because of the mike placement, but it is well worth hearing, replete as it is with touches gained from his mentor for so long, George Lewis. It would be difficult to miss the Lewis component of the counter melodies Sancton plays, even to the heavy borrowing from Burgundy Street Blues that he engages in during Red Man Blues. His warm, woody tone, and his facility in all registers, these too suggest Lewis. When Sancton left the band, undoubtedly there were some heavy hearts..

At the band’s web site <www.blackeagles.com> one can obtain more information.

Bert Thompson




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