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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


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The Gentleman of Jazz

Retrospective RTS 4261




1. Honeysuckle Rose

2. I Ain’t Got Nobody

3. Mighty Like The Blues

4. Jazz Me Blues

5. Don’t Try Your Jive On Me

6. Mozel Tov

7. If You Were The Only Girl In The World

8. Stooge Blues

9. Shine On, Harvest Moon

10. The Flat Foot Floogie

11. Let’s Go

12. Archer Street Drag

13. Rosetta

14. You’ll Always Be Mine

15. Penalty Five Pounds

16. No Smoking

17. At The Jazz Band Ball

18. The Darktown Strutters’ Ball

19. Jersey Bounce

20. Blue Lou

21. Cherokee

22. Stompin’ At The Savoy

23. Poor Butterfly

24. Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider

25. All Is Not Gold That Jitters

26. Broadhurst Garden Blues

27. Little Earle


1. My Blue Heaven

2. That’s The Beginning Of The End

3. Symphony In Riffs

4. Lazy River

5. Blues For Twos

6. Just You, Just Me

7. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues

8. Sonny Boy

9. Georgetta

10. I May Be Wrong

11. When Your Lover Has Gone

12. A Smo-o-oth One

13. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

14. Love Me Or Leave Me

15. How’s This?

16. Mood Indigo

17. That’s A Plenty

18. My Mother’s Eyes

19. Big Butter And Egg Man

20. Lazy

21. What More Can I Say?

I knew George Chisholm. Well, at least I played in a jazz group accompanying him at a jazz club when he was the star attraction. I had first seen him when I was much younger, in concerts by the Squadronaires, also known as the Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra. This double CD samples his work from 1937 (his first recording as a trombonist) to 1962, although he continued to live until 1997. The personnel is too numerous to list, but I shall try to mention the most significant players. George was an affable man as well as a fine trombonist and entertainer. The entertainment aspect made him a household name when he appeared in comedy interludes in The Black and White Minstrel Show (a television and stage show) for a decade from 1961, when he appeared wearing an incongruous striped shirt and bowler hat. But I witnessed much earlier slapstick routines when he delighted audiences with comedy segments during the Squadronaires’ concerts.

The first track on the first CD – Honeysuckle Rose recorded in 1937 by pianist Gerry Moore and his Chicago Brethren (an indication of how much British musicians wanted to be regarded as in line with their transatlantic brothers!) – shows Chisholm already a practised performer: relaxed and unhurried. George was also among the select band of British musicians employed by visiting Americans. Tracks 2 and 3 on the first CD include George playing in a group led by Benny Carter (track 3 including Coleman Hawkins), while track 10 has George alongside Fats Waller in 1938.

Chisholm was also used by well-known British bandleaders such as Danny Polo (tracks 4 to 7), Lew Stone (track 17) and Victor Silvester (tracks 22 to 24). But by 1938 George was already a bandleader in his own right, leading groups that often contained his close friend, trumpeter Tommy McQuater (a fellow Scot and another humorous man). George’s Jive Five (tracks 11 to 16) perform some swinging numbers, including four compositions by Chis himself. Their version of Earl Hines’ Rosetta swings along lightly, with a buoyant piano solo from Eddie Macaulay.

The 1940s bring us to George’s work with the Squadronaires (Tommy McQuater still an important member). This was as much a dance band as a jazz band but artists like Chisholm could inject swing into their performances. George’s arranging skills are also clear in these Squadronaires tracks, especially Cherokee, which avoids being a hasty rush to the finish and instead supplies some subtle touches in the voicings and counterpoint.

The second CD opens with evidence of the Squadronaires’ post-war life in My Blue Heaven and That’s the Beginning Of The End, both precisely performed 1947 recordings. Thereafter most of the tracks are by small groups, either led by Chisholm or containing him as an essential member. Five tracks by George Chisholm & Octet are like a who’s who of British jazz in the 1950s, among them altoist Joe Harriott, vibist Bill Le Sage and drummer Phil Seamen. Many of the same musicians appear with The Melody Maker All Stars in Mood Indigo. George provides glimpses of his two sides with an emotive solo in I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues and a more jaunty solo to close the track. Digby Fairweather’s sleeve-note fills in some gaps by noting that Chisholm did much studio work in the 1950s as well as appearing in the BBC Show Band.

A 1961 album called Trad Treat supplies tracks 18 and 19, cashing in on the craze for trad jazz. George’s solo on My Mother’s Eyes illustrates his complete control of the trombone as well as his lyrical ability. Big Butter And Egg Man shows him totally at home playing in Dixieland style. This CD closes with a 1962 recording in which George is the prominent soloist behind Clinton Ford’s cheery vocals.

During his life George Chisholm certainly contributed greatly to the gaiety of nations. I still remember him affectionately for his riotous comedy performances as well as for his expert musicianship. Making allowance for their age, these recordings have been polished up nicely.

Tony Augarde

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