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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


20th Anniversary vols. 1 & 2

Own Label BE[LECD]4020-1/2


Volume 1

1. Weary Blues

2. The Mooche

3. Chicago Breakdown

4. I Found a New Baby

5. Lulu’s Back in Town

6. Lowland Blues

7. Wild Cat Blues

8. Rosetta

9. Delia’s Gone

10. Give Me Your Telephone Number

11. Buddy’s Habit

12. Working Man Blues

Playing time: 75m. 55s.

Recording locations and dates vary from Apr. 18, 1974 through Sept. 22, 1984. All details are given in the CD booklet.

Tony Pringle – Cornet & leader (tracks 1-4, 6-12)

Stan McDonald – Clarinet & soprano sax (tracks 1-4, 6-10)

Stan Vincent – Trombone (tracks 1-4, 6-12)

Bob Pilsbury – Piano (all tracks)

Peter Bullis – Banjo & manager (all tracks)

Eli Newberger – Tuba (tracks 1-4, 6-12)

C. H. “Pam” Pameijer – Drums (all tracks)

Don Kenney – String bass (track 5)

Hugh Blackwell – Clarinet (tracks 11-12)

Volume 2

1. There’ll Come a Day

2. Jelly Bean Blues

3. Bugle Boy March

4. Roamin’

5. Stevedore Stomp

6. Rockin’ in Rhythm

7. Weary Blues

8. He’ll Understand and Say Well Done

9. Burgundy Street Blues

10. Mama’s Gone Goodbye

11. Goin’ Home

12. Jersey Lightning

Playing time: 75m. 05s.

Recording locations and dates vary from Mar. 28, 1984 through Mar. 24, 1991. All details are given in the CD booklet.

Tony Pringle – Cornet, (tracks 1-8, 10-12), vocal (track 11) & leader

Stan Vincent – Trombone (tracks 3-8, 10-12)

Billy Novick – Clarinet, soprano, & alto saxes (tracks 2, 4-6, 8)

Bob Pilsbury – Piano (tracks 1-6, 8, 10-12)

Peter Bullis – Banjo (tracks 1-3, 5-6, 8, 10-12), guitar (track 4), & manager

Eli Newberger – Tuba (tracks 1-8, 10)

C. H. “Pam” Pameijer – Drums (tracks 1, 3-9, 11-12)

Hugh Blackwell – Clarinet (track 1)

Carol Leigh – Vocal (track 2)

Brian Williams – Clarinet (track 3)

Brian Ogilvie – Clarinet (track 7)

Butch Thompson – Piano (track 7 & 9)

Jimmy Mazzy – Banjo & vocal (track 7)

Tommy Sancton – Clarinet (track 9)

Bill Reynolds – Drums (track 10)

Don Kenney – String bass (tracks 11 & 12)

These recordings were first issued solely on tape cassette back in 1991, all of these cassettes being long gone now; but their contents are being made available again in the CD format as part of the reissue series the band is currently undertaking.

During the 14-year period covered by these recordings, there were a number of occasions when all of the basic personnel could not, for one reason or another, be present; so there is a number of subs. throughout. Yet the “sound” of the band does not materially shift, a testament to the quality of both the basic personnel and the substitutes chosen as replacements from time to time. The band is always identifiable as the New Black Eagles, with emphasis on collective improvisation by the ensemble, everyone listening carefully to whoever is playing the lead, complementing what he is doing. This is not a band with a “star” for whom the rest are just support—the band is not “John Doe and the New Black Eagles,” it is simply “The New Black Eagles.” Each player listens carefully to what his fellows are saying and makes his contribution to that conversation, and members can be heard literally applauding and endorsing what is coming from the lead.

To a great degree this is what makes the band so exciting, as he who plays lead is spurred on by what he is hearing behind him—and one could say above, below, and beside him as well—vocally as well as musically! While there are solos, of course, frequently they are backed by the ensemble, rather than just the rhythm section, especially on a second chorus. And there are occasions where the texture is varied by the soloist being backed solely by a single other instrument, such as the duets between cornet/banjo or tuba/banjo (e.g., Delia’s Gone), and elsewhere by the piano taking a true solo, everyone else dropping out (e.g., Lowland Blues). There is also the consideration given dynamics (e.g., I Found a New Baby)—a feature often neglected by lesser bands. All of this lends so much interest and drama.

The tracks on the two-volume set are simply superb, and while it would be tempting to comment on each one, I will resist that and point to a few highlights. From Stan McDonald’s leading on the first track of vol. 1, when the band charges out of the gate at a blistering pace—they might well, indeed, have been weary at the conclusion!—to the last track on vol. 2 the listener’s attention is held. Each tune is given thorough exploration—the average track length is about 6 ½ mins.

The program on each disc illustrates variety in several ways. First there is the great mix of pieces by several composers: Duke Ellington, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Ken Colyer, Earl Hines, George Lewis, et al. And then there is the different category of tune, such as blues, spirituals, gospels, pop songs, etc. On top of that there are the many players taking part, as a glance at the personnel given above will attest.

Of the many highlights on these two CDs, I will limit myself to these:

• The Mooche with the dramatic tom tom opening preceding the ensemble minor chord leading to the wailing sop. sax.

• Lowland Blues for the sheer drama throughout, but particularly that of the piano solo where the front line drops out and finally the rest of back line, leaving only the piano, which drops down to a quiet, single note expression, very soft, and then is joined by the others, announced by the trombone.

• Delia’s Gone containing a beautiful series of duets here, the rest having laid out: banjo/piano, cornet/banjo, and after the piano solo (joined by banjo on second chorus), tuba/banjo.

Jellybean Blues , given a good outing by Carol Leigh on vocal and fine accompaniment on cornet and piano in classic blues fashion.

Weary Blues —interesting to compare the two versions: that on disc one with the one on disc two. (This is the only tune that is repeated on each volume.)

Burgundy Street Blues in which Sancton, a student of George Lewis, almost recreates this Lewis (the composer) signature piece. Other than Lewis’ own rendition, this could well be a definitive one—close your eyes and it is Lewis. Sancton learned well at the feet of the master.

There are just two relatively minor problems, both on the second disc. First, Pringle’s vocal tends to be somewhat off-mike in Goin’ Home. Second, there is some unevenness in the volume level between tracks on this disc, resulting in one having to reach for the volume control. But these are small cavils and do not seriously impair the quality of the set.

So there we have it—another outstanding set by this almost legendary band, another contribution to what will surely be their legacy.

Note: The band has announced an alternate ordering method (along with conventional ordering procedures), as follows:

Instead of $15.00 plus handling and packaging of $2.00, postage of $2.74 ($13.74 to Europe) you pay $12 and receive via Dropbox a ZIP file which contains all the tracks as mp3s, a Read Me.doc and JPEG files for the booklet cover, back page and the tray card.

More information is available at, the band’s website.

Bert Thompson

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