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The Crane River Jazz Band with Ken Colyer


Upbeat URCD272




1. When You and I Were Young Maggie

2. Lord, Lord, Lord

3. Down by the Riverside

4. Washington and Lee Swing

5. Buddy Bolden’s Blues

6. The Sheik of Araby

7. When I Leave the World Behind

8. When I Move to the Sky

9. When I Move to the Sky (reprise)

Ken Colyer – Cornet, vocal (tracks 3, 5, and 6)

Sonny Morris – Trumpet, vocal (track 7)

Monty Sunshine – Clarinet

John R. T. Davies – Trombone, alto sax

Pat Hawes – Piano

Ben Marshall – Banjo

Julian Davies – Bass

Colin Bowden – Drums

Recorded at the 100 Club, Oxford Street, London, on Sept. 27, 1972.

July 14th is an auspicious date, marking as it does (a) for the French, the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, and (b) for many U.K. jazz fans, the 1951 National Federation of Jazz Organisations concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London, a significant event in the British traditional jazz revival. Among the bands performing that night was the Crane River Jazz Band, and a memorable 78 r.p.m. record of a snippet of the concert was issued by Parlophone, one side having I Want a Girl Just like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad by the Saints Jazz Band of Manchester, the other I’m Travelling by the Crane River Jazz Band of Cranford. Along with my fellow jazz-loving high school friends I was knocked out by the Saints’ side and, in my case, equally by the Cranes’. That was my introduction to the band, as I was reminded by the When I Move to the Sky track on this CD, although here we are given the true title of the tune, not that ( I’m Travelling) given on the Parlophone 78.

After the band broke up and the members joined or formed other bands, there were several Crane River reunions, some of which were recorded and issued on LPs and on CDs, such as Live at the 100 Club 1976) on Dine-a-Mite Jazz DJCD-004 and Storming Session (1973 & 1977) on Upbeat URCD159. This CD is the latest of these, a 1972 session recorded by John and Renee Long and previously unissued. Although the recording is not professional, it is remarkably good, the only slight problem being that the vocals are off-mike, as are some of the piano solos, especially when Hawes applies the soft pedal.

The band here is comprised of most of the original Cranes, Colin Bowden filling in on drums for Ron Bowden (not related), and they are in top form, playing as if they never had parted before. Colyer and Morris dovetail just as they did in the past, and Sunshine weaves wonderful solos as well as obbligatos behind other soloists. Colyer, too, cannot resist joining in to back Sunshine and Morris when they solo. While we don’t hear much from the rhythm section since apart from Hawes they do not solo, we are aware of their presence as the underpinning of the front line, along with the clearly audible 4/4 of Bowden’s bass drum and occasional pressed roll. In short, it is typical Crane River fare, although one must admit that the intervening decades had resulted in a “polish” to the playing—it no longer had that rough edge of the young men of the early band, although the “wildness of spirit” was still there. Judging by the prolonged applause following the reprise in the last track, what had been delivered was much relished by the audience.

The play list includes many tunes associated with the Cranes, especially of course, When I Move to the Sky (I’m Travelling), which for many will elicit memories of the 1951 concert on the Parlophone 78. While most of the tunes are now “standards,” the New Orleans-style treatment, led by Colyer’s unmistakable cornet and Sunshine’s exuberant clarinet, delivers them fresh; and one is hardly cognizant that, other than the last track, each runs over six minutes. This is the kind of CD that rewards the listener with new discoveries each time he or she plays it.

Inevitably there can be no more reunions as almost all of the musicians on this recording (exceptions, I believe, are Marshall and Bowden) are no longer with us. However, possibly there are other private recordings of other concerts that will emerge and become available to Upbeat—and Liz Biddle can be prevailed upon to release them. All Crane River Jazz Band aficionados will want to have this CD, and it could serve as a useful introduction for those unfamiliar with the band.

More information is available at the Upbeat web site,

Bert Thompson

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