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Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club – The Big 16

Own Label JNJ003




Disc 1

1. Red Wing

2. Thriller Rag

3. Shake It and Break It

4. Sweet Fields

5. Buddy’s Habit

6. I Never Knew

7. Savoy Blues

8. Save Your Sorrows for Tomorrow

9. Riverside Blues

10. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be

11. Royal Garden Blues

12. Some of These Days

13. East Coast Trot

14. Climax Rag

15. One Sweet Letter from You

16. Yearning

Disc 2

1. God Leads His Dear Children

2. Time’s A-Wastin’

3. The Eyes of Texas

4. Chattanooga Stomp

5. Texas Moaner

6. Cotton Club Stomp

7. Squatty Roo

8. At a Georgia Camp Meeting

9. East St. Louis Toodle-oo

10. Clementine (from New Orleans)

11. Willie the Weeper

12. Original Dixieland One-Step

13. Get Out of Here

14. Blue Lou

15. Black Bottom Stomp

16. Bright Boy Blues

Recorded at the Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club at Fairmile Inn or Heriot’s Rugby Club, Edinburgh, Scotland, on various dates between May 31, 2002 and Oct. 21, 2016.

Disc 1 : Local Edinburgh bands include Bill Salmond’s Louisiana Ragtime Band, Maid of Forth Stompers, Spirits of Rhythm, and thirteen others.

Disc 2 : Guest bands include the Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band, Savannah Jazz Band, Brian Carrick’s Algiers Stompers, and thirteen others, some of which are from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and France.

All bands, their personnel, and recording dates are listed in the liner notes.

In September of 2000, Violet Milne and Norrie Thomson, the author of the liner notes, founded the Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club to “provide a platform for the local bands to play,” as the notes inform us, the local venues for jazz residencies having all ceased to feature traditional jazz. Hence the title of this CD, The Big 16, to commemorate the years of the club’s existence. (There being 16 tracks on each CD, Thomson suggests, is also reminiscent of Muggsy Spanier’s The Great 16.)

The first CD features local bands, the second guest bands from outwith Edinburgh, some coming from England and others from the Continent, while the liner notes inform us that there have also been bands from Australia and the U.S.A. although none is represented here. In each CD, each band is given only one track, thus the listener gets as wide a variety as possible although a limited acquaintance with each band.

While most of the groups on the first CD are septets, there are also a couple of quartets, three sextets, and an octet. The selections chosen for this disc should be familiar to most readers; a couple heard less frequently than the others might be Save Your Sorrows for Tomorrow and Things Ain’t What They Used to Be. The first of these is a catchy pop tune from 1925, written by Al Sherman and B. G. DeSylva, that swings along at a jaunty clip, providing a nice change of pace. The instrumentation of this group has the unusual combination of tenor sax (for trombone) and tuba (for bass) and no piano. But it works well, under the able lead of Petrie on cornet, and also provides a little added interest. The other number, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be, is also what I deem of the swing ilk, written by Mercer Ellington , son of Duke Ellington, in 1942. I don’t know of any other trad band that includes these in their book. Finally, to clear up any confusion about I Never Knew since there are several tunes that go by this title, this is the one written by Ted Fio Rito (and not the New Orleans Rhythm Kings’ number I Never Knew What a Girl Could Do that is more often heard).

Of all the tracks on this CD, I am particularly partial to the first, Red Wing, which features one of my favourite cornetists, the late Phil Mason (of Max Collie’s Rhythm Aces and his own All-stars), playing with his usual assurance and great technique and tone, and leading the ensemble in fine New Orleans fashion. Another, Sweet Fields, is taken at a medium tempo that allows it to swing. There are other jewels to be found on this disc, such as the nice stop time chorus on Shake It and Break It, or the slightly unusual instrumentation of the group on Riverside Blues with the two reed players doubling on alto and bass saxes and providing a nice unison duet at one point between clarinet and alto.

As might be expected from such recordings, there are a few, relatively minor, flaws. I found the band playing Buddy’s Habit to be a bit pedestrian—this is a tune that should be played with gusto—and lacking discipline—they tend not to play together but seem all over the place in spots. That is unfortunate as the late Ken Sims always provided a solid lead on cornet in his other recordings with which I am familiar. Finally, sometimes the sound is problematic, as on Climax Rag where it tends to a fuzziness that obscures the back line. “The overall sound quality,” as Norrie Thomson admits in his notes, “is not hi-fi but is very listenable,” which I find a fair assessment.

The second disc presents bands that are more likely to be recognized since they tour quite a bit in the U.K. and on the Continent. These provide several varieties of jazz. While most tracks are traditional, mainstream is found in track 2 (Martin Bennett’s Old Green River Band), modern in track 14 (Gavin Lee’s Strictly Speakeasy), and swing in track 6 (Red Hot Rhythmaker’s from Australia) and track 7 (Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra from Glasgow).

Things get off to a good start with the Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band’s rendition of God Leads His Dear Children, a tune which I first heard back in the early fifties on a Chris Barber Columbia EP that had four spirituals on it. Clem Avery provides a soulful lead on trumpet and sets a nice mournful tempo, befitting this piece. Mac Rae’s clarinet work is excellent, especially in the chalumeau register. The standard established in track 1 is maintained through the rest of the disc, highlights for me being the lovely arco bass on Texas Moaner; the excellent arrangement of Johnny Hodges’ Squatty Roo; the stately elegance of the ragtime treatment of At a Georgia Camp Meeting; the nice small band treatment of the Ellington classic East St. Louis Toodle-oo; and while not a devotee of modern jazz, I did enjoy Blue Lou. Finally, the seguing in the last couple of minutes of Bright Boy Blues into Chloe (The Song of the Swamp) made a fun closer for both the tune and the disc.

Obtaining this CD set will confer four benefits on the buyer: (1) accessing some good traditional jazz; (2) becoming acquainted with some of the local jazz bands and musicians in the Edinburgh vicinity on the first disc; (3) hearing some unissued tracks by several name traditional jazz bands of the U.K. and Europe on disc 2; (4) lending very much needed support to the Edinburgh Jazz Club in its mission to keep traditional jazz alive in Scotland as the entire proceeds of sales of this CD (the bands all having donated their tracks to the club) are set go to the club’s treasury from which, in turn, the fees of bands appearing at the weekly club meetings are paid.

For further information on acquiring this CD set, which may be paid for via Paypal, contact Norrie Thomson at

Bert Thompson

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