KEN COLYER'S ALL STARS - Colyer Rarities - Farewell to Studio 51
Studio 51 was arguably the most influential place in Britain for a generation of New Orleans style musicians. Ken Colyer had first played there as a member of the Crane River Jazz Band not long after its opening during the post-war Festival of Britain year. But it was initially a venue mainly for jazz in a more modern style: Cleo Laine auditioned there for Johnny Dankworth early in her career. By 1955 it had become the Ken Colyer Club. Colyer’s band played there most weekends to packed houses of young enthusiasts and there were often all-nighters when a guest band would alternate sets with Ken’s from midnight until 6am in what George Melly described as a ‘smoky dive’ without a bar-soft drinks only (officially!)
This CD features Colin Bowden from the ‘classic’ line-up, Sammy Rimington, whose international career was launched with Ken’s early encouragement, and Ray Smith, whose mentor was Colyer’s earlier pianist Ray Foxley. Pete Dyer plays fine Jim Robinson-influenced trombone on several tracks. Barry Palser, whose Cambridge-based Savoy Jazzmen often featured Ken as a guest in later years, also plays trombone on certain tracks, Alan ‘Jinx’ Johns complements the rhythm nicely. Ken himself is on mellow, relaxed form and clearly at home in his old setting.
The repertoire chosen by Ken includes some New Orleans standards he’d recorded with different line-ups over the year but with some lesser known tracks too.
Ken Colyer cornet and vocals - Sammy Rimington Clarinet and alto sax - Ray Smith piano - Barry Palser trombone (tracks 6-10) - Pete Dyer trombone (tracks 1-5 and 11) - Alan 'Jinx' Johns bass - Colin Bowden drums.
1. Everywhere You Go
2. Maria Elena
3. I Can’t Escape From You
4. Sugar Blues
5. Should I?
6. You Tell Me Your Dream
7. The Entertainer
8. Bogalusa Strut
9. Heliotrope Bouquet
10. Thriller Rag
11. My Blue Heaven
Reviews of This Recording
There are no surprises on this disc. All of the tracks are vintage Colyer, who, regardless of the personnel, it seems, always took command and brought the musicians together into a coherent whole, one which is identifiable as a Colyer group. Colyer, despite the difficulties that the stomach cancer diagnosed later that year must have occasioned, has that warm, mellow tone, with the slight vibrato, that is such a trademark of his playing. He doesn’t venture often into the upper register, and he never tries to blow the back wall down but rather contributes a laid-back lead. His playing is almost introspective, and when he is not playing lead, he complements sparingly and below whoever is.
Ensemble is, as we might expect from a Colyer group, always to the fore. The band can stretch out on each selection, the eleven tracks adding up to a little under 70 minutes total. While the contents are typical Colyer fare and the majority of the tunes on the tune list have appeared on CDs recorded by groups that included Colyer in their line-ups as well as his own groups, all are certainly worth listening to again. Several have appeared infrequently, possibly only once before on a Colyer recording, such as Maria Elena, Sugar Blues, Should I, You Tell Me Your Dream, and My Blue Heaven, and are thus 'rarities', as the disc’s title suggests.
Once again we are indebted to the late John Long and his wife Renée for making this concert recording available and to Upbeat and Liz Biddle for issuing it. Colyer aficionados will want to have this additional issue on their Colyer shelf, as will others who enjoy relaxed traditional jazz in the New Orleans style. With luck, more unissued material will emerge in the near future.