Jazz 625

Broadcast on BBC4 on Friday 24th 2013, it featured the Acker Bilk Paramount Jazz Band, with the great George Lewis. It also featured Beryl Bryden, and both artists generated a great deal of comment as well as the bass playing of Tucker Finlayson


George Lewis's Clarinet

26/05/13 - On the Jazz 625 TV programme, George Lewis was the guest, and of course he played wonderfully, but there is a question concerning his clarinet. Neither Mick Unthank, Brian Legan or myself, can figure it out, its rather unusual, its definitely an Albert System (simple system) clarinet, but not the standard. I thought it might be the German Oehler System but it's not. It raises a question, do any clarinet players who visit your web site have any information or know exactly what make etc it might be?

Barrie Marshall

29/05/13 - The clarinet that George was playing in the Jazz 625 is definitely an Albert System customised with added keys. He told me he played a Selmer Paris model but he had two in his possession - one being his own and the other was one he had inherited from Jimmy Noone. It is unclear which model he was playing in the Jazz 625 programme. Barney Bigard also played a specially customised Selmer Albert system clarinet which was specially made for him by Selmer in New York.

Alan Brown

29/05/13 - Hi Fred, You mentioned the flurry of interest in George Lewis's clarinet in your last Newsletter. Apparently the instrument was a Penzel-Muller Improved Albert System. This link gives a very thorough description of the instrument, http://tinyurl.com/qjht2u5.

Trevor Barnes.

29/05/13 - That's not it, it does not have the extra key at the bottom". So back to the drawing board chaps. Barrie thinks he may have found the answer at http://tinyurl.com/nw72gd3 as it mentions George buying a clarinet and from what he says and the date of purchase it may be the instrument.

Barrie Marshall

Regarding George Lewis's clarinet. I have followed any "live" music that George made, since I switched to "trad jazz" from Mod/swing. Some time ago I found out about the New Orleans Rascals Jazz Band, from Osaka , Japan So far I have collected all CD. s by the band. Ryoichi Kawai is the leader of that band and he plays the clarinet that George Lewis used; in fact he sent me a DVD, which was free to me, it was his band playing in Mahogany Hall, Osaka and this was done on the 100th birthday date of George Lewis and featured a history about George. The clarinet has "George Lewis" name embossed around the bell of the clarinet. So you probably know that George did 3 successive years of concert tours in Japan in 1963, 1964,1965. The 1963 tour had a DVD made of those concerts and jazzers here in U. K. were able to order a copy from Fred Burnett. By the way on each tour lasting 90 days George had an average of 3000 people at each concert = 270000 people attending , so that is not bad for trad. jazz musicians. The website for New Orleans Rascals is http://www.odjc.com/en/rascals/nor-cd_en.html. In closing this mail I would just say that Ryoichi plays as close to George Lewis sounds as any other artists I have heard, also "Burgundy Street Blues" is my favourite tune.

John Russell

Beryl Bryden

26/05/13 - Re Jazz 625: Great playing from Ackerís band, but why, of all the Jazz 625 programmes available, did someone have to pick one with the dreadful Beryl Bryden interrupting up such good jazz music with her corny winking and bad singing? Oh well, good old BBC anyway. -

Jon Critchley.

27/05/13 - Do think that Jon Critchley is very rude about Beryl Bryden, I for one was very pleased to see her, a very interesting Lady, stayed with us when she was on at Rochdale. The other people he mentioned I could well do without, so it is a matter of personal choice.

Carole Fletcher

28/05/13 - I agree with Jon Critchley about Beryl Bryden. Without meaning to, she ruined many sessions by greater people like Humph and the Welsh band with her lack of talent. She largely made up for it by the many anecdotes about her that she left behind, the most bizarre of which perhaps concerned the equally corpulent trombonist Big Chief Russell Moore and the devastation they caused when the bed that they were sharing in a Paris hotel collapsed.

Steve Voce

29/05/13 - Dear Fred, Also watched the marathon BBC TV the other night, and as my son-in-law has recorded it for me, will watch it again shortly. I don't subscribe to any of the moans about it, as I felt that pretty well everything was well worth seeing - especially if you were around at the time! I do get angry when people start on about Beryl Bryden. She was a very important part of the Jazz revival both in this country - where she was undervalued - and on the Continent where they did appreciate her! For myself, I think that the vocal aspect of the Revival would have been greatly underplayed without Beryl, and there is no doubt that she suffered greatly from the arrival of Ottilie Patterson -a superb Blues singer but one who based her performance on the wonderful Bessie Smith. Beryl was - Beryl, and owed her vocal style to no single source. She just sang the Blues - and Jazz songs- as she felt them.

Tony Davis (Wallasey)

30/05/13 - The Beryl Bryden situation is odd. OK, Gerry Haim and I knew her back in the 40s, when we were teenagers in the Jellyroll Kings. Beryl was always trying to get in our dates and was sometimes regarded as a 'nuisance' - to put it mildly. But she did know her music. We spent many a happy afternoon in her little flat in Holloway Road listening to Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace and countless other original blues artists on 78s which we never found out how she acquired! And she kept the coffee coming (at a time when tea rained supreme!!!) She did the rounds, and went on to perform world-wide. Perhaps not everyone's cup of PG Tips, but no-one could say that she wasn't dedicated. And although a number of your contacts don't have kind things to say about her - some justified because she really could, and did, ham it up unmercifully sometimes - even on http://youtu.be/HBjcAPijdXI  when she was performing just a couple of hours after leaving hospital for cancer treatment, and sadly died just a few months later. But she got to sing with the best.... "knowns" and "unknowns". Hamming it up on occasions but never leaving musicians in any doubt what she was going to do next and how to handle it. Many more popular 'singers' don't do that! And despite everything she was universally understood - and made a lot of friends. Typically on http://youtu.be/nfVERhrip2g  and there are loads of others. She was a real trouper. I'm not all that keen on 'Sophie Tucker' work - I much preferred 'Annette Hanshaw' - but wouldn't dream of going round slagging her off. Always mindful that you can't please all the people all the time, as they say in downtown Cairo... perhaps others could bear that in mind?

John Westwood

30/05/13 - Dear Fred, I too had happy memories of Beryl Bryden. Martin Downer will remember us one morning in Paris in the Notre Dame gardens , after breakfasting with Marie Lou Williams playing in Le Ring Side, enjoying Ice Cream cones with Beryl in the sunshine! Everyone can't be Bessie or Ella, but Beryl we felt was one of us, and a true blues and jazz trouper, in Paris or 100 Oxford St. Bless her memory.

Chas Parry-Jones

02/06/13 - Hi Fred How I endorse the comments made by my old mate John Westwood. During the last fifty years I have heard musicians playing our type of old noise & not particularly enjoyed their style etc But these players have helped to keep our bands & vocalists and the punters interested in JAZZ To make an adverse comment about Beryl is an insult to the history of U K jazz Keep up the good work Fred and thanks for all of your contributions to the jazz world

Ted Brown
Frinton- on-Sea
Member of Colchester Jazz Club

01/06/13 - Re: Beryl Bryden. The Mike Martin Band had a booking at the 100 Club in London. Suddenly Beryl Bryden climbed onto the stage and announced over the mike the number she intended to sing. The band obligingly played the number and she messed it up. This was our gig, by the way, nothing to do with her. After it finished, she grabbed the mike and told the audience, "Sorry about that, the band didn't know it" and walked off.

Janet Rodger.

02/06/13 - I agree with Jon Critchley. I was so looking forward to watching the Jazz 625 recording of the Acker Bilk band in all itís pomp. Sure enough the first number was lovely, a tight and polished performance as you would expect from that band Ė then on strode Ms Bryden and my heart sank. Why couldnít the Beeb just be happy to record, without hindrance, one of the finest bands of any kind ever to come out of this country? Very disappointed.

Laurie Cooper.

Tucker Finlayson

30/05/13 - I also thoroughly enjoyed the Jazz Britannia and George Lewis with Acker Bilk videos, particularly the way the 'Trad' feature was put together and the classy playing of both George and Acker. Did anyone notice that on Burgundy St Blues Acker's bass player plays through a couple of choruses a bar adrift of George before getting himself in sync. That really surprised me, I thought all British jazz musicians knew that piece well enough to fall in line a bit quicker than that? Maybe it was just the shock and awe of the occasion!

Richard Knock

30/05/13 - I leap to the defence of Tucker Finlayson, bassist on the 625 gig with George Lewis. Richard Knox asked if anyone thought the bass was a bar behind for a bit. Well, perception is everything-and Richard perceived (heard) a different bass accompaniment to the one he loved on his recordings of "Burgundy". Point is to a muso as good as Tucker( still gigging by the way), it was a slow blues in C and he was note perfect. Here's the rub - his "time" was not the way George would have called it with his own band- its plain George was a bit displaced at the start of the tune, and gives a quick squint backwards; but being old school he just got on with it ! (beautifully). But nobody was a "bar behind". I know Stan Greig was another Scot ,but he was comping in sync with the bass; maybe it was a north/south conspiracy.! Seriously, Tucker was a bit mainstream, and became quite modern on the "plank" in later times, so its the old irresolvable thing about "Traditional" jazz as it is enjoyed. By the way Richard ,I was a bass player in the day, and have walked that plank.! I was moved by brother Moe's bit re Ron McKay, gone along with Stan Greig. Does he think there was any lagging ? BTW, I love those retained 625 tapes; especially the invited zombie audience; did anyone notice Brian Epstein looking "sheepish" just before "Burgundy".

Jon White

O.K. Burgundy Street. I've listened to it again 3 times and no one will convince me I'm afraid. 1) no need to leap to Tucker's defence, I know what a fine musician he and indeed all of Ackers band are. 2) In Burgundy St, the way George plays it ( and it is his tune after all!) bar 1 is in Cmaj, bar 2 moves to Fmaj, then bar 3 Cmaj. George starts the piece, the band come in with the bass (and Stan) actually a bar in front of George, (I didn't say behind, I said adrift) and if you follow the progression, (Tucker plays clear and beautiful progressions from one bar to the next, so they are easy to follow), that's the way it stays for 2 full choruses, with George looking a little anxious, and from then on we all sync to perfection. No shame attached, we've all been there and had to get it back on the rails. I

Richard Knock

Regarding Tucker Finlayson's bass playing on " Burgundy " I thought he was spot on. His playing was more modern than is usually associated with this number but so what? Nothing is set in stone. It might have surprised Mr. Lewis but he sorted it.

I liked the reference to the zombie audience. Maybe it's the way they used to dress !

Moe Green.

Dear Fred,

I didn't notice Tucker a bar adrift - something I would have expected to pick up straight away if it happened - but I did feel he was far too loud in the mix throughout the programme. Soundmen have tended to up the level of the bass more than they used to as musical fashions have changed, and I guess audiences have come to expect that, but when I first started to listen to jazz in the fifties and early-sixties the bass was an instrument you only really noticed when it stopped playing or the player made a mistake - in other words when it stopped blending in to the overall sound. This wasn't only true of jazz: Jet Harris's bass guitar playing in early Shadows recordings rarely if ever obtruded. I'm surprised to find the string bass being over-amplified on television as early as the mid-sixties - or is it simply that the average sound quality of our domestic apparatus has improved so much that we notice it more?
Allan Wilcox

Message to Richard Knock from Mr Finlayson?   ----  ĒIím playing all the right notes....but not necessarily in the right orderĒ.

Jon Critchley

Richard's response confirms my remarks re 'Perception', which colours everything we hear. Two things: because it was his "own tune", George could have stamped "four in" (ala Bernard Bilk), then the BAND would have played C in the the First bar. Full marks Richard for noticing the IV (F) chord in the second bar, unusual for that period. (that was the second thing).!   Brother Moe introduces perspective; ie Are we Bovvered ? NO -we all b***dy enjoyed it ! More interesting is Alan's remarks about relative (bass) levels. To understand Richard's feelings about "Burgundy" I listened on the same kit to three versions of George playing his tune way back, and Alan is right, its V. hard to hear a 'discrete' bass line, just the "ensemble". I reckon the switch from mono to stereo ,and change of media from the old days has certainly enabled higher bass levels to be recorded., and half deaf B*s like me love to fiddle with the EQ controls anyway !. The daftest thing on modern gear is the "Normalise" function. OK for Musak but imagine trying to "Normalise" the Basie band !, that's what I mean about perception . To keep that one going, nobody notices Freddie Green playing, until he stops, WOW a little guitar along with 13 LOUD horns, how can that be! Har, har Perception me hearties. So I can congratulate Richard and Alan on well functioning lug'oles anyway.

Jon White


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