Saturday, January 15, 2005: Merseyside Jazz Festival, Liverpool
Wending our way from nearby Warrington to the docks of Liverpool, where the Merseyside Jazz Festival was being staged, proved to be no easy task. Just why one must go for a mile
past the point of a missed turn and subsequently encounter many long blocks of intersections that are marked “No Turns” is an Agatha Christy Mystery. We made it, however.
The Crown Plaza Hotel housed the event and was a three-ring circus of music. In the bar, a quartet backed the cutesy female vocalist; the foyer held a great six-piece jazz band that had no trumpet, but instead utilized the alto saxophone as a lead; and the main room featured alternating hourly sets by the Blue Magnolia Jazz Band and our own 10th Avenue Band. The former played the traditional songs very well in the traditional way. The latter did the same in their own way, which sometimes raised eyebrows. Our second set, for example, had our rendition of ‘Dr. Jazz’ that began with a funky rock beat. To some it was equivalent to Prince Harry donning a Nazi uniform. To others the music was full of surprises and our band was the Full Monte.
As we were the featured band, the large room (300-400 seats) filled to capacity in anticipation. Our M.C. gave us a build-up that approached inviting hubris and casually mentioned that we were the first band from the U.S. to perform in their festival.
The crowd was the concert-type in that it rarely interrupted the music to applaud a solo. It was as if the applause might be deemed as unwelcome, for which the British get to use their favorite word, “Sorry”. They’re always saying that. I wonder if they realize it? Anyway, they’re very considerate as a people. (If I offended anyone with the foregoing, I’m sorry.)
The Blue Magnolias played a very danceable program which appealed to the listeners and the fifty or so dancers as well. One couple “danced” on the floor with the man pushing his smiling partner around in a wheelchair.
Our band performed a more listening-type set with break-neck tempos and virtuoso solos to match. Charlie Clark did his piano features and dazzled the crowd with his playing. He be-dazzled the dancers in the process with several tempo changes during his medleys.
This gig went way too quickly for us as we were just getting the crowd to fever frenzy mode, which usually manifests itself in CD sales and accolades involving the Brits second most favorite word brilliant!”
Sunday, January 16, 2005: Wilbraham Arms, Alsager
In that we played this venue a few months back, the band was primed for a positive experience. The friendly folks of the Alsager (AI-say-ger) Jazz Club lined up (UK: queued) at the door of the Wilbraham Arms and waited until 7 p.m., when the door was opened and they made a mad dash for their favorite seats. It was a little like watching a cross between a one-day sale at Harrods and a Super Bowl highlight film.
The Wilbraham Arms is a suburban pub (Pubsub? Puburbon?) just down the hill from beautiful downtown Alsager, where an actual intersection with full stop signalization is in operation. This is a remarkable accomplishment for local folks, as the pressure to build a round-a-bout must have been intensive as most UKers don’t cotton to square things like intersections or people who don’t dig jazz (aka “Squares”).
Precisely at 8:30 p.m. the band began its first set with the Wilbraham Arms filled to the armpits. If even remotely possible, the audience would sit in with the band. Since that is not a possibility, the front row is relegated to a peripheral location of several inches from the the front line players. Trumpeter John Crews felt guilty playing loud sometimes as the people were so close. He got over it as he began to see the smiles on the faces before him as he played. And play he did. John is a consummate trumpet player (meaning he loses in poker), a hard worker, and a nice guy to boot. We have been through a list of good trumpet players over the past few years and it seems that John is comfortable with the band and is going to be a solid 10th Avenue Band member.
As the gig progressed, it began to be apparent to me as well as others in the the band, that EZ Ed was in great voice. I felt his vocal renditions were the most appreciated aspect
of our performance. Certainly, our solo features were well received, but somehow, ol’ EZ stole the show at Alsager.
Playing past the allotted time is usually not an option, but with a crowd like this EZ couldn’t let em go until 11:15 p.m. As we are returning to play here again in October, Ed invited the crowd to attend. You can be sure that they will be at the door at 6:59 p.m. all queued up and ready to charge.
10th Avenue Band
Spring/Summer 2003 Tours
Over the Pond
Once again it's time to take a glimpse of life in the U.K. as seen through the eyes of a jive saxophone player. You see, it's not the everyday person that is privy to the idiosyncrasies of English life. Indeed, the "lucky" ones escape the wrong-side driving, high cholesterol food, and high prices by never venturing "over the pond". It's too bad for them. They would miss out on a great vacation experience and some wonderful people to meet.
While driving on a main freeway between cities (and countries) you will ride on a dual carriageway (four lanes separated by a median) and it will have an "M" and a number,
(ex. M4). The "M" stands for motorway and the number is a .. well, number. When you arrive toward a city there is often a "ring road", or in the case of London, more than one. These roads allow motorists to avoid driving through a downtown area to get to their destinations on the other side of the city. Ring roads are quite beneficial as they alleviate traffic congestion significantly. Large blue and white road signs warn you of up-coming off ramps and towns as well as roundabouts.
Roundabouts are intersections of any number of roads. a graphic picture of the roundabout precedes the intersection allowing drivers to visualize their path before arriving at the roundabout. To drive safely through a roundabout, stay to the outside of the lanes if you wish to take a quick left turn; stay to the middle until you get past the first road, then signal for a left turn to move over a lane so that you can now go straight ahead on the road you were on when you entered the roundabout. To do a "u-turn", go all the way (o.k. 180 degrees) around by staying to
the inside lane and moving out a lane as you pass each road in the roundabout until you come to the last one. If you miss it, don't worry. You can go around and around (by staying to the inside lane) until you find your exit path. Occasionally, drivers can't locate their chosen exit paths quickly enough, so they circle around.
Speed cameras are abundant. In Australia we were told, that you might receive a ticket citation in the mail for speeding. Most people simply pay up. Those who which to question the ticket can get a picture of themselves at the wheel and their speed
indication for additional ten dollars. It might work like that in the U.K.
"Motos" are rest stops for motorists. They are often a half hour apart on the motorways. Drivers are cautioned to rest every two hours. Motos have petrol services, food lodging, shopping and rest areas. We need these in the U.S.A.
In town, drivers get a taste of signage that is noteworthy only because it is different jargon from our lexicon. You'll encounter such directions as "Kill Your Speed", and "Give Way" (yield). Signs at roundabouts can direct you toward a destination and then desert you by not appearing farther on. To make matters worse, when trying to locate an address, street names are hard to find. In Wales, they were not marked, as a rule. Speaking of Wales, their language has way too many consonants. And when someone gives you directions to a road, you have virtually no way of identifying it from the spelling as it won't sound like it looks.
In Wales, pubs are named in a forthright, downright, upright kind of way. You might encounter "Prince of Wales Inn", or "Mason's Arms", the "Miner's Arms", or something. But in England the signs are fun and frankly, entertaining. We saw pubs named "The Threstle's Nest", "Robin Hood", Boot and Shoe", Pig and Whistle", "Elephant and Castle", "Paddies Goose", "Racquet and Hand", "Green Man and French Horn". Good stuff. Some other signs were clearly for fun as well. In Liverpool there was the "Liver Launderett" and in Birmingham a cab touted "Flexible Goldfish Loans" on its sides.
If you can't find enough cash to get over the pond to visit the castles, towns, museums, etc. of the U.K., do like they tell you to do in Merry Old England...." Whack it with plastic."
10th Avenue Band
Summer 2003 Tour
Touring the United Kingdom
-by Bob Storms
Hello again from the U.K.
As we drive along the roads things that are unfamiliar are
generally accepted to be the quirky ways of the Brits (or Scots, or Welsh,
depending on your location).
Let’s start with the first thing that’s noticed as we
drive. All the traffic is coming at us in our lane! “Get the hell over on the
left!” we all shout in the car, as the traffic in the U.K. runs opposite from
the U.S., that is, they drive on the left, not the right side of the road.
In the land of tea and crumpets, we learn quickly to
negotiate roundabouts (the no-stop answer to intersections of two or more
roads). We follow road signs such as: “Soft Verge”, which when translated
into U.S. English, means soft shoulder; “Humped Zebra Crossing”, which means
that there are some pretty darn weird zebras around the area. Actually, it refers
to speed bumps in an area marked with zigzag lines on the edge of the road
approaching a stop sign. This is meant to clue us into slowing down before
stopping. Of course, all zebras understand this marking, its just we humans that
need a sign to warn us.
Another example of British signage is the more obvious ones
such as “elderly people”, and “blind people”, which are common to towns
and villages. The hard part is getting the old codgers and those blind guys to
read the !#!?# signs.
Then there is the mystery sign. This one is a simple red
“X” in a circle on a field of blue background. Because it is quite
ubiquitous, yet not found anywhere in a map book, we must ask a “local” for
clarification. (When we do, not one person actually knows what it is, but all
make stabs at it.) Turns out the sign simply means “no stopping.”
In earlier articles that I have written about travelling in
the U.K., I mentioned some of the interesting, often fascination names of pubs.
For me, seeing a pub is a bit like seeing clever bumper stickers in the U.S. (By
the way, I don’t recall seeing any bumper stickers in the U.K.)
The pubs are often the classiest places in town. Or at least
they appear to be from the outside. A standard approach to styling is hanging
baskets of flowers (one to ten baskets) on the outside building, shinny brass
lamps amid the flowers illuminating the pub’s name, large shinny wood panels
across the front, Tudor styling (with shiny black painted beams), and a sagging
roofline. The latter is because the pub is so old.
But the pub name is often the hook for a traveller passing
down the road looking to wet his or her whistle. So let’s look at the list of
pub names I garnered from this year’s tours.
I’ll start with the “Arms” group, which includes the
“Kings Arms”, “Farmers Arms”, “Throck Morton Arms”, “Mechanics
Arms”, “Carpenters Arms”, “Masons Arms”, “Foresters Arms”,
“Gunmakers Arms”, “Oddfellows Arms”, and the “Artillery Arms”.
Next, is the animal group. There are the “Pig and
Fiddle”, “Snootly Fox Inn”, “Bird in Hand”, “The 3 Magpies”,
Swan”, “The Fox”, “Dun Cow”, “Boat and Horses"," Red Lion”,
“Bull and Bladder”, and the “Bull and Mouth”. “Mutton Manor” should
be included here too, I think.
The next group is the “Whatever Grabs You” group, which
includes “The Merlin”, “The Three Horseshoes”, “Jolly Sailor”,
“The Boot”, “The Thatch”, “Old Thatch”, “The Hobgoblin” (with
“Witches Brew” on tap!), “The Fire Engine”, and “Flanker and
Finally, the royal group brings up the rear. I saw pubs with
simply the names of famous old Englishmen (i.e. Lord Nelson), but most often it
was pubs using the word “crown” in their names. There were “The Old
Crown”, “The Crown”, “Royal Crown”, “Kings Crown”, “Queens
Crown”, “Golden Crown”, etc.
It might be noted that nearly all of the pubs mentioned in
this article were found in England. The pubs in Scotland and Wales pretty much
stick to the famous names and the royalty type (ex. “Duke of Edinburgh”).
While travelling can be tedious sometimes, the little things,
like catchy pub names, put some fun into our trips. I hope you have enjoyed this
year’s collection. I’ll try to grab some more next year when we again tour
the United Kingdom.
West Venues played by the 10th Avenue Jazz Band
Friday, March 28, 2003:
Sale Conservative Club, Sale, Cheshire, England
The first gig on our Spring 2003 U.K. tour was a treat in every respect. Our band was greeted and treated royally, the audience at the
Sale Conservative Club was delighted with the 10th Avenue Band and its music, the sound was engineered perfectly for the room
(we were told) by soundman, Bob "BZ" Zimbrick, and the management bought a round of beer for the band. Imagine their surprise
when only two of the seven ordered beer. The rest drank diet pop or water. Anyway, this was a great starting point for the tour.
But let's digress, back up or go full astern for a moment and take it from the top. The band arrived Thursday, March 27th, and was properly housed in the Holiday Inn at the Heathrow Airport by 1 p.m. By 1:30 p.m. the band equipment truck was broken into and robbed of a rented sound mixing board, spare tire and a jack, and left with a broken a side window. The thieves actually drove past BZ Bob from the rear of the hotel as he was wheeling more equipment toward the truck from the hotel. He noticed the car but paid no attention to it. The hotel cameras, on the other hand, got clear pictures of the men and their vehicle along with the license number. When it was reported, the police wouldn't even respond as the theft was too minimal in value. The matter was turned over to the hotel and the insurance company.
The next morning found BZ and Charlie Clark, our pianist/business manager, getting new equipment and a new truck. Then we all left for the Innkeeper's Lodge in south Liverpool where we spent the next four nights.
Because we lost a couple of hours getting equipment and a truck, we had to go to the gig without dinner. It was a lean, hungry, music machine that that cranked up at 8:30 p.m. at the Sale Conservative Club.
The joint was packed by eight and we were ready to play, but had to wait until 8:30 to begin. Our host and M.C. for the evening was clearly delighted to see us. He had strung letter-sized U.S. flags around the bandstand for decoration and later told me how proud he was of the British and U.S. Armies. As I mentioned earlier, he sprang for a round of beer for the band but found few drinkers among us.
The instrumental solo highlights for the evening were: Charlie Clark on his piano medley feature; Joey Carano (guitar) playing "Beale Street Blues"; Dwight Stone (bass) on "Radio"; Bruce Harper (drums) playing "In a Persian Market"; Ed Zimbrick (leader! trombone) singing "What a Wonderful World"; and me, Bob Storms, (clarinet/alto sax/soprano sax) contributing one impossibly long note on clarinet during "Beale Street Blues". (It was the best I could do for jazz.)
Back from intermission we experienced a lack of electrical power during the performance
of "Doctor Jazz" and Charlie's solo on the electric piano was noticeably absent along with the sound system amplification of the guitar and bass. As usual, our crack sound guy, BZ Bob, quickly changed clothes in a phone booth and flew into action as SOUNDMAN (Tracer of Lost Shorts). Faster than you can say, "Hey Bro, you're standing on the power cord", he found the problem. Ed (his brother) was standing on the power cord and had bumped the junction box into submission (or possibly with a way-to-high note on the trombone.)
Once under way again with a fresh start, we laid down some fine music that was downright irresistible for dances. Seeing as there was absolutely no room for dancing, dancers eventually found space in the vestibule and dance on the carpet. When we had finished and an encore played, we said "goodnight" at 11:15 p.m. The audience was deafening in their applause and cheers. We'll be back next year, I'm told.
Sunday, March 30, 2003: Wilbraham Arms, Alsager, England
This venue was one we played last year. As we loaded in the band equipment there was a "sandwich board" sign standing out front indicating a "sold out" performance. Indeed it was, as the audience began arriving at 6 p.m. for our 8 p.m. performance. The prime seats were worth the wait, I was told by several people.
The band was housed in an area about the size of your average RV living room and those prime seats were right in front of the band about three feet away.
Our opening set went well despite problems with Joey's electric guitar. The best efforts to fix it by Joey and BZ Bob were fruitlessless. BZ came up with a "Plan B" and routed Joey's now un-electric guitar into a microphone with the volume turned up loud enough to hear the quiet strings as he played. Each time Joey had an exposed part to play (1) BZ stood by the volume control of the sound system to raise Joey's level, (2) the rest of the band responded by playing softer, and (3) the audience responded by cutting unneeded talk. (After all, this was a pub! Albeit, a nice one.) Also during the set, the piano feature by Charlie and Joey's solo efforts were outstanding.
During my clarinet feature "After You've Gone" I had everyone in the band and the audience wondering just what I was up to on a comedic section of the music. I departed from the original arrangement and played "Hail Britannia". The audience responded with applause. The band stayed with me and I finished on a high note.
During the break, CD sales were brisk and Roy, the manager of the establishment, told very funny jokes. He is well-known for his comedic efforts and I think his M.C. style is the best of the tour.
We played until the hour of eleven and found the audience only slightly diminished in size. After the last song and the encore our audience still wanted more. We were tempted, but we left the at that point. Besides, we had an hour's drive back to Liverpool waiting for us. We've been invited back to play next year. I, for one, am looking forward to it. It's a great gig.
Monday, March 31, 2003: Heath Hall Conservative Club, Allerton, South Liverpool with Merseysippi Jazz Band
Every ball we play is different and presents both acoustic and logistical problem for us to solve. This hall was set up for music and dancing. The dance (aerobic) class dismissed just before our gig. Our presentation was a shared concert-like affair with the Merseysippi Jazz Band from Liverpool. Their claims to fame include being together for over 50 years (54) and having once served as the opening act for the Beatles. Their clarinet player, Don, who is not an original member (he has only been with the band 49 years!) told me that the band shared the stage with Louis Armstrong's Band in Liverpool and Don had Louis' clarinet player, Edmund Hall, stay with him for a night. Don, who is an elderly gentleman, plays like a whiz on the clarinet, by the way.
Our first set was played as a couple of guys from the local band repaired a string bass that had slipped its bridge and sound post. They got it fixed in time to play their portion of the program. And play they did. What a great band. Even their substitute trombone man (regular guy had recent surgery) was very good at his craft and played with good style.
In our band we were delighted to hear the great sound of Joey Carano's guitar as he played. Last night it was toast. Charlie teamed up with the local band's piano player to play a rendition of "China Boy" that had everyone's toes tapping.
We did our thing and had a great time with the Merseysippi guys in this not-so-Conservative Club. It was fun for all as we played "Tiger Rag" and "Sweethearts On Parade" together. But unlike Louis Armstrong's band, we're not staying overnight.
(trumpet), Bruce Harper (Drums)'
Charlie Clark (Piano), Dwight Stone (Bass)
Bob Storms (Clarinet & Saxes),
Ed Zimbrick (Trombone),
Joey Carano (Guitar)
July 27, 2003 : Sunday Night at the Gate : Kirkgate Centre, Cockermouth
Each day brings a new opportunity to share our music with our
U.K. friends in a new environment The challenge of performing in various
venues while tackling acoustical problems, electrical problems, travel problems,
even weather problems, sometimes gets discouraging.
For example, yesterday’s gig in the Grass Market in
Edinburgh exhaust fumes from the diesel generator that powered our sound and
electrical instruments, continually wafted through our performance venue. There
was no escaping it so we just played on and tried not to breathe.
Today, our venue was a delight. It was a concert hall that
seated the capacity crowd of one hundred in cushioned comfort. The stage was
of ample size and the sound system behaved itself for the most part. (Although
B.Z., Bob, had to switch things around when a small monitor speaker blew in the
middle of the concert.) The concert hall was a school house in another life.
The music was fun to play and Ed had the audience in his
pocket before the fifth song. His playing and singing inspired us all to perform
as hard and well as he does. This night was one outstanding song after another,
with the audience favorites being Bruce’s drum solo feature “In a Persian
Market”, Jeff’s solo on “At the Jazz Band Ball”, and of course, Charlie
Clark’s piano features.
July 29, 2003 : The Boathouse, Parkgate, England
After getting lost on the way over from Liverpool (a half
hour’s drive that turned into an expedition of lost civilizations) the band
loaded into the boathouse function room conveniently located up a narrow flight
of steep stairs.
The folks attending the concert came with smiles on
their faces and were ready and in their appointed places by starting time, 8:30
p.m. Ed’s patter on the mike and local microbrews kept the gig on the light
side throughout the evening. The room was packed and elbow room was short.
The brand new replacement monitor speaker blew in the
first set and B.Z set up a back-up arrangement that worked well.
While Charlie’s trip performances were crowd
favorites, the solo work by Bill King was the most appreciated this evening.
Other crowd favorites were: “South Rampart street parade”, “Hooked on
Swing”, Bruce Harper’s drum solo on “Persian Market”, my long-note solo
on “Toll Gate Blues” and local microbrews. (The foregoing list is not
necessarily in the order of preference.)
Some of the comments heard...”Brilliant, simply
brilliant!”; “Absolutely smashing performance”’ “The sound was
glorious”; “What a wonderful band”. The Master of Ceremonies asked the
crowd if they wanted the band to return (a rather risky venture under normal
circumstances) and they responded with cheers and applause.
July 30, 2003 : The Plough Inn, Churchtown, Southport
Our venue was a wonderful old (200 years) pub that left
little room for the fifty or so English and Welsh folks that frequented the
joint. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I’d like to stand at a crowded bar
for 2 1/2 hours to listen to a band. Many of these folks did just that, trying
to clap while holding their beer glasses.
The conditions were not the best. Both the temperature
and smoke registered around 90 degrees in the venue. No one seemed bothered by
the conditions (as usual) and away we went into our first set.
Our audience was the type that showed their
appreciation for soloists, so right from the start, applause followed each
player’s musical rendition of the song being performed.
Our swing tunes “Hooked on Swing” and “One
O’clock Jump” were such favorites that some folks left their seats to
applaud. Not only that but CD sales trebled following those songs. Folks just
made a bee-line for the recordings table, nearly spilling their beer.
Tonight it seemed that Ed’s vocal and instrumental
rendition of “What a Wonderful World”, along with his vocal (and my
instrumental) rendition of “After You’ve Gone” gleaned the most
appreciative applause of the evening. Ed also wrote both of those outstanding
arrangements for the band.
Our “string section” with Joey Carano on guitar and
Jeff Davis on bass, had the audience in its grip on several songs. Joey had
ample solo opportunity and Jeff only one or two solos for the evening, but the
listeners appreciated Jeff’s fine playing as well as Joey’s.
We’re getting used to the glowing comments following
the gigs now. Just like in the states when a set ends, people often say “you
guys are great!” Over here, its “Absolutely brilliant!”
August 8, 2003 : The Forty-Five Club, Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
Another hot day and another non-air-conditioned venue. The
prospects were grim as we loaded into the tiny venue and the realization of
space limitations grew ominous. The band took up nearly half of the room and we
were setting up a sound system that would serve a large room. Estimates of
seating capacity by band members ranged from 20 to 30, and that included the
folks in the doorway and those lined up (queued) in the hallway. Leaving the
bandstand on the breaks meant finding a way out. BZ spent the past three nights
peeking in the windows because there was no place to sit or stand inside the
It might be noted that a few of the places we played recently
were new to us and the band was new to the local people as well. Because we saw
so much enthusiasm on the parts of the managers and patrons, following our gigs
it is easy to see why 10th Avenue has such a great reputation overseas. Our band
simply plays exciting, swinging jazz and often blows away the audience with
its skills. That was the case tonight. The manager told the audience that,
“Whoever booked this marvelous band should be awarded a medal!” Everyone
clapped and cheered. Of course, it was he who had indeed booked our band and the
crowd knew it.