TRIBUTE TO RANDY COLVILLE (THURSDAY 5TH AUGUST)
100 CLUB, 100 OXFORD ST., LONDON (Joe Silmon-Monerri)
I went to the Tribute to Randy Colville, who died in January 2004, at the 100 Club. KEITH NICHOLS's RAGTIME ORCHESTRA, Randy's own band THE COLVILLE COLLECTION and the COTTON CLUB ORCHESTRA gave a wonderful performance as a final farewell to our mutual friend. Unfortunately, some research at Westminster City Archives, and flooding on the Tube on the Bakerloo line on returning to my brother's house in Kenton, held me up on both journeys, making me late for the start of the Tribute. I eventually got there at about 9 p.m. So I only arrived just as Keith Nichols's "boys", named below, were finishing (but the snippet I heard was great New Orleans/Ragtime material which drew much applause). I only got to photograph Keith Nichols, Johnny "M" from the Midnight Follies [no, not the original 1920s band!] and Keith Greville, after the first set. Next was Randy's old band THE COLVILLE COLLECTION, with my old Manchester ex-patriot friend John Barnes, unenviably yet ably playing Randy's parts - his own unique style (on alto and clarinet) of course shining through. The ensembles were absolutely crisp, spot on and generally fantastic; every musician in that band a master in his field in his own right, itself a very fitting tribute to their departed great leader.
I particularly enjoyed the subtly smooth yet big, fat, mainstream sound of "SHE'S JUST MY SIZE" [Nick Stevenson (on trumpet) announced speculatingly on what that might mean? ... which raised many dirty laughs], and "THAT DA-DA STRAIN", whose announcement brought further speculations tumbling in, was equally punchy in its entirely different style. I never got to hear the COTTON CLUB ORCHESTRA either. I had to leave at 10:30 p. m. to guarantee getting buses - 3 in fact - to Kenton in North-West London by about midnight). I had wanted to photograph the CCO, but there was no more time.
What let both bands I heard down (the whole of the COLLECTION but only the tail-end of Keith's band), was that the sound system presented a good many faults (mainly distortion) with the 'balance'. And it seemed too "toppy" at times. Some distortion occurred usually through front-line soloists' microphones/speakers. Curiously enough, the piano seemed loudest of all, not surprising being a grand. The obviously excellent bassist (whose name I was unable to find out) was barely discernible at some points. The wonderful tenorman (Al Newman) could hardly be heard from certain angles of the room and John Barnes was definitely straining to be heard when playing clarinet - one must remember that Randy loved to play it quietly, which means more power is needed - but of the right kind and under certain conditions only - unmanned sound systems seldom allow for such fine-tuning). There was a section of the crowd that was particularly noisy and had to be told to "SHUT UP" by the Nick Stevenson more than once - when he was trying to give us a eulogy on Randy, would you believe? This spoilt the otherwise good humour and atmosphere, but that chaos was only short-lived. When I was photographing the band from the very front, as the band is right in the middle of one of the two longer walls, the gap for the sound is narrow there, so I could hear that the overall music and balance were a lot clearer at that narrow point. At the other ends of the room, the acoustics did little to enhance, or faithfully represent, the sound made by these - all without exception - obviously skilled and polished musicians, as they had a right to be heard. They might have been heard better and in a much more balanced way without the sound system - which definitely did them no favours, in my humble opinion.
I obtained photos of Alan & June Elsdon, one or two members of the Midnight Follies, who'd added their support to the proceedings, many of the COLVILLE COLLECTION, some of Johnny Barnes and Digby Fairweather, etc. I got neither Iain Colville nor his sister Polly - the brains behind the Tribute. Not knowing what happened after 10:30, I have little else to say, other than - generally - there were as many there as at Randy's funeral - and from as wide-reaching parts of the known Universe. So there was a very respectable sum of £700 to hand over to the Musicians' Benevolent Association's Fund, after the event. The 100 club had waived the fee for the use of the Jazz Cellar. Bar and "pizza" profits being naturally theirs (with pizzas at £8.50) and a pint of bitter around £3, they must have been amply compensated by sales to those in attendance. I didn't eat a pizza but decided I wasn't going to leave without drinking a pint to an unforgettable friend who guzzled so many with or without my (or more appropriately, Joan's) permission. Randy wouldn't have forgiven me. Cheers, Randy!
Joan Colville is a brave lady, who has carried her obvious great loss with equally great dignity; she gave 100% support to every musician individually, and every band, by sitting right at the front. That took courage especially when facing the COLVILLE COLLECTION. Polly and Iain had mustered many of their young friends along. Some of Randy's music students were there too, as at the funeral, some were also friends of Polly's and Iain's. Again, Randy would have been proud to see this turnout. It was a pity not to see a man there who would have staunchly supported this event - Pete Strange. I hope there is some improvement, but he is very poorly. May God help Pete back to a full recovery. Those of you who still know how to, please remember him in your prayers.
All in all, it was a fitting TRIBUTE to Randy. I'm sure I would be echoing the words of Joan, Polly, Iain and Sandra and Joy Colville (Randy's sisters) and their families and Joan's sister, if I were to thank on their behalf all the bands and individual musicians who gave their services free and all those who, like the musicians, travelled from far and wide to lend their much needed support, in order to make this event such a great success, the 100 Club for loaning the hall free of charge and their Staff for being in attendance for the thirsty & the hungry, and Fred Burnett for printing this and letting you all know what went on, unless someone else - somewhere - has written a far better report. Digby Fairweather is just that sort of man; he's a genius with words and knows all the musicians. He is also a REAL photographer; I'm the "push-button instamatic" type and very much out of touch nowadays regarding the national Jazz scene and Digby would cover this +lenses, zooms, panning, focus, angles, resolution, ... who am I by comparison? Meanwhile, as we wait for a better report, everyone's stuck with this.
Best wishes and thanks to everyone for your individual support of an unforgettable Tribute to Randy.
Joe Silmon-Monerri ("Joe Silmon" to the Jazzers out there)
ERRORS & OMISSIONS EXCEPTED (JAAS-M, Manchester, 9th August 2004)
Special thanks must go to the bands and musicians named below - without whose services the success of evening would not have been possible nor so enjoyable for the
RANDY COLVILLE TRIBUTE AT 100 CLUB, 100 OXFORD ST., LONDON. 05/08/2004