The Smoky City Jazz Band c1976

 

 
A Hundred Years From Today


Jackass Blues


Wrought Iron Rag

31/10/10 -

I have scanned some stuff which relates to 1976. That year I was back in Stockport staying with my father on leave from teaching in South Australia. I was lucky enough to rejoin the Smokies in either February or early March. So three of the photos are of the Smokies at The Band on the Wall

The line-up was:

Sheila Collier :leader and vocals
Bill Smith :tpt
John Hallam :reeds
Terry Brunt :tbn
Bob Jones :drums
Roger Godfrey :piano
Brian Morrison (I think that was his surname): string and electric bass
Myself (Tony West) :banjo/guitar

During the year I visited Ken Doran (Chicago Teds) and he kindly gave me a couple of photographs of the Sheaf River Jazzmen in which we played in 1959-60. We represented Sheffield in "Top Town" and as a reward we were invited to a civic reception by the mayor of Sheffield, which is shown in the fourth photo. The other scans are a couple of flyers involving the Smokies.

Tony West



 


31/10/20 -

Here is a photo of our first LP cover taken at The Band on The Wall in Manchester with sleeve notes by George Melly and review by Ray Colman of the Melody Maker . I thought it would stir a few memories ! We played The Band on the Wall in the 1970s every Wednesday from 9pm till midnight   - Sheila Collier

Reproduced in full from "Melody Maker", August 19th, 1978. Reviewer Ray Coleman

WONDERFUL! There's nothing quite so reassuring as a jazz band of today that recreates with loving care the originals of yester­year, showing a proper regard for history with­out resorting to sheer imitation.

The Smoky City Jazzband possess that X-factor that stands them apart from the rest, and this robust little album is a joy, delivering the spirit of jazz in its truest form.

If there is a spirit alive who doesn't bend to the beauty of "A Hundred Years From Today', I don't wish to meet him, and Sheila Collier's vocal on this, sung against a winding trombone solo, possesses every nuance necessary to con­vince the listener that she understands the subtlety of the lyric, the accuracy of the sentiment.

The Jack Teagarden version will always be unbeatable, but Sheila has a canny way of making it live again, and her audience will undoubtedly warm to her intuitive reading of the message.

This is a Manchester band, and it sounds like it. No frills. no posing, no messing about with fancy tunes - the band gets well and truly stuck into the heart of a neat blend of Chicago (New Orleans/Dixieland to present a balanced view of the best of traditional repertoires, with "Jelly Bean Blues" presenting the vocal of Sheila against a superb trombone background and trumpet attack, while "Was I Drunk" really swings in that indefinable way that Northern pub bands can.

"Black And Tan Fantasy" - a well-worn classic - receives a refreshing new twist here, with inspired solo by Terry Brunt's trombone. Pure magic!

And "Wrought Iron Rag" can stand forever as a testimony to this band's aggressive drive. Full of stab and swing, the track is a steaming tribute to the best of New Orleans jazz.

Sheila sings with warmth and understanding, the alto sax work of John Hallam blends perfectly, and all adds to a splendidly hot band that must be one of the best working the Northern scene.

It's a revealing, reassuring album that should attract all lovers of jazz's roots. - R. C.


 Manchester could have been built for jazz; a joyful noise bursting out of the warm boozers into the raw wet streets. It has a long tradition too. In the fifties jazz was stomping out everywhere and even during the sixties. when most musicians sadly put away their horns, the Mancunian jazzers, with that admirable obstinacy and unshakable belief in themselves which is a general characteristic of the city, kept going until the crowds came back.

Sheila Collier's Smoky City Jazzband was one of the first to offer me a guest spot out of London when the tide was turning, and until 1 went back fulltime with John Chilton, I found myself often in their company and always with delight.

This LP brings back those wild nights and, although studio recorded, has the lively feel of a smoky room rocking to the righteous sound of the band and listening with affectionate enthusiasm to its leader's eloquent vocals The selection is typical of the breadth of material and wide variation of instrumental voicing which makes an evening with "The Smoky Cities" so much more of a subtle pleasure than finding oneself listening to a band stuck with a trad line-up and a predictable repertoire to boot. Not that Sheila's boys can't belt out a stomp or wail a blues of course, but they are equally at ease with a slow 30's ballad, a subtle Ellington composition or a down-home clap-your-hands gospel shout.

On this record for example the slim blonde Sheila sounds just as at home in the shoes of the short gold-toothed Ma Rainey as she does smoothly creaming out the wry sentiments of the Jack Teagarden ballad "A Hundred Years from Today" She can put the wink in her voice on Georgia White's saucy vaudeville song "Was I Drunk? Was he handsome and the joyful sob necessary to move her audience into clapping (usually alas on the onbeat. the jazz man's burden) their hopes of pie in the sky on "Can't Trust Nobody". Yet through everything she does there is no feeling of straight imitation. Her voice is its own instrument. She reinterprets, although always displaying a profound knowledge and love of the originals.

The members of her band are very different each from the other and yet musically they think and play as one.

Bill Smith on trumpet is an extrovert with the jazzman's almost traditional eye for them hot babies. He however seems positively shy and retiring in comparison with trombonist Terry Brunt with his passion for steam engines and hot-air balloons and his wild stream-of-consciousness humour. John Hallam is a quiet man who can be a relief after a bout with Bill and Terry! He talks through his music, playing with equal authority, clarinet, alto sax, soprano and flute. Roy Tweedie on banjo /guitar, Brian Morrison on bass, and Bob Jones on drums lay down that rarest of sounds in British Jazz, a steady beat which at the same time swings. Roger Godfrey is not only a sensitive piano-player but a sharp wit at the microphone and, although not of course simultaneously, a fine abstract painter.

The band numbers on this record are thought through in their own terms, "Jackass Blues" for example has Terry on euphonium which takes us all back a bit but works perfectly, while "Black and Tan Fantasy" manages, with alto, muted trombone and piano, to invoke the impressionist tone colours of the great Duke. What's more, behind Sheila, they display tact and feeling, not a universal gift among jazz musicians, and then step forward to take their own solos with fine technique and spirit.

The LP is a joy, and not only for those who want to recall &great evening in a Mancunian boozer, but for all lovers of real jazz anytime, anywhere.

GEORGE MELLY

Side 1
1. Georgia Swing
2. Ce M'sieu qui parle
3. You took advantage of me
4. Taint what you do
5. Mood Indigo
6. Jackass Blues
7. Comin` Home Baby
Side 2
1. Jelly Bean Blues
2. Was I drunk, was he handsome, and did Mama give me Hell
3. Black and Tan Fantasy
4. Ostrich Walk
5. Wrought Iron Rag
6. A Hundred Years from today
7. Can't trust nobody

Produced by Ian Pettman Engineered by Ian Pettman Designer Simon Foster
Photographer Jim Grimshaw
We thank the Royal Northern College of Music for their assistance.
Many thanks to our sponsors Stan Cross and Harry Hallam.
Thanks to John Featherstone for his encouragement
Small Records, 44, Ashstead Road, Brooklands, Sale. 061-9697886.

Roger Godfrey (piano) : Brian Morrison (Bass) : John Hallam (Clarinet, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax and Flute) : Bill Smith (Trumpet and Flugel Horn) : Roy Tweedie (Banjo and Guitar) : Sheila Collier (Vocals) : Bob Jones (Drums) : Terry Brunt Trombone and Euphonium
 

 


Some years later


Photo taken at Grasshoppers RFC, Preston - Fred Burnett
Left to Right - The late Reg Kenworthy, Mike Pembroke, The Late Bob Jones, Bill Smith, Pete Watt and The Late Maurice Gavan.

Smoky City disbanded in January 2004 due to many other commitments

 
Jeeps Blues


Monmartre


Singing The Blues

The Smoky City Jazz Band has been in existence for over twenty five years, passing through various stages of change in style and personnel. They have had much success from Cornwa1l to Carlisle, as well as in Europe where they appeared as the first of the North of England bands in the Jazz Festivals of Holland. Their professional approach ensures their audiences go home happy and contented.

The Members of the band were:

BOB JONES - DRUMS - Bob had a style he had carefully developed over the years, whereby he kept the Band swinging without over-exposing himself. The ideal drummer who can be heard keeping the rhythm together by skilful prompting to the rest of the rhythm section. The "Daddy of the Band" - Bob was the longest serving member of the Smoky.

PETER WATTS - GUITAR - Pete is well known for his blues solos and delicate accompaniments to the various singers who appear with the Band. His quiet demeanour belies the youthful vigour of the mind which conjures up surprising phrases for his nimble fingers. Pete had many years playing with Big Bands and Dance Bands. He can play anything and has the respect of many guitar players.

REG KENWORTHY - DOUBLE BASS - Reg started playing piano at the age of fifteen, mostly in dance bands, but switched to double bass in 1956 when he joined the famous Saints Jazz Band. Over the 20 years with them, they regularly backed several well known visiting American jazz musicians. Reg became a personal friend of Trummy Young and Red Allen. Since the break-up of the Saints he has played with lots of local bands, always much in demand, the Smoky are pleased to have him on board.  (Reg died on 28th Jan 2013)

MIKE PEMBROKE - TROMBONE - Mike has been a colleague of leader Bill since their youth and they were both in the legendary Mike Pembroke Hot Seven J.B. Paths diverted for several years but now they're back together creating the kind of music the public enjoy. His style follows the hot Chicago trombonists of the 20's and 30's.

BILL SMITH - CORNET - Bill is the perfect lead cornet, and organiser for the band. He can play well on solos and plays ballads beautifully. He instills a spirit of joy into the rest of the musicians and forces innovations and superb phrasing. The audience also like his sense of humour on mike. Winner for the 3rd year running of the "Ain't Misbehavin"' Jazz Award, for most popular trumpeter in the North!

MAURICE GAVAN - PIANO/CLARINET - for many years Maurice concentrated on his piano playing. He ran his own Band for several years, playing Trad. Jazz, Mainstream and Dance music. He's been on the jazz circuit for more years than he cares to remember. His piano style ranges from George Shearing to Stride piano. Since joining the Smoky he's returned to his clarinet which he plays with much skill and enthusiasm, greatly influenced by Sandie Brown and Archie Semple.

 

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