THE CRANE RIVER JAZZ BAND WITH KEN COLYER—Reunited
(Upbeat URCD 272). Playing time: 59 mins. 20 secs.
When You and I Were Young Maggie; Lord, Lord, Lord; Down by the
Riverside*; Washington and Lee Swing; Buddy Bolden’s Blues*; The
Sheik of Araby*; When I Leave the World Behind†; When I Move to
the Sky; When I Move to the Sky (reprise).
Recorded at the 100 Club, Oxford Street, London, on Sept. 27, 1972.
Personnel: Ken Colyer, trumpet, vocal*; Sonny Morris, trumpet, vocal†;
John R. T. Davies, trombone; Monty Sunshine, clarinet; Pat Hawes,
piano; Ben Marshall, banjo; Julian Davies, bass; Colin Bowden, drums.
July 14th is an auspicious date, marking as it does (a) for the French,
the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, and (b) for many U.K. jazz fans,
the 1951 National Federation of Jazz Organisations concert at the Royal
Festival Hall in London, a significant event in the British traditional
jazz revival. Among the bands performing that night was the Crane
River Jazz Band, and a memorable 78 r.p.m. record of a snippet of the
concert was issued by Parlophone, one side having I Want a Girl Just
like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad by the Saints Jazz Band of
Manchester, the other I’m Travelling by the Crane River Jazz Band of
Cranford. Along with my fellow jazz-loving high school friends I was
knocked out by the Saints’ side and, in my case, equally by the
Cranes’. That was my introduction to the band, as I was reminded by
the When I Move to the Sky track on this CD, although here we are
given the true title of the tune, not that (I’m Travelling) given on the
After the band broke up and the members joined or formed other
bands, there were several Crane River reunions, some of which were
recorded and issued on LPs and on CDs, such as Live at the 100 Club
1976) on Dine-a-Mite Jazz DJCD-004 and Storming Session (1973 &
1977) on Upbeat URCD159. This CD is the latest of these, a 1972
session recorded by John and Renee Long and previously unissued.
Although the recording is not professional, it is remarkably good, the
only slight problem being that the vocals are off-mike, as are some of
the piano solos, especially when Hawes applies the soft pedal.
The band here is comprised of most of the original Cranes, Colin
Bowden filling in on drums for Ron Bowden (not related), and they are
in top form, playing as if they never had parted before. Colyer and
Morris dovetail just as they did in the past, and Sunshine weaves
wonderful solos as well as obbligatos behind other soloists. Colyer,
too, cannot resist joining in to back Sunshine and Morris when they
solo. While we don’t hear much from the rhythm section since apart
from Hawes they do not solo, we are aware of their presence as the
underpinning of the front line, along with the clearly audible 4/4 of
Bowden’s bass drum and occasional pressed roll. In short, it is typical
Crane River fare, although one must admit that the intervening
decades had resulted in a “polish” to the playing—it no longer had
that rough edge of the young men of the early band, although the
“wildness of spirit” was still there. Judging by the prolonged
applause following the reprise in the last track, what had been
delivered was much relished by the audience.
The play list includes many tunes associated with the Cranes,
especially of course, When I Move to the Sky (I’m Travelling), which
for many will elicit memories of the 1951 concert on the Parlophone
78. While most of the tunes are now “standards,” the New Orleans-
style treatment, led by Colyer’s unmistakable cornet and Sunshine’s
exuberant clarinet, delivers them fresh; and one is hardly cognizant
that, other than the last track, each runs over six minutes. This is the
kind of CD that rewards the listener with new discoveries each time
he or she plays it.
Inevitably there can be no more reunions as almost all of the
musicians on this recording (exceptions, I believe, are Marshall and
Bowden) are no longer with us. However, possibly there are other
private recordings of other concerts that will emerge and become
available to Upbeat—and Liz Biddle can be prevailed upon to release
them. All Crane River Jazz Band aficionados will want to have this
CD, and it could serve as a useful introduction for those unfamiliar
with the band.
More information is available at the Upbeat web site, www.upbeat.co.