Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club – The Big 16
Own Label  JNJ003
CD Review by Bert Thompson
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
Bert's Bits

Disc 1                                                        
1. Red Wing
2. Thriller Rag
3. Shake It and Break It
4. Sweet Fields
5. Buddy’s Habit
6. I Never Knew
7. Savoy Blues
8. Save Your Sorrows for Tomorrow
9. Riverside Blues
10. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be
11. Royal Garden Blues
12. Some of These Days
13. East Coast Trot
14. Climax Rag
15. One Sweet Letter from You
16. Yearning

Disc 2                                                        
1. God Leads His Dear Children
2. Time’s A-Wastin’
3. The Eyes of Texas
4. Chattanooga Stomp
5. Texas Moaner
6. Cotton Club Stomp
7. Squatty Roo
8. At a Georgia Camp Meeting
9. East St. Louis Toodle-oo
10. Clementine (from New Orleans)
11. Willie the Weeper
12. Original Dixieland One-Step
13. Get Out of Here
14. Blue Lou
15. Black Bottom Stomp
16. Bright Boy Blues

Recorded at the Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club at Fairmile Inn or Heriot’s Rugby
Club, Edinburgh, Scotland, on various dates between May 31, 2002 and Oct.
21, 2016.

Disc 1: Local Edinburgh bands include Bill Salmond’s Louisiana Ragtime
Band, Maid of Forth Stompers, Spirits of Rhythm, and thirteen others.
Disc 2: Guest bands include the Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band,
Savannah Jazz Band, Brian Carrick’s Algiers Stompers, and thirteen others,
some of which are from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and France.
All bands, their personnel, and recording dates are listed in the liner notes.
In September of 2000, Violet Milne and Norrie Thomson, the author of the
liner notes, founded the Edinburgh Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club to “provide a platform
for the local bands to play,” as the notes inform us, the local venues for jazz
residencies having all ceased to feature traditional jazz.  Hence the title of this
CD, The Big 16, to commemorate the years of the club’s existence. (There
being 16 tracks on each CD, Thomson suggests, is also reminiscent of Muggsy
Spanier’s The Great 16.)  

The first CD features local bands, the second guest bands from outwith
Edinburgh, some coming from England and others from the Continent, while
the liner notes inform us that there have also been bands from Australia and
the U.S.A. although none is represented here.  In each CD, each band is given
only one track, thus the listener gets as wide a variety as possible although a
limited acquaintance with each band.

While most of the groups on the first CD are septets, there are also a couple of
quartets, three sextets, and an octet.  The selections chosen for this disc should
be familiar to most readers; a couple heard less frequently than the others
might be Save Your Sorrows for Tomorrow and Things Ain’t What They Used
to Be.  The first of these is a catchy pop tune from 1925, written by Al
Sherman and B. G. DeSylva, that swings along at a jaunty clip, providing a
nice change of pace.  The instrumentation of this group has the unusual
combination of tenor sax (for trombone) and tuba (for bass) and no piano.  But
it works well, under the able lead of Petrie on cornet, and also provides a little
added interest.  The other number, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be, is also
what I deem of the swing ilk, written by Mercer Ellington, son of Duke
Ellington, in 1942.  I don’t know of any other trad band that includes these in
their book.  Finally, to clear up any confusion about I Never Knew since there
are several tunes that go by this title, this is the one written by Ted Fio Rito
(and not the New Orleans Rhythm Kings’ number I Never Knew What a Girl
Could Do that is more often heard).

Of all the tracks on this CD, I am particularly partial to the first, Red Wing,
which features one of my favourite cornetists, the late Phil Mason (of Max
Collie’s Rhythm Aces and his own All-stars), playing with his usual assurance
and great technique and tone, and leading the ensemble in fine New Orleans
fashion.  Another, Sweet Fields, is taken at a medium tempo that allows it to
swing.  There are other jewels to be found on this disc, such as the nice stop
time chorus on Shake It and Break It, or the slightly unusual instrumentation
of the group on Riverside Blues with the two reed players doubling on alto
and bass saxes and providing a nice unison duet at one point between clarinet
and alto.

As might be expected from such recordings, there are a few, relatively minor,
flaws.  I found the band playing Buddy’s Habit to be a bit pedestrian—this is a
tune that should be played with gusto—and lacking discipline—they tend not
to play together but seem all over the place in spots.  That is unfortunate as
the late Ken Sims always provided a solid lead on cornet in his other
recordings with which I am familiar. Finally, sometimes the sound is
problematic, as on Climax Rag where it tends to a fuzziness that obscures the
back line. “The overall sound quality,” as Norrie Thomson admits in his notes,
“is not hi-fi but is very listenable,” which I find a fair assessment.

The second disc presents bands that are more likely to be recognized since
they tour quite a bit in the U.K. and on the Continent.  These provide several
varieties of jazz.  While most tracks are traditional, mainstream is found in
track 2 (Martin Bennett’s Old Green River Band), modern in track 14 (Gavin
Lee’s Strictly Speakeasy), and swing in track 6 (Red Hot Rhythmaker’s from
Australia) and track 7 (Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra from Glasgow).

Things get off to a good start with the Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band’s
rendition of God Leads His Dear Children, a tune which I first heard back in
the early fifties on a Chris Barber Columbia EP that had four spirituals on it.  
Clem Avery provides a soulful lead on trumpet and sets a nice mournful
tempo, befitting this piece.  Mac Rae’s clarinet work is excellent, especially in
the chalumeau register.  The standard established in track 1 is maintained
through the rest of the disc, highlights for me being the lovely arco bass on
Texas Moaner; the excellent arrangement of Johnny Hodges’ Squatty Roo; the
stately elegance of the ragtime treatment of At a Georgia Camp Meeting; the
nice small band treatment of the Ellington classic East St. Louis Toodle-oo; and
while not a devotee of modern jazz, I did enjoy Blue Lou.  Finally, the seguing
in the last couple of minutes of Bright Boy Blues into Chloe (The Song of the
Swamp) made a fun closer for both the tune and the disc.

Obtaining this CD set will confer four benefits on the buyer: (1) accessing
some good traditional jazz; (2) becoming acquainted with some of the local
jazz bands and musicians in the Edinburgh vicinity on the first disc; (3) hearing
some unissued tracks by several name traditional jazz bands of the U.K. and
Europe on disc 2; (4) lending very much needed support to the Edinburgh
Jazz Club in its mission to keep traditional jazz alive in Scotland as the entire
proceeds of sales of this CD (the bands all having donated their tracks to the
club) are set go to the club’s treasury from which, in turn, the fees of bands
appearing at the weekly club meetings are paid.  

For further information on acquiring this CD set, which may be paid for via
Paypal, contact Norrie Thomson at jnt@blueyonder.co.uk.

Bert Thompson