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CD Review:  Ken Colyer's All Stars
Studio 51 Club Sessions
(Upbeat URCD 217)
Bert Thompson
CD Review
Bert Thompson

COLYER" (Upbeat URCD 217).  Playing time:  71 mins. 49 secs.
Blue Skies; Sweet Fields; Ain’t Misbehavin’*; Deep Bayou Blues; My
Blue Heaven*; Wolverine Blues; Don’t Go ‘Way Nobody; Everywhere
You Go (Sunshine Follows You)º; Maria Elenaº; Sugar Bluesº; Should
I Reveal?º; Bogalusa Strutº†.

Recorded at Studio 51, London, Jan. 1 and Feb. 12, 1972.

Personnel: Ken Colyer, trumpet, vocal*; Pete Dyer, trombone; Sammy
Rimington, clarinet; Peter Morecombe, tenor banjo; Alan “Jinx” Jones,
string bass; Colin Bowden, drums.  ºRay Smith, piano, replaces
Morecombe, tenor banjo.  †Barry Palser replaces Dyer, trombone;
Rimington plays alto.

When the traditional jazz revival began in the U.K back in the late1940’
s, one of its leading lights was trumpet player Ken Colyer.  Along with
other youthful enthusiasts—one of whom was Monty Sunshine,
another the late John R. T. Davies (who went on to become a world-
renowned remastering engineer of classic jazz records)—he formed the
Crane River Jazz Band, which took its inspiration from King Oliver’s
Creole Jazz Band.  Wanting more knowledge of the New Orleans style
of jazz, he decided to go to the source, New Orleans itself, and, having
been in the Merchant Marine (Merchant Navy in the U.K.) after
leaving school, he rejoined and managed to get on a cargo ship
operating out of Mobile, Alabama. Once there, he jumped ship and
headed for New Orleans.  There he played with many of the pioneers
who were still alive at the time, including George Lewis, who wanted
Colyer to join him in traveling to play some concerts.  When Colyer’s
visa expired before he requested an extension, he was deported back to
the U.K.  There he was hailed by the jazz community as a kind of hero,
a jazz band having been formed by Chris Barber waiting for him to
join it.  This he did, but after a year or so, he was dissatisfied with the
style they were developing and went on to form his own band, known
as the Ken Colyer Jazzmen, with musicians he felt were more

In the 1960’s Colyer’s health began to fail, and on the advice of his
doctor, given his deteriorating health following surgery and radiation
therapy in the early 1960’s, he disbanded his Jazzmen in 1971 in order
to be free of all of the stress that goes with band leading.  However, he
did not stop playing; rather than leading his own group, he “guested”
with various groups, organized under another leader or ad hoc, many
of the latter frequently being titled his All Stars.  Such a group is what
we find on this CD, several of the musicians actually having been
members of former Jazzmen groups.  And, as always, when Colyer
played with some organized band or appeared with an ad hoc group,
invariably he became de facto the musical director, and most of these
bands proceeded to have a “Colyer” sound, as is the case here.

These sessions were recorded at Studio 51, which was located in the
West End of London, in the first two months of 1972.  That venue had
been “home” to the Colyer band for a decade and a half or so until the
Ken Colyer Jazzmen disbanded in 1971.  Thus for some of the
musicians this was a kind of “reunion” at an old stomping ground,
several having played in various editions of the Ken Colyer Jazzmen,
including Rimington, Smith, Bowden, and, of course, Colyer himself.

Over the last several years there has been a steady spate of Colyer
recordings released, some of varying sound quality, but there is no
such problem here.  Also, as one might expect given the musicians and
Colyer’s musical direction, the music on offer is of a high standard,
Colyer’s playing not greatly affected by his state of health at the time.  
Ensemble playing, as was always true of Colyer groups, is given the
spotlight here.   

Some of the titles, such as Sweet Fields and Bogalusa Strut, can be
found on a number of Colyer recordings, but no two renditions are
alike.  Superior musicians do not have to repeat themselves, do not
have to memorize licks that they fall back on each time a particular
tune is called.  And as lagniappe, there is Ain’t Misbehavin’ which has
not, to my knowledge, appeared on any previous Colyer release.  

There are a few awkward moments here and there, such as the touch of
tentativeness in the opening to Blue Skies and in the intro to Deep
Bayou Blues with its breaks, everyone not appearing to be together,
but it soon settles down once everyone has his teeth firmly into it.  
(This latter tune is one which is not often heard; the only other Colyer
recording of it I am aware of is on the Black Lion recording some seven
years later of the Colyer band at the North Sea Festival in Holland on
July 14, 1979.)  But this is a live recording, and one must expect a few
blips here and there.

I was particularly struck by the easy-going, laid-back tempo and
feeling of Everywhere You Go (Sunshine Follows You) with its
sensitive drumming backing from Bowden, not to forget the support
given to soloists by the rest of the front line.  On a 1967 recording of
the Jazzmen in concert in Germany (Summer CD 9216), Colyer kicked
it off at a much brighter tempo than that on this rendition, which I
believe is better.  Also on that Summer CD is the only other recorded
version I know of the Jazzmen playing Maria Elena, where it began
somewhat restrained in tempo but, by the end, was racing full speed
ahead.  Here, however, it begins and ends at a moderate tempo with
sympathetic backing from the rhythm section.

So I would give this CD a “thumbs up.”  It can probably be purchased
in the U.S. at Jazzbymail, which stocks Upbeat releases, at www.
jazzbymail.com, or at the Upbeat website, www.upbeat.co.uk, which
provides for ordering by mail if one clicks on New Releases.
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for Jazz Advancement and Socialization