Thursday, February 16, 2012

old and always new

Enforced bed rest means I am working my way through several DVDs that I have been meaning to watch for a while. I confess, I think I have a crush on Ryan Gosling. Carey Mulligan and Christina Hendricks in Drive is surely overcasting...

But I've also been listening to some great music.

In the summer of 1979 I was shopping in Manchester & on a pure whim bought myself the sheet music for In The Mood, and thus began my life-long love of Big Band music. I got home and my Mum had a Syd Lawrence LP with his band playing a load of Glenn Miller tunes including that one. The original, 1969 Syd Lawrence LP. I was hooked.

Vocalion have now brought this out on CD - in the version that came out a couple of years later with twice as many tracks on it. Those 1960s Phillips recordings are astounding. The Syd Lawrence Orchestra in its early days was as good as it ever got. It is all Miller stuff, which isn't my favourite Big Band music - except when it is played this well. And this is astounding. Astounding. The love of Syd for this music pours out of every bar, and I am falling in love with it all over again. It's all here - In the Mood, St Louis Blues March, American Patrol, Chattanooga Choo Choo - and each one perfect.

As someone who had the pleasure of hearing Syd, and who still loves to go see the band that bears his name these days, there is a special thrill in hearing again Syd's own trumpet playing of precious memory. Just the odd bar every now & then, and the very occasional solo. Syd was a fantastic trumpet player. He sets this music alight every time he's there. Magic.

I also downloaded another double album - this one by the Ted Heath Band of the 1950s. It features two 'live' concerts recorded at the London Palladium in 1955.

1955. So it's in mono. And you don't care. Decca were the cat's whiskers at recording Big Bands, and the depth & accuracy of this concert performance is so perfect it shames most modern, digital, stereo bells & whistle attempts.

There are 26 tunes - some I didn't know (The Great Lie - fantastic swinging jazz) and some I know very well (Woodchoppers & Flying Home are both pretty much in these arrangements featured on the 1969 studio Swing is King album, one of my very favourite of the genre). All are knock-your-socks-off Big Band gold. The best British band ever playing at the height of its powers. The jazz tenor on I DIdn't Know What Time It Was is stunning. In style, it's very different from Syd's tribute to Miller, as this music comes from a different time and is much jazzier and frankly more to my mature musical tastes than the Miller stuff that first brought me into the Big Band fold; but if you have any inclination towards music of this type these are both fantastic recordings to go for.

Just a note - as far as I can see, the Syd Lawrence one is only available as a CD. And the Amazon price is shocking, but there are other sellers listed who offer a decent alternative under a tenner, both here & in the States. Meanwhile the Ted Heath recording only seems to be a download, but at £4.49 it's a no-brainer. Do it!

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