Tony Kinsey: Jazz at The Flamingo (1957) Decca



Selection: Just Goofin’


Joe Harriott (as) Pete Blannin  (b) Tony Kinsey (d)  Bill Le Sage (p,vib) Bob Efford (ts)Recorded London, May 16, 1957


There is a gibbet in the Tower of London reserved for anyone saying this, but there is only very small circle of British jazz musicians who could hold their own among the American elite players, including Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece,  and .. you know, well, I said a small circle – three is quite small, perhaps Don Rendell and Tommy Whittle at a push. Not to say there were not many good British artists but personal nostalgia is not a good enough reason to elevate artists to that coveted first division. (It took the Brit pop invasion – Beatles to Bowie, and some, to scale the heights) .

One thing British jazz does succeed at, and that is, in being extraordinarily expensive vintage vinyl. Don Rendell, Ian Carr and Joe Harriott command eye-watering prices that make some Blue Note 1500 series warhorse records series look positively cheap, especially once you have converted the GB pounds into US dollars.

Britjazz3 new

Fine as these records are, it is impossible to equate these sorts of prices with musical quality. (LJC, there is a man in a beefeater outfit at the front door. He’s asking after you) Columbia EMI pressings are quite good, and as British recordings, sourced from the original tape and not a copy, but nothing out of the ordinary. It has to be the incurable nostalgia some carry for their youthful rites of passage,  in combination with scarcity, that drives the sky-high prices of vintage British Jazz records.

Enter the world of The Flamingo…

flaming3[1]The Flamingo must be a light that burns bright in the memories of some British Jazz enthusiasts. (And possibly also a few n’ere-do-wells with a middle nickname and a few years unexplained absence in their employment history). The club opened in 1952 to provide a luxury centre for high quality jazz in comfortable surroundings; with gentlemen visitors expected to wear a tie (and I expect some other clothes too). Tony Kinsey was resident leader for several years, with various small groups and many star names, including Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, Bill Le Sage and Tommy Pollard, some of the musicians featured on this recording.

By the early Sixties, more in keeping with a new Soho address, the Flamingo gradually changed into “an intimidating place where gangsters, pimps and prostitutes hung out, and fighting among customers was not unusual” (says Wiki) It was  a fight at The Flamingo that eventually uncovered what was to become known as the Profumo Affair and ultimately, the downfall of the Government of the day.

rhythm-and-blues-at-the-flamingo[1]By 1963 The Flamingo was a centre of mod sub-culture, where fans and musicians of both jazz and R&B music would congregate to compare haircuts. By the mid-Sixties The Flamingo became the venue for a who’s who of British R&B, but closed its doors finally in 1967. In the mid-Sixties I would have been spotted a little further down Wardour Street at number 90, queuing to get into The Marquee club.

As a result of having the wrong sort of upbringing and the wrong sort of haircut, I had never been to the Flamingo and never owned a Joe Harriott record. I would not have, until I came across this Tony Kinsey Flamingo session at a reasonable price, as it is not in top-notch condition, but then neither am I. There’s a touch of hypocrisy insisting a sixty year old (record) is in perfect condition. Few of us would pass that test ourselves. A little bit of British Jazz history. On reading some of the comments on those blogs about the Flamingo, you can see where those record prices come from.

Vinyl:  Decca LK 4207 on Decca’s own label, mono

The cover photo of the session at the Flamingo is a good example of the Holiday Snap School of Photography. The album “leader” Tony Kinsey is tucked away where you can hardly see him, but at least he is following house rules by wearing a tie (though I’m not sure everyone else is).  Harriott is marking time waiting for his turn to solo, and you do get a good look at the interesting wall panelling of the Flamingo club, sure to be of interest to interior decorator jazz fans. To be charitable, a  British understatement.

Dusty grooves, and a few grubby pawprints, I must have shot the vinyl before rather than after washing. The Decca matrix gives us a new engineer’s initial – “A” – one Guy Fletcher, not known to me and not the usual jazz duty engineer “B” Ron Mason. The label is Decca itself rather than one of the jazz sub-labels Decca used to release American recordings under license (London Records), and the audio hype declares it to be a “Full Frequency Range Recording” – a statement of the obvious, as if you might otherwise prefer a partial frequency range recording. Good British engineering principle – baffle them with science.




Collectors Corner

Back up to West London again, this time with the reluctant Mrs LJC in tow. She amused herself looking through the rock and pop LPs, pausing to exclaim “I used to have this one!” every few minutes, while I got on with the serious business of digging the jazz shelf. Coming up to the counter with some nice Dolphy  Enja’s, the Kinsey/Harriott had just come in, and after a little research confirmed a reasonable price expectation,  added to the small treasure pile to go home with. Nothing spectacular, but such is the record collectors lot. Some times something remarkable turns up, most times there are a few things of moderate interest, and some days there is absolutely nothing at all, and you go home empty handed. That’s as good as it gets, collecting for normals.


9 thoughts on “Tony Kinsey: Jazz at The Flamingo (1957) Decca

  1. Just picked this up from a charity shop basement without a sleeve, but will be putting your excellent photos to good use in replicating an outer. Like yours, several marks, but at £1, eminently listenable, Harriot has a nice personal style.
    The other album of a similar hue from that trip is a Cadillac label Love you Gladly with Don Rendell on it. As a big Ellington fan, I have no problem if this is that bit less modern, although I generally dislike swing by anyone other than him.

    • Your very good fortune, I have never found anything in charity shops near me other than Cliff Richard, Julio Iglesias, and ’80s big-hair New Romantics. Everyone’s far too fly to have anything of value. Enjoy your finds.

      I’ve updated the pictures in this post to my modern standard – those grey backgrounds were an early mistake. You learn as you go.

  2. I used to play at the “Black & White” (ex ‘Army and Navy’ ) club down an alley-way and up a flight of stairs just past the FLAMINGO. Joe Harriott was a big name in London at the time (I think Janet Street-porter was his girlfriend) and was a favourite at The Flamingo, Manor House clubs etc, along with Tubbs et all. Tony Kinsey, Phil Seaman, Ronnie Ross & Bill Le Sage were all real world class musicians but suffered from being based in England with, perhaps, a little bit of European touring to spread the word…….. Tubbs did get to the USA and recorded with Clark Terry for Columbia.

    • Kudos, being on the scene at the time Bill.

      British Jazz may not have had the acknowledgement it deserved across the pond, but the premium on the vinyl today is sweet revenge. There is a Michael Garrick LP from 1972 – “Home Stretch Blues” just popped up in Reckless in Berwick St, Soho, on the wall today, Ex condition, asking £450. Silly money but I guess they know the market. Certainly not worth it to my mind, but then it’s not nostalgia for me. It’s got to be all those used-car dealers…

  3. I was very curious to hear this record, so thank you for sharing it. I’d definitely want to add this to my collection. I have a compilation album called Jazz At The Flamingo, on which Tony Crombie is also featured. The other artists are Ronnie Ross, The Jazz Couriers, London Jazz Quartet, etc, so a very interesting album to seek out.

  4. While on the subject of British Jazz I have a LP called Have You Heard by The Dick Morrissey Quartet recorded1963 sleeve notes by Ronnie Scott well worth a listen Anyone else come across him Dick Morrissey that is

  5. Nice find. I doubt I’ll chance across this on vinyl but will content myself with my see dee copy in very fine sound from Dutton.

    • I have Tony KinseyQuintet on Decca recorded Nov Dec 1956 Jan 1957 was this his first long player Personnel Don Rendell,Ronnie Ross,Bill Le Sage,Pete Blannin and of course Tony Kinsey

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