With Hogmanay fast approaching, it’s Brit-night at LJC.
Up first a timely introduction to one of Scotland’s finest jazz exports, Jimmy Deuchar, in the company of some of Britain’s finest jazz musicians five decades ago. Following which you will be introduced to another British musical export, Victor Feldman, with a second Contemporary US release of British jazz of the ’50s. Along the way you may pick up some pub-etiquette that will help you blend in with the locals if ever you visit a British pub.
1. Jimmy Deuchar: ‘Pub Crawling’ (1955) Contemporary
Selection: Bass House (Deuchar)
On Bass House: Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet) Derek Humble (alto and baritone) Tubby Hayes (tenor) Ken Wray (trombone) Victor Feldman (piano) Lennie Bush (bass) Phil Seaman (drums) Recorded in London, April 26, 1955, engineer Arthur Lilley for Decca.
The cream of the British jazz scene musicians of the mid ’50s, a very small group kept afloat largely by Decca Records, a handful of London live jazz venues, and session work for the film and television soundtrack industry.
Deuchar was our most accomplished trumpet player, alongside perhaps West-Indian born Dizzy Reece. Somewhere in the brass line up is our star of the tenor saxophone, Tubby Hayes, though he seems somewhat absent among the soloists, which position often goes here to Derek Humble, who moves between alto and baritone. On piano, the only successful US-move among this crowd, Victor Feldman, who emigrated to the US soon after these recordings.
Deuchar’s trumpet has a bright burnished tone and an inventive turn of phrase. He keeps you guessing where he’s going next, how he is going to resolve the figure he is currently in, alternating the pace between triplets and longer tones and unexpected turns, everything you want of improvisation within a melodic structure. I hear a combination of Kenny Dorham and Clifford Brown, in a thick Glaswegian accent.
In the later ’60s Deuchar went to Europe as one of the leading voices in the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland jazz “collective” playing alongside fellow Brits Derek Humble and Ronnie Scott. After Europe he returned home to work in the jazz orchestra industry supported almost solely by the national radio and TV broadcaster, the BBC.
The selection Bass House is not, as you might think, a reference to all-nite clubbing to drum and bass, but a reference to a popular brand of beer: Bass, (pronounced as in “ass” not “ace”) . For the enlightenment of our friends across the water, Contemporary provides this helpful interpretation of the ’50s song titles (though when I showed this list to some modern British beer drinkers, they looked at me blankly. Never heard of them)
To fully appreciate this album it is essential to understand the place of the British pub and British beer in cultural life of the 50’s and 60’s, both in England and even more so, Deuchar’s native Scotland. The pub is where you met old friends and briefly made new ones.
The pub crawl is a largely vanishing tradition of visiting a sequence of pubs until the last man standing is unable to stand any longer. It is vanishing because there are so few pubs left, and the distance between them so great, there are few, if any, within crawling distance of each other. (One exception is Edinburgh’s Rose Street, dubbed The Amber Mile)
One other important cultural aspect of visiting the pub, with family, friends or work mates, is standing your round. To generously offer to buy the first round marks you out as a real man, or to lamely claiming to have come out without your wallet, reveals you as the stingiest.
With the gradual disappearance of pub-culture, nowadays people sit nightly at home on the sofa, drinking beer bought from a supermarket, while watching a long-running TV soap opera, which is set in a pub. Crazy.
Cover art aimed at the average ’50s America idea of “a British Pub” – complete with foaming pewter tankards set in a 17th Century ale-house, in the company of Robin of Locksley and Friar Tuck .(Inn-keeper, two ales! Your round, I think , Robin. No yours, Friar Tuck. Robin, it’s your round, I am a man of the cloth. Would I lie to you? Besides, I seem to have come out without my purse”)
I have the British Tourist Board on line one, caller, please hold – art director, my office, now!
Vinyl: US Contemporary C3529
Contemporary generally high pressing standard, original Lester Koenig stamped matrix, re-mastered from Decca tapes sent from England rather than the other way around with American jazz recordings. Its coals to Newcastle tonight.
Interesting promo stamp disfigures the label: “your dealer has a factory-sealed copy for you”, printed in a thick Brooklyn accent. Honest Lenny, I’ll have the money for you Toosday…
The coloured type headline on the liner notes is characteristic of early Contemporary
By all accounts, not recorded in a pub.
2. Victor Feldman: Suite Sixteen (1955) Contemporary
Second up, another British jazz export, Victor Feldman, who moved permanently to the US under contract to Lester Koenig’s Contemporary Records – who published this and Jimmy Deuchar’s album above in the US in 1957.
Selection: Maenya (Reece)
Order of soloists: Wray (bass tpt), Feldman ( Vibes), Scott (ts), Humble (as), Hayes (t) , Reece (tpt), Deucher (tpt), Seamen (d), Reece (tpt) The tricky bit is the handover from Humble on alto to Tubby Hayes on tenor. You get just a taste of Tubby’s genius.
Various, Band, Septet and Quartet recorded August/September 1955 in London, engineers Bert Steffen or Arthur Lilley, for Tempo Records (sub-label of Decca),
Recorded before his departure for the US, this is high-octane British big band stuff. I count fourteen instruments at maximum. The recording date is 1955, a far cry from the later mutations of soul jazz, modal, avant garde, and of course no whiff of interplanetary travel. A tightly scored ensemble with guys jumping up and down to take their short 16 bars of fame. Whilst nominally a Victor Feldman album, there is plenty of action from the other players, offering a goodly helping of the evolving British jazz scene.
Trumpeter Reece, paired on Suite Sixteen with Deuchar, achieved not inconsiderable recognition in the US, with four Blue Note titles under his own name.
The first, Blues in Trinity (1958), also marked the first appearance on Blue Note of Tubby Hayes – something that by right’s should have lead to greater things, but sadly did not.
You can’t say we didn’t try.
Identified early as a musical prodigy, playing jazz at age 7, Victor Feldman had made a record at 8 and began to study the piano at 9. He matured into a talented melodic pianist and vibist, whose British jazz grounding enabled him to fit in well with the West Coast jazz scene. Soon after moving to the US he recorded a couple of titles for Contemporary, including “The Arrival of Victor Feldman” with a young Scott La Faro in trio, and is found on Shelly Manne’s 1959 Black Hawk sets. Settling in Los Angeles also gave him access to lucrative session work for the US film and recording industry.
Growing in stature, in 1963 Feldman was recruited by Miles Davis to appear on Seven Steps to Heaven (title track a Feldman composition), Miles’ album in transition between his two great quintets. It was said Miles wanted Feldman to join his quintet permanently, musical recognition beckoned, however Feldman apparently declined a life on the road, and that position was taken by Herbie Hancock. And so history is written.
Jazz was sidelined as Feldman branched out into more commercial work, including Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Lalo Schifrin and Tom waits. He re-emerged on the jazz fusion scene of the ’80s , a move cut short in 1987 by a heart attack at the age of 53.
US release 1957, wholesome girly cover “
Sweet Suite Sixteen” ahem, generally last resort, when no-one can think of anything else to put on the cover, go straight for the playboy demographic. Unlike Dechar’s Pub Crawling, where sixteen would be under-age. I’m not convinced the tree-hugging lady on the cover is sixteen but I guess looks change over the decades.The significance of the large initials “IM + E” painted on the tree escapes me but looks staged for the shot. An in-joke?
LKL matrix code stamps.
Whilst Jazz was the Music of America, it was cultivated by musicians arguably of equal prowess in other European countries with a strong musical tradition. The plucky British jazz men even tried “selling coals to Newcastle” with these Contemporary releases in the US.
That these titles rarely appear on the market is enough to suggest this particular British Jazz Invasion met with only limited success. That would come about a decade later from an altogether different musical direction, driven by the disposable income of twenty million teenagers, and the teenage market asking the perennial question of any group of good-looking musicians, which one looks the cutest?
More on Tempo Records in the LJC Guide to Record Labels
Source of the Deuchar’s Pub Crawling on Tempo, laid bare in auction
That’s an eye-watering sum for a 10″ Tempo! I think I need a drink…