Ask any British fan to name a jazz legend and you'll be certain to hear the name of Ken Colyer. The trumpet star was not only a great player but, more importantly, promoted jazz everywhere he went. A late friend of mine, born in Germany some sixty years ago had never heard of Miles Davis or Gerry Mulligan but the mere mention of Ken Colyer put a sparkle in his eyes. The British star became a jazz ambassador, spreading joy in the spirit of his idols, Bunk Johnson and George Lewis.
A few years ago, Jazz Crusade issued a CD of Colyer's last recorded concert on June 28, 1986. Titled Colyer In Stockholm
(JCCD-3007), the disc featured the trumpeter with a Swedish band recorded on an outdoor stage. While the sound quality was iffy, the session was lively and well played.
Now another recording by the same group has surfaced with eight additional tracks from June and two tracks from late August of 1986. Colyer passed away in France in the spring of 1988 after a lengthy illness. These tunes are his final band recordings.
Trombonist Jens Lindgren
penned a fine set of liner notes for this release. He offers his honest and realistic comments on Colyer's attitude and his music. Clearly, the young Classic Jazz Band
considered it an honor to accompany the British legend.
Certainly this is not the Colyer of the 1950s. He was in poor health and in Lindgren's words "I remember him as an old man, he looked older than his 58 years." Colyer's band had included such jazz stars as Chris Barber, Lonnie Donegan, Pat Hawes, Monty Sunshine, Acker Bilk and Sammy Rimington decades earlier. Still, the aging trumpeter shows us how it's done. His spirit and attitude are undiminished on these final sides. His work on the old Walter Donaldson standard, You're Driving Me Crazy
is outstanding. The Swedish musicians play their hearts out backing Colyer. The quality of their efforts really shows up on Sentimental Journey
with Lindgren and Eriksson propping up Colyer's hesitant lead. The trumpeter gets back in the groove with Sing On
, a tune he probably played a thousand times. Drummer Cacka Ekhe's
brash style lends strong support to Colyer and the band. Ciribirbin
finds the whole band in great form with some interesting solo work by clarinet and banjo. Ken Colyer gets caught-up in the group's enthusiasm on the old Harry James hit.
The final tracks, Sporting House Blues
and Clarinet Marmalade
come from the August session and the sound quality changes. It's a bit muddy and bassist Goran Lind is less audible than on previous tracks. Colyer delivers a wonderful vocal on Sporting
to the obvious delight of the band.
Sadly, I felt that the last piece, Clarinet Marmalade
found Colyer at his weakest point. The band really hustles to beef him up with some degree of success. It's a sad curtain call at the end of an illustrious career but collectors will love this recently discovered material.