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The Church Alley Irregulars by The Church Alley Irregulars

Jazz Crusade president, Big Bill Bissonnette, began a recording project a decade ago. His intent was to preserve on disk, some of Britain’s finest traditional jazz players. The United Kingdom has long been a bastion of "hot jazz" activity since the end of the Second World War. Jazz fans happily recall the great noises made by Freddy Randall, Joe Daniels, Humphrey Lyttelton, Bob Wallis and Ken Colyer in a period when such music was considered old-fashioned in North America.

Fans of the idiom today are still very much a minority but we are loyal and spend our greenbacks freely just to get that hot jazz fix. Bissonnette gathered some of the musicians he had successfully recorded before and a few new ones. This session takes place at Church Alley in Nottingham. Here are The Church Alley Irregulars and you’ll enjoy this tasty assembly of Brits.

Norman Thatcher was the leader of the renowned Ken Colyer Trust Band and one of the hottest trumpet men on the UK scene. Clarinetist Brian Carrick has probably appeared on more Jazz Crusade disks than any other British musician and with just cause. Two other regulars on the label are trombonist Geoff Cole and reedman Tony Pyke. New to my ears are the fine sounds of pianist Malcolm Hogarth, banjoist Malcolm Hurrell and drummer Dion Cochrane. I’ve heard bassist Annie Hawkins before and she’s an outstanding player in her own modest way. Annie bows and slaps in perfect time and with taste.

This band has a wonderful ability to swing and a prime example is their seven minute version of the classic Move The Body Over. In contrast, the octet tackles an unlikely choice, the vintage Magic Is The Moonlight, a latin tune from an obscure 1944 movie titled Bathing Beauty. The two clarinetists, Carrick and Pyke double on tenor and alto with great results. I‘m reminded of the great Australian bands of the fifties featuring "Lazy Ade" Monsbrough. Thatcher’s hot trumpet is strong throughout the session and the "perfect" rhythm section gets five stars.

If you like hot jazz, this record is a very good choice. A nice companion volume is Jazz Crusade’s Reprise featuring the Church Alley Irregulars and Brian Carrick’s Heritage Jazz Quartet. The "Irregulars" play an additional nine tunes from the session including The Curse Of An Aching Heart, Bugle Call Blues and What Am I Living For.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Church Alley Irregulars
  • CD Title: The Church Alley Irregulars
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Jazz Crusade
  • Tracks: I Want To Be Happy; Sweet Sue; May The Circle Be Unbroken; My Melancholy Baby; Them There Eyes; Beautiful Ohio; Dallas Blues; Move The Body Over; Magic Is The Moonlight; Saint Louis Blues; I’m Alabama Bound; Gatemouth; Church Alley Blues; China Boy.
  • Musicians: Norman Thatcher (trumpet); Geoff Cole (trombone); Brian Carrick (clarinet, tenor sax); Tony Pyke (clarinet, alto sax); Malcolm Hogarth (piano); Malcolm Hurrell (banjo); Annie Hawkins (string bass); Dion Cochrane (drums).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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