Friday, November 02, 2007

Eating and reading are two of the great pleasures of my life. Should I, therefore, have been quite so surprised to open an infrequently-consulted volume from my groaning shelves and find, nestling between the pages, a piece of desiccated cheddar cheese?

I made my alarming discovery on the train to Norwich the other day, as I made my way to London for a meeting. It was sunny, so I had the peerless sight of a fair day on the Broads to compensate for discovering a level of slovenliness that surprised even me. It somehow seems wrong to be travelling through this landscape at even the modest speeds achieved by the stopping service via Oulton Broad North, Somerleyton, Haddiscoe, Reedham, Cantley and Brundall. The 3 or 4 mph notched up by a 12-foot dinghy with a British Seagull 40 Plus long-shaft hanging off the transom is, for me, the optimum Broads-going velocity. Of course, such romantic notions only occur to me when actually on the water with a pub around the next bend, or when the train is going at significantly more than 4 mph, and I am in no danger of missing my connection.

This leg of the journey was also enlivened by some pretty excellent music. In typical obsessive fanboy style, I've decided to gather as many different versions of Duke Ellington's I'm Beginning to See the Light as I possibly can - all suggestions gratefully received, by the way. The main reason for the exercise is to establish empirically whether Duke's own 1961 recording with Louis Armstrong really is as good as this particular, very fine number gets. Currently running it pretty close is a 1989 live version by an obscure British big band led by baritone saxophonist Jack Sharpe - best known as a member of Tubby Hayes' big band back in the mid-1960s.

When I say obscure, I mean that most punters will never have heard of the musicians involved. They will, however, definitely have heard them, as the band consists of the A-listers of the London session scene, blowing for not much more than beer money and the chance to stretch out. The lead trumpet is Derek Watkins - if you know what I'm talking about, that's the only marker of quality you really need, if you don't, just trust Uncle Cheeseford. These are the chaps. Meanwhile, on drums is one of my all-time heroes, Harold Fisher - seen by millions weekly, powering Laurie Holloway's Parkinson band. With H in the driving seat, you can be sure it'll swing. The arrangement is by Jimmy Deuchar - another associate of Tubby's, who also supplies an ace trumpet solo to complement Chris Pyne's trombone workout.

It's on a CD called 'Roarin', which appears to be long since deleted, although there are some used copies available through Amazon. As their preview clips don't seem to be working, I've taken the liberty of MP3ing the opening track and posting it here. If you like it, buy the CD, or just look up all of the musicians on it and send them money. If you don't like it, there must be something wrong with you, quite honestly.

I'm now off to dig out that Laurie Johnson LP (Something's Coming, on Columbia Studio 2 Stereo, if memory serves) with the 8 bass flutes having a bash at IBtStL. Wish me luck.

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