We were delighted - not to say very flattered! - to read the following review of our latest CD Old Man Blues in JUST JAZZ MAGAZINE (December 2020). We hope you enjoy the music as much as Andrew Liddle evidently did!
These fifteen great tracks, recorded a week before the Covid lockdown, must have been among the last supervised by Peter Kings for his own label. What a great way in every sense to sign off, to stomp off and go. The Sunset Café Stompers, as every discerning one knows, is among the best bands of its kind in the land. Much in demand at festivals and gigs, far beyond their native heath, the South West, it is surprising that this is their first release for three years, since the beautiful 'Changes' album; far too long.
The good vibe just flows from Steve Graham's horn of plenty, inspiring all around to roll along like the Mississippi itself, which river inspired Ellington's deeply felt composition, the title track Old Man Blues. If I Didn't Care, brought in by the profound trombone of Pete Middleton, the band's chief arranger, backed by the tinkling piano of Mike Denham and the guitar of Keith Hall, a recent replacement for the legendary Eddie Edwards, is enormously tender, a thing of rare beauty and invention, not least in the alchemy of Trevor Whiting's alto sax. It's the mature, reflective side of the band, effortlessly together, taking us into the eponymous sunset.
The next track fulfils the other eponymous function: Go To New Orleans takes us to the land of dreams in stomping fashion . This is the uplifting sound to dedicate your life to, a freebooting, free-wheeling, paddle-steaming vehicle of exhilaration, smoothly lubricated to facilitate what Rudi Blesh memorably called the wanderlust of jazz. You want to travel on endlessly in search of more.
This is the perfect CD to pitch you on a journey from old New Orleans, up river to Chicago, thence to Ellington's New York and Bechet's Paris. Scan the track list to see the project's sheer diversity and time travel. One minute we're in 1902 listening to Joplin's The Strenuous Life, a party piece for Denham, clearly a master of the raggy-sprung stride, and pretty soon Whiting has become Johnny Dodds, it's 1927, and we're talking Erastus and his Kazoo, a full-on totally gone piece of stomping excitation. Then, voilà, Bechet in Paris is dreamily evoking a dusky Egyptian Fantasy.
When years ago I first heard Hamish Maxwell sing Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, arguably the greatest of 'written' blues tunes, I instantly marked him down as the real deal, a full 52 cards in the pack blues singer. I love his take on Bessie's Downhearted Blues of 1923, one of six fine vocals. He can sing the blues - period. He doesn't have to try hard: he just does it. Singers either can or they can't; either have the aching inflections or don't. There's no halfway house. I love the absolute purity of, the nobility of feeling in, his voice; and he has them: the indefinable inflections that can neither be counterfeited nor suppressed.
So, this is a great CD, perfect for a lively night in, making non-dancers get up and invent steps of their own and beer quaffers heady even when sober.