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Jazz Arrives In Britain ...

Updated: Dec 15, 2019


Though most of us had many miles to travel, criss-crossing the South-West with our SatNavs desperately searching for a small village somewhere near Dorchester, our Glorious Leader had only to pop his piano onto his wheelbarrow and stroll a few yards from his stately home, for - at last! - jazz had arrived in Broadmayne ...

Under the ambitious and challenging banner of Jazz Arrives In Britain, we had been invited by Dorchester Arts to put together a programme illustrating - for the most part - the beginnings of jazz in this country around the end of the First World War. Clearly, we had to put on our Original Dixieland Jass Band hats, at least for the beginning of this concert, for it was their recordings in 1917 that marked the first-ever recorded jazz sounds and their tour of this country the following year that caused a musical sensation - and thereby blew more than a few cobwebs away from existing social conventions!

Mike Denham began with a solo ragtime piece by Scott Joplin - very much one of the popular American composers of the 1910s. Then it was on to our reduced line-up of five - cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano and drums - for an attempted impersonation of the ODJB on their first recording Dixie Jass Band One Step, followed by the quirky Ostrich Walk - with its varied melodic strains, frequent 'breaks', and the obligatory 'shirt tail' ending, and Soudan, an exotic oddity with plenty of period charm and 'eastern promise', based on a 'Dervish Chorus' by the Czech composer Gabriel Sebek ... not the sort of repertoire that was ever taken up after the Second World War by British 'trad' bands! Our next number was, however! At The Jazz Band Ball, though a mainstay of the ODJB repertoire, later became frequently played - often very loudly and at breakneck tempo - by American Dixieland bands and British 'trad' bands through the 50s and 60s. Hopefully, our version avoided its worst excesses!

Other early jazz favourites - both popular songs of the day - were Alexander's Ragtime Band and Oh! You Beautiful Doll, given a true jazz feel by our veteran vocalist Hamish Maxwell, the second of the two with the rarely heard verses preceding the better known chorus. Sidney Bechet's first visit to these shores was remembered with another little-known piece of clarinet exotica Egyptian Fantasy, and we even managed to include an early novelty number, featuring Steve Graham's talents on a second instrument, entitled When Erastus Plays His Old Kazoo.

Appropriately enough, we finished with a number associated both with the ODJB and the later British jazz outfits - the ever rumbustious Tiger Rag. Thus ended our first-ever Broadmayne concert - a challenge for the band and hopefully both enjoyable and instructive for the fine audience that packed the hall. No doubt Mike has now become a legend in his own back garden and henceforth will be besieged by his fellow Broadmayne residents requesting ragtime piano solo recitals at their various family functions ... fame at last!


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