The New Gateway Jazz Band was returning to CJC after its first successful and well-attended visit in December 2003. That earlier visit was in fact the first traditional jazz gig of ‘today’s CJC’: with its policy of all-live music on a steadily growing number of nights; with its music enhanced by a ‘proper piano’; and its continuing growth in membership and attendances. Since that first visit the number of traditional jazz nights has risen to three per season.
In preparing the gig another aspect of today’s CJC emerged. Keith Samuel, the band’s leader, told me that the band would be performing for the first time a Louis Armstrong composition that had, until now, been attributed to another composer. As we’re putting more and more effort into promoting the club, I immediately asked Keith for ‘some words’ about this discovery in the archives. I was intending to incorporate them in my submission, as yet unwritten, to the Chichester Observer. Two days later I received a 400-word article and a selection of three photos from Keith, who had been a newspaper journalist before moving to the BBC. Phil Hewitt of the Chichester Observer got it published and I’m sure it was no coincidence that we had a full house. Expectations exceeded.
And what of the music? Certainly it satisfied the message in the publicity with the promised tour of such figures as Louis Armstrong, of course, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, and Duke Ellington, plus dedications to ‘three jazz titans’ with centenaries in 2005: trombonist Jack Teagarden, a particular favourite of mine, trumpeter Wingie Manone, and guitarist Eddie Condon. Keith guided the audience through the music and musicians in a splendid fashion that was always interesting, informative, and often very humorous - but without even a trace of rambling.
The musicians met my expectations, performing the programme with great enthusiasm and competence, as befits a band with such a long-established line up. Cornetist Bill Harvey played and sang well and certainly did justice to the Louis Armstrong discovery If We Never Meet Again. Keith Samuel played, and occasionally sang well all evening and produced a creditable version of Smiles, forever associated by me with the great Jack Teagarden. Of the front line musicians, however, I would single out Roy Sear, on clarinet and alto saxophone, whose playing seemed to me to have an original spark that is sometimes missing from traditional jazz. The rhythm section laid the solid foundation that traditional jazz particularly demands. Allan Sokell’s sousaphone feature Candy Lips was well played and well received, as was Maurice Dennis’s banjo version of China Boy – although I must confess to a wry smile when I think of conversations that I’ve had with Keith Samuel about five–minute bass solos played by young, modern bassists. John Hall on drums impressed me throughout and was creative in his breaks and solos.
Keith and the New Gateway Jazz Band got such a rousing and appreciative reception from the audience that I am absolutely certain they’ll be back sometime next season.