Monday, July 14, 2008

Ken Colyer

Today I listened to Ken Colyer's Jazzmen On Tour (GHB), a 1965 album by British trumpeter (or cornetist, more likely) Ken Colyer, with Sammy Rimington on clarinet. I really enjoy Colyer and this band. Of all the European traditional jazz musicians, Colyer was the most faithful to New Orleans traditions; he played a straightforward lead with few solos.

But why would anyone listen to Ken Colyer when he/she could be listening to actual New Orleans musicians? Why listen to a copy rather than to the original? The quality of Colyer's music provides one answer - whoever made this music, whenever it was recorded, under whatever circumstances, it's just good music. Another answer is that Colyer and Rimington don't sound just like Bunk Johnson and George Lewis. The influences are there, but they sound like themselves. Rimington has more technical facility than Lewis, for example. And finally, what New Orleans band in 1965 would be playing "Kinklets," "Swipsey Cakewalk," and "Working Man Blues?" Unfortunately, by 1965 most New Orleans jazz performances used a narrow range of material, which gave rise to strings of solos on every tune. Colyer's band used mostly ensemble playing. Colyer and his guys are playing excellent, relaxed New Orleans jazz, even if none of them were from NOLA.

Ken Colyer also presented the world with one of the first issued recordings of the New Orleans brass band style, with his 1957 Omega Brass Band recordings, which came out on a 10" LP on British Decca. Only the Bunk Johnson, Zenith, and Eureka Brass Bands made it onto records sooner. I think I'll go listen to that album now.

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