Monday, 16 July 2007

John Sheridan...

This is the first piece I ever had published in Jazz Review, and editor Richard Cook sent it to me, I'm sure, as a bit of a test. I was associated with the avant-garde at the time, and had written for both Rubberneck and Avant magazines. What better way to to wrong-foot me than with some deplorable trad revivalism?

I was probably lucky to pass the test, and I remember Richard sent it back to me at least twice to start again. His advice that I should approach it not from the point of view of a 'Wire' reading modernist, but a jazz aficionado who may actually want to buy the CD, stuck with me.

A valuable lesson, but those skilled at reading between the lines will recognise that old adage about faint praise from time to time...

Get Rhythm In Your Feet

Stop, Look And Listen; All The Cats Join In; Indian Summer; I Love My Baby; I Was Doing All Right; A Gal In Calico; Humpty Dumpty Heart; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; People Like You And Me; I’m In The Mood For Love; Get Rhythm In Your Feet; A Handful Of Stars; You Can’t Pull The Wool Over My Eyes; My Extraordinary Gal; Walkin’ By The River; The Dixieland Band.

Randy Reinhart (c); Russ Phillips (tb); Brian Ogilvie (ts); Ron Hockett (cl); John Sheridan (p); Reuben Ristrom (g); Phil Flanigan (b); Ed Metz Jnr (d); Becky Kilgore (v).
Recorded January 2002.

Dave Brubeck once remarked that he couldn’t understand why young kids would want to play music as un-challenging as Dixieland. That was nearly 50 years ago, and listening to this, the third Arbors Jazz release by John Sheridan’s Dream Band, some of the issues raised in Brubeck’s then progressive sentiments did cross my mind.

Ultimately it is the question that vexed jazz in the three decades following World War II - adventure and risk, or safe certainties? Fortunately we’ve now reached a point where a middle way can be found, and ‘classic jazz’ involving an element of reinterpretation can safely be met on its own terms.

The mainstream jazz played in the 1960s by the likes of George Wein and his Newport Allstars perhaps got there first, but Sheridan was a contemporary of that movement, and played a part in developing its vocabulary. So how does his new disc measure up?

The period revisited is not the Dixieland of Brubeck’s sideswipe, but the small group sound if the Swing Era. Those familiar with the musicians of the Dream Band will not be surprised to hear that they’re a well-oiled machine, comfortably purring along at any tempo. Their repertoire is a mixture of period pieces and head-based ‘originals’ in the generic style.

Vocalist Becky Kilgore sings sweetly on half of the 16 tracks, and an intelligent choice of songs scattered amongst the instrumentals helps to sustain a varied programme. As a pianist Sheridan’s style is strongly influenced by Jess Stacey and Teddy Wilson, and as an arranger his charts are tight and unfussy, allowing lots of room for sequences of concise solos. You could be forgiven at times for thinking that you’re actually listening to a Goodman, Dorsey or Krupa small group recorded in super hi-fi, so sympathetic are his band to the project’s aims and spirit.

If there is any consolidation at all then it comes in the subtle expansion of the harmonic horizons that prevailed in the 1930s. I suspect innovation will be of lesser importance to fans of the style than the overriding virtues of period authenticity and exuberant swing. On these counts, Get Rhythm In Your Feet scores highly, and should be recommended listening for the faithful.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, December 2002)

1 comment:

The Ghost of Jerry Reed said...

Baha, nice work. Always nice to read something written through gritted teeth... How 'bout Vino? Guess his Tour hopes are shot.