PREVIEW: Ivy Benson Reunion Band (Vortex, 8th April)

The Ivy Benson Reunion Band

Ivy Benson ran the most popular big band during and after WW2 at the end of the 1940s and 1950s. The Reunion Band played at the Celebration last year of what would have been Ivy Benson’s 100th birthday. Most of the group are bandleaders in their own right, and are based in Cornwall where they play regularly. They will be travelling up especially for to make the Vortex swing the Vortex with a mixture of jazz, ballads and latin on Wednesday April 8th. Deirdre Cartwright is especially excited about this gig – and explains why:

In May 1976 I had to make a very difficult choice. Was I going to take my end-of-year Economics exam, or play on a recording session in Manchester with the Ivy Benson Big Band, my first professional studio session? Both on the same day, what a clash! I remember closing the enormous Economics book and saying to my Mum I have to play on that session. End of my degree course at the Polytechnic of Central London after just one year.

At Strawberry Studios I met most of the band for the first time. I was nearly sick with fright. Kathy Stobart was there on baritone, my sister Bernice was Ivy’s bass player. However, the person that created a buzz in the studio was Carol MacBean. No longer with the band, she had been Ivy’s tenor player for several years.

As some of the horn section steadily got through several carrier bags of beers, they warmed up and despite no prior rehearsal with this particular line up, there was some great playing. I can still recall what a great sound Carol had and she could really improvise. We needed one more number to complete the album at the end of a marathon day. Ivy called ‘The Pink Panther’. Carol, despite being a bit worse for wear by this point stood up and played the theme beautifully with a couple of great bluesy breaks.

I often wondered what happened to Carol McBean? Never heard of her again. Then last year there was a big Ivy Benson Band reunion in Bristol. One of the old band mentioned that Carol McBean had played in the Reunion Quartet set. Her married name is Carol Gasser and she still plays regularly in Cornwall. Not only that but gigs regularly with Claudia Colmer-Lang  – this was Ivy’s legendary double bass player from the 1960s, who also lives in Cornwall.

I happened to be playing with ARQ in St Austell in November and managed to hook up with both of them. It was great meeting them and I managed to persuade them to come up to London, the first time in over 35 years for Claudia, to play at the Vortex as part of the Tomorrow the Moon season.

I think this is the last real link with her and her legacy. These three women played with her for many years and she is now being fast forgotten…


Blow the Fuse presents

Reunion Band (Ivy Benson musicians)
Wednesday 8 April 2015 Vortex Jazz Club

Musicians from the Ivy Benson band come to ‘Swing the Vortex’

A Tomorrow the Moon event


Carol Gasser (MacBean) tenor sax,
Claudia Colmer-Lang double bass
Crissy Lee drums
Max Turnbull piano
The Vortex Jazz Club 11 Gillett Street, London N16 8JH Doors 8pm First set 8.45 pm

LINKS: Advance tickets £10 Door £12
A recent BBC Radio 2 programme Sax Appeal: Ivy Benson’s All Girl Band about the legacy of Ivy Benson features Carol, Claudia and Crissy talking and playing.

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. Bumped into Carol Gasser on saturday night playing with the Jump Jive band the Roosters & still blowing a mean sax as they warmed up for the Port Eliot festival in Cornwall

Leave a Reply