Georgie Fame and The Last Blue Flames – Swan Songs
(Three Line Whip 010. CD Review by Brian Blain)
Released without a great deal of promo or hype, this really does seem to be the last time that the ‘Godfather of UK Soul’ has taken his magnificent Blue Flames – Guy Barker, Alan Skidmore, Anthony Kerr, Alec Dankworth, Tristan and James Powell – into the studio. The result is a satisfying mix of material from the rollicking shuffle beat of the frankly hedonistic Thinkin’ and Drinkin to the heartfelt tribute to the late Steve Gray. one of Britain’s finest ever arrangers, over an almost funereal march beat.
There’s a distinct feel of nostalgia running like a thread through this collection of songs, whether it’s The Diary Blues, beginning with Count Basie piano figures and and flares from the brass, which looks back on the life of a much travelled musician or the final My Ship (not the Kurt Weill one) a touching song written by an old friend from his Flamingo days, Mike O Neill, where he is joined by Madeline Bell and he intones a list of heroes like Gene Ammons, Oscar Brown Junior, Eddie Jefferson and Johnny Griffin under the final chorus as if to suggest that the music that has inspired him throughout his life is maybe over.
But it’s not all tinged with melancholy. If his wacky ‘trombone’ scat on a Floyd Dixon blues doesn’t make you laugh out loud maybe you shouldn’t be listening to jazz at all, and the killer track, Mose Knows, dedicated to his mentor and inspiration Mose Allison is just amazing. Here he goes into almost rap mode over a furious straight-ahead beat powered by Dankworth and the Powell brothers – his two sons – which allows Anthony Kerr to show what a magnificent vibes player he is, and us to wonder why he is so seldom seen around. This album wasn’t a review copy, so when I say this track alone is worth the price of the whole collection it’s not just a glib cliché, but, for me, a statement of fact.