Features/Interviews (PP)

‘It’s Trad Dad!’ (Cadogan Hall, 21 March 2021)

On 21 March 2021, Jazz Repertory Company will return to Cadogan Hall, London, with two performances of a show called It’s Trad Dad featuring the seven-piece Barber, Bilk and Ball Stars. Richard Pite, Director of Jazz Repertory Company, gives the background:

The Barber, Bilk and Ball Stars
Photo Credit: Nils Solberg

The show has been put together by trombonist and bandleader Ian Bateman, long time sideman with Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Terry Lightfoot as well as an occasional guest star with Humphrey Lyttelton. He’s also a regular stalwart in the trombone section at many Jazz Repertory Company’s Cadogan Hall concerts.

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Ian and I took our title from the 1962 film which, besides featuring all the main Trad bands of the period, probably sets the record for the most cigarettes ever smoked in one movie. For beboppers and modernists the fact that the film was produced by Amicus Productions, which specialised in horror flicks, was particularly appropriate.

When revisiting this music I was again struck by how British it sounds – an American dish taken and served up with overcooked spuds, veg and lashings of brown sauce, and washed down with a mug of tea. Rather than conjuring up Cadillacs and hamburgers, the images in my head are of Vauxhall Crestas and Walls ice cream – as captured perfectly in this clip of Chris Barber’s band playing on the soundtrack of the 1957 British Transport film Holiday 

I’ve always maintained that New Orleans jazz was played by bands from that city in a relaxed way to counter the heat and humidity of where they were playing. In contrast the British bands played the same kind of music with a frantic energy that suggested they were trying to keep warm in freezing dance halls, upstairs rooms in pubs and band stands.

Some 60 years later the music has the power to pinpoint a brief time in the late ’50s and early ’60s when abroad (and particularly America) was impossibly exotic. Thousands of miles from its source jazz musicians created a uniquely British sound which had a charm and a sense of innocent fun but then, suddenly, it was all finished when the beat groups took over in 1963.

The Barber, Bilk and Ball Stars features a fine selection of British talent, all of whom have done time with the great Trad bands in their careers. Banjo and guitar star Thomas “Spats” Langham has played with Barber, Ball and Bilk as well as George Melly and The Temperance 7, and his current regular gig is with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Trumpeter Ben Cummings is a dead ringer for the young and fiery Kenny Ball with whom he worked for many years. Trevor Whiting is one of the country’s greatest reed players and has done two stints with Chris Barber. The band has a cracking rhythm section with Craig Milverton on piano, John Day on bass and Nick Millward on drums.

Ian has put together a tremendously entertaining programme featuring many of the big hits of the Trad boom. I Love You Samantha, Stranger on the Shore, Midnight in Moscow, March of the Siamese Children, Bad Penny Blues, Tavern in the Town, Petite Fleur, In a Persian Market and many more. I’ll be carting my sousaphone on stage to join the band in the Temperance 7’s You’re Driving Me Crazy.

The show was supposed to happen in April 2020 and has been rescheduled three times but we’ll definitely be going ahead with the March 21st date and in order to make it happen the audience will, of course, have to be socially distanced. To make room for all the people we need to accommodate we have a matinee at 3pm and an evening concert beginning at 7pm.

Cadogan Hall can accommodate around 275 people for each performance and can allow a maximum of two people to sit together. Far from ideal, we know, but we are eager to get our concert series happening again after over a year off and with so few live performances going on in London right now we felt that the happy and upbeat music featured in the concert would be the perfect antidote to a gloomy Covid winter. To entice our audience back we have decided on this occasion to make all the tickets just 20 quid.

If we can make the afternoon and evening’s concert sell-out successes we’ll be back for more shows in 2021. We still have The Roaring 20s booked at Cadogan Hall for Saturday 21 September and we hope by then that Covid, lockdown, social distancing and facemasks will all be a distant memory.

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LINK: Cadogan Hall Bookings for 21 March 2021

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