Memories Opened in lockdown of
JAZZ ON A SUNDAY
by Norman Warwick with thanks to Alan Lawless
Jazz on a Sunday
Newtown National Club
3, Nixon Street, Castleton, Rochdale. OL11 3JN (01706 640713)
Sunday Evenings 7-45pm-10.30pm Door opens 7.15 p.m Admission £8
Jazz Contact – Tony Sheldon.
The guest artists invited to the club are top names on the European jazz scene and include Danish band, Doc Houlind’s New Orleans Revival. Return visits by them have been even more enthusiastically applauded than they had been on their first appearance here with their Scandinavian-oriented “take” on New Orleans style jazz. It is to be hoped – Covid (and Brexit) permitting – that they will be back again before too long
New Orleans Heat (right) have proved similarly popular visitors. The seven piece line up, led by pianist Barry Grummett, delivers old style New Orleans jazz encompassing stomp, blues, hymn, and even ´pop´ of the era in the styles (inter alia) of the Bunk Johnson, George Lewis and Kid Thomas bands. As it said on the label it was hot – very hot!
Some bands manage to remain as cool in style as a British winter, regardless of how hot is the music they perform. This was true, of one group, The Amy Roberts Quintet, even when they played in a ´temporarily reconfigured´ status, with reeds player par excellence, John Hallam, filling in for the temporarily unavailable Richard Exall. The musicians somehow gave an offering more measured, – less raw certainly, but mightily swinging nevertheless – to the enthusiastic acclaim of what has become for Amy an accustomed near full house.
The brilliantly named Merseysippi Jazz Band (right) remains true to its historic roots by delivering music from around the Mississippi, revisiting the seminally important King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Johnny Dodds and of course Louis Armstrong eras. Even so, the latest incarnation of the long-established outfit also contrives to include a variety of novelty and comic songs from those years, including for example BBC Saturday Club performances by Manchester’s Clinton Ford.
Visits from bass player Peter Frank’s Dixieland All Stars often lit up a chilly sky with their hot southern-jazz and a Christmas event might have seen warm mince pies aplenty plus Delph-based Spirit of New Orleans, in full party mode, delivering in overdrive, on the annual seasonal party night.
A rapport exists between Jazz On A Sunday audiences and the bands who entertain them. That makes very often for a supportive atmosphere but can also sometimes be a platform for some good-hearted but relentlessly merciless ´heckling.´
Precisely why being stricken by gout should be an occasion for hilarity of any kind is a mystery but the sad facts remain that Mart Rodger’s fingers were and so became an occasional cause for some hilarity among Jazz On A Sunday audiences.. Ever the professional though, he once even sent a sick note and the estimable John Hallam to deputise for him on reeds along with instructions that responsibility for his Manchester Jazz charges, who to give them their due were striving to appear suitably crestfallen over their leader’s absence, be put in the capable (and arguably safer) hands of pianist Roger Browne.
Regular visitors to Jazz On A Sunday over the years, Manchester Jazz unfailingly attracted above average attendances and one Valentine’s Eve’s outing at Castleton’s New Town National Club was to prove no exception, with John, acting sous-chef Roger, the returning Alan Dent on trumpet, Eric Brierley on trombone, Louis Lince on banjo and guitar, Alan Wilcox on bass and Chris Pendlebury on drums combining to deliver yet another thoroughly enjoyable evening of traditional jazz entertainment.
Perhaps on reflection traditional jazz “oriented” would be more accurate a description as they played a fair number of the types of tune that have long typified Mart Rodger-inspired performances – Riverboat Shuffle, Algiers Strut, Stevedore Stomp, Muskrat Ramble for example (“the broad, the brassy and the aggressively dramatic” as the music was categorised by one early commentator).
There were doffs of the hat also to the cinema – by way of High Society, and Running Wild (John to the fore on both), of Easy To Love and of I’ll Never Smile Again; to Tin Pan Alley – Stardust, Mood Indigo, Once In A While, Jeepers Creepers – and examples from earlier genres of American popular song of both pre and post World War One vintages. Many of these tunes tunes which went on to become standards in the revivalist, and subsequently in the trad, jazz catalogues – such as Jazz Me Blues, The Sunshine Of Your Smile, Red Wing and, most notably, the seminal and iconic Original Dixieland One-Step.
Betwixt and between came blues – Apex Blues, a positively epic Stormy Monday from “T-Bone” Brierley, a hymn tune – Just A Closer Walk With Thee, trumpeter Buck Clayton’s infrequently heard Stan’s Dance (with Alan outstanding on muted trumpet). The audience also enjoyed Louis soloing on banjo with his composition Take Your Pick then finally Roger in full voice but (with reins relinquished) sadly Nobody’s Sweetheart Now.
I am sure you will agree that Alan paints a vivid and nicely irreverent picture. For further information on the jazz scene in the North West of The UK, and hopefully its emergence from lockdown in 2021, you could look at
This is a lively and fascinating site with brief news items posted almost every day. There you can read an article by Tony Sheldon, organiser of the Jazz On A Sunday sessions discussing the highs and lows of running such a well known club.
You can also tune in to Steve Bewick´s Hot Biscuits programme each week (plus repeated plays) on FCUM Radio on line and keep your eye on the all across the arts pages in The Rochdale Observer.
In some form or other jazz will surely return to the region soon with live performances.