More than just the blues

Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen, with Paul Jones, Haverhill Arts Centre, Friday, April 4 THIS sparkling show was billed as Blowing the Blues but there was much more.

Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen, with Paul Jones, Haverhill Arts Centre, Friday, April 4

THIS sparkling show was billed as Blowing the Blues but there was much more.

It opened in foot tapping style with Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen in New Orleans style with My Honey's Loving Arms, before things went strictly mainstream and developed into swing, gospel and the blues before ending with Paul Jones pleasing the appreciative audience with a few of the hits that made him famous with Manfred Mann back in the 1960s.

And it's all down to the legendary George Melly who suggested that the jazz trumpeter and singer got together.

The Fairweather band had accompanied Melly during the final years of his colourful career while Jones had developed into a blues singer leading his own band while still touring with The Manfreds.

They both appeared at Melly's final concert at London's 100 Club in Oxford Street, and from then on things really got going and now, they are now, on this showing at any rate, a force to be reckoned with.

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A cracking band, the Half Dozen (plus the hugely talented guitarist Dominic Ashworth), are a tight knit outfit and, thanks to some superb arrangements by Fairweather himself, produce a full bodied sound and at times it seemed the Count Basie Band itself could be backing Jones, particularly in some of those swinging blues numbers that were sung by the likes of Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams.

Unfortunately, the Half Dozen presented only one vocal offering, Liza, that invoked memories of the close harmony singing of American groups like the Four Freshmen who were so popular in the 1950s and 60s.

As well as the superb ensemble work there were some fine solos too from the likes of Julian Marc Stringle, surely one of Britain's finest clarinet players, as well as Craig Milverton on piano and Chris Gower on trombone and they were backed by a tight rhythm section with Nick Millward on drums and, making his debut with the band, Luke Steele on double bass.

They were led with gusto by Fairweather on trumpet.

Paul Jones, looking as trim as in his pop days, is also a fine harmonica player and he opened the second half with a masterful version of Chain Gang, in solo mode somehow managing to sing and play the instrument while still managing to breathe... this really brought the audience to its feet.

Naturally, many of the audience had come to hear some of the song that Paul Jones sang in his youth and he obliged with I've Been a Bad, Bad Boy and Pretty Flamingo.

It has often been said that jazz developed out of the blues and this show proved that they are still not very far apart and, hopefully, the combination of Fairweather and Jones will continue to develop and, like one of the swinging numbers they played, This Could Be the Start of Something Big.

Alan Crumpton

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