Solid Senders Spark Swing Celebrations!

Hellzapoppin' celebrated its eleventh anniversary with James Langton.

James Langton and His Solid Senders provided the live entertainment for a night of swing when Hellzapoppin' blew out eleven candles on the cake on Saturday 4 November. Together with club organiser Tim's Jumpin' Jive, Terry Elliott and Rohan Thee Man were on the decks between sets to keep the party atmosphere going.

The setting this time was the upstairs room at Cecil Sharp House opposite London's Regents Park. Normally the club is held in the downstairs room, but the main hall is much better dance venue. Cecil Sharp House is normally home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society, so this was an unusual invasion by American swing.

Although down on last year's Extraordinaires extravaganza, a good-sized crowd (that's numbers, not shape) braved the elements to be welcomed by the boogie woogie sounds of Rohan Thee Man. The main attraction, Mr. Langton and his syncopated ensemble appeared for their first set. 

Solid Senders saxes
Solider Senders' swinging saxes
Singr Joan Viskant
Joan Viskant took care of vocal duties

Louise Cookman was elsewhere for the evening, so the the featured singer was Joan Viskant. And very well she did too, especially on the likes of Comes Love, You Turned The Tables On Me and the dancers' favourite Watch The Birdie. As usual, James Langton added his own vocal contribution, and trumpeter Enrico Tomasso weighed in with  his Indian Love Call.

The sublime sounds of Big John Special and Begin The Beguine preceded the more raucous rousings of T'Aint What 'Cha Do (prompting a large-scale Shim Sham) and the first set-closer Sing Sing Sing. No jam session for the latter tune, but some energetic dancers managed to make it through the whole tune.

Rohan Thee Man sports the chicken hat look
James and Judith
Smiling James Philips takes a firm hold of Judith Hammer

 Next up it was time to feature another of the DJs. Terry Elliott proved more to the dancers liking with some of the finer moments from his swing archive. Tim took a turn himself, before bringing the band back to the stage. Initially he had planned to have shorter sets and more DJs, but a few words from a few patrons caused him to change his mind. People power ensured that maximum Langton was extracted for the not inconsiderable dancing dollar (it was 15 on the door).

A shoe shopping opportunity

Back Bay Shuffle opened set two, closely followed by an upbeat version of the Count Basie classic 9.20 Special. James Langton himself took the Frank Sinatra part (singing) for the Tommy Dorsey tune Marie, and it was heads down for the high-speed tempo of Doggin' Around, another Basie barnstormer.

The attempts of the orchestra to escape without an encore proved to be another miserable charade, as they had barely left their bandstands before the hollering voices and stomping feet of the assembled terpsichorean tramplers brought them back for a couple more tunes. James considerately chose some good dance-tempo numbers to play, before returning the last half-hour of the evening over to the DJs.

 Looking ahead, the good news for fans of James Langton is that he will continue with the Solid Senders. He put the orchestra together as a project for his Master of Arts degree. It was for this reason that he was allowed access to the original arrangements of some of the Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman numbers on the set. However, the course is complete, and Mr. Langton has not yet had to return the arrangements. "Anyway" said James, "I have now transcribed some of these arrangements, so they are mine to use in future". Let's hope we continue to hear them played by this fine ensemble for years to come.

Another anniversary, another good night upstairs at Hellzapoppin'. The less-than-capacity crowd could be accounted for by the appearance of James Langton and his Solid Senders at The 100 Club (Thursday 23) and Jitterbugs (December 3) for around half the price of tonight's gig. But if you want a top band in a good dance hall on a Saturday, you have to pay top dollar. Tim has already booked a Christmas Party with The Blue Star Boys on Saturday 2 December, and The Extraordinaires for Saturday 30 December, certainly two dates worth putting in your festive swing diary.

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