A year on - it's time for a comeback
Echoes of Ellington made a triumphant return to the concert stage on Sunday 7 October 2001 when they wowed the crowd at Berkhamsted Jazz Society with two hours of The Duke's music. Although they had been away for some time, it was like they'd never been gone.
It hardly seems a year a go that the last sombre notes of Mood Indigo were being played at The 100 Club as the orchestra played its final gig. Leader Pete Long's preoccupation with 9.20 Deluxe and Jools Holland meant that he could not devote sufficient time to his Ellington project. With the exception of a Summer festival gig at Polesden Lacey in July, this was their first outing since October 2000.
To mark the return, they had the 'A' team out, with added star attractions. For those with memories of the original line-up, it was a particular joy to see Bob Hunt back in the trombone section. A real bonus on the night was having not only Patti Revell, but also Ray Gelato up front and vocal on a variety of tunes, including Just Squeeze Me, Take The 'A' Train, It Don't Mean A Thing and Mood Indigo.
Of course being Echoes of Ellington, there is always a moment when things get a bit surreal. Tonight, just prior to Pete Long leading the orchestra into the next number, Jim Richardson suddenly abandoned his bass and disappeared backstage. "Ah, that will be the RAC", said Pete, "Here to fix Jim's broken exhaust". He then dedicated Such Sweet Thunder to Richardson's old Volvo.
For variation, tonight the orchestra played a forties version of The Flaming Sword (oo 'er missus) that Duke had arranged to cash in on the conga fashion. High register trumpets to the fore, then, as the band was driven along by the incessant samba beat of Clark Tracey and Jim Richardson.
The theme for the evening was naughty song titles. The innuendo in names like Satin Doll, Such Sweet Thunder and Black Butterfly were explained. "The original music shows that Black Butterfly did not have the 'erfly' on the end of it!" said Pete. The claim of Harlem Airshaft to be the sounds heard in a tenement block in the area took something of a knock when Pete told the audience that the piece was previously called "Eggs Over Easy".
In what turned out to be the evening's showstopping piece, Ray Gelato joined band tenors Alex Garnett and Martin Williams for a storming set of solos on the 1966 arrangement of Cottontail. The trio swapped choruses of diminishing length before Pete Long's clarinet came in to take the piece home. Forget Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras - these are the REAL Three Tenors!
The evening closed out with trumpeter Andy Cuss' tour de force, Suddenly It Jumped. Oh to hear this again in a dance hall.
The hot news coming out of the evening (as announced previously in Stop Press) is that Echoes will be reconvening in the New Year at a Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser. They will be joined onstage at The 100 Club on January 24 by Colin Skinner's Basie band Skin Deep. You'd be mad to miss it.
The Berkhamsted Comeback Kings were:
Up front and vocal: Pete Long, (orchestra leader and clarinet),
Patti Revell (vocals), Ray Gelato (vocals and tenor saxophone)
Trumpets: Mark Armstrong, Andy Cuss, Gavin Mallet, Bruce Adams
Trombones: Alistair White, Bob Hunt, Phil Judge
Saxophones: Martin Williams, Alex Garnett (tenors), Colin Skinner, Peter Ripper (altos), Paul Nathaniel (bass)
Rhythm section: Don Innes (piano), Adam Goldsmith (guitar), Jim Richardson (bass), Clark Tracey (drums)
© Andrew Winton October 2001.
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