Friday 13th March

I’d maybe have been to The Odeon and heard Duke or Basie, the City Hall where I heard just about everybody else or, just down the road, The Down Beat. Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, the Emcee Five or the emerging Animals. And, of course, Mortonsound Studio where many a local band first put their talents on disc.

So yes, the memories and tonight, should I live for another four score years, more memories will be added about an evening that was equally memorable – not least because it was a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

 The gig was sold out within days of the announcement that New York trumpet player/bandleader/vocalist Danny Jonokuchi was to play a gig with SSBB at a coffee shop on Carliol Square. It didn’t matter that he was relatively unknown, YouTube does the business in that respect, he was an American from NYC what more do you want?

 What we didn’t want was this Covid-19 virus that’s causing so much kerfuffle – I don’t recall the previous 18 editions bothering any one. However, the upshot is that, after medical advice, Danny Jonokuchi returned home and it looked as though tickets would be refunded, face masks would be obligatory and, even though it was Friday the Thirteenth, the show would go on – and go on it did…

Despite the absence of Jonokuchi and the Damoclesian sword of Covid-19 hovering above us, in true show business tradition it was decided the show must go on and it did.

The band were at the top of their game driven relentlessly along by super sub McKeague behind the kit on Big Swing Face. This is one of those numbers where you hit the ground running with no room for error. PJ, SS, DK and ML all socked it to us the sound reaching every corner of the small room.

Leader Lamb had promised surprises and the first one came in the form of a video link with NYC where Jonokuchi himself introduced the next number, his own arrangement of Red Top. Pete Tanton and Graham Don did the honours.

Next up was Alice looking super chic in a black and white ensemble. Four songs: I’m Gonna Lock my Heart; All of Me; Mean to Me and Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Oh what a beautiful evening this was turning out to be!

The set finished with Strasbourg St. Denis. At a SSBB gig if one is presumptuous enough to pick out a “solo of the night” it invariably goes to one of the horns – not so tonight. Tonight, Graham Don’s piano solo on the aforementioned piece undoubtedly earned him the “Man of the Match” award. Tremendous!

Time for a beer. Years ago there was a little pub, The Duke of Wellington, opposite tonight’s venue. It’s long gone but last night it would have been welcome. Instead, we had to make do with a 330ml can of a Beaver Brook brew that cost £4.40 which by my reckoning makes it over six quid a pint. Still, as Swedish beers go, it went.

Back to the music and Alice – It’s Almost Like Being in Love. It sure is. An instrumental – Catch as Catch Can – with more Graham Don and a sizzler from Jamie Toms on tenor. One of my all time faves is the Jon Hendricks number, Social Call and Alice did it justice. Likewise, You Turned the Tables on me despite the band being a tad overpowering behind the vocal.

McCoy Tyner was remembered with Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit followed by another surprise – a feature for Gordon Marshall. Gordon stepped into the shoes of SSBB’s recent guest Mike Lovatt to blow an impressive The Nearness of You. First on flugel then on trumpet with an occasional glance at the stratosphere.

Time for another song but wait, I didn’t know Alice played trumpet, hang on, this isn’t Alice, it’s Pete Tanton – on a high after a successful Riviera Quartet gig at the Lit &  Phil earlier in the day – he brought Chet Baker to life with a dash of Tormé and Sinatra thrown in for good measure on I Get a Kick out of You.

To finish, Alice sang The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else – don’t they always?!

A splendid evening that allowed me just enough time to pop into a Wetherspoons’ pub for a pint of Doom Bar (£1.99).
– Review: Lance Liddle – Be Bop Spoken Here

-Photography: Kim Bainbridge