Having spotted a comparatively rare outing by the 88 year old clarinetist, Wally Fawkes, just last week, there he was again this afternoon, up on stage at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, with a scratch band led by trumpeter Chez Chesterman – the occasion, a lunchtime tribute to the late Stag Greig, all proceedings, at his request, going towards research into Parkinson’s Disease.
The old place was close to full, and rightly so, and the music rolled on pretty much without interruption from midday to mid-afternoon. Old faces recognised other old faces, hands were shaken, cheeks kissed, backs and shoulders hugged; a few ageing couples even essayed a little jiving towards the safety of the rear wall.
The second set was in the hands of Laurie Chescoe’s band, on this occasion joined by the stellar Ralph Laing, down from Edinburgh to play some very fine piano [there was a beautiful solo version of Ellington's 'Black Butterfly' in honour of Stan], and led by a startlingly young – compared to almost everyone else in the place – Ben Cummings, who, amongst other regular gigs, holds down the second trumpet chair in the Kenny Ball Band. Maybe it comes with the job, but, for whatever reason, Ben not only looks like a young Kenny, down to the neat little moustache, he sounds not unlike him when he sings and plays trumpet in a similarly virtuoso style.
Then came the ensemble I had been waiting for – a smaller ad-lib version of Stan Greig’s inimitable London Jazz Big Band, here recreated as – what else? – the London Jazz Small Band. Three saxes, trumpet (Mike Cotton) and two trombones, leader Mike Hough, and – in a far too infrequent outing – John Picard. Talking to Mike H0ugh and John Picard afterwards, it was sad to have confirmed the extent to which the original line up has been decimated during the intervening years – the original trumpet section in its entirety, most of the saxophone section – the excellent Al Gay confirmed as being amongst them – drummer Lennie Hastings, the list goes on. Better news is Hough’s determination to bring the band – a band – back together; rehearse at the 100 Club all day before a gig in the evening. Let’s hope it happens.