Heyford Singers – Desert Island Discs – May 2020

Desert Island Discs – your choices

In response to my request to readers last month I have had a few replies. I am going to begin with the one from Keith Rands-Allen, and for this reason… as many of you may know Keith experienced a horrific road accident two summers ago. It has been a long and, at times difficult journey, back to full health and mobility. But his determination and resilience to “return to normal”, together with the support of Julie, his friends and family, is surely something that we all aspire to in these difficult times.

Jill Langrish

Keith Rands-Allen’s Desert Island Discs – 29th March 2020

I’ve always been a great lover of Jazz music since my early teens. When my friends were listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley I was listening to Acker Bilk and Chris Barber, and the love of Jazz has stayed with me to this day. If you come to our house you will invariably find Alexa playing the American radio station Jazz24.

So these are the musicians and their recordings that have accompanied my life:

Singin’ the Blues by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke on
cornet. (1927): Bix was one of the finest and most influential trumpet players of his age and a great influence on many Jazz trumpeters who followed him. Like many Jazz musicians he died tragically early in 1931 aged 28. His playing in Singin’ the Blues stands head and shoulders above the other musicians and his tone (“like shooting silver bullets at a bell”) melodic phrasing and rhythmic invention are exquisite.

Tiger Rag by Chris Barber (1953): This was the record that turned me on to Jazz. It was in a record collection in a house that I holidayed in around 1956 and I couldn’t stop playing it. The banjo player is Lonnie Donegan who later became very popular in the Skiffle craze.

Two Sleepy People by Fats Waller: Fats was a great favourite of my Dad. Fats was
a fine pianist, composer (Honeysuckle Rose) and singer with a wicked sense of
humour.

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong: Louis possessed two amazing
instruments – his trumpet and his voice, and this is a wonderful recording of his voice in later life after he’d been forced to give up blowing. His timing and phrasing are perfect. It’s also a favourite of Julie’s.

Jungle Town by Ken Colyer: Ken was an irascible British trumpet player and band
leader who insisted on sticking to the original purity of New Orleans Jazz. Having been partly responsible for the Trad Jazz boom of the sixties he came to despise its commercial excesses and went his own sweet way playing to small audiences in small Jazz Clubs. This recording has Ken playing (in a school hall in Edmonton) a fine trumpet line, but I think is notable for the last few choruses which demonstrate ensemble Jazz playing at its glorious raggy best!

Fine and Mellow by Billie Holiday: This was recorded for television and is available as a video on YouTube. It’s notable not only for Billie in relaxed voice but also for the galaxy of Jazz stars that accompany her including (In order of solos) Ben Webster (tenor sax), Lester Young (tenor sax), Vic Dickinson (trombone), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), and Roy Eldridge (trumpet). Billie and Lester hadn’t worked together for some time and the expression on Billie’s face when Lester plays his wonderfully cool solo speaks volumes.

Bill by Cleo Laine: This comes from the musical Showboat which Julie and I saw (to mixed reviews! ) in the West End. I can’t listen to this with a dry eye. It’s a sloppy sentimental tune but Cleo’s interpretation is wonderful. The lyrics were originally written by P G Wodehouse.

Concerto for 2 Violins by Bach: This is just liquid beauty. They say that if Bach had been alive today he’d have been a Jazzer, which is why I think he is probably my favourite classical composer.

Then there’s all the stuff that I’d try to grab as the ship was sinking and smuggle ashore: Vissi D’arte by Maria Callas, Potato Head Blues by Louis Armstrong, how could I leave out Barbra Streisand, or something by Duke Ellington or Count Basie? And then there’s Art Tatum and Miles Davis, and I can’t leave out something by that fine guitar player Gary Potter. It’s so cruel having to choose! Oh God, I’ve just played Nimrod again – how can I leave that out?

Well, there we have it. I’ve put a date on it because if I had to choose again
tomorrow I would no doubt change something.

The book I would take? I’m not a great reader, but The Complete Works of
Shakespeare would be useful – I would keep the sonnets and the rest would come
in handy for lighting fires.

And my luxury? Probably a saxophone (alto or tenor) with a supply of reeds. I could then learn to play the thing properly and play along with my Jazz heroes. Or better still – a fully loaded I-pod complete with a solar battery charger and earphones!

Enough of this torture! It’s time to send the list to Jill.

In the unlikely event that anybody would like some or all of these tracks on a CD I’d be happy to oblige.

Keith Rands-Allen

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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