Frank Brooker’s Happy Chappies – Jazz on a Sunday

Date published: 24 February 2012

The New Year got off to a great start with a rare visit from “Frank Brooker’s Happy Chappies.” Superb reedsman Brooker led a highly entertaining unit which included the most manic drummer on the circuit - Rod McNamara.

You certainly get good value with ‘The Chappies’ with a gig list featuring 28 numbers all played with nerve and panache.

With a banjo/guitarist from Wigan, Jim Wright, his “When I’m Cleaning Windows” could have been George Formby inaccurate, and he also added the vocal to a calypso arrangement of “Isle of Capri” - bands like to bring in the Gracie connection.

A varied first set concluded with a big band Count Basie arrangement of “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” with Brooker’s sax, integral drumming and the muted trumpet of Greg Wadman.

Plenty to enjoy in set two with Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” featuring Phil Kampen’s double bass solo with guitar and McNamara’s cymbals, Brooker’s clarinet nuances in Bechet’s “Petite Fleur”, and a fine rendition of Humphrey Lyttleton’s “Bad penny Blues” with Wadman’s muted trumpet, and Wright’s banjo playing the piano role.

Vocals by Brooker interspersed set three with his version of “Zimmer Time” and solo clarinet leading “Creole Jazz”. The sax led African beat of “Mandela” contrasted with the stick of drumming of “Oriental Man”.

Great entertainment with a fine blend in the Sunday Spiritual “Lily of the Valley” and the calypso strains of “St Thomas”, solo drumming fuelling the sax, banjo and trumpet, then off into the night with “When the Saints go Marching in” or perhaps that should have been ‘out.’

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