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The Basin Street Brawlers: It's Tight Like That

Bruce Lindsay By

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It's Tight Like That! is the debut release from the Basin Street Brawlers. Self-styled "purveyors of hot jazz"—indeed, with laudable hubris, "London's own master exponents of hot jazz"—the Basin Street Brawlers hark back to a bygone age, when sharp suits were de rigueur and bands that failed to get their audiences dancing would soon be excluded from polite society.

The hubris is (at least partly) tongue-in-cheek and the band has the chops to back up its claims. There's plenty of good humor on display throughout It's Tight Like That!. From the marvellous MC-ing of Natty Bo on "A Smooth One (Intro)" and "A Smooth One (Outro)"—where Viv Stanshall meets Lord Buckley—to the excellent JohnJohn Records logo, the Basin Street Brawlers create an appealing and entertaining musical world.

It's Tight Like That! features a dozen or so classic songs. Focussing on the music of the '20s and '30s, the band mixes up-tempo swing with slow ballads, instrumentals with vocal numbers, tight ensemble work with exceptional solos.

Leader and trumpeter Peter Horsfall handles most of the vocals, with a crooning style that harks back to Al Bowlly, a major star in '30s Britain. Horsfall, clarinetist Ewan Bleach and trombonist Malcolm Earle-Smith form a tight, expressive, front line, given the room to improvise and interact by a swinging and dependable rhythm section. Pianist Colin Good is equally at home as a soloist or on rhythm duties ("Just One Of Those Things" features some of his best work in both roles).

Slow ballads are performed gracefully—Horsfall's own "If Only You Knew" is beautifully melancholy, Bleach's elegant solo encapsulating the song's mood; Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" is the perfect late-night last waltz. Swingers such as "Swing That Music" sparkle with energy and danceable rhythms. The classic "It's Tight Like That!" gets a suitably slinky, raw-edged arrangement and an enthusiastic vocal chorus.

The Basin Street Brawlers are not alone—a growing number of bands are intent on a similar (re) discovery of past delights, from early New Orleans to big band swing to Django Reinhardt's guitar jazz. In the UK this scene features new bands and more established groups such as the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. The Basin Street Brawlers shares members with many of these bands— Bleach and bassist Dave O'Brien also play in Man Overboard, Horsfall is in Kansas Smitty's House Band.

Each of these bands retains its own particular style and repertoire and the audience is growing. It goes to show that you can't keep a good tune down—and with the skill and irrepressible energy displayed on It's Tight Like That!, the Basin Street Brawlers provide a perfect showcase for many such tunes. As Natty Bo exclaims, "You've got to swing that music!"

Track Listing: A Smooth One (Intro); If Dreams Come True; Just One Of Those Things; If Only You Knew; All My Life; How Am I To Know?; Stars Fell On Alabama; Once In A While; It's Tight Like That!; Swing That Music; A Smooth One (Outro); Lotus Blossom.

Personnel: Peter Horsfall: vocals, trumpet; Ewan Bleach: clarinet, saxophones; Malcolm Earle-Smith: trombone, vocals; Colin Good: piano; Martin Wheatley: guitar, banjo; Dave O'Brien: double bass; Mez Clough: drums; Natty Bo: MC (1, 11).

Title: It's Tight Like That | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: JohnJohn Records

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