Review: Louis & The Duke In London: Cadogan Hall, London

Review from our Cadogan Hall show for the London Jazz Festival - a great London concert theatre show, suitable for jazz festivals around the world. 

Louis & The Duke In London, review by Peter Vacher, London Jazz News

Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company has cornered the market for large-scale celebratory excursions into past jazz history. Remember their successful replication of Benny Goodman’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert? This time round, it was two fanfares in one, the first half reprising Louis Armstrong’s ground-breaking appearance [with his ‘New Rhythm Band’] at the London Palladium in July 1932, this followed eleven months later by Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, also making their European début at the same venue. Oddly perhaps, a certain Max Miller, by 1933 known as the ‘Cheeky Chappie’, was on both bills.

 

And yes, it was true that both these visiting jazz luminaries were cast as variety artists, appearing with a mixed bag of comics, jugglers and the like, this the result of Musician Union and Ministry of Labour stipulations then current. All of which was explained in Russell Davies’s sure-footed introductory narrative before the music got underway. That this was in the hands of Keith Nichols ensured authenticity but history also generated the idea that the concert proceedings should recall some of these long-gone variety artists. Thus we had a juggler, a Max Miller clone, a shake dancer, a drum routine, a ukulele act and most amusing of all, the sight of Richard Pite’s burly figure encoiled in a sousaphone, playing the Hungarian Dance no 5 alternately on this mammoth brass instrument and on a tiny piccolo fished out from a pocket. 

 

The music accomplished much, most notably via Enrico Tomasso’s brilliant recreations of the Louis repertoire and Nichols’ Blues Devils dealt lovingly with the 1933 Ellington material.  Just to hear them play ‘The New Black and Tan Fantasy’ was a joy.