This popular Sussex-based quintet has been together for just over sixteen years and has built up something of a cult following during its Sunday night residency at an Eastbourne wine-bar. A large repertoire of spirited hot music from the 1920s and 1930s is set-off by a blend of mild and sometimes impenetrable humour!
ANDY WOON (cornet, musical director): While the rest of the Orchestra may take the mickey out of Andy’s laugh and his taste in waistcoats and braces, none of us dares to call into question his musicianship, finely honed by his spell in the British Army. Andy’s ability to cope with the most complex of scores means that the Orchestra’s repertoire of unusual and less-often played numbers grows week by week – it’s just unfortunate about his total failure to remember the titles of more than about three of them. Army–trained and, therefore, red-hot at reading the dots, his trumpet inspiration is Clifford Brown, and yet the way Andy has absorbed the classic traditions of Louis and Bix is nothing short of triumphant. Andy recently confided to me (admittedly after a session down the pub) that “leading a band is not all toothpaste and honey”.
Of course it isn’t, Andy.
Most of his arrangements for our repertoire of 700 or so tunes could fit on the back of a label off a baked-bean tin. (I shouldn’t have said that – even now Andy is racing to the larder, shouting “Great idea, Johnny-boy”
BRIAN J. HILLS (clarionet, alto sax, bass sax, etc) Brian is the unchallenged musical archivist of the band, and will, if pressed, recite every single recording made by the Alabama Jazz Jiggers on the Red Beans label between 1916 and 1927. The trouble is, he’ll do it even if not pressed. Brian majors on clarionet, soprano- and alto- saxophones, and occasionally the enormous bass-saxophone (depending whose car we’re using!); unless we’re alert enough to stop him in time, Brian will also entertain his adoring public on swanee whistle, penny whistle, harmonica, kazoo, hot fountain pen, and maybe even the hot biro for all I know – I’m usually at the bar by then.
Brian has enlivened many bands with his sparky and inventive reed-playing over the past 45 or so years, including the Original Downtown Syncopators, Spencer’s Washboard Kings and Spencer’s Nighthawks, The Blue Rhythm Kings, and Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra, with whom he also doubled as explosives and cannon expert. (don’t ask.)
BILL PARSONS (banjo, guitar, ukelele, 1970s juke-box)
Bill Frindall is legendary for the many volumes of statistics he drags around with him during a Test Series; our very own Bill Parsons rivals him with his extraordinary plethora of chord-books. He really could do with a full-time librarian on every gig. “Bill – have you got a tune called Oh, Baby?” someone will ask. “There are five such numbers,” says Bill. “ Have a look in Vol. N – R (that’s the green book; no, not the dark green one – the pale green one) and if it’s not in there it’ll be in the master volume, but not under ‘O’. It’ll be at the back, after the red pages. Or there’s another Oh, Baby in Book 4 of the Anthology series – they’re in my black bag, over there. Have a look. I’ll look in my overflow book – I think there are a couple of Oh, Babies in there, or maybe in one of those orange supplements; pass them over, could you?”
“Forget it, Bill,” we say, “we’ll do Manhattan instead.” “Ah,” says Bill, “now that will be in ‘Popular Chord Changes’
– it’s in the car,
I’ll go and get it………”
Heaven preserve us.
Bill was a former member of the Blue Rhythm Kings and Johnny King Jazz Band.
JOHN MUXLOW (percussion, vocals, MCC and bar), graces us with his presence on those rare occasions when he is not following either Sussex County Cricket Club (in the summer) or Brighton & Hove Albion (in the winter) around the country. Either that or he’ll be in a pub somewhere in the depths of Sussex, scribbling away in the notepad he always carries with him; writing to his distant girl-friend, or firing off a fulminating letter to the Daily Telegraph complaining about the slovenly use of a hanging participle, or jotting down increasingly incoherent accounts of (to him) humourous events that have occurred on VHF gigs, for use in the band’s newsletters. (Andy is horrified at the amount of paper he gets through.)
Johnny was a founder-member of Harry Strutters in 1968.