Getting back into the good old swing of things

Tenor sax player Alan Riley
Tenor sax player Alan Riley

Regular readers of The Gazette will have seen the photo of the Alan Riley Jazz Orchestra, who play at the Ashley Club, Thornton, on the first Monday of each month.

As a lapsed big band fan I’d intended to get back into the swing of things, but it took a phone call from George Elliott to get me there.

I first met George when I was a Fleetwood reporter for the Lancashire Evening Post, in 1956.

He sold me a ticket for a trip he was organising to see the Stan Kenton Orchestra at the Public Hall, Preston.

This was soon after I had joined the Blackpool Jazz Club in the big concert room at the Raikes Hall Hotel, Liverpool Road – which founder members Alan Thompson and Bill Davies had discovered when having a pint.

Over the years, an amazing line up of local jazz talent kept fans returning every Thursday night and the club was often able to book big name musicians – too many to mention here but notably John Dankworth, who became honorary president.

In 1969, trumpeter George Elliott and tenor sax man Jack Holland put money into a music library and launched the Blackpool Jazz Club Big Band.

The local big band tradition is being kept alive at the Ashley Club and they would love to see more old friends.

There was I, pint on the table and being blown away, as we used to say, by 16 guys and one gal in numbers like Cherokee, Satin Doll and Perdido.

It’s unfair to single out individuals, but I’ve got to mention pianist Frank Flynn, who turned Softly In A Morning Sunrise into a jazz concerto.

What would Sigmund Romberg have thought?

Conductor George Elliott has listed the typical line up of the Alan Riley Jazz Orchestra on the first Mondays.

Saxes: Alan Riley, Harry Collinge, Bill Barrow, Lindsey Irwin, Russell Irwin.

Trumpets: Graham Smith, Mike Dyer, Greg Francis, Ian Hunter, Ian Whittaker.

Trombones: Chris Maudsley, Rod Goth, Rob Butler, Rob Baldwin.

Frank Flynn (piano), Tony Hitchen (bass), Dave Minshull (drums).

In the intervening weeks, Alan leads his quintet.

It’s a real Memory Lane of Jazz!