The Elastic Band continue to stretch themselves at Halfmoon

Review by Paul Nelson

I SEEM o keep banging on about the Elastic Band. I have very good reason. I accompanied members of this worthy group in our pilgrimage to Pizza on the Park to hear Ruby Braff, now, alas, the late Ruby Braff. There was I, a child in the wilderness, surrounded by seasoned musicians all paying their dues to a master.

Not that the Elastix need to worry. Their performances every Sunday afternoon at the Halfmoon, in the Lower Richmond Road, Putney, which are FREE (I am always suspicious when that word uses capitals, though I needn't be), are without doubt ones that rank with the greatest, great Mr Braff included.

The place has become almost a shrine on a Sunday.

If you go, I suggest you sit near the stage. There you will miss the petty Putney persiflage that pervades the pumps area. The bar attracts the narcissi who need to see themselves in the mirrors and hear themselves. They rarely listen to anyone else, but make enough racket to spoil the jazz. They are the usual crowd you would expect to encounter in Putney, deposed princesses, crossdressers and out and out bores.

Nearer the stage, you will exult to the sublime sounds of a group of musicians who are more than a passing fancy.

The Elastic Band, so named because professional musicians casually passing (casually hell, they bring along their instruments) join the nucleus on the platform to dig in and swing out. The results, always impertinent and delightful, can be both startling and surprising.

Witness last week (Sunday, February 9, 2003) when the regular trumpet player, Ken Reece, was understudied by Janusz Carmello (he'll hate that), a different kettle of fish to our Ken but nonetheless as brilliant and surprising.

He insisted on a version of Lady Be Good as a ballad. The result was both fantastically superb but also dull in parts. When Janusz played it was superb, the rest of the band seemed to find the tempo uphill. But that is what the Elastix is all about, you never know what you are going to get, yet it is always worthwhile.

The first spasm, as Dick likes to call the sections of the afternoon, contained Tangerine, Cherry, the aforementioned Lady Be Good, Honeysuckle Rose and Lover Man. By now, the audience, apart from the chattering class, was getting turned on.

I Thought About You and Little Suede Shoes (on the band's CD, Ooh! That Kiss!), paved the way for the shy and retiring, preposterous Fred Rickshaw.

With Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans, he opened the afternoon, as is his wont, to a personal level of audience/band participation. I have to say as a jazz purist, I am not sure whether this is a good thing or not, but it is certainly popular and entertaining.

He dashed into a brilliant version of After You've Gone, during which the band let out the hounds of hell, and ended the spasm with a rousing Georgia On My Mind, and I have to confess that amidst all the cheering, this reviewer had misty eyes. You've got to hand it to Fred Shaw, he can hit you in the guts as well as the head.

Seven Steps to Heaven opened the final set by the now stretched Elastic Band, and after Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Sandy Moore took the spotlight to sing out the afternoon.

Miss Moore has a way with her. Apart from additions to the lyrics, she appears to be going the wrong way on a Travelator, swinging her hips and walking without moving from the spot. She gave a good rendition of Bye Bye Blackbird, followed by a dodgy Fly Me To The Moon, and ended with a rousing Route 66, which had the audience whistling and shouting, and the garrulous bar crowd actually listening for a change.

In short, the afternoon was as perfect as these afternoons are at the Halfmoon, and I will be there next week and the week after and so on.

If you are of the protected species and have not been exposed to the Elastic Band you are a sad case and should do something about it immediately. I mean immediately, because while the place was jumping and filled with appreciative listeners, the rest of the pub, with its sad Sky TV and pool table, was an echoing canyon. The music room looks as if it could become a bit tight for the fans of the Elastic Band.

Good to report somebody knows something apart from me!

Dick Laurie's Elastic Band; Dick Laurie (clarinet), George Oag (guitar), Mick Durell (bass), Clive Pracy (drums), Janusz Carmello (pocket trumpet), WITH: Tony Cash (alto clarinet), Stan Robinson (tenor sax), Fred Shaw (vocals and trumpet), Sandy Moore (vocals). The Halfmoon, Lower Richmond Road, Putney, every Sunday afternoon at FREE.

RELATED STORIES: Click here for Paul Nelson's 2002 review of Dick Laurie and co...
Click here for Paul Nelson's review of Ruby Braff at Pizza on the Park...
Click here for a round-up of what's on at the Halfmoon...