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Twenty five years on, the Elastix are still stretching it to the max


Review: Paul Nelson

IMAGINE the scene, not one but two anniversaries and the aftermath of an important birthday. That is what happened at the Halfmoon, Lower Richmond Road, Putney, Sunday October 5, 2003.

The anniversaries? For six years, Dick Laurie's Elastic Band has played every Sunday afternoon at the venue without a break.

It was also a celebration of the first 25 of the band's existence, an event not to be missed by either musicians or fans of 'the lower'.

The worst kept secret is that it was Mr Laurie himself who had celebrated his probably last teen birthday the day before.

These three events fuelled an afternoon of serious jamming, and from far and wide, musicians, as they tend to do, swarmed.

As expected the afternoon started on a high and climbed from there.

The band itself was booted and suited for the occasion, at least mentally, and sailed into a hot version of Liza, which, by the end of this, the first number, had attracted a fair crowd not often seen so soon after a comfortable Sunday lunch.

They were further treated to They Can't Take That Away From Me, in a high, wide and handsome version, led by Ken Reece, and, after But Not For Me, we comfortably settled down into an afternoon of nostalgia knowing we were safe.

But we were not. Safety is something alien to the Elastix and we were further treated and shocked by Things We Did Last Summer, everybody knew it, nobody knew who composed it*, and it took your breath away.

A breather for the band, but not for the listener, was an all-too short set of three songs by the sensational Val Wiseman who began, and lit up the room, with a number usually used as a finale after a successful set (All Right, O.K., You Win) which banished memories of Sunday lunch, followed by the heartrending Easy Living, and 'Deed I Do, proving there was nothing that could follow her but an interval.

Glasses charged, spasm two got a kick start with the impossible Fred Rickshaw doing his by now familiar Old Rockin' Chair Got Me. In this case, familiarity did not breed contempt, and a blow out version of Cabaret, which sent the temperature of the by now full room into the eighties.

It was now time for Andrea Millward to step up to the mike. She is a very attractive, trim filly with a lovely voice and a wily way.

Apart from charming all the men in the room, she can sing with the best of them and only let me down by insisting on scat singing, and considering the double meaning of the word these days (check scatology in your Encarta or Funk and Wagnall) the comparison does not go unnoticed and, indeed, in my view is emphatic.

I can never forgive Louis Armstrong for inventing it, nor Ella Fitzgerald for forgetting her lyrics and using the style (this may be rumour but like scat it sticks to the blanket).

Anyway, rant over and scat ignored, I seriously appreciated I Thought About You and that lovely R&H song from 1944, It Might As Well Be Spring.

Back to Berlin and Blue Skies, with a stunning riff by the Conductor himself, followed by I Only Have Eyes For You and a nod to that almost forgotten score for Hit The Deck from which comes Sometimes I'm Happy; vocalist Jim Trimmer.

Interval number two.

The temperature, on quite a cool day, was now heading for boiling point and things were not cooled down by Jill Grant, whose Lady Be Good and The Lady Is A Tramp, thankfully finally reclaimed for a female after the horrendous Sinatra version, started the rot.

From now on, the elastic was being stretched to what I might have thought was its apogee, but no. With a brass section, that in the small room at the back of the Halfmoon which I had hitherto thought a large venue, made noises like the halcyon days of Kenton and to a lesser extent Joe Loss, and Ted Heath. It was a blast. The room shrank to the size of a postage stamp.

Makin' Whoopee, The Way You Look Tonight, Georgie Fame (with an outright sensation from Ann Odell on both keyboards and vocal), took us into another realm. I have to be corny and say it was Dreamland.

Not since Nina Simone gave up smashing jazz in order to send out her political messages have I heard such purity.

When Odell then went into I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby, I was surprised Dorothy Fields didn't spontaneously reincarnate.

The Elastix, time pressing, then went into a faux finale with Christopher Columbus, but there was no escape. Not, I think that they minded their chains.

We went into vocalists giving us Ain't Misbehavin', Mean To Me, and a hand clapping Route 66 before Reece closed the proceedings with what has now become a metaphor for a full stop, I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face. I must ask him about this.

This magnificent stretch of the Elastix was brilliant. Heaving could be a word describing the room at the end of the session, there were no places to sit or stand.

I am sad for those who missed it. The Conductor, obviously, was enjoying the event, no doubt having the added ingredient of being fuelled from the previous day. A man I truly envy.

The Magnificent Stretch Personnel:

Dick Laurie, clarinet, (core)
Ken Reece, cornet, (core)
George Oag, guitar, (core)
Mick Durell, bass, (core)
Rex Benett, drums, (core)
Harry Brampton (clarinet)
Andrew Campbell-Curtis (guitar)
Janusz Carmello (fleugel horn)
Tony Cash (alto sax)
Geoff Cole (trombone)
Pete Cook (alto sax)
Nigel Fox (keyboard)
Jill Grant (vocals)
Mike Hogh (trombone)
Andrea Millward (vocals)
John Mumford (trombone)
Ann Odell (vocals, keyboard)
Mike Peters (cornet)
Rachael Pinnell (vocals)
Stan Robinson (sax)
Frederick Shaw (vocals, cornet)
Jim Trimmer (vocals)
And Val Wiseman (vocals)


* Sammy Cahn

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