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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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