Smooth FM's Campbell Burnap at Grove Park Hotel

Jazz fans welcome trombone legend

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As the usual resident, Alto Saxophonist Eric Gilchrist, was on holiday it was the Grove Park Hotel’s honour to welcome that most cosmopolitan and likeable of British jazzmen, Trombonist Campbell Burnap to last Friday night’s session alongside regular Jack Honeyborne on piano.

The musicians Campbell has played with are almost a ‘who’s Who’ of jazz, including Billy Butterfield, Bud Freeman, Kenny Davern, Bob Haggart, Peanuts Hucko and Yank Lawson and their British equivalents Terry Lightfoot, Alan Elsdon and Acker Bilk. He has played in the States, including, of course, New Orleans, Canada, Europe, Japan, the Middle East and has had long stays in Australia and New Zealand. Apart from hosting Smooth FM’s excellent two hour Sunday evening programme Mainstem he now runs his own band.

It was a pleasure for an audience of appreciative Chiswickians to be able put a face to the smooth voice and to find that, in his hands, the ‘blues shouting trombone’ was capable of mellifluously lulling the evening away. The roomy yet intimate Grove Park was the perfect setting for Campbell’s confidential style of delivery as, self-effacing as ever, he was unstinting in his praise of Jack Honeyborne. Jack was also on sparkling form and, taking his cue from Campbell, used his gently wicked sense of humour to conceal from us the identity of tunes with encrypted intros and to play little musical jokes on his partner during chase choruses that were to follow.

Early on there was a pleasingly ‘Sweet Lorraine’ with Campbell’s husky vocal perhaps betraying the velvety foggy influence of Mel Torme. In memory of Fats Waller sideman Al Casey whose obituary was in the day’s papers the duo bounced through ‘Keeping out of Mischief’ with Jack striding out subtly and vamping slightly more flagrantly and Campbell’s vocal nodding towards Fats. A steady flow of new arrivals saw the last seat taken within half an hour as Campbell ‘called his chillun home’. A packed house was treated to a dark ‘Blue Skies’ with some very blue piano from Jack, a lyrical ‘Mean to Me’ and a beautifully measured ‘I Cried for You’.

Following the interval there came a cool ‘Dream’, and, in acknowledgement of one of Jack’s roles in his early days, that of accompanying Dick Haymes, he was featured on an early Sinatra hit, ‘I Didn’t Know’, demonstrating he could be ‘primus inter pares’. Soon the joint was jumping to ‘Jeepers Creepers’, with the handfuls crackling under Jack’s tasteful touch and Campbell’s slippery trombone balanced by a streamlined vocal, followed by a calming ‘Three Little Words’. There was no ‘Japanese Sandman’ to celebrate Dicky Wells’ collaboration with Django but a rocking ‘Slow Boat to China’ had the front row on the edge of their seats as Campbell’s slide bobbed perilously around his glass of red wine on the table in front of him.

The first guest to take the stand was local trombonist and old mucker of Campbell’s, Tim Wacher who duetted on the Duke’s ‘Satin Doll’. The trio were then joined by near neighbour Graham Prescott whose suave violin acquired a useful edge as, without amplification, he successfully vied with the two trombones for a showcase ‘Honeysuckle Rose’. Campbell then found the breath to jokingly fire Tim and hire on the spot Phil Brown who was sitting innocently nearby on leave from The Brewery Tap where his Swingtette holds sway on Thursday nights. Phil was surprised to find himself on a busman’s holiday without a horn but Tim saved the day by graciously handing over his. The new trio gave us ‘Crazy Rhythm’ and played us out with a raunchy blues. We left inwardly thanking the boys for an enjoyable evening and Eric Gilchrist for fixing such a brilliant deputy, thus demonstrating that the ‘Grove’ is the place to be on Friday evenings and happy that a few of those tunes would be buzzing round our heads into the night..

David Stanners


28 July, 2005