Somewhere in the excellent liner notes to The Dime Notes of London’s debut album: The Dime Notes, the marvelous New Orleans clarinetist, Evan Christopher makes an important observation about the guitarist and likely prime-mover of this this new English band: Dave Kelbie. About The Dime Notes and their music, Christopher says, “builds a more inclusive community, based not upon nostalgia, or cliché notions of authenticity, but around the experiences the music can provide.” Evan Christopher has more than an intimate working knowledge of Kelbie – a sort of modern-day Alan Lomax when it comes to European Roma music – and the British slice of the European scene. And though he refers to musicians there as being part of UK ‘Trad’ bands (I, for one, prefer the slightly longer ‘UK bands playing in The Tradition’) Christopher’s excellent liner notes also mention with disdain such words such as ‘revivalists’ and ‘traditionalists’, preferring to glorify how pianist Andrew Oliver, clarinetist David Horniblow, bassist Tom Wheatley and guitarist Kelbie by exploring their leanings without justifying or defending their breadth of influences.
But enough of Evan Christopher for the moment; the Dime Notes disc you hold in – or will soon hold in – your hand is one that holds thirteen examples of the great music from the ancestral repertoire of jazz – the ‘maternal’ line of the music if you like. Each has been lovingly curated in a performance that leaves the listener speechless. And as if that were not enough, The Notes’ leader Andrew Oliver has refreshes our collective memory halfway through the record with his original, ‘Otis Stomp’, a tune which is as lively and evanescent as it is impossibly dazzling, before leading us into the second half of the record like a crowd of shameless excited jitterbugging dancers drawn to the legacy of Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson and – perhaps the music’s first and greatest Ambassador to Europe – Sidney Bechet. Underscoring the need to create a modern repertoire of this music, is the fact that England and Europe seem to hold up a mirror to American Jazz musicians sometimes with a far steadier hand than the young (white) American Jazz musician, who sometimes remains obstinately ignorant of The Tradition. Just listen to Tom Wheatley’s bass solo nudged on by the agonizingly slow, yet exquisite time-keeping of Dave Kelbie’s vamp before Oliver and Horniblow bring “Si Tu Vois Ma Mère” home to roost and you will hear an object lesson in the New Orleans blues of Sidney Bechet.
Want more? There is plenty to be had on this gleeful debut album of The Dime Notes. “The Camel Walk” is breathtaking with its pregnant pauses in the melody played by clarinetist and pianist during which one can almost imagine taking a swig of whiskey while one’s partner is held with one arm outstretched (the other downing the said glass of inebriating brew. Then in “I Believe In Miracles” there are ephemeral ‘breaks’ for piano, bass and clarinet, when Dave Kelbie rocks the tempo reminiscent of a lonely banjo. Kelbie’s star turn comes again during W.C. Handy’s “Ole Miss”, where his masterful sense of time sets Handy’s piece on fire by shape shifting into a snare drum and a bass drum, with a pointed thunder-splash that sounds as if he were indulging in a resounding slap of an invisible cymbal. Kelbie is not the only force of nature on this recording, although he has probably been largely responsible for serving up this delectable record. It’s impossible not to be fall prey to the charms of David Horniblow’s clarinet, Dave Kelbie’s kinetic rhythm guitar, Tom Wheatley’s growling bass, or to feel the almighty wallop of Andrew Oliver’s incredible pianism.
Track List: Original Jelly Roll Blues; Alabama Bound; Aunt Hagar’s Children’s Blues; Black Stick Blues; The Pearls; T’ain’t Clean; Otis Stomp; Si Tu Vois Ma Mère; The Camel Walk; The Crave; I Believe In Miracles; Ole Miss; Turtle Twist; What A Dream.
Personnel: Andrew Oliver: piano; David Horniblow: clarinet; Dave Kelbie: guitar; Tom Wheatley: bass.