A few things I know nothing about:- The Small World Of Sammy Lee, British Jazz, Soho in the 60’s, Kenny Graham.
What little I do know about:- Anthony Newley, London, British Films, Jazz (but only in general – well, essentially the popular American bits).
What I now know:- British Jazz is very different from American Jazz (and I like it too), I need to see this film.
This was supposed to be a review of sorts about the latest release from Trunk Records, but I really don’t feel qualified in terms of my knowledge of British Jazz to do that, so this posting is more a way of highlighting a discovery than a proper critique.
Trunk Records specialize in releasing for the first time, or re-releasing, forgotten music in all its retro forms – from old Library Music discs, the music to half-remembered children’s TV series, weird folk recordings, a few naughty things and the soundtracks to films which were not big enough to get a soundtrack album at the time. For anyone bored of shiny pop and looking for something a little different (or a lot different, for that matter!) this is an absolute godsend!
The forgotten film this time is The Small World Of Sammy Lee. It was Anthony Newley’s first film lead and is a story about a nightclub compère, Sammy ‘Lee’ Leeman (Anthony Newley), who gets seriously into debt and has to quickly find the money to pay off the bookies. It was filmed in and around the sleazy streets of Soho in the early 60’s and sounds like a real-time capsule of a movie. I must see it!
So, to the brand new soundtrack album to a 50 year old film – after finally tracking down the original master tapes (through Kenny Graham’s oblivious daughter, I believe) we can hear the music which was especially composed for the film by one of the UK’s premier exponents and promoters of modern jazz throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and beyond. The music generally has a plaintive mood about it, but is at turns wistful (Soho At Dawn), playful (The Hustling Starts), cool (Four O’Clock Hop), swinging (Dash To Bellman’s) and groovy (Thoughts At Home).
There is no Wikipedia entry for Kenny Graham, which is a real shame – from the evidence of this album of previously unreleased music he deserves to be much better known, and hopefully, with the increasing interest in British Jazz, he soon will be.
Postscript:- Allmusic mentions Kenny Graham, and there is a decent obituary in The Independent newspaper from 1997. If you would like more of Kenny Graham’s music try his re-interpretation and response to Moondog’s music – Moondog and Suncat Suites. And if you don’t know Moondog (also known as Viking of 6th Avenue) then check him out too – you’ll never know where it’ll lead!