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A Tip of the Hat: Volume 1 Sleeve Notes


PEK Sound: PKCD-399
Recorded September 2015
Total playing time: 64m 05s

Line-up
Gary Wood trumpet,
vocal; Chris Pearce clarinet soprano & tenor sax;
Richard Leach
trombone, vocal; Rod Kelly piano; Ian Parry guitar, banjo; John Fellows double bass; Graham Smith drums.

"A tip of the hat in the direction of the late, great Alex Welsh and his band” is a phrase I find myself using regularly on stage with the 7 Stars of Jazz due to the fact that so much of our repertoire is based on the arrangements that the Welsh Band used. In fact this is an acknowledgement of the lasting effect the Welsh Band had on the British jazz scene, certainly to my mind, since the sad passing away of Alex himself at the very young age of 52.
Biographies of Alex Welsh invariably mention that he was not only a fine trumpet player who surrounded himself with some of the best jazz players of the time, between the years of 1954 and 1982, but a bandleader who entertained with a certain amount of humour and rapport with the audience.
These too have been the goals of Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz since its formation in hopefully achieving some of the subtlety as well as the vibrancy of the Welsh Band.
As it is over six years since our last CD recording it will come as no surprise to know that the 7 Stars have gone through a few personnel changes in the meantime.
Founder members pianist Mike Graver and banjo/guitarist Brian Mellor along with trumpeter Gordon Whitworth and bassist Roger Davis have all retired to quieter pastures (and less travelling!) in the jazz world.
Joining us in our forays around the jazz circuit are a talented quartet of musicians in the shape of Gary Wood on trumpet; Rod Kelly, piano; Ian Parry on banjo and guitar, and John Fellows on double bass.
Now the new line-up is well and truly settled, the time is right to release a new recording of some old favourites alongside some new additions to the repertoire.
A storming session at the 2015 Bude Jazz Festival, recorded with his usual expertise by Peter Kings of P.E.K. Sound, produced no fewer than twenty one tracks of sufficiently high quality that none could be consigned to the cutting room floor.
I hope you enjoy the music as much as the audience did on the day.
Richard Leach
For a sample of the tracks click on the highlighted titles.
Tracks: My Blue Heaven; Basin Street Blues; It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); When You And I Were Young Maggie; Fidgety Feet; When It's Sleepy Time Down South; I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free; Oh Baby; Sunday; It Had To Be You; Dippermouth Blues
   
A Tip of the Hat: Volume 2 Sleeve Notes

PEK Sound: PKCD-400
Recorded September 2015
Total playing time: 59m 50s

Line-up
Gary Wood trumpet,
vocal; Chris Pearce clarinet soprano & tenor sax;
Richard Leach
trombone, vocal; Rod Kelly piano; Ian Parry guitar, banjo; John Fellows double bass; Graham Smith drums
.

"A tip of the hat in the direction of the late, great Alex Welsh and his band” is a phrase I find myself using regularly on stage with the 7 Stars of Jazz due to the fact that so much of our repertoire is based on the arrangements that the Welsh Band used. In fact this is an acknowledgement of the lasting effect the Welsh Band had on the British jazz scene, certainly to my mind, since the sad passing away of Alex himself at the very young age of 52.
Biographies of Alex Welsh invariably mention that he was not only a fine trumpet player who surrounded himself with some of the best jazz players of the time, between the years of 1954 and 1982, but a bandleader who entertained with a certain amount of humour and rapport with the audience.
These too have been the goals of Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz since its formation in hopefully achieving some of the subtlety as well as the vibrancy of the Welsh Band.
As it is over six years since our last CD recording it will come as no surprise to know that the 7 Stars have gone through a few personnel changes in the meantime.
Founder members pianist Mike Graver and banjo/guitarist Brian Mellor along with trumpeter Gordon Whitworth and bassist Roger Davis have all retired to quieter pastures (and less travelling!) in the jazz world.
Joining us in our forays around the jazz circuit are a talented quartet of musicians in the shape of Gary Wood on trumpet; Rod Kelly, piano; Ian Parry on banjo and guitar, and John Fellows on double bass.
Now the new line-up is well and truly settled, the time is right to release a new recording of some old favourites alongside some new additions to the repertoire.
A storming session at the 2015 Bude Jazz Festival, recorded with his usual expertise by Peter Kings of P.E.K. Sound, produced no fewer than twenty one tracks of sufficiently high quality that none could be consigned to the cutting room floor.
I hope you enjoy the music as much as the audience did on the day.
Richard Leach
For a sample of the tracks click on the highlighted titles.
Tracks: Rosetta; Just Squeeze Me; Ce M'sieur Qui Parle; Body and Soul; Way Down Yonder in New Orleans; China Boy; New Orleans; Home; Lover Come Back to Me; Hindustan
   
Serenade in Blue Sleeve Notes
   

Classic Welsh
PEK Sound: PKCD-346
Recorded October 2009
Total playing time: 1:42m 45s

Line-up

Gordon Whitworth trumpet,
vocal; Chris Pearce clarinet soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax; Richard Leach trombone, vocal; Mike Graver piano;
Brian Mellor
guitar, banjo, vocal; Roger Davis double bass; Graham Smith drums

As has been well documented in previous sleeve notes Alex Welsh notably had two bands; the first, with Roy Crimmins on trombone and Archie Semple on clarinet, between 1954 and 1965 played mainly in the Dixieland Chicago idiom, while the second, between 1965 and 1978, with Roy Williams on trombone and John Barnes on reeds, extended itself to include elements of Swing and Big Band Jazz in its repertoire. With such a vast and wide-ranging archive of recorded material to delve into, the choices seem endless, but as the 7 Stars is not a slavish tribute band we have introduced tunes which have not, as far as I'm aware, been recorded by the Welsh band, in addition of course to some of the brilliant arrangements that have.
During the course of 2009 a series of new tunes was added to the repertoire which meant that by the date of this recording on October 13th all the arrangements were well honed resulting in a near faultless evening of jazz which Peter Kings of P E K Sound once again using his expertise and experience captured for posterity.
The result is that all 18 tunes performed before the Stourbridge RFC Jazz Club audience that evening were suitable for release. Consequently this is a double CD, a first for the band, and actually means the evening's jazz is presented in its entirety.
The selection of tunes includes ‘Ce Monsieur Qui Parle’ a Sydney Bechet number previously recorded by Humphrey Lyttelton; an original arrangement of ‘Way Down Upon The Swanee River’ for the Mike Graver piano trio; a vocal for Gordon on ‘I’ll Always Be In Love With You’ complete with its Louis Prima styled ending and the beautiful Bob Haggart composition ‘What's New’ for his trumpet feature on Disc I. Disc 2 includes the Louis Armstrong Hot Five classic ‘Swing That Music’ for our very own Hot 5 contribution; a lively, crowd pleasing ‘Nothing Blues’ with a vocal from banjoist Brian MelIor, and Sydney Bechet's ‘Georgia Cabin’ for Chris Pearce's soprano sax feature.
I am confident that all these tunes could well have been performed live by the Alex Welsh band, and they probably were, but we will never know for sure.

Richard Leach
For a sample of the tracks click on the highlighted titles.
Tracks:- Disc One:Ce Monsieur Qui Parle; Someday Sweetheart; I Wished On The Moon; What's New; After You've Gone; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; Way Down Upon The Swanee River; I'll Always Be In Love With You; Savoy Blues
Disc Two: Dardanella; Serenade in Blue; Tangerine; Montmartre; Nothing Blues; Georgia Cabin; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Swing That Music; Everybody Loves My Baby
   
"CLASSIC WELSH" Sleeve Notes
   

Classic Welsh
PEK Sound: PKCD-328
Recorded April 2008
Total playing time: 79m 36s

Line-up

Gordon Whitworth trumpet,
vocal; Chris Pearce clarinet alto sax; Richard Leach trombone, vocal; Mike Graver piano;
Brian Mellor
guitar, banjo, vocal; Roger Davis double bass; Graham Smith drums.

Ever since his untimely death fans have mourned the musical loss of both Alex Welsh and his two great bands, but just when it may have seemed that all was sad silence, Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz have taken up the torch and born it forth. It's no easy task because both Alex's groups shared the common properties of premier musicianship and stylistic propriety. His first played generally in the glorious image of Eddie Condon, while his second (co-starring John Bames and Roy Williams) happily diversified in style; Welsh's sturdy cornet being a reliable centre for the whirlwind talents of his brilliant frontline partners. Sometimes, I know, Alex missed the simple Dixieland which he had espoused to begin with; "all I ever wanted to do" he told the author once "was play 'At The Jazz Band Ball"'. I feel sure he would have liked this album all the more, because Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz, while loving the whole cadre of Welsh music, operate broadly within their inspiration's most affectionately-held sphere.
You'll have to listen to the whole album to appreciate how, but I would draw your attention to Gordon Whitworth's trumpet which, like Welsh's, understands the dual arts of solo performance and straight ensemble lead; to reedman Chris Pearce whose alto recalls John Barnes as strikingly as his clarinet can jog memories of Welsh's first (and tragic) clarinettist Archie Semple; and of course to leader Richard Leach's central contributions which effortlessly follow in the footsteps of Welsh's two premier trombonists, the two Roys Crimmins and Williams. Richard's rhythm section -Mike Graver, Brian MelIor, Roger Davis and drummer Graham Smith (who caps ' Hindustan' with a Lennie Hastings vocal flourish!) -similarly understand, as did Welsh, that a banjo can sit as comfortably and joyously in a rhythm section as a guitar. Then there are the fine details of programming throughout this celebration; repertorial references to the great Dresden concert of 1971 which some call Welsh's greatest ever; cheery vocals, solo features (Alex never let more than three numbers go by without a 'feature' allowing forays to the bar!) and those regular arranged touches which turn Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz into a classy and cohesive unit. Alex would have been proud of them.

Digby Fairweather
For a sample of the tracks click on the highlighted titles.
Tracks:- At Sundown; Exactly Like You; If I Had A Talking Picture Of You; No Moon At All; Stan's Dance; Hindustan;
Davenport Blues; Maple Leaf Rag; When The Midnight Choo Choo leaves For Alabam; You Made Me Love You; Autumn Leaves; Come Back Sweet Papa; Saint James Infirmary Blues;I Surrender Dear; Farewell Blues
 
Chicago Echoes  
   

Chicago Echoes
PEK Sound: PKCD-307
Recorded November, 2006
Total playing time: 79m 07s

Line-up

Allen Beechey trumpet;
Chris Pearce
clarinet alto sax, soprano sax; Richard Leach trombone; Mike Graver piano; Brian Mellor guitar, banjo, vocal; Roger Davis double bass; Graham Smith drums.

Whilst writing these notes in February 2007 I realised that it was exactly 45 years ago this month since Alex Welsh and his band recorded an LP record entitled ‘Echoes of Chicago’. So, with Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz still ‘Remembering the Sounds of Alex Welsh’, I thought we would acknowledge this anniversary by calling our new CD ‘Chicago Echoes’.

It is three and a half years since the first performance by The 7 Stars of Jazz and fellow founder members, pianist Mike Graver and guitarist Brian Mellor are still providing the solid cornerstones that every band needs. The personnel changes of 2005 that introduced the talents of Chris Pearce on reeds, Roger Davis on double bass and Graham Smith on drums seem a long time ago now and the band has settled down into a very tight unit. Having released "In Character", our 2006 CD recording with Gordon Whitworth on trumpet, this latest offering from the band has Allen Beechey, Gordon's job-share colleague, displaying his driving Chicago-style skills.‘Chicago Echoes’ illustrates, once again, the multifarious nature of the band's repertoire with features for Allen's trumpet on A Ghost Of A Chance, Chris's clarinet on Crying My Heart Out For You and Brian's voice and guitar on Just Relax. None of these numbers was recorded by the Welsh band but these performances, I feel, echo the spirit of those far off Chicago-style recordings laid down by Alex Welsh.The rest of this new CD contains the now familiar range of numbers that we perform live on stage, including a piano trio for Girl Of My Dreams, a Hot 5 version of Jazz Me Blues and a Dixieland classic in Fidgety Feet. The remaining band numbers such as China Boy and New Orleans are Chicago classics going back to the 1940s recordings of Eddie Condon; so, in the same way that the Alex Welsh band echoed those wonderful sounds, Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz are, in turn, continuing the echo into 2007. Another exciting performance for the Stourbridge RFC Jazz Club regulars, once again gave me the difficult decision of what to leave off the CD rather than what to include. I hope you enjoy my choices.

Tracks:- China Boy; You Took Advantage Of Me; Monday Date; New Orleans; Jazz Me Blues; Dippermouth Blues;
A Ghost Of A Chance; Girl Of My Dreams; Mandy, Make Up Your Mind; Just Relax; FidgetyFeet; Crying My Heart Out For You; Home; Christopher Columbus
 
"In Character"  
   

In Character
PEK Sound
PKCD-296
Recorded April 2006
Total Playing Time: 71m 23s

Line-up
Gordon Whitworth trumpet, vocal; Chris Pearce clarinet, alto sax, soprano sax;
Richard Leach
trombone, vocal; Mike Graver piano; Brian Mellor guitar, banjo, vocal; Roger Davis double bass; Graham Smith drums.

During the year 2005 Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz underwent several changes in personnel. The revolving door has, however, introduced some fine jazz musicians to the 7 Stars of Jazz line-up, including ex-Pete Allen sideman Roger Davis who joined on double bass, and the multi-talented Chris Pearce, best known for his many years with the Blue Note Jazzband of Bristol, who plays clarinet and saxophones.

The ever-important position of trumpeter with the 7 Stars of Jazz, bearing in mind the band's leaning towards the Alex Welsh repertoire, has been shared between two outstanding horn players. The majority of the work is being carried out by that young ‘Bright Star of Jazz’ Allen Beechey, with the remainder being covered by the vastly experienced, ex-Monty Sunshine trumpeter, Gordon Whitworth.

The drum seat, likewise, has been shared by two ‘powerhouse’ drummers of whom I'm sure Lennie Hastings would have approved, namely Graham Smith, ex-leader of Birmingham's Jazz Allsorts and currently with the Antique Six Jazzband, and Nick Millward, drummer with Kenny Ball's Jazzmen for the last ten years and now also supporting George Melly with Digby Fairweather.

Entering 2006 with a fair degree of stability in the line-up, the time seemed right for a further recording session from the band to meet the increasing number of requests from our ever-growing fan base. In consequence the band met with Peter Kings of P.E.K. Sound once again in the superb acoustics of Stourbridge Rugby Club and, before the usual enthusiastic Jazz Club audience, another evening was enjoyed, ‘In Character’ remembering the sounds of Alex Welsh.

 

Tracks: - Royal Garden Blues; Sugar (I Call My Baby My Sugar); My Gal Sal; Good Queen Bess; Just One More Chance;
The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me; Just Squeeze Me; Rosetta; Dapper Dan; Flamingo; I'm In The Market For You; Sleepy Time Gal; Original Dixieland One-Step; Old Rockin' Chair; Chinatown My Chinatown

 
Strike Two  
   

Strike Two

PEK Sound PKCD-267
Recorded December 2004
Total Playing Time: 75m 43s

Line Up
Richard Leach - Trombone; John Bumett - Trumpet & Vocals; Rod Chambers - Tenor Sax, Alto Sax, Clarinet & Vocal; Mike Graver-Piano;
Brian Mellor
- Guitar, Banjo & Vocal; Len Thwaites - Double Bass; Brian Price - Drums.

After recording our debut CD 'Bordering On The Welsh' at Stourbridge RFC Jazz Club in December 2003 Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz returned to the same venue 364 days later to record this second helping of Alex Welsh-styled Chicago Jazz. The intervening twelve months have seen the band clock up almost 4,000 miles on English roads, taking in venues as far North as Leeds, as far South as Gosport and as far West as Bude. We have even played in my old home town of Watford.The year culminated in December with a two week stay for the band and fans at Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria, arriving home from the Canarian sunshine just 24 hours before the recording.

Ranging from the banjo-fuelled Dixieland standards, Everybody Loves My Baby and Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, to the swinging sound of Lover Come Back To Me and the rarely heard belting finale Doggin' Around, the session included a Hot 5 version of Muskrat Ramble, a true ballad in Trust In Me, a stylish piano trio for Shiny Stockings and the vaudevillesque When I Take My Sugar To Tea.

The title of this CD, Strike Two, has been inspired by the Alex Welsh Band's 1966 recording Strike One, the first LP on which Roy Williams and John Barnes appeared with that prestigious band.

As my personal tribute to Alex Welsh I have used, for my trombone feature, his excellent arrangement of That Old Feeling which he himself played on Strike One.

In consequence, I hope that while you are listening to Strike Two you will experience some of 'that old feeling' of energy ,and excitement generated by Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz in their performance.
Tracks:- There 'll Be Some Changes Made; It Had To Be You; Everybody Loves My Baby; When I Take My Sugar To Tea ;
Shiny Stockings; Lover Come Back To Me; Trust In Me; Muskrat Ramble; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Marie;
That Old Feeling; Rose Room; I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me; Doggin' Around .
 
Bordering On The Welsh  
   

Bordering On The Welsh

PEK Sound PKCD-243
Recorded December 2003
Total Playing Time: 73m 15s


Line Up
John Burnett trumpet;
Rod Chambers
tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet; Richard Leach trombone, vocal ; Mike Graver piano, Brian Mellor guitar, banjo; Len Thwaites double bass; Brian Price drums, vocal.

With two members of Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz living in Herefordshire, two in Worcestershire and three in the West Midlands one might be forgiven for thinking the title ‘Bordering on the Welsh’ refers to the geographical location of the band. Not so!

In fact ‘Bordering on the Welsh’ refers to the musical style of the band. The Welsh concerned, of course, being the late, great Alex Welsh, the Scottish trumpeter who, from the mid 1950s to the late '70s, led Britain's foremost Chicago-style jazz band.When asked many people have said the Roy Williams - John Barnes era of the Alex Welsh band is their favourite listening. I am no exception and the ‘Classic Concert’ recorded in Dresden during 1971 remains my personal favourite. With the perfect eclectic mix of Chicago, Swing and Dixieland with just a hint of Vaudeville, the band doesn't just play jazz it entertains the audience.This then is the basis of Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz - not to be a direct ‘tribute’ band to Alex Welsh but rather to be a band playing in a similar style, with similar energy and skill and with the ability to entertain an audience with several musical styles.

The 7 Stars of Jazz is a new venture for me and helping me along the way are some of the most experienced jazz musicians around. The front line is completed by exciting trumpeter John Burnett and fellow Midland’s bandleader Rod Chambers who shows his versatility on reeds.

The rhythm section or ‘engine room’ comprises Mike Graver an accomplished, elegant pianist who is the cornerstone of Tad Newton's Jazz Friends: the understated Brian Mellor on guitar and banjo, one of the most sought after musicians in the Midlands; and double-bassist Len Thwaites who actually toured with Alex Welsh for two years in the late 1970s. Stylish drummer Brian Price, another ex Pete Allen sideman, who has also worked with Chris Barber and Rod Mason completes the line-up.

 

Tracks:- S'wonderful; Sweeping The Blues Away; That's A Plenty; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Willow Weep For Me;
Out Of Nowhere; I Want A Little Girl; I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling; As Long As I Live; Sweet Lorraine; Once In A While;
Georgia On My Mind; Oh Baby!;


TAILPIECE BY ROY WILLIAMS

It is always flattering to hear jazz fans and musicians alike waxing lyrical about the Alex Welsh Band and of how much joy and entertainment the band gave them.I'm sure I can speak for my friend of many years, John Barnes, in saying that the time we spent with ‘Welshie’ was both exciting and stimulating.

On this recording, ‘Bordering on the Welsh’, Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz perform a selection of familiar tunes with such commitment and enthusiasm that it is obvious the Chicago/Dixieland genre (in which the Alex Welsh Band excelled) has been well and truly absorbed.

Special mention must be made of Mike Graver's piano playing (shades of Fred Hunt here), also John Burnett on trumpet who gets amazingly close to the tone of Alex Welsh's horn, and, with his splendid timing, drummer Brian Price keeps the whole thing tight.

So, well done Richard and all the guys in the ‘7 Stars of Jazz’ Keep the Chicago flag flying!

Kind regards
,Roy Williams

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