Art Themen started playing jazz with the Cambridge University Jazz Group, and then in London playing with blues musicians Jack Bruce and Alexis Korner. In 1965 he played with the Peter Stuyvesant Jazz Orchestra in Zürich, going on to play with such English luminaries as Michael Garrick and Graham Collier’s Music.
In 1974 he entered on what was to be one of his central musical relationships when he started playing with Stan Tracey. He has played with all of Tracey’s groups, touring with him all over the world as well as around the UK. He has also played and toured with musicians such as Nat Adderley, Ian Carr, George Coleman, and Al Haig.
Art was joined by the Jazznights trio and Larraine Odell on vocals
Roger Odell– drums
Roger was one of the founder members and drummer with the jazz-funk group Shakatak, Roger has toured internationally and recorded numerous CDs, which he continues to do on a regular basis to this day.
Simon Brown – piano
A very respected and popular jazz pianist who is equally known for his arranging skills. He is always in demand to play many gigs with other bands when he is not teaching jazz piano or playing with the Jazznights Trio
Bernie Hodkins – double bass
Inspired by an uncle, who played and recorded with Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli in the legendary Quintet de Hot Club of France, Bernie grew up in a Jazz-oriented family. Their influence led him to become a respected bass player behind such people as Matt Munroe, Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lotus, in the early stages of his career. Bernie is particularly acknowledged as being one of the few players to bring an authentic, driving jazz feel to both the double bass and the bass-guitar, and for his fluent and creative soloing.
Larraine Odell – vocals
Beginning her professional singing career with the group CMU with whom she recorded two albums, Larraine performed at numerous venues throughout the UK and Europe, including the Purcell Room, RFH, Boxford Fleece & Ronnie Scotts. Larraine possesses a unique smouldering tonal quality and a subtle jazz phrasing style that has elicited great praise from two of her own vocal mentors, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan.
Larraine and the Trio opened the first set with Brooks Bowman’s East of the Sun and West Of The Moon featuring Simon Brown on piano. Second was Estate – French for Summer by the composer Bruno Martino with words by Joel Siegal. This really is a lovely song and Larraine more than did it justice in a sensitive and soulful manner. An up-tempo Night and Day by Cole Porter (from the 1932 production of Gay Divorce) featured a notable (sorry about the pun) solo from Bernie Hodgkins on bass.
The 1930 standard Body and Soul by Johnny Green with lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton was a interesting as Simon was playing in a different key to every one else!. Quite interesting to note that one is hard pressed to think of jazz groups that don’t include it in their repertoire but it was but it was Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Jack Fulton, vocal) who popularized it first. Their recording hit the charts on October 11, 1930, and held the number one spot for six weeks. Cole Porter’s 1955 number from his last Broadway show Silk Stockings – All Of You ended Larraine’s set: with an opening solo by Bernie leading into an up-tempo finale.
Art Theman on tenor opened his first set with Jerome Kern’s 1939 bouncy All The Thing You Are with 8 bar trades between Art and Roger on drums as well as an outstanding solo on bass by Bernie. Art’s second number featured his soprano sax which has a curved neck and bell which looks much like a baby alto. (There is some debate over the effect of the straight and curved neck, with some players believing that a curved neck on a soprano gives it a warmer, less nasal tone) the 1937 Someday My Prince Will Come by Frank E Churchill. Interesting that many associate this with the Miles Davis recording but he didn’t record his rendition until 1961. This featured solos from both Simon and Bernie.
The ever popular ballad Hoagy Carmichael’s 1929 Stardust followed with Art reverting to tenor. Great sequence of 8 bar trades between Art and Roger again (Roger certainly earned his corn this evening) and a tender solo from Bernie. Sigmund Romberg’s 1928 Softly As A Morning Sunrise as featured by Sonny Rollins ended Art’s first set which went far to quickly.
The regular Jazznights sitting in spot opened the second set of the evening with a debut performance of two songs from Patrice Taylor (or was it Patrese Taylor?)L: Henry Nemo’s 1941 Tis Autumn and the 1950 Orange Coloured Sky by Milton DeLugg and Willie Stein – better known as I was walking along, minding my business, When out of an orange-colored sky, Flash! Bam! Alakazam! A regular local songstress followed with her version of I Wanna Be Loved By You from the 1928 musical Good Boy, the song being made famous by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.
Art Theman opened his second set with Sonny Rollins Take Off Your shoes featuring solos by all the bans and 4 bar trades with Art, Roger and Simon. You are The One followed followed again with solos from all. Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood followed which Art played as a tribute to Harry Beckett who sadly died as was due to play at Jazznights this evening. This also featured Bernie with a very subtle solo accompanied by superb brushwork from Roger
Art’s next tune featured a great rendition of Dexter Gordon’s Cheesecake (many of Dexter’s tunes were named after food – despite his slim build!) followed which was opened with Bernie on bass leading into Art and the trio and a noteworthy solo from Simon. Sonny Rollin’s Doxy (which was also the name of Sonny’s own record label: Doxy Records) in which Art featured both the soprano and tenor saxophones.
A powerful version of Ray Noble’s 1938 Cherokee closed what seemed to be a far too brief evening. It is no surprise of course that Cherokee is often chosen to close a gig with its naturally fast beat which is often played at “tempo de bitch”
A wonderful evening with a trio of East Anglia’s finest jazz musicians together with one of thw UK’s leading saxophonists, Art being one the The Three Tenors (not of voice though – just the tenor sax!
For further details and future gigs go to www.jazz-nights.com. The evening also has the the Jazznights sitting-in spot open for any musicians who would like to play at the club with the Roger Odell Trio.