Monday 13 June 2016

Al Nicholls - Richmond Rhythm Club

Al Nicholls  demonstrating Nelson Riddle's slinky arrangement of I've Got You Under My Skin
Al Nicholls

Date - 31st May 2016
Venue - Richmond Rhythm Club
Current release - That Swing Thing by The Al Nicholls Quartet (Harlem Records HARLCD01)

Joe the Hat
Sketches from a talk by Al Nicholls (King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, The Ray Gelato Giants) at the Richmond Rhythm Club on the theme of arranging. Normally I like to sketch musicians in action, in the thrall of the music, where the beat and swing push the pen. Here I had a rare opportunity to visit the Richmond Rhythm Club, documenting some of their patrons and learn more about the structure of music. It was a pleasure to discover new recordings and hear about the arrangers who were the architects of some of the biggest hits in Jazz.

a RRC listener
Al Nicholls gained a sound musical education at Leeds College of Music (1983/6) where, significantly, he completed a thesis on “The Texas Tenors” (Buddy Tate, Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, etc.), players whose muscular musical style became a strong influence, along with Ben Webster and Plas Johnson. After leaving college he cut his teeth in a succession of Jump Jive and Rhythm and Blues bands. Then in 1987 he joined Mike Sanchez’ Big Town Playboys, undoubtedly the best British R&B band of their generation.

Madame Iris
Al met Dick Laurie when he moved London (Putney) and played in various versions of Dick’s ‘Elastic Band'. In the 90s he became a major figure in the R&B/Jump Jive scene. After bringing some discipline and musicianship to the wonderful musical mayhem which was King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys (1992/4), he fitted in superbly with the highly skilled masters of the JJ idiom, The Ray Gelato Giants (1994/6), becoming their principal arranger. At the same time he had a notable success with a recording project by “The Big Six” which led on to several extensive tours of the US (1995/9).

In recent times Al continues to be a sought-after session musicians and freelance swing saxophonists, regularly invited to appear at prominent jazz venues, clubs and festivals, with such as Pete Long’s Echoes Of Ellington and many others. He’s also a regular member of T.J. Johnson’s band, Tony Pitt’s All Stars and, of course, Blue Harlem.

Clive Evans
The Richmond Rhythm Club meet on Tuesdays from 2-4pm, with drinks in the bar before and after. Tomorrow (14/06/2016) listen to Tomasso Starace, followed by Jack Honeyborne (21/06/2016).



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