30 March 2013


Often, I have bemoaned the fact that - here in England - if you go to a pub or jazz club to listen to a traditional jazz band, you will usually find yourself in a small audience whose average age is 75; and there is a fair chance that the music will sound tired and mechanical and lacking in creativity, though perhaps this is not surprising as we musicians are in our 70s and 80s too. Thank goodness (as I have often said) there are some young people producing more exciting traditional jazz in other parts of the world. Many of them are to be heard every day on Frenchmen Street and Royal Street in New Orleans. Here in England we have just a few.

I must share with you the latest bit of Good News to reach me. It comes from Scarborough, Yorkshire, on the east coast of England, about 220 miles north of London. At school there as recently as 2010, Laurence Marshall - a talented young player of several instruments, including the trumpet, trombone and sousaphone - joined up with fellow members of school bands and orchestras to form The Jelly Roll Jazz Band.

Laurence says: We did a lot of busking, and trad was perfect as the repertoire we played was happy and upbeat and lots of people know the tunes in the backs of their heads. It always made us some pocket money and it's very fun music to play as you can do whatever you want really.

Since then, the members of the band have passed through universities, where most of them studied music in some form, though Michael, the clarinet player, read Chemistry. They kept the band going by playing together during their holidays.

Having graduated, they embarked on professional careers, some as musicians; but one is a school-teacher and another works for a healthcare software company. Even though they are more scattered now, the band is flourishing and they have even made a CD.

The Jelly Roll Jazz Band can comprise anything from three to six players. In various formats (often just as a trio) it has frequently busked in Scarborough Town Centre, where the young musicians found themselves attracting plenty of bookings as well as spreading joy among the shoppers. CLICK HERE to see the trio playing Ice Cream.

CLICK HERE to watch four of them playing Yes, Sir, That's My Baby.

They play in a lively, energetic fashion and I'm told they frequently add to the entertainment by introducing comedy elements and routines.

So these are English traditional jazz musicians still in their early 20s! You will notice that they are very good players of their instruments. I hope they will keep up the good work and go on developing.

The Jelly Roll Jazz Band

Laurence Marshall: sousaphone, trumpet, etc.

Michael Grant: clarinet

Dan Wackett: banjo

Rosie Pickering: tenor saxophone
Ben Sarney: double bass
James Ure: sousaphone