January 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly 2022
   
Three albums and sleeve notes added this month!

 




Brian Epstein reformed the Beatles... but first, there was Peter Leslie and Mr Acker Bilk!

Updated October 28th 2021 - I had just about all of Acker Bilk's Gramophone Records and many more besides in my Collection. I followed Mr Acker Bilk around the West Country from 1960-1963. I had all of his Albums and divested myself of Them when new Audio Technology manifested Itself in the form of firstly, Cassettes, and secondly, CDs. I now own all the main Acker Bilk CDs that are available, but transference to CD, whilst enhancing the Quality of the Sound Reproduction, has omitted to reproduce the Sleeve Notes, although one of the CD reissues has a tribute to Peter Leslie and acknowledges this genius. I hope you enjoy reading the amazing Words compiled by Peter Leslie for Acker's album sleeve notes – his Idea it was to dress Acker and his players in smart, fancy Waistcoats and Bowler Hats. It was an act of Genius, matched only by his Genius with Words. I still have my Copy of The Book of Bilk, by the way, bought for me as a Christmas present in 1962 by my Sister, Jean (who sadly died this year from Cancer - she was the very best Sister a Boy could ever have had). It, too, is a Work of Genius, and I will never part with it. What makes it even more precious is that it is inscribed by Jean...

Around the beginning of the 1950s, Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band were booked by his Agent for a six-week Stint in Dusseldorf (sound familiar?), following which Acker engaged an up and coming thriller Writer, Peter Leslie, to give him and the Band a Makeover. Leslie came up with the Idea of striped Waistcoats and Bowler Hats, and at the same Time started to write the Band's LP and EP sleeve Notes in a kind of mock Victorian Style. It was a visionary Move, because the band became far and away the most successful of the "Trad" Jazz bands of the late Fifties and early Sixties. I have most of the LPs as CDs now, but I've managed to collect some of the LPs I had as a young Teen. I shan't rest until I have them All transcribed on this Page for Eternity (or at least until my Demise). They are worthy of such Treatment, in my Opinion. This month (November 2021) I have added the Album The Mr Acker Bilk Omnibus, his last Album recorded on the Pye Jazz Label, and almost certainly the first Album with Sleeve Notes by Mr Peter Leslie.

UPDATE 26th October 2021: My love affair with Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band began when we heard him playing "Blaze Away" on the radio. The whole family loved traditional jazz, but we were more familiar with Chris Barber's Jazz Band to begin with. I was charged with going into the city in 1958 and coming back with a 78rpm single of Blaze Away. I didn't know at the time that it wasn't available as a single, and I bought Chris Barber's "Petite Fleur" instead, much to the disappointment of Mum, Dad and Jean. I eventually found Blaze Away on the 10-inch LP and bought it with my paper round money, probably a couple of months after buying Petite Fleur, but with that LP, the die was cast, and all other trad jazz bands paled into insignificance for me, and my obsession with Acker began in earnest.

UPDATE 26th October 2021: Just to let you know, I have managed to find three more albums with Peter Leslie sleeve notes which I shall be including in the December issue of Books Monthly. I'm not sure there are any more to be had, but I do keep finding albums, (some of which I never owned, and which are compilations of material recorded by Acker in the 1950s/60s) which contain tunes I have never heard Acker perform before. My CD count at the moment is ten, with two more on the way this weekend. My vinyl collection comprises two LPs and two EPs. I am now on the hunt for memorabilia such as concert programmes etc., as these also often contained notes compiled by Peter Leslie. The two concerts I attended at Cheltenham Town Hall had just such concert programmes, and I wish I had kept mine! If anyone reading this page should happen to have such memorabilia and wouldn't mind photocopying or photographing anything like the notes I have just mentioned, I would be more than pleased to include them on this page! For information on THE BOOK OF BILK, skip here to the bottom of this page...

New this month: November 2021

Lansdowne Jazz Series

ACKER Volume 2 (added 5/11/2021)

Mr Acker Bilk's Paramount Jazz Band

 
Side One

There’s A Rainbow Round My Shoulder (Rose-Jolson-Dreyer)(a)
2.19 Blues (Desfume)(a)

 
Side Two

Lazy River (Carmichael-Aredin)(b)(Vocal: Mr Acker Bilk)
Milenberg Joys (Morton)(a)

 
Personnel

Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Master Mind); Mr Kenneth Sims (Trumpet); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone); Mr Ronald McKay (Tambours, Traps & Effects); Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass); Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo)

(a) Recorded 7.4.60 (b) Recorded 5.4.60 Recording First Published 1960

Recording Engineer: Philip Clarke
Recording Supervisor: Denis Preston
Sleeve Design: Peter Leslie
Photography: Patrick Gwynne-Jones

Mr Acker Bilk in expressing the firm and pious Hope that the Listener has enjoyed, read, learned, inwardly digested and indeed, profited from the gentle Ballads performed hereon, begs leave to draw the Attention of the Same to Others of his Works obtainable under the same Distinguished Trade Mark, viz:-

Discs designed to revolve at a Speed of Thirty-three and one-Third Revolutions the Minute and of one Dozen inches Diameter:

The Seven Ages of Acker (33SX 1205); Acker (33SX 1248 mono; SCX3321 stereo); A Golden Treasury of Bilk (33SX 1304 mono; SCX 3366 stereo); Clarinet Jamboree (part only)(33SX1204)

The Same, restricted to a Diameter of but ten Inches:

The Noble Art of Mr Acker Bilk (33S 1141)

Discs designed to revolve at no less than 45 Revolutions the Minute, yet possessing a Diameter of no more than seven inches:

Acker’s Away! (SEG 7904); The Seven Ages of Acker Volume One (SEG 8029); The Seven Ages of Acker Volume Two (SEG 8076); Acker - Volume One (SEG 8089)



A Golden Treasury of Bilk (added 5/11/2021)

Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band

 

Upon Side the First

Should I? (Brown)
Snag It! (Oliver)
Pretty Boy (Blake)(Vocal Refrain Mr Acker Bilk)
New Orleans Stomp (Hardin-Armstrong)(Trombone Mr Jonathan Mortimer)
Corinne, Corinna (Williams and Chatman)(Clarionet: Mr Acker Bilk)
Coming For To Carry Me Home (Trad. arr. Bilk)(Vocal Refrain: Mr Acker Bilk)

 
Upon the Obverse

Buona Sera (Sigman and De Rose)(Vocal Refrain: Mr Acker Bilk)
Gatemouth Blues (Armstrong)
Club Foot (Greig)(Pianoforte: Mr Stanley Greig)
Lord, Let Me In The Lifeboat (Bechet)
Who Rolled That Stone Away? (Knight)(Vocal Refrain: Mr Ronald McKay)
Imperial Echoes (Safroni)

 

Those Performing

Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Master Mind); Mr Colin Smith (Trumpet); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone); Mr Stanley Greig (Pianoforte); Mr Ronald McKay (Traps, Effects and Vocal Refrain); Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass); Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo)

The Performance recorded upon the 9th and 10th days of August, the 14th day of September, and the 4th day of October in the Year of Grace Nineteen Hundred and Sixty

 
Recording first published 1961

Recording Engineers: Messrs Philip Clarke and David Sidi (Sic)
Supervision: Mr Denis Preston
Sleeve Design and Notes: Mr Peter Leslie
Colour Print: The Mansell Collection
Photography: from the Laboratories of Mr Patrick Gwynne-Jones

 
OO-BOP-SH’BAM OF ESHER

I met a Sideman from an antique Band
Who said: Two vast and lidless trunks of tin
Lie at the Station, open. Close at hand
Half cut, a shattered jazzman slumps, his gin
From broken Bottle seeps. I understand
The Tour was cancelled that his art required.
Just he remains; his tarnished Saxophone
And tattered Season near, whereon I read:
“My name is Bebop, man. Like I am hired.
Hark to my music, Tradmen, and drop dead!”
Nothing beside survives. Round the dismay
Of that colossal Flop, swinging like mad,
The sound of purist Jazz floats far away.

 
HOHENSCUNTHORPE

At Scunthorpe when the Take was poor
All empty lay the untrodden floor
And no fans queued up by the door
  ‘Till Acker rolled in happily.

Then Scunthorpe told a different tale,
When the Drum beat to Gulps of Ale
And oats peculiarly Male
  Betokened Bandstand Revelry.

Trumpet and Trombone blared the Call
As reed and rhythm gave their all,
The Floor was jammed; they had a ball,
  The Crowd who cheered so lustily.

 
ELEGY IN A CITY JAZZ CLUB

The bouncer thrusts his shoulder to the door,
The night engulfs the Egghead and the Rube;
The Fans depart still calling, still for More,
And ooblies brawl their way toward the tube. 

Now blow the yammering hoorays in their Sprites,
The Go-man-go!-boys’ girls are going gone,
Gone too, the student mice in woollen tights,
To leave the Club to Acker and to Ron.

 
ACKER CAN

In Zummerset did Dave and Frank
A splendid Cider Den design,
Where Ack the sacred Drinker drank,
Through Bottle, Barrel, Vat and Tank,
A Lake of Apple Wine.
So thrice FIve Pints he gently downed,
While Fans and Bandsmen gathered round;
And there were Wagers freely passed
Where jested many a tankard-bearing Bilk
That he would have three more before at last
He drank his normal bedtime Cup of Milk.
 

ODE TO A CRITIC

Hail to thee, blithe Critic!
  Word thou never wrote
That was not parasitic
  And got th’musician’s Goat
To the last Syllable of every envious Quote.

British Jazz (romantic!)
  With faint Praise thou damnest,
But if ‘tis transatlantic
Superlatives thou crammest
And cramming still dost seem semantically the hammest.

 
UPON A PROSPECT OF PUBLICATION

Ack has not anything to blow more fair;
Square would he be, a Henry who’d deny
The stimulus of this polyphony
But wait! They pose for a photographer!

The combo shows its paces; eyeballs, hair,
Lips, teeth, domes, elbows and temples vie
With horns and highlights for the camera’s eye -
A chance to make the Picture of the Year!

 
TOADY! TOADY!

Toady! Toady” That I might
In the dressing-room at night
By some show-biz alchemy
Stay thy dread sycophancy! 

At home; on distant one-night stands;
On concert tours of foreign lands,
O what boredom I do grasp
If I accept the profferred flask!

 
LE BEAU BOGEY SANS MERCI

Like what can ail thee, Constable,
  Alone and unobtrusive?
The Teds have withered from the Club;
  Nobody is abusive.

O what can ail thee, Constable!
  There’s no-one to solicit;
The liquors served where jazz bands play
Can hardly be illicit.

Dad, what can ail thee, Constable,
  Thy notebook at the ready?
The teenage birds have all flown home,
  Each with her steady.

No cars are left where none may park;
No dope fiends’ celebration;
The group is gone. Now why don’t you
Go too, go to the Nation?

With deepest apologies to Messrs Blake, Campbell, Coleridge, Gray, Keats, Shelley and Wordworth.


NIXA JAZZ TODAY SERIES

MR ACKER BILK MARCHES ON (added 6/11/2021)

Side 1

(a) Blaze Away (Holzman)
(b) Under the Double Eagle (Wagner)

 
Side 2

(a) El Abanico (Javaloyes)
(b) C R E March

(Recorded 21.7.58)

 
Personnel
Mr Acker Bilk (clarionet and titular head)
Mr J Mortimer (trombone)
Mr K Sims (trumpet)
Mr R McKay (traps)
Mr E Price (double bass)
Mr R James (tenor banjo) 

Sleeve design: Ian Bradbury
Photographer: Jane Gate
Recording: Balance: Peter Kay
Supervision: Denis Preston
 

Mr Acker Bilk’s Preliminary Skirmish in his Onslaught on the Agog Ears of a Delighted and Admiring Publick took the Form of the Issue of a Phonograph Recording designed to revolve at a Speed of Thirtythree and One Third Revolutions the Minute, and entitled Mr Acker Bilk Requests.” Scarce had the resounding Concussions of this Opening Fanfaronnade died away, however - so Gratifying were the Shouts of Acclaim, so Loud the Protestations of Esteem - than the Redoubtable West Countryman was obliged once more to re-form his Jolly Cohorts in preparation for a Second Encounter.

Accordingly, still engagingly beneath the Banner of the Purist League, the six Capital Fellows comprising Mr Bilk’s Justly Celebrated Ensemble fell in at the Stentorian Command of their Leader and moved off in Good Order, with Cornet, with Fife and Drum, in the Direction of the Phonograph Recording Manufactory; there to engage Mellifluously yet with Proper Regard for Rhythmic Stimulation, in the Creation of a Worthy Successor to their Initial Salvo. Here - in the First of what promises to be an Entertaining and Instructive Series - Mr Bilk and his Men tussle with a Quartet of Martial Tunes.

In the Elegant Style which has brought them Renown throughout the Civilised World, and Parts (as they say) of Soho, this Melodic Fusillade opens with a Stirring Rendition of the March, Blaze Away. Hotfoot on the closing strains of this, there erupts a Galvanic Performance of the Prussian Favourite Under The Double Eagle; A Military Jingle from the Nimble Pen of a Herr Wagner which will not remain Unrecognised by those who Patronise the Searchlight Tattoo. By an Adroit manoeuver Southwards to the Spanish Isthmus, Mr Bilk infuses a tropical air into his Campaign by the use of the March called, in their Lingo, El Abanico, and the Volley terminates, in a Well-Aimed Thrust from the Mother Country, with C R E March - these Many Years the Unofficial Battle Cry of Her Majesty’s Corps of Royal Engineers, from which Patriotic and Workmanlike Body derives the Initial Nomenclature alluded to in the Title.

 

The genius of Peter Leslie: The Mr Acker Bilk Omnibus: Pye Jazz Today Series

Side One

  • C.R.E. March (Trad. arr. Bilk) Recorded 21.7.58
  • Carry Mr Back (Bilk) Recorded 11.1.59
  • Travelling Blues (Austin) Recorded 5.3.58
  • Gladiolus Rag (Joplin) Recorded 7.3.58
  • Jump In The Line (Higgs & Cavanaugh) Recorded 11.1.59
  • Blaze Away (Holzman) Recorded 21.7.58
Side Two

  • El Abanico (Javaloyes) Recorded 21.7.58
  • Franklin Street Blues (Traditional arr. Bilk) Recorded 6.3.58
  • Louisian-i-ay (Darensbourg) Recorded 11.1.59
  • Dardanella (Bernard) Recorded 6.3.58
  • Higher Ground (Bilk) Recorded 11.1.59
  • Under The Double Eagle (Wagner) Recorded 21.7.58

Those Performing
Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and titular head; Mr Ken Sims (Trumpet); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone); Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass); Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo); Mr Ronald McKay (Traps).

Those concerned with Production
Supervision: Mr Dennis Preston
Recording Balance: Mr Joe Meek
Designer: Mr Ian Bradbery
Sleeve Notes: Mr Peter Leslie
Engraving: Mansell Collection

In the Space of Time which has elapsed since first the Incandescent Brillance of the Genius of Mr Acker Bilk burst like a Display of St Catherine's Fire on a Traditional Music World illumined previously only by the Fitful Flickering of Lesser Talents, a growing Clamour has been descried from among the Serried Ranks of his Loyal Devotees. It is for the Issue of a Handy Compendium encompassing each Aspect of the Art of Mr Acker Bilk displayed separately in the Initial Triumvirate of Phonographic Recordings bearing his Name. Accordingly, in the Dozen Melodic Delicacies here Assembled, can be found Representation from these three Categories:

Part the First derives from Mr Acker Bilk's Splendid Phonographic Debut; a Recording designed to revolve at a Speed of no less than Thirtythree and One Third Revolutions the Minute and entitled "Mr Acker Bilk Requests". The Quartet of Agreeable Jingles comprising this Succulent Abstract arrange Themselves  as follows, viz:- (1) that Syncopated Masterpiece, "The Gladiolus Rag"; (2) a Rhythmic Celebration of the Charms of "Dardanella"; (3) A Performance as Spirited as it is Authentic of the Traditional Ballad, "The Franklin Street Blues; Fourthly (and Lastly) a Soul-Searing Rendition of "The Travelling Blues", the Same being well chosen in View of that which occurred thereafter. For so Gratifying were the Shouts of Acclaim, so loud the Protestations of Esteem which greeted the Impingement of Mr Bilk's first Essay that he had purpose to voyage speedily to the Recording Manufactory, there to consider his Second Task.

This done, and the Die Cast, the Redoubtable Westcountryman caused it to become known that his Choice had fallen upon the Exercise of his Prodigious Laryngeal Dexterity. He was decided to sing. Thus it befell that the Genial Bristol Blower committed to Memory the Words and Music of those Ditties he felt inclined to Carol, insert his Head and Shoulders within the Larger End of the Recording Horn and give his Best, what Time the Paramount Jazz Men achieved a Seemly Display of Virtuosity in his Aid. First commemorating in Stentorian Fashion the Attributes of the State Endemic to his Music, the Egregious Mr B then passes to the Glottal Exploration of a Trio of Tunes as much Distinguished for their Originality of Approach as for their Catholicity of Source. Of these, "Higher Ground" and "Carry Me Back" are Negro Plantation Songs, while "Jump In The Line" was originally a Calypso from the Facile Noddle of Mr "Blind" Blake - a Celebrated Minstrel who had worked in the Caribbean Isles which produced this Strange Idiom.

Scarce had the Agog Ears of an Admiring Publick recovered from the Resounding Concussions of this Second Fanfaronnade, however, than our Congregation of Sonic Adventurers and its Captain were again obliged to re-form in Preparation for yet a Third Encounter - this Time to engage Mellifluously yet wiith Proper Regard for Rhythmic Stimulance in a Tussle with a Quartet of Martial Tunes.

This Melodic Fusillade erupts (to commence the Third Salvo in our Magazine) with a Stirring Assault upon the March, "Blaze Away". Hot Foot upon the Closing Strains of this, there exsufflates a Dynamic Enactment of the Transatlantic Favourite "Under The Double Eagle"; a Military Air from the Nimble Pen of Herr Wagner which will not long remain Unrecognised by those who patronize the Searchlight Tattoo. By an Adroit Manoeuvre Southwards to the Spanish Isthmus our Hero infuses a Tropical Aspect into his Campaign by the Use of the March called, in their Lingo, "El Abanico", and the Volley terminates, in a Well-Aimed Thrust from the Mother Country, with "C.R.E. March" - these Many Years the Unofficial Battle Cry of Her Majesty's Corps of Royal Engineers from which Patriotic and Workmanlike Body derives the Initial Nomenclature alluded to in the Title.

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: Mr Acker Bilk's Lansdowne Folio

Side One

  • Stars and Stripes (Sousa)
  • Perdido Street Blues (Armstrong)
  • Papa Dip (Armstrong)
  • My Heart Belongs To Daddy (Porter)
  • Gospel Train (Traditional arr. Bilk)
  • Maryland March (Traditional arr. Bilk)
Side Two

  • That's My Home (Rene, Rene and Ellison)
  • Go Tell It On a Mountain (Traditional arr. Bilk)
  • Creole Jazz (Luter)
  • House Rent Stomp (Traditional arr. Bilk)
  • My Bucket's Got a Hole In It (Williams)
  • Stomp Off, Let's Go (Schoebe)

Those Performing
Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet, Major Domo and Shouter-in-Chief); Mr Colin Smith (Trumpet); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone); Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass); Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo); Mr Ronald McKay (Temple Blocks, Traps and Shouter-in-Segundo). The Recording committed to Posterity upon the Ninth Day, and upon the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Days of May, in the Year of Grace Nineteen Hundred Sixty and One.

Those concerned with Production
Supervision: Mr Dennis Preston
Engineer: Mr Adrian Kerridge
Sleeve Design and Commentary: Mr Peter Leslie
Photography: Mr Patrick Gwynne-Jones

Though gargantuan the Task must appear to the Tyro, it must nevertheless be attempted: to essay definitively to evaluate the well-nigh gigantic Contribution to the Welfare of the melodious Muse achieved by MR ACKER BILK and those most admirable Complements to his Genius, the Members of THE PARAMOUNT JAZZ BAND. Suffice it, however, to record here merely that this agnate crew have together scaled the glittering Heights whereon dwell the Giant Success and his Handmaiden, the Lady Fame.

Not once, not twice, but thrice have these be-laurelled Gentlemen sallied forth into the Lists, there to contest with cheaper, less worthy Opponents for the Publick's Crown of Acclaim; and three Times too, have they emerged victorious, with the Ballad celebrating the doughty Leader's own West Country County of Birth, with a dulcet rondo playing elegant Tribute (upon the reverse Side of the Kingdom) to the Prodigal's first, and last, View of his Motherland and-redolent of the Breeding and Manners for which Mr B's Compatriots are renowned the Globe over - with a fetching Madrigal bidding Good Morrow to a Lady of Latin Descent. And with each Success, planting the Standard of Jazz Music firmly atop the vasty Peaks and desolate Wastes of popular Song, they raise anew a different Emblem: the Standard of Appreciation of Those whose Taste had previously aspired to Nothing better than the Banal, the Trite and the Meretricious.

Small Wonder, then, that from the four Corners of the Empire there ring ever and anew the Shouts and Acclaim, the Gasps of Surprise and Protestations of Satisfaction and Amaze at the prodigious Exploits of (to name them All: Mr Acker Bilk himself, vociferating and wielding the Clarionet; Mr Ronald McKay, as dexterous laryngeally as he is with the padded Beater and the Cymbal Stick; Mr Colin Smith, a Tower of Strength in the Brass Department and, with his fellow Mummer, Mr Jonathan Mortimer of Trombone Fame, a big Gun of the comical Arsenal of the Ensemble; Mr Stanley Greig, the original northern Light and Displayer of Pyrotechnics at the Keyboard; Mr Ernest Price, the scholarly Basher of the Bass; and Mr Roy James, whose Evocations from the Tenor Banjo bid fair to oust from popular Esteem the Pipes of Pan).

This tempestuous Amalgam of Expertise and Enthusiasm has now succeeded yet again in capturing the popular Fancy with a Gothick Trifle entitled "That Is My Home", (the which, coincidentally, may be discovered by those of shrewd Intellect upon this very Recording). It was therefore deemed Timely that those innumerable Persons to whose Huzzahs Mr Bilk's Success is in no small Measure due, should be accorded the Privilege of having revealed to them a further Selection of those airy Ballads from his vasty Repertoire which "Age cannot wither nor Custom stale". And that, in a convenient circular Form, is what lies within this Envelope today.

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: Mr Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band: Beau Jazz

Upon Side the First

  • Grandpa's Spells (Morton) [a]
  • Creole Love Call (Ellington, Jackson, Miley) [a]
  • I've Found a New Baby (Palmer, Williams) [b]
  • This Town (James) [c]
  • Bula Bula (Mortimer) [d]
  • Sentimental Journey (Brown, Green, Horner) [e]
Upon the Obverse

  • Tell 'Em About Me (Yancey) [a]
  • Chatanooga Stomps (Oliver) [a]
  • Sneak Away (W. Smith) [b]
  • Wilbur (Colin Smith) [a]
  • Oh, Marie! (Arr. L. Prima, Written by Di Capua) [b]
  • Ole Miss Rag (W C Handy) [a]

Those Performing
(a) Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Vocals); Mr Colin Smith (Trumpet); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone); Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass); Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo); Mr Ronald McKay (Percussion); Mr Stan Greig (Pianoforte).

(b) Mr Greig and Mr McKay alone perform

(c) Messrs Greig and James only - the latter adopting a Guitar

(d) Mr Bilk and Mr McKay absent themselves from the band

(e) The band play as Supernumerary to Monsieur Per Hansen

Recorded on the 23rd June and 14th July 1962

Those concerned with Production
Supervision: Mr Dennis Preston
Engineer: Mr Brian Pitts
Sleeve Design and Memoranda: Mr Peter Leslie
Photography: Mr Patrick Gwynne-Jones

It would scarce seem required that the Writer should (inform) before the very Eyes, either of the Initiate or of the Jazz Type, the vasty Catalogue of Business attending the Herculean Labours of Mr Acker Bilk: the Awards and Honours with which He has been profusely showered speak for Themselves. It might be prudent natheless, to recall the Fact that between the Issue of his last Album of Jazz Fancies and that which these poor Notes accompany, He has achieved a singular Esteem in a differing Field, that of the solo Clarionet with the String Ensemble. And to emphasise that, with the Collection hereby enclosed, he and his Paramount Jazz Band (whom you may decry depicted below), in the art of Concentration required for the Production of a Symposium as varied and as balanced, once again tread the well-loved Paths which lead from New Orleans with Brilliance and Fervour undimmed. With Talent as immaculate and with Genius as replete. Here are Favourites from the agile Pens of Messrs J R Morton, Palmer, Prima, Yancey and Ellington; original Trifles from Mr Colin Smith (Wilbur), Mr James (This Town), and Mr Mortimer (Bula Bula). Stentorian Songs from Mr Bilk Himself to the Number of Three; a Pair of intimate Duos featuring Mr Greig with Mr McKay and Mr James, and a galvanic Performance of Mr Handy's Ole Miss Rag which introduces Monsieur Per Hansen from the Continent of Europe, a Trumpeter of Merit.

(Transcribing this one was a real Labour of Love. The image I managed to find of the album cover was small and very badly photographed. Although I was able to blow it up using specialist software, it meant that some of the words were completely illegible. In some cases I used my knowledge of Peter Leslie's way with words, in others I simply guessed and it seemed to make sense. There may be errors in the above transcript, but the gist of the text is correct. If I happen to come across a copy of this album when the car boot sales start up again, I will make any corrections that are necessary.)

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: Mr Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band: Call Me Mister

Upon Side the First

  • Manana, Pasado, Manana! (Lewis, Paramor) [Vocal: Mr Acker Bilk]
  • South (Moten-Hayes)
  • Trinidad, Dad (Smith)
  • Baby Brown (Hill) [Vocal: Mr Ron McKay]
  • When You Smile (Bilk)
  • One Sweet Letter From You (Warren-Clare-Brown)
Upon Side the Second

  • On the Sunny SIde of the Street (McHugh-Fields)
  • Black Label Blues (Bilk)
  • Down in Honky Tonk Town (Smith-McCaron)
  • Home (Clarkson van Steeden) [Vocal: Mr Acker Bilk]
  • Climax Rag (Scott)

Those Performing
Himself at the Clarionet; Mr Colin Smith at the Valved Bugle; Mr Jonathan Mortimer wielding the Slide Trombone; Laird Stanley Greig at the pianoforte; Mr Ronald McKay busied about the Traps; Mr Ernest Price drooped over the Double Bass; Mr Roy James with the Banjo or Guitar

Production of the Work
Mr Denis Preston in Charge of the Recording Supervision; Mr Peter Leslie responsible for the Cover Design and Memoranda; Mr Patrick Gwynne-Jones credited with the Creation of the Photographic Likeness; The Whole effected upon the Second Day of January and again upon the Eighth in the Year of Grace Nineteen Hundred Sixty and Three.

Ever more brightly gleam the ascendant Stars of Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band. Laurels, Crowns, glittering Trophies shower upon their modest Crania; they are huzzahed in Hamburg, demanded in Denmark, asked for in the Antipodes! Palms in Cathay and other Parts of the Orient, customarily housed in inscrutable Sleeves, smart from the Effort of Applause!

The Leader Himself, never more sensible of the Necessity for Development when perched atop the Pinnacle of Fame, has explored Avenues of Endeavour complimentary to that followed by his Jazz Band to such good Effect that his Performances with a String Orchestra are spoken of with Breath bated throughout the Globe. So succesful indeed, both in the Old World and upon the less civilized side of the Atlantic Ocean, have been his Phonograph Cylinders in the Bazaars and Market Places, in this Contest he has been Elevated from plain Mr. to the Style and Title of Esquire.

His Heart - that sturdy West Country Pumping Station! - remains nevertheless with the simple unfettered New Orleans Music which first lilted Him along the Road to the Top. And as an Earnest of this Bouleversement to the Roots, he now celebrates his Return and consolidates his Position with the Oeuvre under your Hand and the warm, sincere legend: Call Me Mister.

With His truly remarkable Cohorts, he embarks here upon a lyric Voyage veering ever more frequently toward the Gaiety and License of those humid and tropic Regions where once the Infant Jazz was born. From Honky Tonk Town going South on the sunny Side to the Home of Baby Brown, this epic Crew finally reaches the calypsic Isles with Trinidad Dad, as penned by that staunch Composer, Mr Colin Smith. And after That, of course, it is (as the Leader Himself says in his superbly gravelled Tones), Manana, Pasado, Manana! (What we have been unable to ascertain, however, is whether Black Label Blues laments the Passing of an ancien regime phonographical Manufactory or the Absence of cogent Distillate in a Vessel formerly containing Caledonian Spirits).

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: Mr Acker Bilk Requests Part One(*)

Side One

  • Travelling Blues (Austin; Recorded 5.3.58)
  • Delia Gone (Blake; Recorded 6.3.58)
Side Two

  • Gladiola Rag (Joplin; Recorded 7.3.58)
  • Willy The Weeper (Melrose; Recorded 5.3.58

Personnel
Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Titular Head); Mr J Mortimer (Trombone); Mr K Sims (Trumpet); Mr R McKay (Traps); Mr E Price (Double Bass); Mr J Hawkins (Tenor Banjo)

Those concerned with Production
Sleeve Design: Mr Ian Bradbury
Engineer: Mr Joe Meek
Supervision: Mr Denis Preston
Photography: Mr Herb Green

The discerning Enthusiast for Phonograph Recordings will not be slow to descry, among the Jingles performed hereon by Mr Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band a certain Portion of Airs particularly associated with the formative Years of that Music which Mr Bilk favours with his elegant Interpretations. That this is more than a lively Coincidence may at once be judged a Fact by All acquainted with the History of the Music on this Portion of the Atlantic Seaboard. For, as any Amateur of the Idiom well knows, recent Years have shown a Tendency, regrettably on the Increase for all those Bands, formerly peculiarly associated with that Branch of the Art dubbed Traditional to progress (as far as the Matter of Style be concerned) in a Fashion that cannot escape Comparison with those prevailing in the Present. To such an Extent had this Trend developed before the Advent of Mr Acker Bilk that there remained but a single Thing common to the Majority of Aggregations purporting to purvey Traditional Jazz, viz: that the sole Factor Traditional to these Assemblages of musical Talent was their Propensity for performing in the modern Manner!

Into such a vexatiously tainted Arena the warranted Archaisms of Mr Bilk and His Lads drop as singularly welcome Christians among the Lions of Modernism (the Curse of the Age). This - it would be Idle to deny - is a Jolly Crew of Fellows dedicated to the Loyal Continuance of the Jazz Craft as laid down by the Masters Four Decades since in the City of New Orleans.

Within this Franework the Individuality of the Orchestra here flourishes. As has been said by no less a Personage as Mr Bilk Himself (A Man of few Words and Great Integrity): "We aim to play a Working Man's Music, applying the Approach and Standards of the Crescent City Pioneers to any Ditty we consider suitable as a Vehicle for the Talents of the Band." The Four Works here incised are as vehicularly suitable as They are impeccably performed. (*) Peter Leslie is not credited on this album, but I am confident of it being his work. The album was part of the Pye Jazz Today series and it was shortly after this that Leslie was engaged as Acker's publicist.

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: Mr Acker Bilk Requests Part Two(*)

Side One

  • Dardanella (Bernard; Recorded 6.3.58)
  • Franklin Street Blues (Trad. arr. Bilk; Recorded 6.3.58)
Side Two

  • Easter Parade (Berlin; Recorded 7.3.58)
  • Marching Through Georgia (Bilk; Recorded 7.3.58

Personnel
Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Titular Head); Mr J Mortimer (Trombone); Mr K Sims (Trumpet); Mr R McKay (Traps); Mr E Price (Double Bass); Mr J Hawkins (Tenor Banjo)

Those concerned with Production
Sleeve Design: Mr Ian Bradbury
Engineer: Mr Joe Meek
Supervision: Mr Denis Preston
Photography: Mr Herb Green

Glum would be of Countenance who could resist the Irrepressibly Majestic Effect of a Blues Song; A Dullard the Man who failed to be stirred by a lively March; a Simpleton the Oaf who could not appreciate the Cadences of a Ragtime Speciality or the Sonorous Beauties of One of the more dignified Dance Measures - as Performed by Mr Acker Bilk  and His Paramount Jazz Band. Indeed, the Versatility of this rousing Crew (now firmly ensconced as Standard Bearers atop the Bastion of Traditional Music in these Isles) - cannot but Command the most Felicitous Expressions of Esteem from all Quarters of the Compass. Mr Bilk, a Taciturn Stalwart reared in the Welch Border Country, vacated the Clarinettist's Throne in the Combination ably led by Mr K Colyer some Four Years since to depart to his Native City, Bristol, in which Well-favoured Pleasaunce he developed the Nucleus of his Present Band. This Brotherhood of Blowers and Bashers so delighted the West Country Swells, through the Media of Wireless Telegraphy, the Electrified Loud-hailer, the Concert Hall and other Venues too numerous to mention - that a move to the Metropolis was deemed Inevitable - since which Sally Eastwards the Outfit has piled One Success deservedly upon another.

Withal, not the least Meritorious of the Honours accruing to the Egregious Mr B has the Distinction of being the first English Jazz Band to delight the Ears of the Burghers of Poland - a Task so Easily Executed by Mr Bilk and His Henchmen that Applause rang freely from Each Corner of the Continent. Again, before the Tide of Popularity which swept them to its Zenith in England had fully reached the Flood, these Extempore Paragons had startled a great Shout of Acclaim from the Teutons during a Six-week Residency at the acclaimed New Orleans Beer Bar in the Township of Dusseldorf.

As to how much of Success attends upon the Band in the Execution of its Aims, suffice it to Abstract a single Fact from the Record of its Sojourn in the German City . During the Two and Forty Days of the Season (it is computed by Mr R McKay, the Functionary who attends to the Percussion Traps besides acting as the Statistician of the Group), Delighted Enthusiasts expressed their Heartfelt Appreciation by despatching Attendants to the Rostrum bearing no less than Eleven Score and Two Tankards of German Ale, Six and Eighty Beakers of Schnapps and Three Bottles of Champagne Wine! (*) Peter Leslie is not credited on this album, but I am confident of it being his work. The album was part of the Pye Jazz Today series and it was shortly after this that Leslie was engaged as Acker's publicist.

Added March 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: A Taste of Honey (plus other Succulent and Tasty morsels as tastily purveyed by) Acker Bilk Esquire (ably assisted by the genius of Mr Leon Young and his Celebrated String Chorale)

Upon Side The First

  • A Taste of Honey
  • Fancy Pants
  • Only You
  • Blue Derby
  • Underneath The Arches
  • Jeannie
Upon the Obverse

  • Evening Shadows
  • Nature Boy
  • Lady of the Lake
  • Stella By Starlight
  • La Vie En Rose
  • Always
Where (saith the Poet) the B. sucks, there suck I. And when that secondary but singular Initial stands for Bilk, why then indeed the I's have It, for at this melodic Fount the People swarm in their Thousands to listen "as drowsy summer B's in flutter'd Ease do draw up Honey from the Nenuphar." Now none but the Casuist can deny that what the Bee sucks is in sooth that Amber and Mead-embellishing Syrup whose regular Imbibition "all ills doth 'meliorate and Vapours speed." Yet - here is Anomaly run wild! - in the Matter under Discussion (to the actual Approach to which we have not, as yet, specifically drawn near) a converse Occurrence obtains: Honey there be, but the B. sucks not but rather blows it . . . for this B. and this Honey (to bring the Thing without further Procrastination to a sharper End, (reveal Themselves as Mr Acker Bilk and as A Taste of Honey - the One playing Pyed Piper upon this Disc, so as diverse an Host of Romantick Felicities as may commonly be imagined; the Other standing as Symbol for that priceless Amalgam of Soul, Happiness, Inspiration and Tone which so regular informs Those Oeuvres favoured with the Patronage of Our Hero. Divers Ballads in this Compendium will ring in the Ears of the Cognoscenti as a charmed Familiar; Others penned by Mr B. Himself or His illustrious Colleague, Mr Young, chart new Dimensions in the Realm of the Melodic, the Imaginative and the Compelling; Others still will startle a Shout of Acclaim to be discovered so unexpectedly in so bizarre but suitable a Context! And to all of Them (we make Bold to predict) the delighted Reaction of Those who listen will fall not far short of the Encomiastic.


Added January 2021

The genius of Peter Leslie: The Seven Ages of Acker

Side One

  • In A Persian Market Place (Ketelbey)(Recorded 30th September 1959)
  • I'm Going Home (Bilk)(Vocal: Mr Acker Bilk)(Recorded 30th September 1959)
  • Ory's Creole Trombone (Ory)(Recorded 7th October 1959)
  • Summer Set (Collett & Bilk) Recorded 14th October 1959)
  • Let The Light From The Lighthouse Shine (Vocal: Mr Ron McKay)(Recorded 30th September 1959)
  • Berliner Luft March (Gay Hussar)(Linke)(Recorded 18th March 1959)
Side Two

  • Tiger Rag (La Rocca)(Recorded 14th October 1959)
  • Lucky Rock (Rainey)(Recorded 7th October 1959)
  • Cushion Foot Stomp (Williams)(Recorded 7th October 1959)
  • Run Come See Jerusalem) (Blake)(Vocal: Mr Acker Bilk)(Recorded 7th October 1959)
  • Old Comrades March (Teike)(Recorded 10th March 1959)

Personnel
Sleeve Design: Ian Bradbury
Recording Balance: Joe Meek and Philip Clarke
Sleeve Notes: Peter Leslie
Photography: Patrick Gwynne-Jones
Recording Supervisor: Denis Preston

Familiars of the gigantic Talent which sits so lightly on the wide Shoulders of Mr Acker Bilk will not feign Surprise on learning that this Tower of Enlightenement, this very Paragon of musicological Expertise, betrays a Modesty varying directly as his Success. "It would ill befit the Purveyor of a Music so eclectic as our own", quoth Mr Bilk in a recent Conversation, "to claim boastfully any Prestige for its Excellence. Equally it would be a Thing ignoble indeed for the Speaker", Scion of an Hundred Generations of Men of Repute - personally to attach to Himself any Vainglory reflecting from such Competence as he may possess."

The extempore Polyphony, or "Jazz", so ably blown, plucked, bashed and thumped by Mr Bilk and his Henchmenis a Polyglot, Music comprehending from Strains from many a different Host. Much the same (not to place to fine a Point on it) may be exerted with Regard to the Leader Himself. Accordingly, it has been Mr Bilk's Pleasure to indulge the present Collection in an agreeable and felicitous Conceit whereby he celebrates at one and the same Time both the more illustrious of his own Forebears and those most dominant Aspects of the Music he so fittingly represents. Thus - if the Writer be allowed to venture a Comparison with the "Seven Ages of Man" defined by Another in the same Trade - a like Number of Facets of the Jass Music and Ancestors of Mr Bilk may allusively be described among the Jingles presented herewith - Hence the Negro Spiritual whence derives the Soulfulness expressed upon the Countenance of Jass, properly has (as befits the earliest chronologic Feature of the Music) in close Fortuity with the Recollection of the Bilkdown Man, knuckling his Way out from the Mists of Antiquity into the Dawn of History - with a rare Eye for the Suitable, our Hero commemorates this archetypal Bilk - Pithecanthropus Ackerectus, to give him his zoological Nomenclature - with the Spiritual "I'm Going Home". The second Age, in this Instance, brings to Prominence the first Warrior Bilk, the Greek Ackermemnon, appositely recalled by a Brace of Marches (themselves second in the genealogical Line of Jass Origins). For these Mr Bilk has chosen two of the best-known Brass Band Tunes beloved of the Teutons. "The Gay Hussar" and "Old Comrades".

The Deeds of Baron Acre de Bilk would have shone with greater Splendour on the Pages of History had it not been for an inclement Squall off the Coast of Ushant, which put paid to his Essay at the Invasion of England in 1065. His dismasted Vessel eventually foundered on a Rock in the Bay of Biscay, where all Hands perished miserably, this leading to the Expression, common in Medieval Times, that "his Barque was worse than his Bight." Appropriately, his place in the Bilkian Hierarchy is paralleled in the Development of Jass by the Blues. The Title - and it was not idly chosen - is "Lucky Rock", a Ditty much favoured in her Heyday by the late Ma Rainey.

That Ingredient of Music with the roistering Bluster of the Ellizabethan Adventurer Sea Captain Sir Francis Bilk, is the syncopated Marvel of Ragtime - an Echo of Sir Francis' Exploits in foreign Climes being provided here by the Choice of "Tiger Rag", originally derived from a French Quadrille! And the elegant Dance Measure alluded to above brings us in Turn to a twin Correlation of Sophistication - on the one Hand, the aristocratic Dandyism of the Regency Buck, Beau Bilk (like his Descendant, a West Countryman hailing from the Neighbourhood of the City of Bath), and on t'Other, the mannered Society of the Creole Quarter of New Orleans, replete with the splendid Noise of "Ory's Creole Trombone" beneath the Southern Stars.

"Run Come See Jerusalem" is a Folksong, that Contributor to Jass springing from the Exuberance of the Man in the Saddle and Homo Sapiens in the open Air. What more seemly, therefore, than to shout, with such a Ballad, the Praises of that stern Guardian of Right in the Midst of Wrong, Buffalo Bilk? "No Red Man he," the great Chieftain Sitting Bilk once observed; "drink heap too much Fire Water. Him no say 'How', Him only say 'When'."

And so, at last, to Mr Acker Bilk Himself - and to the popular Song of Today. This, the stalwart Performer celebrates quadruply, with a descriptive Piece redolent of the Seascape: with a "Stomp" from the nimble Pen of Mr Clarence Williams; with an Oriental Speciality reminiscent of the Days of Haroun Al Acker and Genghis Bilk; and finally, with his own sumptuous Tribute to the County of his Birth in "Summer Set" (for which Mr D Collett travelled especially from Bristol to preside at the Pianoforte. Truly, the Glory that is Bilk transcends all the Ages and Manner of Music!

The genius of Peter Leslie: Stranger on the Shore

ACKER BILK ESQUIRE accompanied by the LEON YOUNG String chorale

STRANGER ON THE SHORE

I actually couldn’t wait for Stranger on the Shore to be released in the UK, so I paid for a US Import to be sent to my Home in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, and got it a few Months before it became available here. The Copy I have in front of me came from the British Heart Foundation Charity Shop and cost me £2.50 – Bargain! – it matters not that I have no Vehicle on which to play it (yet)! Mine differs only from the one illustrated here in the matter of the word “mono” – mine says “stereo”. Here are the Track Listings and the superb Essay by Mr Peter Leslie for “Stranger on the Shore” LP:

Upon Side the First
Stranger on the Shore (Bilk & Young)
Lullaby (New music arr. Young)
Mean To Me (Turke & Ahlert)
Greensleeves (New music arr. Bilk & Young)
Take My Lips (Meravigliose Labbra)(Usuelli)
Sentimental Journey (Green, Brown & Homer)

Upon the Obverse
Nobody Knows (New music arr. Bilk & Young)
Is This The Blues? (Bilk & Young)
Cielito Lindo (New usic arr. Bilk & Young)
Deep Purple (De Rose)
I Can’t Get Started (Duke & I. Gershwin)
Carolina Moon (Davis & Burke)

The recording committed to Posterity upon the 12th Day of August and upon the 8th Day of November in the Year of Grace Nineteen Hundred and Sixty. Recording first published in Nineteen Hundred Sixty and One.

Those concerned with Production
At the Studio Controls: Mr Adrian Kerridge
Supervising: Mr Denis Preston
Photography of the Artiste: Mr Patrick Gwynne-Jones
The Album Decorations: The Mansell Collection
Cover Design and Commentary: Mr Peter Leslie

Mr. Acker Bilk, a taciturn Stalwart reared in the Welch Border Country, is a Virtuoso of the Clarionet. Customarily he heads a small Ensemble devoted to the Purveyance of that extempore Polyphony or “Jazz” associated traditionally with the Inhabitants of New Orleans – in which Guise (it would seem scarcely necessary to remind the gentle Reader) he looms as a Colossus over his raucous Contemporaries, overcoming by his Expertise and Dexterity both the Intricacies of his Instrument and any Claims to Parity which his Rivals might be foolish enough to advance. Since first the incandescent Brilliance of this Congregation of sonic Adventurers burst like a display of St Catherine’s Fire on a musical scene illumined previously only by the fitful Flickerings of lesser Talents, the Music so ably plucked, blown, bashed and thumped by Mr. Bilk and his Entourage has increasingly commanded the Plaudits of the Swells. Through the Media of Wirelss Telegraphy, the electrified Loud-hailer, the Concert Hall, the Cathode Ray Tube and others too numerous to list, they have startled great Shouts of Acclaim which ring ever more freely from each Corner of the Land. There are, however (as the Sage has aptly remarked), more ways of destroying a Feline than suffocating the Beast with Cream. And the gigantic Talent which sits so lightly upon the wide Shoulders of Mr. B. cannot easily be restricted to so confined a Channel. What more noble an Embodiment of Man’s most cherished Aspirations (thought he) than the dulect Cadences of that tender Instrument, the Clarionet! What more suitable a Vehicle for the rapt Expression of that Exaltation which burns the Breast, for the Lamentations of the Disconsolate, for the relation of a stirring Theme! And accordingly he presents here, in a Fashion never before essayed, a Collection of the more lyric Pieces illustrative of these distinguished Emotions, for the Edification of the Intelligent – what Time Mr Leon Young and his String Chorale achieve a seemly Display of Virtuosity in his Aid. The Results, as you shall hear, are splendid in the Extreme; in themselves sufficient for the consequent Elevation of the Artiste from the coarse “Mister”to the Style and Title of “Esquire”.




Yesterday, 4th April 2018, I found a copy of this album, simply entitled “Acker” in the Sue Ryder shop in Cromer, Norfolk, priced £2 – I had all of the albums in the 1960s, of course, and this one dates from 1960. Here goes:

Side One
White Cliffs of Dover (Kent)(Vocal; Mr Bilk)
Snake Rag (Oliver)
2.19 Blues
Fancy Pants (Bilk, Berkwood)(Solo clarionet: Mr Bilk)
Lazy River (Carmichael)(Vocal: Mr Bilk)
There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder (Rose)

 Side Two
Original Dixieland Onestep (La Rocca)
Good Night, Sweet Prince
Good Woman Blues (Vocal: Mr McKay)
Bottom of the Bottle (Bilk)(Featuring Clarionet and Trumpet)
Milenberg Joys (Rappolo)
Recorded on the 5th, 7th and 13th days of April 1960

 Personnel

Mr Acker Bilk (clarionet and titular head); Mr Jonathan Mortimer (trombone); Mr Ken Sims (trumpet); Mr Ronald McKay (traps); Mr  Ernest Price (double bass); Mr Roy James (tenor banjo)

And here are the sleeve notes:

Inscribed by Mr Peter Leslie

Like, what gives with this gear on the words from times past?
Should, Sir, this curiously phrased Query, with its ill-judged Syntax and coarse idiom, refer to the circumlocutory Nature of much of Mr Bilk’s textual Stuff, then we must offer – albeit reluctantly – some Vestige of Explanatory Matter. In a word, he would be Oafish who could deny a certain Use of the Devices of Ellipsis and Hyperbole in the Rhetorical Structure of the Master’s Blurbs.

Dig. So what IS with this spiel?
It has been felt (no less by Mr B and his Myrmidons than by those Others qualified to pronounce an Opinion) that it might not be inapposite for expository Paragraphs pertinent to Mr B’s Art, together with those Eulogistic Phrases which alone suffice to describe it, to be couched in Language bearing some Relevance to the Period initially producing the Music itself.

You feel, Daddyo, that all this jazz like goes with the mad trad music?

That, indeed, is a vulgar sequence of Terms approximating to our Meaning.
You drag up some corn like she’s spoken by some mug he had his chips two, three, four score ago – and that puts Daddy Ack in there for percent?

Perish the Thought. Before Mr Bilk’s gigantic Talent could properly be digested and appreciated by a Lay Public unconditioned to such Pyrotechnics, it was naturally necessary that this Display of unmatchable Virtuosity should actually be drawn to their Attention. This, the Rhodomontade of the Leader’s written Material – plus, of course, a certain Relevance in the Question of his Attire – sufficed to do. And, despite a preternatural Tendency to scoff at the Flippant, those Enthusiasts for New Orleans Music most attracted to Mr Bilk’s Variety of it have made no Complaint. Thus it has been decided to Retain the Idiom. It would be unwise in the Extreme, nevertheless, to assume that Mr Bilk’s Popularity devolves in any Way whatsoever either upon his choice of Haberdashery or Millinery, or upon an aptitude for the rotund Phrase.

You saying this is no gimmick outfit, then? It’s not the corn that sells the group?

Assuredly. It is the pluterperfect Assonance of empathetic Artistes creating in an Atmosphere of refined and balanced Relaxation which alone can produce Success as astounding as that of the Paramount Jazz Band. Those Matters to which you allude, as has already been stated, merely focused attention upon this.

Yes? So? If the noise speaks for itself, what’s with the bookies’ lids?

If lesser Mortals can be both symbolized and recognized by such Items as Umbrella, a Calabash, an Havana Cigar or an Infelicity in the styling of the Coiffure, then towering Genius of the Order of that enjoyed by Our Hero must needs require the employment at least of a gaily caparisoned Vest, sober Headgear, pristine Shirtings and a thinly elegant Cravat; to symbolize respectively the Brilliance, sincerity, Purity and Style of the Music; and in toto, the Period whence it derives.

So what are we supposed to do, Man? Stand up and cheer?

It would be more seemly (for you, as for those Critics, Dwarves whose Pleasure is the Denigration of the Art of their own Countrymen, but whose puny Equipment forbids them to experience that which they decry) just to listen to the Music. There are plenty who cheer already.

Sleeve Design: Ian Bradbery, MSIA; Recording Engineer: Philip Clarke
Engraving: Mansell Collection
Sleeve Notes: Peter Leslie; Recording Supervision: Denis Preston; Recording first published 1960




The second EP (Extended Play) record by Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band I’ve managed to get hold of is Acker’s Away (Columbia 45 RPM extended play record SEG 7940). Here’s the track list:

Side One
Acker’s Away (Bilk and Leslie)
Blues for Jimmy (Ory)
Side Two
Lastic (Bechet)
East Coast Trot (Cobb)

Recorded: 10th July 1959

 Personnel

Mr Acker Bilk (clarionet and titular head); Mr J Mortimer (trombone); Mr K Sims (trumpet); Mr R McKay (traps);

Mr  E Price (double bass); Mr R James (tenor banjo)

And here are the sleeve notes:

Inscribed by Mr Peter Leslie

The truncated Version of that mammoth Tome, The Encyclopaedia of Mr Webster, lists the Clarionet baldly as ‘a Reed instrument fashioned of Wood, with Holes and Keys’ – a saucy Abbreviation of what should have been more properly an Encomium, a Panegyric in praise of the Effulgence of that melodically Anastomose Instrument. Certain it is that this slender Engine of chromatic Concordance, this symphonious ebon Shaft, this suave Insinuator of Melodies to convolve and wreathe their Way to the very Centre of our pleasure-loving Souls, cannot have Justice done to its Elegance in the mere Employment of Words. ‘To hear’, as a celebrated French Divine has truly remarked, ‘is to know’ – and of no Sound is this more veritable than the sonorous, reedy Depths of the Clarionet.

Add to this (in point of the Phonograph Recording to which these poor Aphorisms apply) one Fact: that the Airs – Ay, and the Graces, too! – in this especial Example devolve around the Person and the Craft of no less able an Exponent than Mr Acker Bilk!! This realized, the Initiate will subside against the Cushions of his Chesterfield and await the Ultimate in musical Enlightenment. He will not long remain disappointed. Mr B is a very Toff of the Entertainent World. Hereupon, encouraged in his Endeavours by that most antic Ensemble, the Paramount Jazz Men, the doughty Leader bends to his Will the exigencies of four titillating Trifles. Of these, the First and the Last would seem to be informed with a Nautical Flavour; Mr Bilk proving himself in the former (if the Conceit be allowed) a true Swell. The remaining Duo comprise a Variety of Folksong deriving from the Southern among the United States of America, and a Novelty from the Pen of the late Parisian Master, Monsieur Sidney Bechet.

The Numidian Princess Sophonisba (in the Tragedy written in 1762 by Mr James Thomson), despite the fact that ‘Soon the remorseless Soldier comes, more fierce
‘From recent Blood, and ‘fore her very Soul, ‘Lays raging his rude sanguinary grasp’ was able to console herself for the Fall of Carthage by ‘burying her Sorrows in the Mufick of the Fpheres’. Who can doubt that the Musick of the Spheres, along with the Syrynx Pipes of the God Pan, the Melodies of the Immortals even on Olympus itself, all sound in their ineffable, reeded Harmony akin to the Clarionet of Mr Acker Bilk?

Sleeve Design: Ian Bradbery
Sleeve Photography: Patrick G Gwynn-Jones
Recording Balance: Joe Meek Supervision: Denis Preston



During my youth I collected anything and everything I could to do with Acker Bilk – it was the era when “trad jazz” ruled the Hit Parade, and Acker Bilk had recently transferred from the Pye Jazz label to EMI Records, and a new photographer, Patrick Gwynn-Jones had been appointed, along with a publicist, Peter Leslie, who came up with the idea of dressing the Paramount Jazz Band in smart, fancy waistcoats and bowler hats. Overnight, the sleeve notes became something quite extraordinary – while most EPs and LPs simply carried the track listing – two tracks on side A, two on side B of an EP, for example, now Acker’s EPS and LPs carried long, beautifully written essays. I have searched the web for many years trying to find examples of Peter Leslie’s writing, and the only pertinent reference that I can find is my own review of The Book of Bilk, a collection of essays by Leslie featuring various characters from history, like Johann Sebastian Bilk, Pithecus Ackerectus etc., etc. It is a work of genius, the work of a genius, and it is important that these sleeve notes should be available to read on the web, which is why I have started to collect Acker’s EPs and LPs, the first of which you see above. I don’t have a record player to play them on, but they are things of beauty, and of great joy, as you will discover. Below are the sleeve notes for Acker Volume One, the track listing of which is as follows:

Side One
Snake Rag (Oliver)(a)
Fandy (sic) Pants (Bilk and Berkwood)(b) [Should be “fancy” pants]
Side Two
Original Dixieland One Step (La Rocca)(b)
Good Night, Sweet Prince (b)

Personnel

Mr Acker Bilk (Clarionet and Master Mind). Mr Kenneth Sims (Trumpet). Mr Jonathan Mortimer (Trombone). Mr Ronald McKay (Tambours, Traps and Effects). Mr Ernest Price (Double Bass). Mr Roy James (Tenor Banjo). (a) Recorded 7:4:60; (b) Recorded 13:4:60.

 Sleeve notes:

MR ACKER BILK, in expressing the fond and pious Hope that the Listener has enjoyed, read, marked, learned, inwardly digested and, indeed, profited from the gentle Ballads performed hereon, begs leave to draw the Attention of the Same to others of his Works obtainable under the same distinguished Trade Mark, viz.:-
Discs designed to revolve at a Speed of Thirty-three and One-Third Revolutions the Minute and of One Dozen Inches Diameter:
The Seven Ages of Acker (33SX 3321 stereo), A Golden Treasury of Bilk (33SX 1304 Mono); SCX 3366 stereo), Clarinet Jamboree (part only)(33SX 1204).
The Same, restricted to a Diameter of but Ten Inches:
The Noble Art of Mr Acker Bilk (33S 1141)
Discs to revolve at no less than 45 Revolutions the Minute, yet possessing a Diameter of no more than Seven Inches:
Acker’s Away ! (SEG 7904), The Seven Ages of Acker – Volume One (SEG 8029), The Seven Ages of Acker – Volume Two (SEG 8076).

The Book of Bilk

This is a must for Acker Bilk fans. It was published in 1961 and written by Peter Leslie with photography by Patrick Gwynne-Jones, the photos showing Acker dressed as each of the 41 characters created by Leslie, including John Osbilk, the Ackery Young, Man, Kemal Ackerturk, Ackerangelo etc., etc. Peter Leslie's Regency style is there on every page, and this book is now a collectors' item. There are no decent photographs available of it on the web, so I've taken one of my copy on my phone and it's shown here, on the right, in all its glory. The book coincided with the release of Acker's album The Seven Ages of Acker, which includes some of the characters from the Book of Bilk. Like all of Peter's sleeve notes this is a work of utter genius, and copies, being hard to come by, should be treasured. The whole publicity machine surrounding Acker and his music was something quite unique and very entertaining, which, to be fair, the vast majority of vinyl albums weren't then, until ELO's Out of the Blue, and certainly aren't now!


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.



  

    In this issue:


   The Front Page

   Children's Books

   Fiction books

   Fantasy & Science Fiction

   Nonfiction Books

   Nostalgia

   Growing up in the 1950s

   The Silent Three

   The Four Marys

   Living with Skipper

   Sundays with Tarzan

   Pen and Sword Books

   The Back Page

   Email me



I saw Mr Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band three times in the early 1960s: twice in Cheltenham Town Hall, and once in what used be the Colston Hall, Bristol. Above is a flier for the Colston Hall, Bristol concert I attended, though it isn't mine, I regret to say, but an image I found under "Acker Bilk memorabilia".