Apex trim

Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Slim Gaillard lived again in Solihull. Martin Longley tapped his pedal extremities.

The Apex Jazz & Swing Band
Solihull British Legion

As their name suggests, the Apex boys have a broader repertoire than most old school jazz bands, emphasising the swingin’ side of the street.

The Solihull Trad Club has been relishing a wider musical range of late, providing variety for its appreciative regulars. The Apexers were clad in black shirts and trousers, their sparky banter as bright as their matching white ties. Plenty of laffs were prompted both on the stage and in the audience, as the players teased each other mercilessly.

The two sets were peppered with more than the regular amount of songs, with vocal duties being shared out across the front line. Trombonist Ron Hills was the straight man, while trumpeter John Stone and reedsman Robin Mason jousted with each other along the borders of absurdity.

The horns have a tight and robust sound, suggesting a much larger band when they’re jolting through the swing numbers in their book. The presence of Pete Robinson’s fluid electric guitar lent another refreshing aspect, dominant right from the opening It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). He also made Jersey Bounce that little bit lighter-footed.

Bassist Roger Heath was guesting, an august personage on the trad scene, providing a steady, nimble-fingered foundation with his extra fifth string. Rose Room featured a standout clarinet solo, with Mason in Benny Goodman mode, switching to alto saxophone for Don’t Get Around Much Any More, taking the vocal himself. Then, Gershwin’s I’ve Got A Crush On You opened with just Stone’s vocal and Robinson’s guitar.

For the Kenny Ball hit So Do I, Stone donned a plastic military helmet and delivered the first verse in German, referring back to the original 1930s era of Bel Ami, the song’s original title. He found another colour on the cultural spectrum by adopting calypso patois for a ganja-streaked shimmying ditty. There were a few strategically placed feature spots with the line-up cut to a quartet, allowing a single horn to carry the tune, Petite Fleur for Mason and The Touch Of Your Lips for Hills.

Nearing the end of their dancer-prompting afternoon session, the Apexers dropped in a dandy version of Hit That Jive, Jack, a welcome tip of the beret to Slim Gaillard and Nat King Cole, complete with an oleaginous tenor solo. This was chased by the equally fine Truckin’, which rolled along with another hot Mason solo.