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With over 20 members, Loose Tubes was one of the biggest of big bands and it drew on a considerable pool of writing as well as playing talent: particularly from Django Bates, Eddie Parker, Steve Berry and Chris Batchelor. Its m\usic was an exotic blend of jazz, rock and sundry world musics plus a substantial dash of British humour.
Founded in 1984 the group was a great concert draw and it released 3 albums, including one produced by Teo Macero, the producer of many of Miles Davis's classic albums. None of these albums have been available for many years so this CD of previously unreleased material will be welcomed by Loose Tubes' many thousands of fans.
Personnel: Eddie Parker (flutes), Dai Pritchard (clarinets), Steve Buckley, Iain Ballamy, Mark Lockheart, Julian Nicholas, Ken Stubbs (saxophones), Lance Kelly, Chris Batchelor, Ted Emmett, Paul Edmonds, Noel Langley (trumpets), John Harborne, Steve Day, Paul Taylor, Richard Pywell, Ashley Slater (trombones), Dave Powell (tuba), Django Bates (keyboards), John Parricelli (guitar), Steve Watts (bass), Martin France (drums), Thebi Lipere (percussion)
In the years since they split up, Loose Tubes have acquired mythical status for those who remember them or have only heard of their exploits by word of mouth. Between 1985 and 1988, they released three studio-recorded albums on vinyl, long since unavailable. The limited availability of those recordings only enhanced the band’s reputation. Dancing on Frith Street will surely enhance it further still.
Catching the 23-piece band on top form, it clearly demonstrates why they were such a popular live attraction. With 18 wind instruments plus a five-piece rhythm section, their emphasis was always on exuberant blowing. As on their 80s releases, there are no cover versions here; the compositions and arrangements all originated within the band. Taking their inspiration and rhythms from far and wide – including ska, South African township jazz, New Orleans second-lining and beyond – they created their own distinctive blend.
The root of the band’s success lay in the number of fine players, writers and arrangers included in its ranks, many of whom have gone on to greater things since 1990. Saxophonist Iain Ballamy, trumpeter Chris Batchelor, keyboardist Django Bates, flautist Eddie Parker and guitarist John Parricelli represent just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite its vintage, Dancing on Frith Street still sounds remarkably fresh and contemporary. That is fitting as the music and attitude of Loose Tubes have been very influential on many current bands, notably those from the F-IRE and Loop collectives.
To follow up its release, let’s hope that the three original Loose Tubes albums are soon made readily available on CD. Until they are, this delightful album will do very nicely, thank you.--John Eyles
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