Here’s a few notes on our varied material to give you a feel for it.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

One of Dylan’s throwaway line love songs from the classic John Wesley Harding album, with a slightly threatening lyrical edge: ‘You don’t have to be afraid’. Afraid of what Bob? Dylan was just into electric instrumentation and plays it on the album with electric bass, drums and pedal steel guitar, so it has a country music feel.  Our arrangement with keyboards, acoustic bass and tenor sax as well as vocals gives it a jazz inflection. We often dispense with drums and it works well. If you didn’t know it was Dylan you might not recognise it as such.


It’s a Wayne Shorter composition, as performed by the Miles Davis 1960s Quintet on the Miles Smiles album, with Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock. OK we’re not quite up to that standard but it’s a strong jazz waltz and wesometimes space it out a bit: Miles meets Pink Floyd. There’s a really lovely sinuous cover of this tune by jazz guitarist Pat Martino. Writing this note has just sent me back to it.

Black Magic Woman

People who know this song think it’s written by Santana. It’s on Abraxas, an album cool musicians will say they never listen to, and has a strong Latin feel (which we bring out). Actually, it’s written by the great British guitarist Peter Green, is based on a blues by Otis Rush, and first appeared as a Fleetwood Mac single. That’s the original Mac, not the later edition with Stevie Nicks. Peter Green had remarkable sensitivity and a peerless tone. BB King used to say that he was the only other blues guitarist who brought him out in a sweat.

Snowy Drift

A lyrical sequence of chords with a slight gospel edge written by our wizzo keyboard player Phil Jenkins. Inspired by the view from a Welsh window as one of those thick and heavy snow storms blots out the grim everyday world and turns into something magical for a while. We’re working on the melody line here and may yet give it some lyrics and turn it into a vocal.

Blue Bossa

According to the indispensable book ‘Jazz Standards’ by Ted Gioia, Blue Bossa is an insider’s jazz standard. That’s to say it is widely known to jazz musicians, but unknown to the general public. Written by trumpeter Kenny Dorham it’s not a blues and does not necessarily need to be played as a bossa nova. But that’s how we play it. There are great versions by Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer (heavy with percussion) and pianist McCoy Tyner.


A Van Morrison song from the eponymous album, this is a rock singer singing jazz and with a very definite swing. Moondance came immediately after Van’s mystical and folk tinged Astral Weeks album, but the musicians changed. Van wanted a more driving band with a two-horn section, including the sax player Jack Schroer. Like us, the solo leads after the vocals are taken by sax rather than guitar. Whenever we play it, which is quite a lot, it has the amazing ability to get people on their feet and dancing. We love that: it makes us play better!

How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You

It’s a classic Holland/Dozier/Holland soul number with gospel feel, great hooks, irresistible dance vibe and directly observed lyrics: ‘I needed the shelter of someone’s arms/And there you were’. Marvin Gaye sings beautifully as you’d expect, but his recording is slightly spoiled by a messy brass arrangement. There is a terrific live recording by Junior Walker, stripped back to keyboard, rhythm section and tenor sax. Bland interpretations are delivered  by James Taylor and Michael Buble, the latter gutting the song of its joyful emotion. Maybe white men can’t sing the blues. But girls from Liverpool can - as our singer Joan Fearon demonstrates.


 Corcovado translates as hunchback. It’s the name of the hunchbacked mountain behind Rio de Janeiro. When English lyrics were required for this classic song (by composer Antonio Carlos Jobim) it was decided to avoid hunchback references and the title became Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars.

There have been many treatments of this gentle tune, from Frank Sinatra - sung with a tragic feel - through to Miles Davis in a subtle Gil Evans big band arrangement. More recently Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt (as Everything but the Girl) tackled the song, in arrangements laden with drum machines and synths. Thorn went to the trouble of learning the vocal part in Portuguese.

In an odd twist of fate, when Thorn and Watt were recording in New York City, the producer called in a sax player for one of their songs. It turned out to be none other than Stan Getz. The classic version of this song is of course by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto from the high selling Getz/Gilberto album and it’s difficult to tackle the solo without Getz in mind. Many years ago I was doing some work in a recording studio and atrumpeter said you sound like Stan Getz. Weirdly, I’d never heard of Getz at the time. Yet here I am all those years later playing his material, this time with a movingly wistful vocal from our Joan Fearon.

Goodbye Porkpie Hat

Charles Mingus was a superb bass player, his pedigree stretching back to performances with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. This is his tribute to the pork pie hat wearing Lester Young, whose tenor sax style laid the foundations for Charlie Parker’s breathtakingly fast bop innovations. It is a timelessly subtle tune: John McClaughlin gave us an acoustic guitar version; Joni Mitchell once set it to words; and Jeff Beck used sustain on electric guitar. Beck cops out, soloing on a simple blues chord sequence. Those Mingus chords are difficult to solo over. It’s a twelve-bar form but not a standard blues chord progression, so is best tackled just keeping a minor blues scale in mind. Porkpie Hat features on the Mingus Ah Um album, one of the greatest albums in jazz, and features one of the greatest sax solos in jazz, from Shafi Hadi. If you’ve already heard the Ah Um album by the way, try Blues and Roots next.