Elaine, Burt and all that Jazz

I’ve always been envious of the New York nightlife.  You know, cocktails in your apartment before walking a couple of blocks to a jazz club where you stumble upon some stunning music performed by amazing world class musicians.  Last night, except for the pre-show cocktails, I did just that in Mumbles!!!

Elaine Gilmore and Band Cu Mumbles

And what a sound and what musicianship.  The event was the latest in a new programme being held by the Swansea Jazz Club at Cu Mumbles in Castleton Walk Arcade. The night was a celebration of the extraordinary songs of Burt Bacharach sung by Elaine Gilmore and performed by the Cottle Brothers together with ‘Korgis’ drummer Paul Smith.

Elaine grew up listening to the music of Burt Bacharach and has sung many of his songs over the years.  When she decided she wanted to make an album she first chose a Bacharach song, then another, then another and soon the record became a tribute to this remarkable song writer.  

Elaine also made the decision that in this world of synthesisers and sample machines she wanted to have real musicians playing real instruments including real strings and brass. Elaine says that being in the room with the orchestra was unbelievable. 

The result was quite stunning, you feel as if you’re in the room with them.  As they completed the recordings they were working hard on their plans to promote the record including booking theatre shows across the country. Then came the second Covid lockdown and all of those great plans were put on ice.

I remember being in exactly the same position at the time. As my pre-Covid planned concert dates kept getting cancelled, rearranged, postponed, and then rearranged again it was really hard to get back up to speed mentally as well as musically.  Finances as well as confidence took a massive knock and its taken a lot of performers some time to get up off the canvas and back on stage.

That was what was so wonderful about last night.  Seeing a singer in her element, enjoying performing in front of an appreciative audience and backed by a great band…and what a band.

Dave at the back, Laurence left and Richard right.

Where do I start with the Cottle brothers?  Sometimes we can take local heroes for granted and I’m sure we are definitely guilty of that with Dave Cottle.  Dave was born into a musical family and by the age of 15 he was ‘depping’ for his dad in various local bands. Together with his brothers Richard and Laurence the Cottle Brothers Variety Act toured Wales as well as appearing at The London Palladium with Vince Hill.  That all ended in 1980 when his brothers left the seaside town moving to London to pursue their dreams.

Dave stayed in Mumbles, worked for British Telecom and kept his music for his spare time. Well when I say spare time I‘m not sure how he managed to install any phones at all during his telecoms career when you consider all of the gigs he’s played over the years.  From weddings to organising the Swansea International Jazz Festival and taking on the role of running the Swansea Jazz Club.

Richard playing with David Bowie.

While Dave was keeping Jazz alive in Swansea his brothers Richard and Laurence were carving out remarkable careers in London.  Richard started on clarinet before moving on to Sax, but it was as a keyboard player he found himself doing sessions for everyone from Eric Clapton to Wham.

Laurence started on Trombone but when his dad decided they would change from being a Trad Jazz Band to a Dance Band Laurence moved to bass guitar.  Moving to London his first job was working in a music shop. That led to contacts which led to sessions and a career that includes Seal, Brian Eno and Van Morrison.

So that’s the Cottle Brothers in a nutshell, world class.  You need a pretty good drummer to keep up with that crew and lucky for Elaine she just happens to be married to one, Paul Smith.  30 years ago I travelled around the world as part of the Max Boyce Band.  Over that time we’ve played together in various bands and he’s currently part of the Heritage Chart topping band The Korgis and we toured the world with Max Boyce when we were much younger and thinner!

On tour with Max Boyce Australia Smithy with a moustache, Mal with glasses

Burt Bacharach wrote so many classic hit songs. Like so many things in life these songs appear simple when in fact they are incredibly complicated.  They have unexpected key changes, chord changes, time changes which when combined together simply combine to create musical magic.

That’s how it sounded last night because the band were at the top of their game and they made Burt’s music shine.

This wasn’t my first visit to the Swansea Jazz Club at Cu Mumbles.  It was only through seeing a post on social media that I realised that Cu Mumbles was the new home for the Jazz Club, so I popped down to see a Jazz guitarist I’d never heard of who was wonderful.  The venue just feels and sounds right. 

The Regent Cinema Mumbles (Courtesy Cyril Ogborne)

The venue has had many different lives since it opened as the Regent Cinema in 1926.  In 1940 it became the Headquarters of the Home Guard before becoming a regular haunt for the 1960’s swinging set as the Casino Dance Hall.  In the 1970’s it became a regular stop off for the touring pop and rock bands and hosted everyone from Slade to Motorhead.  It was said that Suzi Quatro was booked to appear there for £50 and still honoured the booking even though she was in the Top 10 when the gig finally came around.

Casino Ballroom (Courtesy Cyril Ogborne)

The new Cu Mumbles now looks set to be a real centre of entertainment in Mumbles but also serving the whole region.  As well as offering regular jazz Cu Mumbles has comedy nights as well as other special events especially up to Christmas.

As I walked home I might not have had the New York skyline but what I did have was Swansea Bay and the Lighthouse and the melodies of Burt Bacharach still swirling around my head.  I must make sure I check out the listings to see what else I have to book over the coming weeks.

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