Moustachioed jazz man Tom Sharp leads this quintet in a festive romp at the quant coffee shop ‘Mrs. Atha’s’, in the centre of Leeds. It’s the right kind of setting for jazz, all brick walls with arty prints. Part of the bar is a rustic slab of hard wood. Le Toot himself, also known by the name of Eliot Richards, is absent, unfortunately having had to take other work. ‘He decided he didn’t want to be at his own album launch’ Tom jokes, ‘so we replaced him with someone better’. The performance is relatively short, with only five tunes, but vibrant and entertaining. Watching the ‘Le Toot and the Kansas City friends’ (trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor sax) try to squeeze into such a narrow space is a highlight.
The album itself includes arrangements borrowed from Parker, Chet Baker and Count Basie. It’s a pastiche, but a good one, which captures the sound and feel of an old jazz record. White Christmas and Winter Wonderland move along at quite a pace, showing off some impressive choruses from tenor, trumpet and piano. The solos kept are relatively short, which is a nice touch for anybody looking for something a bit different at Christmas but who isn’t a die hard fan of traditional jazz. Saxophone ballad, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas reveals a more tender side and some melodic playing from the tenor and double bass. The band is bolstered by extra trumpet, trombone, alto and bari sax for he short and sweet Jingle Bells. Next we hear Tom Sharp’s best crooning voice in Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) from the film White Christmas. Finally, a raucous bonus track rendition of Silent Night reminds us, tongue firmly in cheek, that the record doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Albums were available at the launch in the form of Christmas cards with a download code for bandcamp. I have a soft spot for buying music like this as I like to have something physical that represents it even if it’s just a Christmas card I can put on my mantle piece for a few days.
The album can also be downloaded at http://letootandthekansascityfour.bandcamp.com/album/le-toots-kansas-city-christmas-2. It’s well worth the £3.
Le Toot and the Kansas City Four:
Tenor Sax: Eliot Richards
Trumpet, Vocals: Tom Sharp
Piano: Matthew Aplin
Double Bass: Tom Riviere
Drums: Jordan Dinsdale
Find out more about Le Toot and the Kansas City Four at: https://www.facebook.com/LeTootandtheKansasCityFour