Anxious as ever to be present at the cutting edge of vibrantly youthful popular culture, I hied me to the Bridgewater Hall on Friday, accompanied by ‘er indoors and the man also known as the Silver Fox to witness a concert by two up and coming youngsters playing modern music. The elder of the two bandleaders, the prematurely grey Acker Bilk, was supporting the raven-haired whippersnapper Kenny Ball.
Blimey! Acker is 80, and Kenny a year younger. Between them, they’ve been trad-jazzing for over a century. That’s remarkable enough, though not as remarkable as Kenny’s hair. What is truly remarkable is that they can still put on an excellent show for a pretty good crowd of adoring fans.
Acker came on to stage painfully slowly – he’s obviously not too mobile – but he performed well, helped out considerably by his excellent trumpet player, Enrico Tomasso, who dominated proceedings, as the six-piece band ran through a series of standards. Acker introduced most of them with a joke, and a running gag (at least I think it was) where he’d say, “The next number is… (turning to the pianist) what the hell’s the next one called?” He had to do Stranger on the Shore, of course, and did, donning his bowler for the occasion,though his clarinet part was really reduced to some atmospheric noodlings. It was pleasant, but that was all.
Kenny Ball’s group, with an identical lineup – drums, bass, piano, and a front row of trumpet (obviously)trombone and clarinet, produced a much beefier sound, aided considerably by excellent playing from the rhythm section, and the clarinet playing of Andy Cooper that reminded you rather poignantly of how much power Acker had lost. Kenny Ball can still blast it out, and certainly contributed mightily to the overall impact. The Jazzmen had fun, and included, as they had to, “I Wanna Be Like You” played as a request for a young lad (with his grandparents presumably) in the audience. I think they might have played it anyway…Andy Cooper’s been singing that for 40 years now, but still obviously enjoyed it, and rocked the house, insofar as the Bridgewater is rockable. There were some surprises, notably an excursion into Jacques Loussier or David Rees-Williams territory, led by excellent pianist Hugh Ledigo and a fantastic (but, by definition, too long) drum solo by Nick Millward.
It was great fun, and I’m glad I saw these legends. Couldn’t get Midnight in Moscow out of my head all day Saturday.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Last Chance to See… by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.