[Blues-l] Review: Ray Ellington, "That's Nice"

Rich Kulawiec rsk@gsp.org
Sun Feb 26 12:08:51 EST 2023

This is much more jazz than blues, but I know that some of you enjoy both
so I thought I'd pass it along.  The recording is:

	Ray Ellington, "That's Nice", Castle Pulse - PLS CD 482

I first heard Ray Ellington and his band on tapes of "The Goon Show",
which was a BBC radio show starring Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan, and
Peter Sellers back in the 1950's.  It's one of the predecessors of Monty
Python's Flying Circus (and The Goodies, and others) and I suppose it's
a cousin of The Firesign Theatre: full of riffs and cultural references
and surreal jokes and weird sounds and well, it's completely bizarre.
It's definitely an acquired taste but it's hilarious once you listen to
enough of it to be familiar with the characters.  (And it helps if you
have some familiarity with British culture of the time.)

Anyway, the show featured musical interludes, most often with the
Ray Ellington Quarter and/or harmonica master Max Geldray.  And one of
those breaks was Ellington's version of "Old Man River", which JUMPS -- and
features a bridge with a snippet of Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King",
which you wouldn't think would fit...but it does.  And the lift right
after it is sweet.

The live version of this -- from one of the Goon Show broadcasts --
is on YouTube.	It begins with an in-show intro and includes a cryptic
improvised reference near the end to "Bexhill".  That's in there because
the episode this appeared in is "The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler of

I told you it was surreal. ;)  Anyway, enjoy:

	Ray Ellington - Old Man River

After all these years, I finally picked up a copy of "That's Nice", which
has 20 tracks of Ellington and his band.  This arrangement of "Old Man River"
is one of them, as are "Satin Doll", "Too Marvelous for Words",
"Prelude to a Kiss" and a swinging take on "The Three Bears".

The liner notes give a synopsis of Ellington's career, but since that's
also on Wikipedia I'll omit it here.  The band on this recording is
Dick Katz (piano), Judd Proctor (guitar), Peter McGurk (bass),
and Ellington on drums and vocals -- with a little help from
Tony Kinsey (drums) on a couple of tracks.  They're tight thanks to
years of playing together and well, they're also really talented.

What's remarkable about this collection are the arrangements, some of which
are traditional and tasty, and some of which are experimental and fascinating.
There are little moments where the music goes someplace unexpected
and every one of them is clever and fun.

The album is called "That's Nice" because it was Ellington's catch phrase.
And it IS nice, it's a fun record that captures a polished band playing
some great tunes.


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