It seems like only yesterday that I crawled up the stairs at Ye Olde Brunswick House
in Toronto to see Jim Galloway’s Metro Stompers. Since then, I’ve gone from thinning hair, to grey hair, to no hair. That night was thirty-one years ago. It sticks in my memory because the late Cliff "Kid" Bastien was filling in on drums. Bastien passed away in 2003 having become a local legend as a cornetist.
Jim Galloway has come a long way since emigrating from his native Scotland and joining Jim McHarg’s Dixieland outfit. Galloway played clarinet, alto and soprano with that band and has since concentrated on the saxophones, particularly the curved soprano. His talents were quickly recognized and it wasn’t long before Galloway found himself in the company of jazz legends Wild Bill Davison, Dick Wellstood, Vic Dickenson, Buddy Tate. Buck Clayton wanted Galloway onside for his frequent Toronto gigs. Wild Bill Davison once mentioned to me that, in his opinion, the greatest reedmen in Canada were Jim Galloway and Vancouver’s Lance Harrison.
The late seventies found Galloway entrenched in the sounds of swing. He formed his own 17 piece outfit and called it the "Wee Big Band." In addition, he became more involved than ever in supporting live jazz in the city. From radio broadcasting to booking agent, Galloway sold jazz music with every breath. For more than a decade, Jim was artistic director of the Du Maurier Downtown Jazz Festival and guided the event through the lean years to its enviable success in the 90s.
Galloway’s newest CD was recorded in the spring of 2003 at The Montreal Bistro
, one of Toronto’s busiest jazz spots. The Echoes of Swing
is a sextet composed of big band and classic jazz veterans. It’s nice to find drummer Don Vickery in the band and sounding better than ever. Vickery was one of my favorite players when he appeared with the Brian Browne Trio many moons ago. Listening to him here solidified my admiration. Vickery recently recorded a CD under his own name on Cornerstone Records.
The material for the session was drawn from pop and jazz tunes of the twenties and thirties and handled perfectly by devoted players. Among my favorites are Waller’s Blue Turning Grey Over You
, Ellington’s In My Solitude
and Maceo Pinkard’s Sugar
. The latter is treated with the same reverence that Eddie Condon and Lee Wiley bestowed on Sugar
decades ago. An absolute highlight, in my opinion, is the Galloway band’s imaginative and infectious rendition of the 1922 hit, Runnin’ Wild
. Honestly, I must admit that the tune was one that I "tolerated" in the past. The Echoes of Swing
treat the old rouser almost as a blues. At the midway point, Vickery takes a classic drum break and the tempo doubles. The front line is up to the challenge and kicks out some great passages. New Orleans fans will delight in the inclusion of I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll
penned by Louisiana natives, Clarence and Spencer Williams. Pianist, Ian Bargh gets a chance to show his stuff behind Galloway’s vocal.
The enthusiastic audience at the Montreal Bistro
obviously enjoyed the session and so will you. It’s good jazz!