Acker Bilk and the Paramount Jazz Band, The Concorde Club

First published in Music Reviews Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HE might not be the spring chicken who pioneered the British boom in traditional jazz.

But at the age of 83 Acker Bilk has lost none of his zest for entertaining the public.

One of the world’s most famous jazz musicians, he played to a full house at The Concorde where for many decades he has been a popular draw.

Three years ago he celebrated his 80th birthday at the Stoneham Lane club and says: “It is a great place and I always enjoying playing here.”

He could add stand up comic to his glittering showbiz CV which spans more than 55 years.

Acker hit the high notes with his razor sharp wit, delivered in that distinctive Somerset burr.

He and his richly talented band of musicians opened the first set with Memphis Blues.

The sudden buzzing of a mobile phone in the audience did not trouble Acker who as cool as a cucumber asked if someone was doing Morse code.

Then he launched into When You’re Smiling, a tune made famous by the great Louis Armstrong. The lively playlist also included Panama Rag, Dinah, Beale Street Blues and The White Cliffs of Dover.

One of Britain’s most versatile jazz musicians, Enrico Tomasso, who worked with Louis Armstrong, gave a masterclass in trumpet playing.

The audience were spellbound as he took them on a journey to New Orleans, with St James Infirmary based on an 18th century traditional English folk song.

Nice solo contributions from pianist Colin Woods with Autumn Leaves and top trombone player Ian Bateman with A Weaver of Dreams.

Acker was handed his trademark bowler hat which was the cue for Stranger on the Shore, that haunting tune which rocketed him to international stardom.

He jokingly calls the instrumental, which stayed in the charts for 55 weeks and was the first number one hit at the same time in the UK and USA, Strangler on the Floor.

But it is one that still gets the biggest cheer from his faithful fans which judging from the enthusiastic young faces in the front row are ageless.

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