I quickly recognised the band in their distinctive outfits – flashes of yellow in their ties, collars or cuffs – as I approached their table to introduce myself. They were tucking into their Crabshell pizzas looking relaxed but exhilarated after taking their people carrier and equipment trailer along the tidal road from Bigbury. Luckily it was low tide and I was glad to see they had arrived safely and untroubled by their experience.
The band’s sense of humour was evident right from the beginning. Coming all the way from the Netherlands, the internationally acclaimed Storyville Jassband is one of the oldest active performing bands. Manager Michael Muller (trumpet and vocals) explained that the unusual spelling of their name was because back in 1959 when the band was formed they were not aware of the correct spelling of jazz.
The band was clearly enjoying the final seven days of its two-week UK tour. Michael’s anecdotes between numbers revealed that the band has played all over the world, its banjo and guitar player Tom Stuip having played in every continent except Antarctica.
The rest of the highly talented combo are Eugène de Bruijn-Clarinet (sax and vocals), Vincent Roerdink (trombone), Hein van Rooijen (double bass) and Stef Geurts (drums). The band’s collective CV sports numerous international awards and academic accomplishments and this was evident in their playing. Technically brilliant, perfectly syncopated and possessing that essential element of swing.
Initially focusing on the jazz of the Roaring Twenties, the band now has a firm place on the traditional jazz scene themselves. The set list saw them deftly moving through a range of styles, from British traditional jazz to music hall, gospel and ragtime, plus some acapella too. There were many poignant moments as they sang Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs of Dover and Louis Armstrong’s Down by the Riverside, with that line evoking the relief of peace: ‘Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, ain’t gonna study war no more.’
In a long set that had a mixture of familiar and not so familiar songs, listing just a few here would not do the night justice. There were some stand-out songs, particularly Georgia Grind, written by Spencer Williams, WC Handy’s Memphis Blues, and the St Louis Blues played solo on banjo by Tom Stuip. The set ended with What a Wonderful World, which as in When the Saints Go Marching In, the audience couldn’t help joining in with.
A very happy Crabshell crowd is now looking forward to the next event on 1 November when The New Washboard Syncopators will be performing. Get your bookings in early! I left hoping that the Storyville Jassband took up my advice to take the longer but safer route back to Bigbury after the concert.