In a jazz world often polarised into specialisms, New Orleans, Modern, Dixieland, Bebop and so on the Rascals provide a refreshing visit to the era of swinging, carefree jazz, as exemplified by small bands in the 1930’s. This evolved directly from classic New Orleans jazz and was, at that time largely played by expat New Orleans and Chicago musicians escaping from the regimentation of the big bands.
The Rascals are fronted by two wonderful musicians in Mike Wills and Tony Blincowe who between them play enough reed instruments to start a shop (or possibly a museum!). They carry on the great traditions of Jimmy Noone & Joe Poston, Mezz Mezzrow & Sidney Bechet, even Wally Fawkes & Bruce Turner! The drumless rhythm section of Dave Moorwood - acoustic guitar, Perry Lock – piano, Roger Davis – bass, “provides a backdrop … as springy as a trampoline and uncluttered as air” (Digby Fairweather).
Not a band to categorise easily, (read Eddie Cook’s review of their first album in Jazz Journal, June 2000) you will hear music by Jelly Roll, Fats, Duke and many of the great tunesmiths of the 20’s and 30’s.
Songs are handled by Dave himself and by American Susan Valliant Speer, a versatile and dynamic performer with roots in the classic blues of Bessie Smith and Alberta Hunter and the great vaudeville tradition as exemplified by Sophie Tucker
The Rascals have five CD’s available (on PEK), “Boiled Owl and Other Delicacies”, “Hors D’Oeuvres and Other Tasty Morsels”, a live album with trumpeter Ben Cummings and Micky Cooke on trombone, entitled “the Rascals meet the Top Brass”, “Love Potion Number 9 and Other Heady Cocktails” featuring the vocal talents of Elizabeth May, and now “Mama Sings The Blues” featuring Susan Valliant Speer in fine form. A new live album of the Lains Barn Allstars including Ben Cummings and trombonist Kevin Grenfell is in preparation.
The Rascals are led by :-
Dave Moorwood – who started in Skiffle groups in the early 50’s playing banjo and guitar and even mandolin and clarinet. From about 1962 he worked in blues bands, dance bands and with an organ trio as well as with a variety of jazz bands. In 1990 he formed the Big Bear Stompers, a now almost legendary “Frisco” style band which survived into 1997 often playing host to top jazzmen as guests including Ball, Bilk and Lyttelton. However in January 1996 he was asked to join the Pete Allen Jazz Band and became a pivotal member of the rhythm section for the next eight years when he finally resigned to indulge himself playing his favourite acoustic guitar, singing and arranging for his own group, the Rascals of Rhythm. Dave takes great delight in searching for gems amongst the myriad almost forgotten songs of the 20’s and 30’s, many of which you will hear at Rascals’ performances. He is also a first choice “dep” in many top bands such as those of Roger Marks, Brian White, John Petters and Phil Mason. In 2004 he unveiled a new version of the Big Bear Stompers which has been taking the club and festival scene by storm.
Mike Wills – he of the vast collection of instruments – first came to prominence playing trombone in the Oxford area. He plays fine piano too, but with the Rascals shows his mastery of the curly soprano sax as well as tenor sax and clarinet. A player with tremendous imagination, drive and swing.
|Tony Blincowe – another multi-reedman – not only plays beautiful clarinet but also straight soprano, alto and tenor saxes. He is comfortable in many styles from New Orleans through Big Bands to Modern jazz and is an ideal foil for Mike Wills with whom he has worked for many years. Tony joined in 2005 on the retirement of Tony Isaacs.|
|Perry Lock – a most underrated pianist with a fine bluesy, rolling style – one of the best band pianists around. As an original Big Bear, Perry has worked with Dave for many years. Among his many talents Perry has most successfully tamed the electronic keyboard. In the age of the vanishing piano, this skill is vital to the Rascal’s success.||Roger Davis - was the bass player who followed Geoff Hull into the Pete Allen band where he met Dave. A dynamic and propulsive player, he is the rock on which the Rascals are founded and is also a fine soloist. He too has wide experience, playing with bands of every style and also joined the band in 2005.|
SUSAN VALLIANT SPEER
Susan was born in Georgia, USA, and raised her family in the North West US on the Pacific coast where she sang with many jazz bands in Oregon and Washington. Recently she moved to England to remarry and has sung with several bands including that of Pete Allen. She now has a songbook of her own with the Rascals and is available to perform with the band. Susan is definitely an “up front” vocalist with an extensive repertoire, particularly in the field of Blues, Vaudeville and early Jazz styles .She fronts the band with great verve and amusing repartee.