PREVIEW: Kevin Fitzsimons (‘Bright Lights, Big City,’ a tribute to Cannonball, Cleanhead and Andrews. Premiere at Herts, Jazz Sun. 27th March)

Kevin Fitzsimmons

KEVIN FITZSIMMONS is a London-born singer/lyricist/songwriter. His debut album "Show Me The Way" was released in 2013. A regular at the main London clubs and leading festivals, he has a new project, ‘Bright Lights, Big City,’ a "tribute to Julian Cannonball Adderley, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and Eddie Andrews. As he looks forward to the premiere performance of this new show at Herts Jazz on Easter Sunday, Kevin Fitzsimmons he explains the background to it:  

I’ve always been a fan of Blues. You can trace it back to my early-teens - when classmates were clutching the latest chart hit, I was rummaging through cardboard boxes in search of Jazz, Blues and Stax-Volt material in my local independent record store, Adrian’s. So this project is right on line for me, combining the legendary Cannonball Adderley with two vocalists soaked in the Blues: Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and Ernie Andrews.

In the summer of 61, Kansas City, Cannonball was taking time out from a busy schedule when by chance he bumped into one of his idols, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson. The young Julian Adderley’s admiration for the bluesman came whilst tuning into radio broadcasts in the 40’s of the Cootie Williams Big Band, and where he picked up on Vinson’s alto solos. Some twenty years later the music industry had all but past Vinson by. Cannonball on the other hand was one of the most in demand jazz artists at that time. As a result, Riverside Records gave him carte blanche to record anyone he ‘dug’, and so backed by Cannonball’s quintet, Vinson was pulled into the studio and thus the album ‘Back Door Blues’ was born. And in time, tracks from this album were subsequently rereleased in 1988 on Cleanhead and Cannonball, one of the two albums we cover.

So to our contribution from Ernie Andrews. I have a penchant for live recordings, so when I flicked through those cardboard boxes and spotted ‘Live Session! Cannonball Adderley with the New Exciting Voice of Ernie Andrews, I grabbed it, paid for it and was out the shop quicker than a musician debarking a corporate gig. There’s a smart jazz mind behind the arrangements and the first number you hear is Marvin Jenkins’ Big City (which we cover). Ernie Andrews’ voice is full of confidence and experience - 20 odd years of experience in fact, with him enjoying his first hit, Soothe Me, in 1945 at the tender age of 17. Like Vinson, Andrews also found space on the big band scene (as a vocalist with the Harry James Orchestra) and like Vinson his career had also lost ground during the 60s. Cannonball had signed for Capitol Records a year or so before Live Session! was released (1965). His earlier collaboration on this label with Nancy Wilson proved successful, so it made commercial sense to pair the jazz star with another vocalist. So, from this album, we’ll do songs like, ‘I’m A Born World Shaker, Next Time I See You, & I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco – great stuff for the band to get their chops into.

The idea for this project was spawned whilst suppin’ ale in a central London pub with Leon Greening & Alex Garnett. I suggested it might be cool to cover both albums? How surprised was I to find that not only were they fully briefed on the albums, but already had this idea in mind.

As a one off we incorporated one song from the Cannonball project into our show at St James Theatre last June, and made a video as a taster for the full show (below)

So now we are all done and dusted and will bepresenting the premiere of this new project in the first half of the evening at Herts Jazz Club on 27th March. The second half of the evening being material we’ve been playing live/recording together over the last few years: originals/standards/ jazz translations of classic pop recordings




KEVIN FITZSIMMONS SEXTET: Kevin Fitzsimmons (vocals), Leon Greening (piano), Adam King (bass), Matt Fishwick (drums), Alex Garnett (sax), Steve Fishwick (trumpet)

Sun 27 MARCH | 7:30pm | Herts Jazz Club, Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn, Herts, AL8 6BX | 

LINKS: Herts Jazz website
Kevin Fitzsimmons website

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