Vin­tage Jazzmen take to the lake

For­mer New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter, the late Sir Robert Mul­doon, used to re­fer to the So­ci­ety Jazzmen as ‘‘his boys’’ when­ever he saw them play­ing in Auck­land. Ro­tary Mata­mata’s David Hulme caught up with the So­ci­ety Jazzmen’s trom­bon­ist/vo­cal­ist Bob Dougl

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

With a com­bined age of more than 450 years, the So­ci­ety Jazzmen have be­come some­what of an in­sti­tu­tion, or as trom­bon­ist/ vo­cal­ist Bob Dou­glas jokes ‘‘mu­seum pieces’’. How­ever, their de­sire to play mu­sic hasn’t dwin­dled in the slight­est.

The So­ci­ety Jazzmen will be head­lin­ing Ro­tary Mata­mata’s Con­cert by the Lake, along with Kiwi songstress Jamie McDell and lo­cal tal­ent Bryan Rawiri on Sun­day Fe­bru­ary 22, play­ing on a spe­cially de­signed lake­side pon­toon at 162 Jon­dor Rd.

Formed in 1969, the band fea­tures two ‘‘orig­i­nals’’, Bob and trum­peter Arthur Cum­mings, with sax­o­phon­ist/clar­inet­tist Bob Bor­land, gui­tarist Colin Crook and drum­mer Owen Knee­bone all hav­ing played with So­ci­ety Jazzmen for more than 30 years while bass player Bert Pen­ney is the new­est mem­ber of the sex­tet, hav­ing notched up six years.

The Mata­mata show will also fea­ture a spe­cial ap­pear­ance from Bob’s grand­son Jesse, who per­forms on gui­tar and banjo.

Their ser­vices at the Mata­mata con­cert were do­nated by a Ro­tar­ian and his wife who heard them per­form at last year’s Mor­rinsville Jazz Fes­ti­val – a venue the So­ci­ety Jazzmen will again play this year in a busy Waikato fort­night fea­tur­ing three gigs in eight days.

And with most of the band mem­bers now get­ting on in years, Bob says the mix of English and Amer­i­can in­flu­ences still pro­vides the ba­sis for their longevity.

‘‘We all re­ally en­joy play­ing the mu­sic – we pick the num­bers to suit the mood of the crowd. You have to play some­thing that when you start peo­ple look up

Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 22 1pm-6pm Pri­vate prop­erty, 162 Jon­dor Rd Fea­tur­ing: The So­ci­ety Jazzmen, Jamie McDell and lo­cal mu­si­cian Bryan Rawiri. BYO pic­nic and drinks. There will be some non-al­co­holic drinks and food avail­able for pur­chase on the day (cash only)

Tick­ets: $40 or $30 for sec­ondary stu­dents with ID. Avail­able now from PaperPlus, Colourplus and Visique.

and ask ‘ what was that’ and once they are livened up you can play what­ever you like,’’ Bob says.

In the early years sev­eral gigs stand out for Bob – the time they played at the Toy­ota work­ers’ func­tion in Thames, where the crowd was not a usual jazz fol­low­ing.

‘‘ We were strug­gling,’’ Bob ad­mits. ‘‘Then I told the boys to play Baby Face and I went down off the stage and sang to a rather large lady, she grabbed me in close and we were then mar­vel­lous and the whole mood of the night changed.’’

On an­other oc­ca­sion, Bob found a green stage door prop be­hind the cur­tain, inspiring the play­ing of Green Door.

‘‘I was danc­ing around with this prop, got too close to the edge of the stage and took a tum­ble onto the ta­ble be­low but ev­ery­one thought it was part of the act,’’ Bob laughs.

It would be fair to say things have toned down a lit­tle since those days in the 1970s and 80s but one thing has not changed – the So­ci­ety Jazzmen still love

what they do.

‘‘ Re­cently we were per­form­ing for a swing dance group and some­one said ‘ take a look at th­ese guys – it looks like they can hardly walk but boy can they kick it’’’.

While Bob ad­mits jazz is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, he says younger peo­ple are now tak­ing an in­ter­est when they see the So­ci­ety Jazzmen play.

One ‘‘ claim to fame’’ the So­ci­ety Jazzmen have is hav­ing won the groups’ sec­tion of The En­ter­tain­ers, a 1970s tele­vi­sion tal­ent show, the same year a young Suzanne Pren­tice won the solo sec­tion.

‘‘ It was quite some­thing re­ally,’’ Bob says. ‘‘We were per­form­ing against rock bands and still won.’’

For close on half a cen­tury, the So­ci­ety Jazzmen have en­ter­tained au­di­ences in parks, bars, ho­tels, fes­ti­vals, cruise ships, and now Mata­mata will host their unique tal­ents for the first time.

Bob says their blend of jazz with swing, fea­tur­ing mu­sic from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and the New Or­leans’ in­flu­enced style pro­vides the per­fect back­drop for au­di­ences to en­joy per­for­mances.

And their per­for­mances were seem­ingly good enough to im­press Sir Robert Mul­doon. Why not come along and check them out at Ro­tary Mata­mata’s Con­cert by the Lake for your­self?

PER­FORM­ING: The So­ci­ety Jazzmen are head­lin­ing this month’s Con­cert by the Lake, a fundraiser for Ro­tary Mata­mata.

Pho­tos: SUP­PLIED

READY TO PLAY: The So­ci­ety Jazzmen are look­ing for­ward to play­ing in Mata­mata for the first time.

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