Saturday, June 19, 2010

5. From the estate of Cavell Nichol: Acker Bilk

Genre: Jazz
Place of Purchase: Auction, Wellington, $16 (bulk lot)
Why I bought this: I had no choice

My ownership of several Acker Bilk records stems not from an interest in lightweight jazz, but from an auction house policy of selling a lot of LP’s alphabetically.

For the many years radio announcer Cavell Nichol hosted a jazz show on New Zealand’s 2YC station. With the snazzy title Cavell Nichol’s Cavalcade of Jazz, Cavell’s show mostly consisted of mainstream jazz with a few excursions into the better known fringes; Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane. Like a genuine record collecting bloodhound I had dutifully cut the auction notice out of the paper (notifying the public the deceased’s possessions were up for grabs), pocketed my dole for the week and headed downtown.

Turning up at the auction house I discovered that Nicol’s collection of 600 records had been divided up into lots of 20, arranged alphabetically. If I wanted those original 60s/70s Coltrane and Coleman discs it turned out I was also going get myself some Bill Coleman, Jimmy Cleveland and a ton of Acker Bilk.

For $16 I got myself not only 20 LP’s from the B-C section but also about 40 reel to reel ¼” tapes and an Akai ¼” reel to reel tape player. Outside the auction house I hungrily piled my booty into a cab and sped home.

The Coltrane and (Ornette) Coleman LP’s have been played for a few years now. I’ve even found time for the zippy uptempo of Jimmy Cleveland. The ¼” reel to reel tapes are a massive archive of jazz taped off air. But until now, nothing of the 4 records I own by Mr Bilk.

Musically, this is trad jazz and not really my cup of tea. But while the music is indeed lightweight,  Nicholl’s attention to Bilk is not. Inside each LP are clippings, reviews, previews, interviews, all cut from pop magazines and newspaper, lovingly treasured and itemised. Inside one is a 7”. If I get rid of these albums, the clippings will have to stay with them.

Any lingering sense of sentimentality towards Mr Bilk is more or less done away with by the cover of Acker In New Zealand which  fills me with a powerful sense of yechh. Acker sits in the engine of an Air New Zealand plane his very tight trousers, his bowler hat and devilish moustache all combining for a sense of the aging Lothario on tour. One wonders why this British musician returned to NZ so often, if it was indeed for the ladies, Mr Bilk certainly also struck a chord with the jazz aficianado Mr Cavell Nichol.