The Chris Hodgkins Quartet

Boswell's London Journal
Chris Hodgkins Quartet
Boswell's London Journal

Chris Hodgkins - TRUMPET
Alison Rayner - DOUBLE BASS
Max Brittain - GUITAR
Diane McLoughlin - ALTO SAX
1. The Machine (3.09)
2. Most Miserably Melancholy (6.43)
3. Wilkes (4.14)
4. Auchinleck (4.44)
5. King's Birth Night (4.06)
6. Repent At Leisure (2.26)
7. The Meeting (3.08)
8. Greenwich Excursion (4.41)
9. Vauxhall Gardens (4.03)
10. London (3.41)
11. Peggy Doig (6.19)
12. Turk's Head Conversations (4.25)
13. Louisa (5.25)
14. High Exultation (4.11)
15. Roaring Psalms (2.20)
ALL TITLES COMPOSED BY Vhris Hodgkins and Eddie Harvey
PUBLISHED BY Paul Rodriguez Music Ltd (PRS)
ARRANGEMENTS by Eddie Harvey
PRODUCED AND ENGINEERED by Malcolm Creese and BobWhitney at
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Chris’ most ambitious project to date is the album Boswell’s London Journal, a suite of 15 tunes co-composed by Chris Hodgkins and Eddie Harvey (who also did the arrangements). James Boswell, best known as the biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson, kept a daily diary between the years 1762 and 1763; this account of a very different London to today, as seen through the eyes of a 22 year old Scot, provides the inspiration for the album.

Boswell’s London Journal includes a piece entitled London, evoking Boswell’s arrival at Highgate Hill and his first view of the capital city. The Meeting commemorates Boswell’s not entirely successful first encounter with Dr Johnson on 16 May 1763. Friendship flourished however, and High Exultation documents the evening of 25 June 1763 on which Boswell and Dr Johnson wine, dine and discuss such things as ghosts, poetry, fathers and sons, and going abroad; Boswell retiring home ‘in high exultation’. Greenwich Excursion was inspired by Boswell and Johnson’s boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich; Most Miserably Melancholy charts one of the author’s recurring bouts of depression. Boswell’s London Journal offers an emotionally charged landscape that amply illustrates the human condition, from the low and the vulgar to profound conversations with Samuel Johnson; the real-life incidents in the London Journal offered the composers a wealth of rich material for the album’s 15 original tunes.

Reviews: 01/01/2009 Jack Massarik
...talented trumpeter, Chris Hodgkins, who plays in the unfashionable classic style of Ruby Braff and the great Louis Armstrong... this is his best album yet... a tuneful tribute to Dr Johnson's biographer, craftily arranged and gracefully played Jack Massarik on Boswell’s London Journal, Evening Standard Jazz CD of the Week
Sleeve Notes by Terence Hawkes:

1. The Machine (22 April 1763)
Planning a jaunt to Oxford, Boswell took himself to the Blue Bell and Crown in Holborn, where what he called "the machine" - a stagecoach - pulled up. He ordered a room for the night and was hurt at the bed's "not being so neat and agreeable as my own." It hardly made much difference. Between five and six a.m. the next day the machine set out. It took twelve hours.

2. Most Miserably Melancholy (12 March 1763)
Sometimes depression took its toll. "This was one of the blackest days that I ever passed. I was most miserably melancholy." Boswell thought of going abroad to Spain, to France, to Italy. Then he thought of changing his lodgings. He even "looked up and down the bottom of Holborn and towards Fleet Ditch for an out-of-the-way-place. How very absurd are such conceits". In the end he went to visit Lady Betty and Lady Anne, had supper, drinks and spoke of ghosts. By then he was too frightened to go home and stayed with the Honourable Andrew Erskine, a bashful, indolent, and out-of-funds officer, also subject to fits of depression.

3. Wilkes (Tuesday 24 May 1763)
Boswell met John Wilkes through the author Bonnell Thornton. Famously dissolute, the cross-eyed, ugly Wilkes was the M.P. for Aylesbury and violently against the government of Lord Bute. He edited an anti-administration pamphlet called The North Briton where, in issue number 45, he denounced the King's speech and was arrested. He was then expelled from Parliament for publishing an obscene libel, The Essay on Women. He retired to Paris. From there he was on three occasions elected M.P. for Middlesex, although in each case his election was annulled. He finally acquired the seat in 1774 and was also made Lord Mayor. A popular hero in the cause of freedom, he advocated many important legal rights, including the freedom of the press. Boswell liked this "lively, facetious" man and his witty meeting with his old friend Dr. Johnson on 15 May 1776 was ably recorded by him.

4. Auchinleck (11 December 1762)
Boswell was the son of Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, a Scottish judge whose family estate derived from Ayrshire. On his father's death 1782, Boswell inherited the home and buildings at Auchinleck House. He was extremely fond of the place and wanted to end his days there: " laying up agreeable ideas to feast upon in recollection. Thus shall I perhaps enjoy a serene felicity at the delightful Auchinleck, the ancient seat of a long line of worthy ancestors." His last years were devoted to The Life of Samuel Johnson LI.D which appeared in 1791, and he hopes to deposit his diary in the archives: "I told Mr. Johnson that I put down all sorts of little incidents in it." "Sir", said he. "there is nothing too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great knowledge of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible."

5. King's Birth Night (4 June 1763)
On the night of the King's birthday, wearing his oldest suit, with "a little round hat with tarnished silver lace belonging to a disbanded officer of the Royal Volunteers", he armed himself with an "old oaken stick" and pretended to be "a complete blackguard". Still, he remained sure that in spite of his dress, he "was always taken for a gentleman in disguise". He "came home about two o'clock, much fatigued"

6. Repent at Leisure (19-20 January 1763)
A jolly party with friends, some wine, some beefsteak, and a lively visit to a theatre. All this looked promising. But Boswell, who thought he had taken a cold, found himself sadly in the presence, indeed in the grip, of Signor Gonorrhoea. Presumably its source - he had unwisely been boasting to his companions - was "my ideal lady". This was, horror of horrors, Louisa.

7. The Meeting (16 May 1763)
Boswell's first encounter with Dr. Johnson was almost a disaster. Introduced as a Scot he said "Mr. Johnson indeed I come from Scotland, but I cannot help it." Johnson was unmerciful. "Sir" he replied, "that, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help." A well-placed knee in the groin might have been a proper riposte, but Boswell was made of sterner stuff. He remarked that "I shall mark what I remember of his conversation", whilst commenting that Johnston was "a man of most dreadful appearance ... troubled with sore eyes, the palsy, and the King's evil". This meant he had scrofula. But true friendship prospered none the less. Nowadays, the Scottish Parliament would probably have had Johnson locked up as a danger to public health.

8. Greenwich Excursion (30 July 1763)
Boswell and Johnson took a boat and "sailed down the silver Thames" eventually to Greenwich. There Boswell celebrated Johnson's London: a Poem by reading the passage devoted to the banks of the Thames. Then he literally "kissed the consecrated earth" on which the two of them stood. It seems he had prepared the scene and had a copy of the poem in his pocket. Johnson said nothing. Then he changed the subject. Oh dear.

9. Vauxhall Gardens (13 June 1763)
A riotous night in the park at Vauxhall Gardens. These were on the Surrey side of the Thames, a short distance from Vauxhall Bridge. The bright lights, the pomaded walks, the music, the food and drink, were all "quite delicious", and Boswell light-heartedly joined a quarrel between a customer and a waiter. It ended with a constable arriving to sort out the riot and Boswell seizing the officer's baton and tapping people on the head with the cry "A ring - a ring". He was not arrested.

10. London (19 November 1762)
Arriving at Highgate Hill, Boswell suddenly had his first view of the capital city. It almost overwhelmed him: "I was all life and joy" he said, whilst the glare of shops and signs "agreeably confused" him. He drove wildly along Water Lane and Fleet Street and composed a fitting song to match his spirits: "She gave me this, I gave her that; And tell me, had she not tit for tat" A young man's fancy has never been better defined. Or his downfall.

11. Peggy Doig (28 July 1763)
"I should also have mentioned some time ago that Peggy Doig, the mother of my little boy, is in town." Yes he should have. Boswell received word that he was a father in November 1762, soon after his arrival in London. But this is the only time he mentions the mother's full name. He met her in Edinburgh in January, 1762, calling her "the most curious young little pretty" but he left Scotland before the birth. The boy was called Charles. He was given to a foster-mother and supplied with a nurse. Boswell claimed that the baby "shall always find me an affectionate father". But in fact he never saw Charles, as the boy died in February 1764.

12. Turk's Head Conversations (22 July 1763)
You could never shut Dr. Johnson up, particularly at the The Turk's Head Coffee House. It was just off the Strand, near Covent Garden and he found "better entertainment there" than at the Mitre. All aspects of life drew his attention. He loved, he said, the acquaintance of young people because young men have more virtue than old men ... I love the young dogs of this age: they have more wit and humour and knowledge of life than we had. But then the dogs are not so good scholars . ." He insisted that men recognised social status, those "fixed, invariable external rules of distinction of rank, which create no jealousy, as they are allowed to be accidental." He claims to have remarked to one woman that "I was quite a convert to her republican system, and thought mankind all upon a footing; and I begged her that her footman might be allowed to dine with us. She has never liked me since". When Boswell complained of his hereditary melancholy, "He advised me to have constant occupation of mind, to take a good deal of exercise, and to live moderately; especially to shun drinking at night." Melancholy people, he said, "are apt to fly to intemperance, which gives a momentary relief but sinks the soul much lower in misery." There is no record that Boswell followed this counsel.

13. Louisa (14 December 1762)
Louisa has no memorial other than in Boswell's diary. She was an actress, and played the Queen in Hamlet, and Mrs. Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. But although Boswell enjoyed "free-hearted ladies of all kinds" Louisa really bowled him over. He called to see her. They chatted about this and that. She invited him to tea. He jumped at the chance: "I fixed Thursday, and left her, very well satisfied with my first visit".

14. High Exultation (2!, June 1763)
An evening spent with Dr. Johnson, first at dinner, when he got into a dispute about black people with an Irishman, and then at the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, when they considered such things as ghosts, poetry, fathers and sons, and going abroad. Johnson recommended that Boswell should visit Spain where his "useful observations" might be valued. Boswell was delighted by this interest in him: "We sat till between one and two and finished a couple of bottles of port. I went home in high exultation."

15. Roaring Psalms (15 May 1763)
Boswell attended a service in Ludgate church "with patience and satisfaction". However, after a meal with friends he went to Dr. Fordyce's meeting in Monkwell Street to hear Dr. Blair preach. Sadly, "Blair's New Kirk delivery and the Dissenters roaring out the Psalms sitting on their backsides, together with the extempore prayers" had the reverse effect. In truth, "the whole vulgar idea of the Presbyterian worship made me very gloomy". Boswell hastened to St. Paul's where the conclusion of the service "had my mind set right again"

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  The Chris Hodgkins Trio

Future Continuous
Chris Hodgkins Trio
F u t u r e    C o n t i n u o u s

Chris Hodgkins - TRUMPET
Alison Rayner - DOUBLE BASS
Max Brittain - GUITAR
1. Sweet William (Alison Rayner)
2. Full Count (Conte Candoli)
3. Breaking up is Hard to Do (Neil Sedaka)
4. Grey Skies (A Song for February) (Eddie Harvey)
5. To Summer (Kathy Dyson)
6. Marabastad (Mike Mokone)
7. Where's Trog? (Eddie Harvey)
8. My Heart Stood Still (Rogers and Hart)
9. No Silence in the Lamb (Henry Lowther)
10. Here There and Everywhere (Lennon and McCartney)
11. Funk Dumplin's (Sahib Shihab)
12. If Only (Rowland Sutherland)
13. Phalanges (Louis Bellson)
14. Mezzrow/Mezz's Tune (Humphrey Lyttelton)
15. If We Never Meet Again (Horace Herlach/Louis Armstrong)
16. Urban Cowboy (Diane McLoughlin)
17. Birk's Works (Dizzie Gillespie)
18. Taking a Chance on Love (John LaTouche, Ted Fetter, Vernon Duke)
19. Overture from Water Music (Telemann, arr. Henry Lowther)
18. Swinging at the Copper Beech (Chris Hodgkins)
PRODUCED BY Malcolm Creese at
RECORDED AT Dronken Lane Studios, Hertfordshire, England ON 25th and 26th February 2006
DESIGN BY Suzy Waller
SPECIAL THANKS TO Alison Rayner, Max Brittain, Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Humphrey Lyttelton, Diane McLoughlin, Rowland Sutherland, Eddie Harvey, Helen Maleed, Kathy Dyson, Digby Fairweather, Dave and Cathryn Macadam and Biddy Samuels.
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Sleeve Notes by Digby Fairweather:

Have you ever had one of those secret moments in a restaurant where you look down the prices on the right hand side of the menu first before looking across to the left to see what those prices will buy you? I’ve done that with CD track timings over the years but of course for different reasons. For example, in my days as a radio presenter, looking for a unit that provided the two minutes and fifty-five seconds necessary to complete a show on schedule was part of the business of broadcasting. But other reasons were based on taste as much as technicality. With full respects to the extended explorations of a John Coltrane or a Keith Jarrett, I wonder whether brevity may still sometimes be the soul of jazz wit. Older generations of jazz critics than mine revered seventy-eight records - three-minute universities of concentrated musical philosophy, which also tacitly proposed the idea that if you couldn’t get your statement across within such a time-span, you might just possibly be going on a bit. This was just one reason why I liked the look of Chris Hodgkins’s brand-new solo album - its longest track all of four minutes and forty-two seconds, and its shortest clocking in at just two minutes and twenty-four. Looking left from timings to titles produced more optimistic outlooks - a musical menu remarkable for diversity, judgment and a likeable, though not obsessive, preoccupation with world class Jazz composer-arrangers who just happen to be British. This collection, remarkably, celebrates the works of Alison Rayner, Henry Lowther, Diane McLoughlin, Eddie Harvey, Kathy Dyson, Rowland Sutherland, Humphrey Lyttelton and Lennon and McCartney as well as Rodgers and Hart, Sahib Shihab, Neil Sedaka, Horace Gerlach and Louis Armstrong among many others, all within the compact space of sixty five minutes and twenty-two seconds.

These good thoughts and decisions, of course, are the creation of this album's mastermind - Chris Hodgkins, jazz trumpeter. lt's necessary to add the last two words because since 1985, Chris has occupied a separate high profile position in our music’s establishment - as director of Jazz Services Ltd., the organisation which formalizes shapes and enhances the activities of Britain’s jazz scene. For his work in this area alone, Chris should, in future years. find himself lining up for inclusion in some eminent honours lists. Because before he got to work hewing out a recognizable working landscape for our music just over twenty years ago, British jazz was both uncharted and unprotected territory. For musicians who bravely take on such causes, however there is often a backlash that the music they play is put on hold in favour of the other causes. Many eminent jazz performers who have diversified into other areas, writing or broadcasting for example have found their musical image and aspirations defocusing - simply because they’re doing something else rather than just playing and making records.

This won't happen to Chris Hodgkins however, not least because recording has formed a major focus of his recent activities. And even though it’s several years since he travelled the British jazz roads as a professional trumpeter, I know that my old friend has lost not one wit of passion for his instrument. His daily practice routines as well as an absorbed interest in the science of trumpet-playing, would put many more eminent professionals to shame. And in recent years his playing has achieved new heights. Chris Hodgkins, trumpeter, can and does surprise any audience lucky enough to hear him with the kind of multi-faceted concept which can move anywhere from the angry heat of a Roy Eldridge to the mid-period delicacy of a harmon-muted Miles Davis.

You can hear all of these moods and more on this CD, which, as with his first, features just three players - the leader, Max Brittain (one of Britain’s premier-league guitarists) and bassist Alison Rayner (a founder member of the Guest Stars and regular player for Deirdre Cartwright, the Vortex Foundation Big Band and The Emma Peel Fan Club). In short –The Chris HodgkinsTrio. To ensure that an album with such minimal staffing maintains its interest, you need skills, inspiration and diversity. All of them present and more than correct here, from the opening delicate calypso-waltz Sweet William by Rayner. Full Count shows off Chris’s harmon-muted sound at its most attacking (Candoli and Eldridge combined!), underpinned by Rayner’s full-toned acoustic bass and followed by Brittain in the kind of vivacious work which springs from him at every solo opportunity. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, introduced by Chris’s poised open-horn, breaks later into a small masterpiece of three-piece scoring as the bridge recurs. And note the trumpet and bass counterpoint at the coda - chamber-jazz at its most refined. Eddie Harvey’s Grey Skies 9A Song For February) - based on guess which concept-related chord changes by one I. Berlin Esq! -offers concluding choruses recalling (like Phalanges later) the Braff-Barnes Quartet. And his Where’s Trog? (in title and conception a friendly nod to old colleagues and friends Wally Fawkes and Humphrey Lyttelton) is, again, trio jazz at its most crafted and ingenious. Henry Lowther’s No Silence in the Lamb has Hannibal Hodgkins in harmon-mode again, changing to cup a few tracks later for the nimble Lytteltonian double Mezzrow/Mezz’s Tune and demonstrating in the process his trio’s concern with fine points of tone-colour and mood. Here There And Everywhere, like the expansive Taking a Chance on Love (listen to Rayner’s outstanding bass solo!), and the yearning If We Ever Meet Again - an Armstrong-Gerlach delice, all feature the leader’s expansive open-horn. And how many groups could willingly move from such mainstream performances as these to the bustling modernity of Urban Cowboy or the considered dignity of the Overture from Telemann’s Water Music (arranged by Henry Lowther)? To finish, Chris’s own Swinging at the Copper Beech brings back joyful echoes of Buck Clayton as this collection cruises home along the mainstream freeway. Chris Hodgkins’s second solo album is done and dusted. And according to my scorecard, that’s two sets to love!

Digby Fairweather
5th June 2006
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  The Chris Hodgkins Trio

Chris Hodgkins Trio
P r e s e n t    C o n t i n u o u s

Chris Hodgkins - TRUMPET
Alison Rayner - DOUBLE BASS
Max Brittain - GUITAR
1. Queer Bird (Alison Rayner) 2:33
2. Bijou Drinkette (Henry Lowther) 3:29
3. Let’s Get Lost (Jimmy McHugh) 2:53
4. Goodbye Kerry Goodbye (Eddie Harvey) 3:36
5. Vejer de la Frontera (Alison Rayner) 3:21
6. The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern) 2:56
7. Stalking (Thad Jones) 2:50
8. Tommy’s Song (Diane McLoughlin) 4:03
9. Look For The Silver Lining (Jerome Kern) 2:44
10. For Jim (Max Brittain) 2:47
11. Mainstem (Duke Ellington) 2:43
12. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Harold Arlen) 3:40
13. Serenade To A Bus Seat (Clark Terry) 2:33
14. Busted Back Blues (Damon Brown) 4:15
15. Delightful Pace (Harry Beckett) 3:14
16. Blue Mist (Humphrey Lyttelton) 3:08
17. Sweet Cakes (Harry Edison) 2:49
18. You’re A Lucky Guy (Saul Chaplin) 2:48
PRODUCED BY Malcolm Creese
RECORDED AT Dronken Lane Studios, Hertfordshire, England ON 22nd and 23rd January 2005
DESIGN BY Suzy Waller
SPECIAL THANKS TO Alison Rayner, Max Brittain, Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Humphrey Lyttelton, Diane McLoughlin, Damon Brown, Eddie Harvey, Jim Greig, Helen Maleed, Bob Tunnicliffe, Biddy Samuels, Kathy and John Dyson, Theofilos Hatzigiannidis, Digby Fairweather and Celia Wood.
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Sleeve Notes by Digby Fairweather:
All too often, jazz lovers are confused by musicians who do more than one thing, and trumpet players seem to come in for more than their share of the problem. In Britain, for example, is Ian Carr a trumpeter or an (equally brilliant) author? Across the waters, the same question applies to Richard M. Sudhalter. The problem seems to be dropping such gifted polymaths into one creative box and labelling it accordingly. And it may be that the same confusion applies to the fine trumpeter whose first album you have here. For the last two decades or so, Chris Hodgkins has spent the majority of his time elevating the causes of British jazz as the director of Jazz Services Ltd, the powerful national organization which has done most to cement the image of jazz in Britain as something more than a poor artistic relation. As one of Chris’s closest colleagues (and admirers) however, I know that he has never allowed his professional duties to make off with his trumpet. He practises daily, regularly examines brass-science with qualified experts such as his good friend Henry Lowther, and consequently - whenever he unleashes his vintage Selmer B-flat - puts the walls of whichever Jericho he’s assailing at the sort of risks which threaten to raise the insurance premiums.
This is his first solo album and I’ve been looking forward to hearing it, impressed with the forwardplanning that Chris put into the project and (perhaps above all) intrigued with the setting in which he’s chosen to present himself: in short, a trio (admittedly, one of the best you could assemble in Britain!). But for a trumpeter in such surroundings, as I know very well, there’s nowhere to hide. And the cold inquisitive ambiance of a recording studio, to deaden whatever enthusiasm you approached the project with in the first place, is no help either.
How amazing then that, for Chris, this album is an unqualified triumph. Apart from the creative quality of the improvised music you’ll find here, he’s planned its settings with a master’s degree. A stylistic span of compositions from connoisseur standards to contemporary delights; neat, sweet originals and arrangements by all three participants; regular use of all the tonal opportunities including mutes, which as Chris’s good friend Kathy Stobart once observed “will always let the trumpet win”; cosmetic details such as the use of four and eight-bar conversations between players alongside extended outings. All these clever devices and more keep the listener, well, listening. Plus the most important element of brevity, the soul of wit; much of the greatest classic jazz was created at seventy-eight RPM - those old three-minute jazz universities which committed their creators to making their point without playing round the houses. And to my delight (and I hope yours too) this album celebrates that old philosophy: ‘Keep it short and make it happen’.
Chris’s trumpet playing? It’s an intriguing but entirely convincing meld of stylistic influences in which you can regularly spot echoes of Miles, Sweets, Clark, Chet, Cootie, Roy, Louis, Ruby and our very own (and very dear) Humphrey Lyttelton, another principal role-model. Amid this stylistic quilt however, Chris is basically a fine trumpet- player; listen to the technical control which allows him to play a melody ‘straight’; to his unwavering long notes; to his control in the trumpet’s demanding lower register. Plus, he doesn’t showcase to cover up faults; his musical statements, like his conversation (a frequent parallel with jazz musicians), make their point and stop. The result is an album worth detailed attention.
Max Brittain has long been one of our most under-rated and gifted guitarists (as well, on the strength of this set, composer-arrangers). And Alison Rayner - with her big warm acoustic sound, faultless time, tuning and taste and creative solo ability - clearly belongs in the front rank of contemporary bassists. There are too many tracks here to commentate one by one, but I loved Rayner’s quirky Queer Birdas much as the floating beauty of both her Vejer de la Fronteraand Henry Lowther’s Bijou Drinkette.There could be no British musician more worthy of celebration than Eddie Harvey, and the trio triumphs, both with Eddie’s catchy and tightly-arranged original Goodbye Kerry Goodbyeand arrangements of Stalkingby Thad Jones, and Duke’s Mainstem which (amplified by Chris’s fine Cootie-esque choruses) recalls the days and nights of Duke with uncanny skill. Brittain’s For Jim (a tribute to Jim Hall) has the same unhurried grace as its inspiration and Busted Back Blues has one dramatic device in it - I won’t spoil the surprise! - which should have you momentarily heading for the CD player. And to finish with, Diane McLoughlin’s Tommy’s Song, Harry Beckett’s Delightful Pace, and that marvellous and underplayed chef d’oeuvreof Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn: You’re a Lucky Guy. Aren’t we all Chris? To that last major seventh, a job exceedingly well done!
Digby Fairweather
April 2005
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