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Friday, April 21, 2017

Kenny Graham - "The Small World of Sammy Lee" Vinyl, LP, Album (Trunk Records) 2014


For a guy who lives in Los Angeles, I'm totally obsessed with the subject matter of 1960s London, especially the years before the Fab Four (Beatles) hit the scene.  One of the key figures in that time was an entertainer, songwriter, performer Anthony Newley.  An inspiration to a young David Bowie, Newley struck me as an eccentric artist.  But that thought is mostly due that I'm an American, and the British, even though we share a language (of sorts), our cultures are distant apart.  Nevertheless, there is an obscure film made in 1963, "The Small World of Sammy Lee," starring Newley as a nightclub owner in Soho London, who owes money to his bookie.  He has a certain amount of hours to find that money, and there we have "The Small World of Sammy Lee."

The other interest in this little narrative is the soundtrack to this film.  Composed by British Jazz musician Kenny Graham.  I know one other Graham recording, and it's "Moondog and Suncat Suites."  An album that is a mixture of Graham's compositions as well as songs by the great New York City composer Moondog.  If that is not odd enough, that album is engineered by Joe Meek!   The thought of Meek was working on Moondog's music ... Is mind blowing.  

Johnny Trunk, the brains, and power behind Trunk Records is a Kenny Graham fan. He located this 'lost' soundtrack through Graham's daughter, who had it stored away in her attic.  Trunk found a box that said "Sammy, " and five years later he has this release on his label.  "Soho at Dawn," the opening cut for this album and I presume the film, is a beauty.  It smells like Soho at that time of the day, and I get a sense of a chill as if I was walking a Soho street.  The rest of the album is just as cinematic with obvious jazz touches, but it's very focused on its theme of urgency, yet sadness at the same time.  A moody work.  

There is not a whole lot of information on Graham.  Just a handful of vinyl releases through the years,  and although he seems to be a man at the right spot and time, his place in history appear to pass him by.  Which is a shame.   I have also read that he wrote essays about music, and was very much an anti-rock n' roll guy, yet he was intrigued with electronics and I have a feeling that in an aesthetic sense, must have worked will with Meek.  "The Small World of Sammy Lee" doesn't have that much information on it, with respect who played what on the album.  Was Meek involved?  I doubt it since it was recorded in 1963, and I think at that time it was the height of Meek doing what he's famous for. On the other hand, it's wonderful to have this obscure and slightly eccentric album in my hands and through my ears.