The Jelly Roll Jazz Band was originally formed in 2010 by Laurence Marshall, and first performed as a quartet of clarinet, tenor saxophone, banjo and tuba. According to Laurence,
“We initially set up the band for a church fayre. I borrowed a tuba and wrote out some march cards with tunes on that I’d picked out from listening to bands and from what sheet music I could get hold of. We did a lot of busking, and [trad. jazz] was perfect as the repertoire we played was happy and upbeat and lots of people know the tunes in the backs of their heads. It always made us some pocket money and it’s very fun music to play as you can do whatever you want really.”
Since those early days the band has developed considerably, and today it usually takes the form of a trio, with clarinet, banjo (or guitar) and double bass (or sousaphone). The band draws its musicians from a pool of around eight regular members depending on who is available, and this fluidity creates a constant stream of fresh inspiration and ideas.
One of the band’s greatest strengths is its flexibility. Much of the music is improvised around a core melody and chord progression, and therefore it is very easy to change or add instruments depending on the occasion and which players are free.
The musicians all originate from Scarborough, and the band still performs regularly in this area. However many of the members now live further afield, and they are available for bookings across the country. Recent performances have taken them as far afield as London, Darlington and Warwick.
Repertoire and Influences
The style of music they play is traditional (‘Dixieland’) jazz, and they have a repertoire of over 100 songs so are able to play for hours without repeating themselves. Furthermore, they are capable of playing for hours without repeating themselves. They cover a range of standards from the 1900s to the 1930s, including such favourites as ‘Down By the Riverside’, ‘When the Saints’ and ‘The Sheik of Araby’. Their repertoire also features more recent hits like ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘Moon River’, and they have even branched out into ‘90s pop with versions of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and ‘…Baby One More Time’.
Their influences include jazz greats such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and Chris Barber. The eccentric humour of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band plays a big part in their performance style as well, often lending a slightly surreal edge to proceedings.
Types of Performance
The band plays regularly at a wide range of events and occasions, for example:
- Wedding receptions
- Wedding anniversaries
- Birthday parties
- Great Gatsby-themed parties
- Cheese and wine evenings
- Village fayres
- Agricultural shows
- Exhibition openings
- Open-top bus rides
They are available for concert performances as well, where their lively style and natural rapport with an audience ensures a highly entertaining evening for all involved. In concert, they are able to include rather more props and bits of audience participation, such as ‘The Incredible Shrinking Clarinet’, ‘The Dice of Set List Determination’ and ‘The Onions of Self-Awareness’. To get an idea of how the band comes across in this setting, have a listen to their album ‘Indoors At Last’, which was recorded live in concert.
The band is very compact, and can easily squeeze into the corner of a room if space is limited. In the past this has allowed them to perform in tight spaces such as the area at the front of an open-top bus, and even someone’s living room! Furthermore, they are capable of playing for hours without repeating themselves.
They usually perform completely acoustically, and therefore do not need a power supply of any sort. This makes them ideal for outdoor occasions, and events that involve a lot of moving around. If amplification is required, however, they can include that at no additional cost.
Another feature of the band is their ability to walk around whilst playing, depending on the combination of instruments (it’s much easier to do with a sousaphone than a double bass!). This is especially useful for outdoor events such as fayres and rallies, and can lend a really dynamic feel whilst enabling the musicians to cover a much wider area.