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Retro Redux: Kenny Ball – Keepin’ It Alive

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I guess you could consider this a continuation of my recent article about Acker Bilk, or at least a companion piece, because Kenny Ball is certainly a contemporary of Bilk's and was another stalwart of the British trad jazz movement. He's also still actively pursuing his music, as is Bilk.

But there are differences, other than the obvious one — Bilk is a clarinetist and Ball plays the trumpet. For one thing, unlike Bilk — whose big hit was a soft and sentimental melody — Kenny Ball is best known for a tune that stayed much closer to the dixieland roots of trad jazz. Although his million-seller, "Midnight In Moscow (clip)," was an updating of an old Russian melody, it sounded like it could have come straight out of New Orleans.

Kenneth Daniel Ball was born in the Essex region of England, and by the time he reached adulthood in the late 1950s was already into what would become a life-long musical career. He used his trumpet talents to gain experience with several different bands, including those of Sid Phillips and Charlie Galbraith, before finally forming his own band.

Over the last four decades, Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen have become one of the longest-lasting and most popular musical groups to ever perform in Great Britain — and they're appreciated in other places too. Even though 1962's "Midnight In Moscow" was the group's only song to hit the U.S. best-seller charts, it was so popular with dixieland fans that they made Kenny an honorary citizen of New Orleans.

But in Great Britain Kenny and his guys have spent a lot of time on the charts, not only with "Midnight In Moscow," but also songs like "I Love You Samantha" and "So Do I." The group has hit the best-seller charts a total of fourteen times, and along the way Kenny has even found time to write his autobiography, Blowing My Own Trumpet. I guess he's certainly entitled to do so.

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