The Happy Pals
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The Happy Pals

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a guest appearance by Brian Turnock (bass) working with The Happy Pals, an excellent Kid Thomas-style band from Toronto, Canada. If you remember Cliff “Kid” Bastien – it is his band continuing the tradition under the leadership of Patrick Tevlin. Their Sunday lunch-time appearance at Piazzetta Ambrosoli was a perfect start to the day. Altoist Toby Hughes not only plays a storming saxophone he also contributes some great rock’n’Roll style vocals, such as White Sports Coat And A Pink Carnation. Pianist Roberta Hunt and bassist Brian seemed to hit it off musically right from the off, complementing each other’s musical phrases, and set this against the ‘rock’ of Doggie Berg (ex-Hall Brother’s Jazz Band drummer, latterly with Norrie Cox’s band) and you have the perfect rhythm section. The band’s tribute to Jacques Gauthé, who was to have guested with the band at the festival, Where’s My Wandering Boy Gone, brought a few tears to the eyes. I have to say their infectious brand of New Orleans-style jazz was great entertainment and had the audience roaring for more. They didn’t let them leave without an encore. - Just Jazz Magazine, england

Well, if you were there, and plenty of you were, no words are needed to express the magic, the music and the moment. If you weren’t, no words can do justice.

Either way, take a look at some photographs of the event, in the TorontoJazz Pictures section, which give a glimpse of what went on. But, sadly, pictures are silent records. The jazz we heard was inspirational. A $5 ticket got you into Bourbon Street in New Orleans (with snow outside the door!).

Kudos in excelsis to Patrick Tevlin, who planned and led the event. Suffice to say, Patrick, that Cliff must be so very proud of you.
Can’t wait for next year.
- Toronto Jazz

Believe me when I say that the music on this CD is the closest one can get today to the music played many years ago at the old dance halls of New Orleans. This is raw, unadulterated, exciting New Orleans jazz. Just like Bastien’s, Patrick’s trumpet playing is based on Kid Thomas. It is not an imitation – Bastien already said that it was impossible to imitate Thomas – but it is true to the spirit of the legendary band leader from Algiers. In the same way Chuck Clarke’s drumming reflects the influence of the unforgettable Sammy Penn. The new sax player, Toby Hughes, fits the band like a glove (shades of Ed Washington!). And what can I say about the two ladies in the band? They both could have been born and raised in New Orleans! Listen to Roberta Tevlin’s simple, very individual trombone playing. I loved it from the first time I heard it in New Orleans! The other Roberta plays two-fisted New Orleans piano both as a soloist and as a member of the driving rhythm section.

Now take a look at the repertory. I know it must be immense. I would happily subscribe to a weekly CD by this band! Just like the Kid Thomas band they not only play the old classics, but they keep adding new material all the time. Didn’t Kid Thomas during his last days at the dance halls add rock ‘n’ roll numbers to his repertory? He even had someone special to sing them! This CD reflects this variety very well. Listen to Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”. I’m sure the great master would smile approvingly when he would hear how his music has returned to the folk roots where he came from himself. And what about Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”? I bet the “man in black” would have loved to sing with this band! How many New Orleans bands play “A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening”? This could very well have been an appropriate title for this CD! The two Roberta’s sing in the great Sweet Emma tradition. Neither of them has a tremendous voice but they sure know how to put true emotion in their vocal efforts. And isn’t this exactly what this music is all about: emotion!

The old classics are played with immense gusto. Listen to the exciting breaks on Piron’s “Mama’s Gone Goodbye” and James Scott’s “Climax Rag”. The seldom played Sam Morgan tune “Short Dress Gal” has Chuck Clarke’s singing and Roberta’s version of the famous Jim Robinson solo joined by Toby in the second chorus. And of course there is “Love Songs Of The Nile”, immortalised by Billie and DeDe Pierce.

If you love true New Orleans music you HAVE to add this CD to your collection and like me you will be looking forward to the next one by the Happy Pals. You can order it on line from Patrick Tevlin at If you do you will agree with me that playing it again and again is a lovely way to spend an evening!
- Jazz Gazette, Belgium

The city of New Orleans may never be the same after Hurricane Katrina, but the monster storm will not dampen the spirit of the jazz music for which it is known. New Orleans jazz is alive and well and has taken root in, of all places, Toronto, Canada. The Toronto-based Happy Pals septet, which has been playing this music at Grossman's Tavern in Toronto since the early seventies, released its first CD, Live At Grossman's, in 1993; this 2005 recording is the Happy Pals' second effort.

New Orleans Party Orchestra is ten tracks of old-time Dixie/Louis Armstrong-flavored jumping jazz swing, with an interesting mix of tunes that includes Bob Dylan's “Don't Think Twice, It's Alright,” though I don't think Dylan would recognize this rendition. Two other better-known titles are “Folsom Prison Blues,” made famous by the late Johnny Cash; and the Adamson & McHugh piece “Lovely Way To Spend An Evening,” which became a part of Sinatra's repertoire. The setting is live, the music is all New Orleans jazz swing, and the band seems to be having a heck of a party. Bourbon Street beckons for this kind of sound.
- All About Jazz, USA

Saturday afternoon at Grossman’s on Toronto’s Spadina Avenue has been enlivened for more than three decades by the joyful Southern neighbourhood sounds of functional jazz music. It’s true folk music: simple, and amateur in the purest sense, it exists to wash away the worries of the week, and have a good time.

Until his passing three years ago, Cliff “Kid” Bastien led the Happy Pals, and his easy-going spirit remains on the band’s new release, the first in a dozen years. Patrick Tevlin has moved over from tenor/clarinet to play trumpet, and carries on the tradition of mixing the music, whether it’s blues or spirituals, rags or marches, or pop songs new and old.

Here, the gumbo they proudly make includes Bob Dylan’s Don’t think Twice, It’s Alright and Folsom Prison Blues from Johnny Cash, along side Algiers Strut and Short Dress Gal (which comes from 1927, not 1967).

Roberta Tevlin plays trombone, with Roberta Hunt at the piano, Toby Hunt (!!) on alto sax, and banjoist Rainer Hunck. String bass is played by Philip J. Carney, and the drums are appropriately played by Chuck Clarke. It seems most everyone joins in with heartfelt vocals.

This ‘handmade’ music was well-recorded at Grossman’s Tavern, a much lived-in watering hole that has just the right atmosphere. It’s represented on the cover photo, but not with a shot of the outside: you’l quickly recognize that the object in the lower left of the photo is a urinal, and that the title is scrawled out as graffiti on the wall.

If you’re not at the pub to pick up this release next weekend, you can order it from the website
- The Whole Note, Toronto

One of the finest New Orleans jazz CDs of recent (any!) years was Kid Bastien’s Happy Pals Live at Grossmans (Toronto) on the Music Mecca label and that band of course paid unashamed homage to the classic Kid Thomas band and its rugged roots in Algiers dance halls. Well - dear Kid Bastien passed over and now the band is led on trumpet by its former alto man Patrick Tevlin and replacing him more than adequately on that instrument is the exuberant Toby Hughes. That Patrick learned a great deal sitting alongside the Kid for all those years is proved within the first two minutes of the opening track here because believe it or not its almost as if the Kid is still with us. That’s not to say that Patrick has cloned the Kid’s playing any more than the Kid in his time cloned that of Kid Thomas. It’s just that Patrick has so totally absorbed the idiom, the feel, the tingle that runs down your spine when you hear this inimitable music you can’t see or hear the “join” - it’s all totally seamless. The rest of the band is pretty much as it was when the Kid led it.

So what’s this CD like. Well a word of caution first. If you like your traditional jazz homogenised as purveyed by some British ‘trad’ bands forget it. This is rugged, rustic down-to-earth Algiers dance hall jazz played with all the emotion and deep feeling that you’d experience if you were across the water from New Orleans and in that city. But as I tried to say - this music is not a copy - it’s a continuation of a century old tradition played by people who learned it at the feet of the masters. The members of this band have paid their dues - they’re the real thing and the music is fabulous. On my radio show ( I’m playing the track Folsom Prison Blues a Johnny Cash number, a recent addition to the band’s repertoire. And that goes to show that even if they are traditionalists - they’re not standing still and not frightened to introduce new and unusual (for jazz) material. Great stuff - and superb for dancing of course.
- Just Jazz Magazine, England

New Orleans—party town par excellence, as the Mardi Gras season each year or a stroll down Bourbon Street any night can attest. Since about 1938 the motto “The City That Care Forgot” (at least until Katrina) has applied to the Crescent City.

So what we have here is some first-rate uptown New Orleans jazz, rough at the edges, but full of the passion the best of such jazz exhibits. This is no polished studio band with memorized routines and solos and carefully orchestrated charts, but one playing from the heart to the obvious joy and delight of the audience who, through their encouragement and applause, participate significantly in the proceedings. Just as Kid Thomas, Bunk, and all the other early New Orleans jazzmen did, the band includes a broad variety of tunes in the repertoire here. These should be familiar to almost everyone as they were to me, but when I first glanced at the tune list, one in particular piqued my curiosity. I have never heard any other jazz band tackle Love in Bloom, a tune I (and probably most of those, like me, of a “certain age”) have always heretofore associated with Jack Benny’s off-key manhandling of it on his violin. (Sung by Bing Crosby in the 1934 movie She Loves Me Not, the song rose to #1 on the hit parade, where it stayed for six weeks. According to Brian Rust’s Jazz Records 1897-1942, it was recorded by Claude Hopkins and his orchestra in February of 1935. A bit later it became Benny’s theme song.) And as the Happy Pals play it, it works. Several of the others are jazz standards, but their treatment here is not stale. I particularly enjoyed the laid back tempo of Mobile Stomp—it is so often taken at racetrack speed. But here it gets the chance to swing, and it does, building to a satisfying climax in the several out-choruses. A gospel tune not often heard, How About You?, has Patrick Tevlin on vocal, and he is joined by the rest of the band (Roberta Tevlin’s voice being perhaps most audible next to Patrick’s) and most of the audience. The musical fare comes to an appropriate end with High Society, a fine closer featuring the two reeds and reaching an exciting conclusion.

The band is obviously having a whale of a time, as is the audience. Other than being there, this CD is probably the next best thing. The Happy Pals do, indeed, make happy music. Listen for yourself.
- Early Jas


Listen to sound samples of the Happy Pals CDs at

The Happy Pals with Brian Carrick. New Orleans North, 2007

The Happy Pals - New Orleans Party Orchestra. New Orleans North, 2005

Kid Bastien's Happy Pals - Live at Grossman's. Sunny South Records, 1993

The Canoe Club Sessions Volume One. Sunny South Records, 1989

Kid Bastien's Happy Pals With Norrie Cox. Sunny South Records, 1988

Kid Bastien's Happy Pals. Sunny South Records, 1984



The Happy Pals have been playing New Orleans dancehall jazz in Toronto for over three decades. The band was founded by legendary trumpeter Cliff “Kid” Bastien in the 1970s.

Bastien was a Cockney who discovered the music of New Orleans as a teenager in the 1950s. He soon emigrated to Canada and began spending more and more time in New Orleans learning from the masters. Bastien is now widely considered to have been the foremost disciple of New Orleans trumpet great “Kid Thomas” Valentine, who he first saw playing a neighbourhood dance at the Westwego Louisiana firehall.

Bastien began his long residency at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto sometime between 1968 and 1971, depending on who you ask. After a brief hiatus, the band was renamed The Happy Pals in the late 1970s. Drummer Chuck Clarke joined in 1982, followed by Patrick Tevlin on tenor saxophone and Roberta Tevlin on trombone in 1983.

One Saturday in February 2003, Bastien didn’t show up for a gig. Some of the musicians went to search him out while the rest of the band started up. Word soon came back: Cliff “Kid” Bastien had died. The band was playing the traditional New Orleans hymn “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” when the phone rang. Musicians flew in from the United States and Europe for Bastien’s funeral, which was conducted in the New Orleans style. The wake took up the whole weekend!

After Bastien’s passing, tenor sax player Patrick Tevlin switched back his first instrument, trumpet, to take on the leadership of The Happy Pals. Alto saxophonist Toby Hughes took over the reeds. Since then Tevlin has been mentoring young musicians in the New Orleans style. Two of them, "Kid" Kotowich on trombone and Tyler Thomson on string bass, both in their early twenties, are now regular members of the Happy Pals.