JBP's jazz reviews
The New Orleans Ragamuffins Vol 1.
Rosazul / INgrooves via Emusic
If one day you are wandering with innocence, ignorance and
Catalonian expectations through the streets of Barcelona, avoiding if possible
the architecture of Gaudi, you may hear in the distance a series of inspiring,
inspiriting and unlikely sounds. Can it be? No, surely not? I must be going
slightly diffy, touched by the sun and the loss of my wallet. But the sounds
continue. They grow louder. It's true! It's here! It's jazz! I must break into
a shambling run. to arrive at the source of the noises before they vanish into
the realm of Fairies where celebration never stops and the years pass in a
minute. The noises are live, bouncing, unabashed, boisterous New Orleans jazz
played with love, verve and vitality. In Barcelona! There they are four of
them, outside the Hardrock Cafe, making the feet tap, the legs twitch, the hair
rise on sad bald heads, the sick shimmy and the grim cackle, calling the
faithful to rejoice - the Barcelona New Orleans Ragamuffins at work and play.
The CD described above and below allows us to hear the
Ragamuffins in full flight without having to sacrifice all our possessions to
some ravening airport run by goblins.
If the word Quartet conjures up the spectacle of four men
dressed as civil servants rising to bow soberly after scraping Ligeti, banish
the thought. Here we have trumpet, clarinet, piano and banjo played with enough
pep, fullness of tone and intuitive ability to sound as rich as a vigorous
There's more astonishment to come. The four of them are as
international as an English football team: one Spaniard (trumpet), two Russians
(Piano and banjo), and a British girl playing fresh and sprightly clarinet. And
they look young!
The tunes on the CD are all standards - if you include Ja-Da and
Sweet Georgia Brown in that category - but played with an enjoyment and
character which creates them anew. There are occasional bursts of strangled
singing in a variety of extravagant accents, which become an interesting
puzzle: are they vocalising in American, Russian or some tongue known only
Jazzalonians? An imaginary prize will not be awarded to successful
(This Album can be sampled and downloaded from
Sammy Rimington, Fred Vigorito and The French
Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band, "Memories of Kid Thomas".GHB
Real jazz needs an injection from time to time. We don't want it
retired, expired or lost in the supermarket. here's a refreshment, recorded in
France, the year 2000.
The line-up is more or less accidental and oddly satisfying:
Sammy Rimington, clarinet and John-Handy-style alto saxophone, taking off and
flying: Fred Vigorito, trumpet: Pierre Alessi, bouncy tenor sax: banjo, brass
and drums. No trombone: good. All that's missing is Bill Sinclair on piano.
They don't go for a list of well-known standards, but relish and
ravish melodies which appealed to them on their way. The result is fresh and
vigorous; they jump, drive, celebrate, each player failing to out-do the
They might even wake the dead. At one moment I thought that I
heard the dead dancing. They certainly encourage the living.
Give them a go. Life isn't over yet.
20th February 2008
Original Salty Dogs. On the Mississippi
Vol.1 GHB records BCD-493
Lew Green, cornet;
Tom Bartlett, trombone;
Kim Cusack, clarinet;
John Cooper, piano;
Jack Kunki, banjo;
Mike Walbridge, tuba;
Wayne Jones, drums;
Carol Leigh, singer.
The Salty Dogs were a Chicago group,
formed in 1947,playing music based on the jazz of the 1920s,and they quickly
learned to drive with the hard edge of the revivalist Yerba Buena Jazz Band
That outfit is the one they most resemble. This is a reissued and
remastered CD of tracks recorded in 1980.
Over and above these influences, they
have a distinctive character of their own, and spring some refreshing
They give rare prominence to the tuba/which jumps like a fat man
on a trampoline; the pianist plays with great versatility; the trombone shows
lively growling relish; the cornetist blows on his way without feeling the need
to sound like Louis Armstrong.
But there's a special reason why I'm
reviewing this CD - their wonderful rendering of Ma Rainey's 'Misery Blues.'
Tact, sensitivity, and grace are not words often applied to a traditional
jazz band, but this track displays all these in a remarkable harmony duet
between trombone and the voice of Carol Leigh. It has the effect of making you
listen again with awakened ears, and then give thanks to the mystery of jazz.
In 'Misery Blues', as well as the magic of voice/trombone, the tuba dances like
an inspired elephant in springtime.
The CD would be worth buying for 'Misery
Blues' alone,even if all the other tracks were just the usual stuff. But
they're not. The band plays an inspiritingly jaunty version of 'Dallas Blues',
and the tuba grunts in all the right places in 'Olga', as well as bouncing
through an avuncular solo.
They make a bit of a mess of several
Jelly Roll Morton tunes but you can't have everything, as the burglar said to
the banker, and on the whole this is a band at ease with itself, which knows
where it's going and enjoys the journey.
JBP Jun '07
The Jazz O'Maniacs. Sunset Cafe Stomp. Delmark
Recorded 2005. Issued 2007.
Roland Pitz, cornet ;
Claus Jurgen Moller,clarinet;
Ullo Bela, trombone ;
Christoph Ditting,alto and tenor sax;
In the film 'Pinocchio' two men are walking together down
busy street when one remarks casually, 'Look, a wooden boy' and they proceed on
their way. A few yards later and, stricken to a stop, they wheel round crying
in unison: 'A wooden boy!'
There might be a similar reaction when two innocents encounter a
real live German Jazz band. 'A German Jazz Band!' yes, real, live and stomping.
There are, after all, still pooting in the world, several hundred British jazz
bands, French jazz bands, Danish, Swedish, Dutch jazz bands, and even an
Italian jazz band of considerable accomplishment, not to mention a few
surviving American jazz bands despite the floods in New Orleans.
The jazz band on this CD was summoned to the U.S.A. to
participate in the Bix Beiderbecke Festival of 2005. They didn't play
Beiderbecke or anything like Beiderbecke but they played jazz with great elan,
skill and devoted enthusiasm. The Jazz O'Maniacs were formed in 1966 and have
been engaging seriously with the music ever since. The leader and cornet player
is a follower of Louis Armstrong and the clarinet player of Johnny Dodds, but
I'll come to that later. They play with the precision of the Yerba Buena jazz
band in its heyday, but with a joyful freshness of their own and every one of
the participants is a skilled musician in his own right.
Note too that the line-up is not the usual New Orleans cliche of
trumpet, trombone and clarinet. There is not only a piano, which is common
enough, but an accomplished sax player who puts welly into his solos, a tuba,
getting rare, and a washboard, very unusual except in specialised 1920s units
like those smuggled into studios by the great Jimmy Blythe, and the vaudeville
goings-on of Clarence Williams.
The cornetist plays occasional solos directly from Armstrong and
the clarinetist from Dodds but both are innovators in their own way and the
unit as a whole has a unique sound with interactive driving climaxes which
endanger low-flying aircraft.
Roland Pitz is a remarkable player with a blazing golden tone
and he can drive the band or soar above it, while the clarinetist plays with
the Dodds emotional intensity without drowning.
I'm grateful for being introduced to the O'Maniacs, who are
anything but, and after listening to the CD have the feeling that something
significant has happened - in other words, it's real music.
My only regret is that Pilz finds it necessary to sing, and when
he does so, to sing like Louis Armstrong. It's only decent to leave Louis his
samples at Amazon.com
Bunk Johnson. Volume 1 'New York'.
The Complete Deccas, Victors and V Discs. November
Document Records DOCD-10012005.
Bunk Johnson, trumpet;
George Lewis, clarinet;
Jim Robinson, trombone;
Alton Purnell. piano;
Alcide 'Slow Drag' Pavageau, bass;
Baby Dodds, drums.
is replaced by the mysterious 'Red' Jones on 2 numbers out of 22.)
Yes yes, we know that Bunk Johnson was not only
thrawn, quarrelsome and drank too much, and at this recording in1945, after
having been rescued from his job as truck driver and supplied with new teeth
and a trumpet, loudly despised all the other musicians on the session.
According to Al Rose in 'I Remember Jazz' Bunk remarked that Jim Robinson
'don't know but three changes and he don't always make THEM in the right place'
and charged George Lewis with knowing 'how to play a little blues an' that's
all.' He also insisted that people want 'new tunes', 'they don't want to
hear those old numbers every time.' The ardent fans of the 1940s Jazz revival
would have been shocked and astonished to hear such heresy, but Bunk had a
point, which applies today.
This reissue of the so-called 'Bunk Johnson and His
New Orleans Band' recorded in 1945/6 and reissued by Document Records in 2005,
enables us to remind ourselves not only of the band, but of Bunk's own stature
as a trumpet player, which is rarely discussed. And it's vital.
Well, the CD surprised me with a feast of wonderful
stuff. The group of feuders and strangers play as if they have been good
friends for twenty years, co-operating with intuitive sympathy and driving on
with unflagging vigour. This despite the fact that Bunk had hardly played
serious trumpet since 1931 and Purnell's piano needs a service by a tuner of
Bunk plays with relentless purpose and a pure tone
somewhere between brass and steel, usually in short staccato bursts, but
soaring when he wants to fly above mere music. He never seems to mop his brow
or rest his new teeth.
In 'One Sweet Letter From You' Bunk and Lewis show
mutual respect and perfect balance in a natural demonstration of the power of
music. 'I Can't Escape From You' and 'Tishomingo Blues' are almost as good.
Note that two of these three are 'new tunes' played with all the stored
memories and knowledge of fifty years of New Orleans tradition.
I must add here that Bunk was wrong about the
accomplished George Lewis, whose clarinet style can be sweet-toned and director
flowery at will, and has proved a profound influence on both Brian Carrick and
Sammy Rimington, two luminaries in today's jazz scene on this odd-shaped and
Jimmy O'Bryant, Mystery Man of Jazz. Frog:
Jimmy O'Bryant was a clarinet prodigy of excruciating
squeakiness and preposterous agility and verve. He reminds me of Ted Lewis and
the vaudeville practitioners, and could even be said to resemble Johnny Dodds,
without his passion and richness of tone. Like Dodds he played with the long
dead but immortal pianist Jimmy Blythe, who seems to have been responsible for
dragging lost musicians into recording studios where they kept tiny band music
rattling along throughout the early twenties. These groups were brisk, lively
and so minuscule as to be cheap.
O'Bryant shrilled away, too, with trumpeter Tommy Ladnier and
Bob Shoffner in the band known as Lovie Austin's Blues Serenaders, for
which I have an irrational fondness. They recorded the irresistibly charming
Too Sweet For Words in 1925. It's a tune I can't play without smiling;
but you'd have to get a Lovie Austin CD to hear that.
The music on this one is recorded as Jimmy O'Bryant's
Washboard Band and consists entirely of O'Bryant as soloist backed by
Blythe and a washboard, except for a few tracks on which Shoffner darts in for
a short tootle.
Blythe is just going through the motions at these sessions,
making very few bursts on his own, so we are left with O'Bryant, whose
squawking, eldritch adventures are certainly fun but can grow wearing after a
while. You may find it necessary to pause for a cup of tea. When you've
recovered, and try again, you'll be amazed at the sheer skill of this master of
the inspired squeal, who died in his early thirties of drinks much stronger
than tea, and thank Frog for causing a resurrection.
JBP Nov '07
listing on the Frog Records site.
New Orleans Jazz start