New Orleans jazz reviews
New Orleans took a terrible hit in 2005, JBP keeps the music
Frank Oxley's Louisiana Moonshine Band. 504 Records,
Frank Oxley, drums
Brian Carrick, clarinet
Jamie Wight, piano
Norman Thatcher, trombone
Bill Evans, string bass.
Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
Lead Me Saviour
Alone by the Telephone
Belleville Street Blues
Say Si Si, Pretty
On Treasure Island
A Fool Such as I
Kid Thomas Boogie
Wonder Who's Kissing Her
Don't Give up the Ship
Joe Avery's Piece.
The raffish racial hot-pot that was New Orleans at the turn of
the 19th and 20th Centuries produced by some miracle of chemistry a vital form
of music which proved to be the deepest cultural contribution made by the
United States of America to the world. It was a contribution at once unique and
The maverick city is now drowned and deserted. The supposed
rescuers of its stranded people appear to have ignored the black population,
mostly poor, without whom this music could not have been born, and lifted
instead the white inhabitants, mostly well- off, while armed soldiers patrolled
to deter looters, presumed to be black.
With New Orleans musicians scattered, possibly never to return,
it's time to reassess the state of its traditional jazz, which has changed and
developed over a hundred years.
Only diehards and ideologues still insist on what became the
stereotypical band - trumpet, trombone, clarinet, banjo, bass, drums, with a
repertoire largely based on endless versions of traditional tunes.
This format established itself initially largely due to
convenience - the instruments were available - and jazz musicians came over the
years come to realise again the force of Jelly Roll Morton's insistence that
jazz is not what you play but how you play it.
The liveliest surviving bands now mingle standards with tunes
from any period - hymns, folk tunes, marching tunes, popular songs, spirituals,
blues, ragtime, boogie, compositions of their own, rock numbers and so on.
Since ragtime, one of the precursors of jazz, was essentially
piano music, the piano became basic to jazz, and appears in New Orleans style
bands more or less as often they can afford the instrument and the pianist.
During the jazz revival of the Nineteen-forties and Fifties it
was often mistakenly believed that purity and dedication required the clarinet
to the exlusion of any variety of saxophone. In fact the saxophone appeared
early in jazz history and during the late twenties and early thirties the Luis
Russell band, driven by New Orleans trumpeter Henry 'Red' Alien, contained the
wonderful alto player Charlie Holmes, whose lyrical drive on that instrument
has never been equalled except by 'Captain' John Handy, a formidable presence
in New Orleans itself. Handy was playing for many years before Jazz Crusade,
GHB and American Music began to record him during the nineteen sixties. Handy
was a soaring, irrepressible soloist who enlivened and transformed any group of
which he was a member. It was larely owing to his influence that in British
jazz two of our finest clarinet players, Sammy Rimington and Brian Carrick took
up the saxophone, alto for Rimington and tenor for Carrick. Those sessions in
which they play saxophone are always outstanding. The track (a version of 'Does
Jesus Care') on Jazz Crusade's 'Watering the Roots' CD on which Sammy plays
clarinet and Sarah Spencer's rollicking tenor crosses over and enriches his
pure tone is a masterpiece to be treasured if you can get hold of it.
At this time of crisis for New Orleans music it's a joy to
listen to a CD recorded in Algiers, Louisiana, but only now released. It's the
fruit of a gathering of accomplished enthusiasts from Britain who join two in
New Orleans to attain an immediate rapport. They may not be the greatest band
alive - trumpet a touch hard, trombone limited - but they play with that
mixture of tact and vigour which achieves unity of purpose from the authentic
interchange of emotion and character. It's an orthodox combination, and Brian
Carrick doesn't play his tenor, but his lucid clarinet brings distinction and
Real jazz is the music of NOW, each session an adventure of
improvisation and relationship. This one is characterised by a refreshing
relaxation which derives from the ease evident in one another's musical
Our strange, varied, irregular and beautiful island still
harbours a wildly unlikely profusion of players of traditional jazz, who will
keep going, despite the death of the city where it was born. Perhaps New
Orleans musicians will make pilgrimage to join us in Britain, Sweden, Denmark,
or France, just as our musicians made pilgrimage to New Orleans when it was so
rich and thriving in music that it seemed as if life intended mere human beings
to gain the ability to celebrate as naturally as birds.
Harlem Hot Stompers: Senior Moments. PEKCD-281.
Bill Smith, cornet
Tony Foulkes, clarinet, soprano and alto
John Ronan, trombone
John Reade, piano
Dave Parr, bass,tuba
Dave Berry, drums.
Old Grey Bonnet
My Blue Heaven
Yes, they're seniors, and don't come from Harlem, but they are
as full of life as jumping lambs, and play like men happy in each other's
company. The CD would be worth buying for two particularly inspiriting tracks,
even if there was nothing else to get you up and moving, in fact several other
numbers are infectious. The two special tracks are Shufflin' Time and
Flow Gently, Sweet Afton. Both jump and both swing, have a zest which
greets the sunshine if it's there and conjures it if it's not.
There's a surprising and accomplished harmonica solo on Afton,
John Reade is a genuine ragtime pianist, which he demonstrates on
Cakewalk, and Tony Foulkes plays all his three instruments with equal
felicity.. They tackle Jelly Roll Morton's Georgia Swing and Jimmy
Blythe's Oriental Man with equal conviction, which demonstrates unusual
versatility. They always know what they're doing and where they're going and
they enjoy the journey.
You can tell which tunes give them the most plesure by the time
they they spend romping about with them. Afton runs for 7 mins 36
seconds and every second counts.
Another reason for commendation is that there are only two
efforts at singing. Every musician in every New Orleans type band seems to have
an irresistable desire to sing. We'll forgive these two because their CD is
Red Nichols & His Five Pennies. 2005 reissue of
material from 1926-30.
Acrobat Music. FABCO 131.
Bugle Call Rag;
My Gal Sal;
Feelin' No Pain;
Sugar Foot Strut;
There'll Come a Time;
I'm Just Wild About Harry;
I Got Rhythm.
Red Nichols, a highly educated cornet player, and his various
groups, were the most frequently recorded jazz bands of the 1920s. Their music
was pleasant, technically accomplished, bright, and guaranteed not to offend
anyone, while giving a distinct jazz impression. As a result they were
responsible for widening the audience for jazz among a respectable white
The groups included at one time or another authentic jazz
musicians like Pee Wee Russell, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Eddie Lang, Fud
Livingston and Joe Sullivan, as well as expert jazz joker Adrian Rollini.
It must also be said that Nichols's most regular colleague Miff
Mole, was a brilliant and innovative trombone player,despite looking like a
modest and retiring bank clerk.
Then why do the recordings lack the drive, dash, danger and
passion of authentic jazz? No doubt commercial success and the expectations of
record companies prevented any outbursts of wild exuberance.
Yet for a few minutes on 'After You've Gone' the veneer cracks
and they show what they could have accomplished, as a fresh breeze of joyful
enthusiasm blows through the studio. In 'Feelin' No Pain' and 'Five Pennies'
too, the inspired squeaking of Pee Wee Russell forces odd movements of the
The Firehouse Five - Plus 2. Settin' the World on Fire. The
Whole Story Vol.1
Jasmine JASCD 426
This is a two-disc revival of recordings made between 1949 and
1971. Further collections are to follow. The Jazz revival of the 1940s produced
a wide variety of music from the fanatical New Orleans orthodoxy of Ken Colyer
and the relentless dedication of Lu Walters and his Yerba Buena Jazz Band,
through the awkward resurrection of Bunk Johnson to the rumbustious enthusiasm
of Firehouse Five plus Two, a gathering of accomplished musicians playing
rumbustiously for fun.
The dangers for this and similar groups is that on occasion
their humorous effects and driving levity may seem to patronise the music that
gives them life, but they are formidably accomplished, and occasionally achieve
lift-off into a form of supercharged flying. They specialise in fast tempos,
regularly exceeding the speed-limit in built-up areas, but, ironically, the
masterpiece in this collection is a mid-tempo rendering of Wabash Blues, where
they feed off each other's sincerity and enjoyment to produce a classic.
The founding members of the group were all on the staff of
Disney Studios - animators, technicians, writers - and the two-job existence
became so strenuous they were forced to close down for a year in the nineteen
fifties. They returned refreshed and became extremely popular, their Disney
salaries enabling them to pick and choose which gigs they accepted. Their
longevity as a band demonstrates remarkable ability and stamina.
New Orleans Jazz start page.