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JBP's jazz reviews

Page 3.

Milano Hot Jazz Orchestra - Stomp, Miss Hannah

Stomp Off Records. CD1354. Recorded 1999.

the CD art


Miss Hannah;
Kiss Me Sweet;
I Never Knew
I'm a Little Blackbird;
The Story Book Ball;
So Little Time;
Blues I Love to Sing;
Happy Feet;
I'm Through, Goodbye;
Save It,Pretty Mama;
Jubilee Stomp;
Antigua Blues;
Roll on,Mississippi;
Alligator Crawl;
Accordion Joe;
Gipsy Without a Song;
Pretty Baby;
Of All the Wrongs You've Done to Me;
Bay City.

Yes, I know, the thought of an Italian jazz band may cause you to reel back a pace or two, but remember that a number of Italian-Americans are respected names in jazz - .Adrian Rollini. Joe and Marty Marsala, Leon and Louis Prima. Sharkey Bonano, and the regrettable Irving Fazzola - and here are eight excellent musicians sounding - well occasionally like the Yerba Bueno Jazz Band of San Francisco, but mostly like Italian- Italians doing a wonderful job of enjoying the real stuff.

Most British bands operating today resemble each other a bit too closely in line-up and repertoire, and often have a dodgy pooter - squeaky clarinet, clumsy trombone, harsh trumpet - or a tendency to let someone sing who shouldn't.

By contrast, the Milano Orchetra hasn't a single technical weakness. They are accomplished musicians, working as a team, and all play several instruments, so that it's possible to have two cornets, three clarinets, three saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor) playing together, or any combination of these, so they produce odd, intriguing effects.

The saxophones in particular have a golden quality matched by the skill of their guardians, and combine zest with lyricism.

The band is at its best in slow or mid-tempo swinging, melodic jazz - as in Kiss Me Sweet, I'm a Little Blackbird, Antigua Blues and Alligator Crawl. These tracks have genuine and abiding charm.

Too closely arranged occasionally, yes, but relief is at hand with a driving solo by a cornet, a sailing sax let loose, or spritely piano Even the singing is above average, and the whispered vocal on So Little Time has a modest attraction of its own.

Too sweet sometimes, yes, - I found A Gipsy Without a Song difficult to stomach - but on the whole they maintain a sound claim and a claim in sound to be a 'hot jazz orchestra.'

All they lack is what I can only call 'devil' - a breakout into adrenalin-powered overdrive - but each band is entitled to ts own flavour, and this one is bright, clear and pleasant.

JBP. July 2006

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Butch Cage and Willie B.Thomas - Old Time Black southern String Band music.

the CD cover

Arhoolie 9045. Issued 2006

James 'Butch' Cage vocals and fiddle:

Willie B.Thomas vocals and guitar.


Bugle Call Blues;
Some Day Baby;
Mean Old Frisco;
Piano Blues;
Hen Cackle;
The Dirty Dozen;
Rock Me Mama;
It Ain't Gonna Rain No More;
Easy Rider Blues;
Whoa Mule;
All I Had Was Gone;
Careless Love Blues;
Sneaky Ways;
Since I Laid My Burden Down;
You've Gotta Move.

Any talk of the 'human spirit' usually gives me the slithering willies, so here goes.This CD makes me think there's something to be said for the human race after all, and real spirit isn't just whisky.

Two men James 'Butch' Cage, born 1894, and Willie Thomas, born 1912,played their music since boyhood, unknown outside their neighbourhood in back-country Louisiana until wandering folklorist Harry Oster persuaded them to appear at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960, where they shook the youthful spectators by sheer life, vigour and authenticity. They didn't care what they played so long as they enjoyed it, and on this CD they launch into blues, rural dance music, the odd commercial tune, jazz, spirituals and fun items like Ain't Gonna Rain No More and Whoa Mule.

One plays guitar,the other plays fiddle and both sing, sometimes together, sometimes solo. All that I Had is Gone (which packs a real emotional punch) is sung by Robert Jenkins with their accompaniment and they are joined by a woman singer on the final two spirituals.

From the first stunning jump of the fiddle into Bugle Call Blues we know we're into the real thing, and all that follows confirms it. The lyrical scraping arabesques of the fiddle and the rhythmical strumming of the guitar combine with singing, shouting, hollering to produce in this listener a sense of wonder that two men who had no education, worked all their lives without ever being decently paid, and survived in wooden shacks with holes in the roof could produce so much sheer enjoyment for themselves and for us. Three cheers for 'the human spirit.'

JBP. July 2006

Samples can be heard at Amazon.

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Texas and Tennessee Territory Bands 1928-31.
Retrieval Records. Marketed by Challenge International Records B.V. 2005.

the cd art

N.B. Audio Restoration: John R.T.Davies;
Product ion Consultant: John R.T.Davies;
Original Material: Colin Ellis and John R.T.Davies

The indefatigable and encyclopaedic John R.T. died last year. There will be no more retrieval and reproduction from that source. Although he's irreplaceable, the material he gathered and presented is alive and kicking, including this C.D. The bands offered here, whether called Blue Steel Orchestra, Slim Lamar and the Southerners,Mark Britt and his Orchestra or Sonny Clapp and his Band 0'Sunshine (!) have a core of musicians in common, the most notable being trumpeter Tony Almerico, trombonist and reed player Sunny Clapp, and the remarkable clarinetist and alto sax artist Sidney Arodin who turns up in all sorts of strange places " with wildly different bands, but mainly in outfits from New Orleans.

The one exception from the Clapp effect on this CD is the wonderfully brassy and brash Phil Baxter Orchestra, driven by an bold open trumpet chased by the unlikely rumpus of a jumping jazz accordion.

Most of these tracks are dance music with bursts of jazz, but there are sessions where the jazz men break loose and can't be stopped. Best of all is 'Goose Creek' recorded by a line-up of Almerico, Clapp and Arodin with a rhythm section. They crack off at full throttle and drive through like an express train until well past the winning post. This alone is worth the entrance fee.

Then Slim Lamar's 'Memphis Kick-Up' (jazz standard 'Panama' in disguise) enlivens us with some bounce and the weirdest scat vocal ever heard outside an opium dream. H.Lamar and his space singing can be heard again on 'Missippi Stomp' and 'That's a Plenty', and there are some embarrassing light tenor efforts in 'Down On Biscayne Bay' and 'We Can't Use Each Other Any more'.

But we'll finish by celebrating three of the four tracks from Phil Baxter, with that brazen shouting trumpet, and stomping accordion utterly onvinced that jazz is its metier..

'Honey Child' is sweetness and light until the vocal's out of the way and then they all remember this is a jazz band and a muted trumpet astonishes us with a restrained and seriously beautiful solo, then a tenor sax breaks loose and they all jump home.

Thanks again, John R.T. Davies. We salute you and all the musicians you've helped to rise again

JBP August '06

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New Orleans Reborn - Jazz, Blues, Hymns. Jazz Crusade Records.

the cd

Big Bill Bissonnette of Jazz Crusade has sent us a hefty riposte to hurricane Katrina and the nature of life. It's a two CD tribute to New Orleans music drawn from his own rich catalogue.

The black quarters of the city were drowned, flattened or blown away by Katrina. The areas where the well-off lived remain habitable, but Jazz wasn't invented by the rich. A particular music arises in a particular place because of a region's roots, needs, urge to declare itself, know itself and enjoy itself.

No community, no music.

Katrina scattered the musicians of New Orleans far and wide. The Marsalis family is financing the building of a new estate to provide musicians with a place to live, but without a community to work in and play in, no valid music is possible. The community has gone. The poor can't afford to return, their houses are demolished and all they owned was smashed to bits or flooded to death.

Big Bill is saying 'This is the music you made. It's alive on record. It can thrive again.' Can it? I don't know. One of the musicians on this compilation, Dr Michael White, was seen on Television lately, telling people in New Orleans that the city won't die. His own unique collection of information about New Orleans and its music was stolen by Katrina but he's insisting that he won't give up.

Michael White himself on clarinet, and Gregg Stafford, a trumpeter in the great tradition, driven on by a solid rhythm section, contribute virile, inspiriting jazz to this CD, playing Canal Street Blues, Tell Me Your Dream, The Old Rugged Cross, Canal Street Blues, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. They combine with perfect understanding, and an underlying joy in the music itself gives positive force to a celebration of life despite the worst that hurricanes, corrupt politicians, incompetent administrators and all the sudden invasions of accident can do.

There are many other fine musicians on this CD, playing in bands of varied calibre. They include Sammy Rimington and Brian Carrick from England, Milton Baptiste, the de Paris brothers, Louis Nelson, Sammy Penn and there's even a single track by Messrs Armstrong, Teagarden and Waller romping together on Tiger Rag. One band is rough and ropey, but New Orleans zest and vigour ar there to save the day.

The best reason for buying this CD is that it bears with it a whole way of life for which music is fundamental. Good luck to it, with my blessings.

JBP. September 2006

Find Jazz Crusade on the web at:

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There's more here!

New Orleans Jazz start page.

© Winamop 2006