This new CD on John Petters's Rose Records provides us again with ample proof that it is very well possible to still be creative while playing Traditional Jazz today. This little group is not just clarinet with (piano less) rhythm, but a real quartet (or quintet on the numbers with guest artist John Cherry) wherein everybody is equally important.
We already know Dave Bailey from his many recordings with John Petters. He is a splendid and versatile musician who is perfectly at home in several Traditional Jazz styles.
Louis Lince is one of the most tasteful banjo players I know; he is just as good on the guitar. Louis is also a bandleader himself and the publisher of the excellent New Orleans Music magazine. I'd say we owe a lot to this man!
I've known Annie Hawkins for many years. She's not only a great bass player to listen to but also to watch. She literally dances with her bass as partner.
I've said it before, John Petters is one of the best Traditional Jazz drummers around these days. He's also the producer of many excellent records on his own Rose Records. I've had the pleasure of reviewing several of them for this magazine.
Guest performer, John Cherry, who is on 7 of the 16 tracks, shines again with his lovely guitar work played in the tradition going back to Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson.
When I listened to the first number on this CD, the George Lewis classic "St. Philip Street Breakdown" I knew that, if the rest of the CD would be of the same quality, I had something very special here. I'm glad to say that when I came to the final track, I knew that my first impression had been right.
Usually when a New Orleans style band tackles "St. Philip Street Breakdown" - which was, believe it or not, based on "Chip's Boogie Woogie", a number recorded by Woody Herman's Four Chips in 1940 - they stick closely to George Lewis' original trio recording for American Music in 1945. Most of the time the band is reduced to a trio of clarinet, banjo and bass for the occasion. This quintet takes the George Lewis rendition as a point of departure for a lot of interesting variations. Besides the usual clarinet plus rhythm part, we also have a short banjo/guitar duet, a guitar solo, a bass solo, a clarinet/bass duet and a short but exciting drum solo, all this done in excellent fashion and enhanced by a marvellous recording quality. I seldom heard Annie's bass so well recorded and what a great sound she gets out of her instrument!
The lovely ballad "Breeze" is introduced by guitar first and then comes one of those magic moments again when Louis' banjo joins the guitar; how tasteful and how beautiful! Louis' playing is a valid rebuttal of all those silly jokes about banjo players. The romantic mood is respected all through the song with great work from everyone.
I'm not going to spoil your fun by describing every track on this great CD. Let me just tell you that there are little surprises on almost every number. We get a
lot of duets like clarinet/bass, guitar/banjo, clarinet/banjo, guitar/bass etc. All this makes for a lot of variety and keeps the listener on his toes. I can already imagine some pundits saying that this duet and trio business is not DONE in New Orleans music. To me it proves, as I said before, that it IS possible to still be creative within the framework of this great music. It just takes good musicianship and fertile imagination!
I can't refrain from naming some of my favourite moments. There is "Eye To Eye Blues", a wonderful five minutes of variations on a simple slow blues.
I love the use of the habanera rhythm in "Cheek To Cheek". I'm sure Jelly would have loved it too!
There's Annie's wonderful bowed bass on "Hesitating Blues" and some beautiful low register clarinet.
There is the chase chorus by clarinet and drums on "Just You Just Me" "Not done in New Orleans Jazz" the pundits will say again, but to hell with them, this is exciting music!
Louis plays a great guitar solo on the haunting "Out Of Nowhere". On "Rose Room"
Louis switches from banjo to guitar while Annie and Dave are doing a duet. "High Society" is a real "tour de force". Dave plays the famous Picou variations and adds a lot of his own. Louis plays Picou too on his banjo, which reminds me of Snooks Eaglin doing the same on guitar on one of his early recordings.
ENOUGH! You have to discover yourself all of the other hidden beauties on this CD. If you love New Orleans music, like I do, and are ready to accept that there are many wonderful ways to perform it, you HAVE to add this CD to your collection.
It plays for 71 exciting minutes and when you come to the end of it, I'm sure you will want to listen to it all over again.
Thanks heaven for CD's, you don't even have to get up from your easy chair to have an "encore".
CLICK THE CD COVER TO ORDER THIS CD FROM OUR PAYPAL SHOP