Ce Biguine! by Charlie Halloran

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When I’m preparing for a review I often write the artist for a comment. If I’m lucky I get a nice quote for background. I wrote Trombonist Charlie Halloran about his recent album of Caribbean music. It features a full cast (cask?) of New Orleans traditional jazz musicians, including Tom McDermott and members of Tuba Skinny.  His response leaves me no reason to paraphrase, it could serve as liner notes to the album:

The music is all from Martinique and Guadeloupe around the 1950s. It’s the music that evolved in those islands with a lot of the same influences as jazz in the states. However, traditionally there isn’t trumpet so the trombone and clarinet front line is particularly percussive. The recordings from the 20s typically have violin and banjos, then through the 50s and 60s it follows the same path as jazz, by and large. Moves to guitar, loses the violin, bebop language is incorporated, eventually electric bass and keyboards, clarinet moves to saxophone. I love the parallels with jazz, just with a tropical flavor.

I made this record directly to 78rpm acetate disc on St. Claude Ave in New Orleans. So no editing, no mixing, no extended solos. I really wanted it to sound like an album from before the extended play era, recorded in a live room. We set up with the loudest instruments far away from the mic and recorded one or two takes each. Add in a few bad mic placements and some faulty acetate, and we went thru about 20 physical discs and called it a day.

I discussed that recording process back in June. The crackle is harsh at times. I worried at one point that I had fried my speakers! The sound is reminiscent of late 40s home recordings, not new old stock.

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It does the trick though. Giving the fine musicianship a slightly creepy vintage feel. This is improvised and syncopated music and these musicians are right at home playing it. If you want an album with a jazzy tropical feel to make sunny days brighter this could be your thing.

Halloran plays occasional Calypso gigs around New Orleans, he also plays weekly gigs with several bands and is a regular sub for who knows how many more. I count ten different groups in a one month block on his calendar. He’s also the on-call trombone of choice for many as they enter the studio.

His 2015 Jazz album Charlie Halloran & the Quality Six is one of the better of dozens of records that have come out of a talented cohort of New Orleans trad players in recent years. This record is more proof that when he rallies people around him good things happen.

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He did say one more thing, and it actually is about the liner notes:

The cocktail recipe on the back is a Planters Punch from fellow New Orleanian Jeff the Beachbum Berry. His restaurant Latitude 29, as well as his multiple books on tiki and rum are largely responsible for the resurgence of quality tiki drinks and bars in the last 15 years. He has unearthed countless, forgotten recipes for traditional drinks from the Caribbean and South Pacific and this one hits the spot on a summer day, and compliments the music beautifully. Cheers!

 


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