Horniblow’s Hot 3: Steppin’ on the Gas

Horniblows Hot Three Steppin on the GasDavid Horniblow, clarinet, Andrew Oliver, piano, Nicholas D. Ball, percussion. If you’ve been reading my reviews for the last few months you’ll know that this lineup is reason enough to give Steppin’ on the Gas a listen. Add guest turns by Andy Schumm and Martin Wheatley and a vocal appearance by  Dee Settlemier (all the way in from Portland) and you’ve got yet another Transatlantic masterpiece coming out of London.

Horniblow’s Hot Three is a sub group of the Vitality Five, the larger group also features guitarist Wheatley and Michael McQuaid on trumpet. But nothing is lost with the tighter focus. The trio plays sprightly and authentic late 20s jazz with a stomping sound full as any five piece band.

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As the leader of this unit Horniblow tears it up throughout, solidifying his ranking among the top clarinetists of today — we are blessed with many! (Several, including Horniblow, James Evans, and Ewan Bleach, are from the UK, why is that?)

Andrew Oliver, a well traveled gent originally from Portland, OR but now settled in the UK plays his role perfectly. He’s a spectacularly capable pianist with the ability to fade into the background and lead simultaneously. He lifts Horniblow’s clarinet line, working effortlessly with the percussion. The experience of the recent Horniblow/Oliver Complete Morton Project is evident. Two tracks are indeed from 1929 Morton trio recordings with Barney Biggard and Zutty Singleton.

Nicholas D. Ball is a young expert on ragtime and early jazz drum styles and a collector of rare vintage equipment. He runs the informative website drumsinthetwenties.com. Vintage jazz drumming is about doing more with less and he is a master. When the sound requires he breaks out the washboard. It’s his contribution that I most enjoyed on this album.

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Ball uses that washboard on the four tracks at the heart of this record. All are late 20s recordings by clarinetist Jimmie O’ Bryant’s Washboard Band, a relatively obscure Chicago outfit. Andy Schumm joins on cornet for “Hot Hot Hottentot”, Dee Settlemier gives the only vocal on the album for “Brand New Charleston Rag”.  Three other tracks come from clarinetist Jimmy Lytell of The Original Memphis Five, and three more are associated with Johnny Dodds. Only two of the 15 tracks are well known, “Careless Love” and “Memphis Blues” being the only tunes you’d be likely to hear over a long festival weekend.

I’ve been happily swimming in albums from this cohort of amazing new stars these last few months. All serious vintage jazz fans owe it to themselves to listen and take heart that the music continues to be played so immersively well.

Listen and buy at lejazzetal.com

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