THREE GREAT CLARINETISTS
Three recent releases each feature a clarinetist in a trio or quartet. Taken as a whole, they could make the case that, despite it being underutilized in modern jazz, the jazz clarinet is currently in a bit of a golden age.
Tim Laughlin has long had a fluent and infectious style, a beautiful tone on his instrument, and the ability to conceive of and record definitive versions of songs that listeners have already enjoyed a countless number of times, making them sound fresh and new. He is also a top-notch composer; more New Orleans-styled musicians should explore his songs.
Actually only two of his tunes are heard on his recent The Trio Collection, Vol. II. but both, particularly the speedy “Roundabout,” are excellent. For this set, Laughlin teams up with pianist David Boeddinghaus and drummer Hal Smith. While Boeddinghaus has a few short solos and Smith takes breaks here and there, they are primarily in supportive roles behind the clarinetist.
The emphasis is on relaxed tempos and thoughtful melodic explorations of the songs although a few stomps are included for variety. Tim Laughlin revives such tunes as “Thanks A Million” (when was the last time one heard that 1930s tune’s verse?), “There’s Yes, Yes In Your Eyes,” Jelly Roll Morton’s “Pontchartrain Blues,” and Doc Cook’s “Messin’ Around.” Among the other highlights are a heated version of “Wolverine Blues,” a warm treatment of “La Vie En Rose,” and a rendition of “Up A Lazy River” (complete with verse) that shows that there is more to Hoagy Carmichael’s song than one might expect.
When it comes to Tim Laughlin recordings, he always delivers
The Trio Collection, Vol. II (Gentilly 81552, 12 selections, TT = 49:18) www.timlaughlin.com
The Dime Notes is a young group based in Great Britain although its leader-pianist Andrew Oliver is originally from Oregon. Comprised of Oliver, clarinetist David Horniblow, acoustic rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and bassist Tom Wheatley, the group mostly explores music from the 1920s. However rather than merely recreating past frameworks and ideas, the Dime Notes build on the original themes during their self-titled debut and add some surprises of their own. In other words, they are creative within the genre. More of a musical democracy than Tim Laughlin’s set, the Dime Notes feature many fine solos from Horniblow, Oliver and Wheatley with Kelbie holding the rhythm section together and getting a few brief spots. The clarinetist’s solos in particular are a consistent delight.
In the band’s repertoire are such obscurities as “Alabamy Bound,” Sidney Bechet’s “Black Stick Blues,” Boyd Senter’s “T’ain’t Clean” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Turtle Dream,” plus Oliver’s original “Otis Stomp.” But even on such standards as “Ole Miss” and Morton’s “The Pearls,” the music often takes unexpected turns with different rhythms and approaches being utilized.
The musicianship is impeccable, the musicians (who will probably all be household names in the trad jazz world in a few years) are consistently enthusiastic, and their inventive ideas uplift the songs, making The Dime Notes a joy for classic jazz fans.
The Dime Notes (Lejazzetal LJCD 16, 14 selections, TT = 55:48) www.lejazzetal.com
What would the music have sounded like if Sidney Bechet and Django Reinhardt (who were both in France in the early 1950s) had recorded together, or if Django had spent time playing in New Orleans? While clarinetist Evan Christopher and electric guitarist David Blenkhorn are not copies of Bechet and Django, they are certainly very aware of the historic figures who inspire their group Django A La Creole.
On Live, Christopher and Blenkhorn are joined by the Dime Notes’ rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and bassist Sebastian Girardot. The music often sounds like a meeting between Bechet and Django circa 1950. Some of the songs, such as “Douche Ambiance,” “Feerie” and “Manoir de Mes Reves,” are from the later repertoire of Reinhardt. Both Bechet and Reinhardt were strong admirers of Duke Ellington so there is Johnny Hodges’ tribute to Ellington (“One For The Duke”) and Rex Stewart’s “Solid Old Man” plus “The Mooche.” The band jams with spirit on “Riverboat Shuffle,” Christopher plays a touching solo on a slow and emotional version of “Dear Old Southland,” and a pair of Jelly Roll Morton piano solos (“Mamanita” and “The Crave”) are adapted and expanded for the quartet.
Throughout Live, Evan Christopher and David Blenkhorn blend together very well, make strong individual statements, and inspire each other while Kelbie and Girardot are tasteful and swinging in support. The result is a highly enjoyable outing.
Live (Lejazzetal LJCD 14, 11 selections, TT = 77:39) www.lejazzetal.com
Johnny Burke (1908-64) may be a little-known name today but he was one of the top lyricists of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Among the songs that he graced with his words are “Pennies From Heaven,” “You’re Not The Only Oyster In The Stew” (recorded by Fats Waller), “I’ve Got A Pocketful Of Dreams,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “Misty,” “Polka Dots And Moonbeams,” “Imagination,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” and “The Road To Morocco.” While he penned the lyrics to over 200 songs written by Jimmy Van Heusen (and his lyrics were used in 25 Bing Crosby films), Burke also had many other collaborators during his busy career.
It is a measure of Johnny Burke’s large output that none of the above songs are included on Burke Beautiful, a CD featuring singer Sharon Paige and pianist Keith Ingham. On Burke Beautiful, Ms. Paige displays a beautiful voice and full understanding of the meaning behind Burke’s words, swinging throughout while sticking to the lyrics. Ingham, who has worked with many singers through the years including the late great Susannah McCorkle, proves to be the perfect accompanist, contributing occasional solos. They are joined by Bobby Porcelli on alto and flute (his solos are always welcome), bassist Ron McClure and drummer Arnie Wise. McClure’s occasional bowed bass on the ballads is a major asset to the music.
The 16 songs performed by the group include such delights as “Aren’t You Glad You’re You,” “It Could Happen To You,” “Swinging On A Star,” “Suddenly It’s Spring,” “One, Two, Button Your Shoe,” and “Like Someone In Love.” Among the lesser-known songs that are worth rediscovering are “Sleighride In July,” “Humpty Dumpty Heart,” “A Hundred Dreams From Now,” (which has music by Duke Ellington) and “Do You Know Why.”
Johnny Burke deserves to be celebrated. The team of Sharon Paige and Keith Ingham successfully brings his music back to life.
Burke Beautiful (Harbinger HCD 3215, 16 selections, TT = 49:04) www.harbingerrecords.com
BACK TO 1909
Do you remember 1909? If one has to be at least four years old to have long-term memory of any event, then first-hand memories of 1909 are restricted to those who are at least 112. Chances are that you are not among that very select few!
But if you want to visit 1909, at least its recordings, then 1909: Talk Of Your Scand’lous Times will perfectly fit your needs. The Archeophone label, which ranks as the top company in reissuing music that dates before 1920, has a yearbook series in which a particular year is spotlighted with a couple of dozen recordings and an extensive and colorful 24-page booklet. Previously they had released two CDs covering the 1890s plus individual sets for the years 1906-08, 1911-14, and 1916-22.
While 1909 was eight years before any jazz was recorded, a few of the songs that are included on this set would find their home in jazz including “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” ”I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now,” and “Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet” although this version of “That’s A Plenty” is a different song than the Dixieland standard!
All but one of the 28 performances (John Phillip Sousa’s “Fairest Of The Fair March”) feature vocalists of which the best-remembered are the team of Collins and Harlan, Billy Murray (who sings “My Cousin Caruso”), Scottish singer Harry Lauder (“She’s My Daisy”), and Ada Jones. The only ragtime that is included is a speedy and somewhat acrobatic vocal version of “Wild Cherry Rag” by Eddie Morton.
Ranging from sentimental ballads to “Down Among The Sugar Cane,” “The Right Church But The Wrong Pew,” and “I Love, I Love, I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid,” this CD transports one back to a long-forgotten but intriguing time period.
1909 – Talk Of Your Scand’lous Times (Archeophone 9014, 28 selections, TT = 77:35) www.archeophone.com
JAZZ CLASSIC OF THE MONTH
Trombonist Wilbur De Paris’ New New Orleans Jazz Band was one of the most exciting trad jazz bands of the 1950s. De Paris teamed up with his brother cornetist Sidney De Paris and Omer Simeon (Jelly Roll Morton’s favorite clarinetist) to play a brand of New Orleans jazz that indeed sounded new. They often featured blazing tempos, the trombonist contributed some new material, and the band also performed tunes from unlikely sources. They were not shy to take chance and utilize different instruments now and then including valve trombone, harmonica (played by De Paris’ later drummer Wilbert Kirk) and even bassoon (performed by Garvin Bushell after he succeeded Simeon).
The group’s first studio album, Marchin’ And Swingin’, was recorded in 1952 and is a classic. The frontline is joined by pianist Don Kilpatrick, banjoist Eddie Gibbs, bassist Harold Jackson, and drummer Freddie Moore (who also played with Morton in the 1920s). They perform a particularly wide range of material on this set including the leader’s “Martinique,” “Under The Double Eagle,” Morton’s “Shreveport Stomp,” “Hindustan,” Rachmaninoff’s Prelude In C Sharp Minor, “Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” and a version of “The Saints” that, during its second half, is taken faster than any other version of the song.
Originally released by the Atlantic label, Marchin’ And Swingin’ came out in more recent times as half of a double-CD put out by the Collectibles label, paired with DeParis’ album At Symphony Hall, a 1956 set that is almost on the same level and highlighted by five of the leader’s originals, “Sister Kate” and “Farewell Blues.”
All of the recordings by Wilbur De Paris’ New New Orleans Jazz Band (which lasted until 1961) are well worth searching for with Marchin’ And Swingin’ being a perfect introduction to the band’s musical magic.
Marchin’ And Swingin’/At Symphony Hall (Collectables COL-CD 6600, 20 selections, TT = 86:55) www.oldies.com
In every issue of the Syncopated Times, this monthly column features reviews of CDs by classic jazz, 1920s and ‘30s, New Orleans jazz, Swing and Dixieland artists, covering both vintage greats and some of today’s top musicians. Be sure to send a copy of your CDs to Scott Yanow, P.O. Box 1220, Lake Hughes, CA 93532 if you wish to have your recordings reviewed. If you are a musician and need liner notes, bios or press releases, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition CHOPS, a series of 50 Jazz Trivia Quizzes totaling 1,000 multiple-choice and true/false questions covering all eras of jazz, is available from me as a PDF for $25 via Pay Pal at the same E-mail address.