THE SALT LAKE CITY 7
It all began back in 2010 when the Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band was organized at Brigham Young University. Trumpeter Austie Robinson, trombonist Brian Woodbury, and clarinetist Jory Woodis formed the frontline, won some awards, and found that they enjoyed playing together. Along with pianist Kurt Reeder, bassist-singer Zoe Jorgenson and drummer Brennan Tolman, they eventually became an independent band. Originally known as the Salt City Six, they recorded their debut CD Sunnyside Avenue in 2015. By the time they made their second recording, The Salt Lake City 7, they had changed their name to reflect the full name of the city of the band’s birth, and the expansion of the group with the addition of acoustic guitarist and banjoist Parker Speirs. While each of the individual musicians has experience playing more modern styles of jazz, they stick to 1950s-style Dixieland throughout these two recordings, sounding comfortable performing trad jazz.
Sunnyside Avenue begins in exciting fashion with a version of “That Da Da Strain” that is taken at a racehorse tempo. Somehow each of the soloists manages to sound relaxed at the rapid pace. The title cut, “Sunnyside Avenue,” is an original by trombonist Woodbury which not too surprisingly uses the chord changes of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” Otherwise the set is filled with Dixieland standards and a few offbeat choices. The group utilizes both witty arranged ensembles and freewheeling playing along with hot and concise solos. Trumpeter Robinson is extroverted in his playing, Woodbury frequently displays his sense of humor, and clarinetist Woodis is quite fluent.
The repertoire includes such unusual choices as “On The Flying Trapeze” (which has a stop-time chorus launching each soloist), “I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad” (with all of the themes), “Old Folks at Home,” and “John Henry.”
The latter has a fine vocal by Zoe Jorgenson before it climaxes with some wild ensembles. In fact, in addition to the fine musicianship and inspired repertoire, one of the main strengths of Sunnyside Avenue is the many almost over-the-top ensembles that are heard, including on “Someday Sweetheart” and “South Rampart Street Parade.” This is a band that is not afraid to take chances and to explode. Other colorful touches include the group vocal on “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll” (which precedes a crisp trumpet solo worthy of Rex Stewart), the use of guest tuba player Marcus Voght on “That Old Rugged Cross,” and the harmonizing trombone behind the clarinet on “Poor Butterfly.”
The Salt Lake City 7 CD benefits from the use of Parker Speirs’ guitar both in the ensembles and as an occasional solo instrument. Once again there is an original (“No Regrets”) that is based on another song (“Someday You’ll Be Sorry”), and a fairly wide repertoire that includes a witty “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and a joyous “That Little Light Of Mine.” The solos are consistently rewarding and there are bits of humor, such as during the first half of the clarinet solo on “Milenberg Joys” and the use of multiphonics by trombonist Woodbury on “Basin Street Blues.”
Missing from this CD are the wild ensembles and the crazier tempos from the first disc other than on a very exuberant version of “The Sheik Of Araby.” However there are such highlights as the furious horn riffing on “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” the inclusion of the verse (along with an extra closing ensemble) on “Mandy Make Up Your Mind,” the surprise group vocal on “That Little Light Of Mine,” and the use of organ on a bluesy version of “Amazing Grace.”
The Salt Lake City 7 seems like a natural for the jazz festival circuit. It is a pleasure hearing colorful Dixieland performed by this young group of fine musicians.
Sunnyside Avenue (Jazz Hang Records JHR 501SC, 14 selections, TT = 59:56) www.jazzhangrecords.com
The Salt Lake City 7 (Jazz Hang Records HMR 600SC, 14 selections, TT = 68:08) www.jazzhangrecords.com
While ragtime is often thought of as a music performed by solo pianists, there is something very special about a ragtime orchestra. Even the most familiar rags sound revitalized when interpreted by an ensemble that uses dynamics and brings out each piece’s harmonies and colors.
The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, which was founded by Andrew Greene in 2010, is one of the finest groups of its kind. Comprised mostly of musicians under the age of 30, the orchestra has two cornets, trombone, flute/piccolo, clarinet, piano, string bass, a percussionist, and a string quartet. Due to the arrangements, the band often sounds a lot larger than its 12 pieces.
On their latest recording, Elite Syncopations, the orchestra performs a wide variety of music from the ragtime era, dating from 1897-1920 in addition to John Phillip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis March” from 1888. The repertoire includes rags (most notably the title cut, “The Entertainer” and James Scott’s “The Silver Swan”), novelties, patriotic songs, and some orchestrated early jazz. Max Keenlyside is showcased on three piano solo features including Eubie Blake’s “Charleston Rag” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Frog-I-More Rag,” and there are five period vocals from William Edwards including a version of “You’re A Grand Old Flag” that is worthy of Billy Murray. Along with a few famous songs are such forgotten tunes as “Fido Is A Hot Dog Now,” the charming “Delectation – Valse Hesitation,” “Jazarella,” and the trombone novelty “Oh Slip It Man.”
Impeccably performed, the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra on Elite Syncopations (which has extensive liner notes by Andrew Greene) does a splendid job of giving listeners a sampling of the music heard in band concerts before the rise of jazz.
Elite Syncopations (Rivermont BSW-2242, 22 selections, TT = 70:37) www.rivermontrecords.com
VINTAGE TRAD FROM LAKE RECORDS
Since its formation in 1984 as a subsidiary of Fellside Recordings, Lake Records has compiled and released a large assortment of high-quality traditional jazz with an emphasis on the British jazz scene. Their extensive catalog includes early sessions acquired from other companies along with newer recordings in the classic style. While British trad jazz was at the height of its popularity in the early 1960s with such names as the three B’s (Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, and Acker Bilk) making the pop charts before the rise of the Beatles, valuable early jazz sessions were recorded in England back during the late 1940s/early ’50s, including the music on these two sets.
Clarinetist Sandy Brown (1929-75) was born in India to Scottish parents although he grew up in Scotland. He started on clarinet when he was 12 and in 1949 formed a notable band with trumpeter Al Fairweather. His earliest studio recordings from 1949-52 comprise most of Vintage Sandy Brown. More than half of the repertoire is drawn from King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and, on the earliest titles, Brown sounds like a duplicate of the great Johnny Dodds. In fact, with Fairweather hinting at early Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and occasionally Bunk Johnson and the primitive recording quality (originally made for the S&M label), which often sounds as if it were acoustic rather than electric, many of these performances could pass for unissued sessions circa 1926-27.
The first four titles, which have Fairweather and Brown joined by a rhythm section, are particularly stirring. The next eight numbers have Bob Craig contributing a gutbucket trombone style that falls halfway between Kid Ory and Honore Dutrey. While the rhythm section is unimaginative (with the metronomic banjo sometimes too high in the mix), the performances will delight fans of 1920s jazz. The remainder of the CD has a variety of odds and ends including three titles with Alex Welsh on cornet and the closing “Weary Brown,” a solo piano feature that shows that Sandy Brown was a talented stride pianist too. In later years, Brown would make many other recordings, developing his own musical personality within early jazz, but these Dodds sound-alikes are consistently fascinating and well worth discovering.
Vintage Sandy Brown (Lake 313, 24 selections, TT = 77:32) www.fellside.com
While the early Sandy Brown recordings can be considered revivalists, trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008) and his band never tried to sound like anyone else. Lyttelton, who had a long and episodic career, teamed up with the great clarinetist Wally Fawkes starting in 1948. Their extensive series of recordings for the Parlophone label during 1949-56 were not only some of the best British jazz but rank with the finest trad jazz recorded anywhere during that era. Altoist Bruce Turner, whose sound was influenced by Tab Smith and Johnny Hodges, joined up in 1953 and trombonist John Picard became part of the frontline the following year. After Fawkes departed in 1956, Lyttelton modernized the group’s style from trad to advanced swing (including Duke Ellington’s small group work), which upset many British fans, some of whom blamed Turner’s presence, calling him “a dirty bopper!”
Classic Live Concerts is a two-CD set that features Lyttelton’s band at concerts from Sept. 2 and Nov. 28, 1954 along with a particularly rewarding set from Nov. 9 1951. In addition, there are six mostly obscure studio numbers from 1954. The repertoire includes standards, swinging originals, occasional features for the fine pianist Johnny Parker, and blues. Lyttelton is in top form, Fawkes contributes many rewarding solos, Turner shows that his alto (on the 1954 sets) fits right in to the ensembles and adds variety with his solos, and Picard (who is just on one of the three concerts) is an asset. A special treat are two numbers, particularly “Randolph Turpin Stomp,” that have Lyttelton switching to clarinet and matching wits with Fawkes.
All New Orleans jazz fans should familiarize themselves with the joyful early music of Humphrey Lyttelton and the Lake label in general.
Classic Live Concerts (Lake 253, 40 selections, TT = 2:17:48) www.fellside.com
JAZZ CLASSIC OF THE MONTH
In his short life, Charlie Christian (1916-42) revolutionized the jazz guitar. While he was not the very first electric guitarist (being preceded on records by several others including most notably George Barnes and Eddie Durham), he was the first and most important influence on nearly every jazz guitarist from the 1940-65 period including the later swing players, the bop guitarists, and even Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Unlike acoustic guitarists, Christian did not have to worry about being heard. He was free to develop ideas that he heard from horn players (particularly Lester Young) and adapt them to the guitar, infusing his solos with his own personality. Christian’s phrases, ideas and style would dominate the jazz guitar long after his passing from tuberculosis, up until the beginning of the fusion era of the late 1960s.
Most of Charlie Christian’s recordings were made as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet. The Genius Of The Electric Guitar is a four-CD box set put out in 2002 that has every one of Christian’s studio recordings with Goodman including many alternate takes. Dating from 1939-41, Christian is heard alongside Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and several pianists (including Johnny Guarnieri) in the early version of the sextet, and with Goodman, trumpeter Cootie Williams and tenor-saxophonist Georgie Auld in the later group. The riff-filled music is consistently exciting with the gems including the original version of “Flying Home,” “Seven Come Eleven,” “Air Mail Special,” “Royal Garden Blues,” “Benny’s Bugle,” and “Breakfast Feud.” Christian is also heard taking his only three solos with the Goodman big band (including his famous showcase “Solo Flight”), on a Goodman sextet session that also features Lester Young and trumpeter Buck Clayton, on one song with the Metronome All-Stars, an unedited 21-minute jam session, and even 13 false starts and breakdowns with the sextet, the inclusion of which is a little frivolous.
While this is not quite the “complete” Charlie Christian studio recordings (missing are dates with Lionel Hampton, Ida Cox and Edmond Hall), one certainly will not feel cheated by acquiring this attractive box set which also includes a definitive 70-page booklet.
The Genius Of The Electric Guitar (Sony/Legacy C4K 65564, 98 selections, TT = 5:06:05) www.legacyrecordings.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, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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