Riverside Jazz Collective- Stomp Off, Let’s Go!

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Riverside Jazz Collective- Stomp Off, Let’s Go!

Download or a well-designed CD with liner notes from Bandcamp (we vote CD!)

The Riverside Jazz Collective is a working band with a long residence at The Always Lounge Cabaret (not for the faint of heart) and now with at least a string of gigs at The Bombay Club. They are also one of the hottest and most traditional of the outfits regularly playing New Orleans. On my first listen, and with some pre-judgments I had made based on the lineup, I pictured them in a classy hotel setting, impressing a small crowd of seasoned fans, far from the hustle and bustle of the Marigny. That they would impress in that setting, or at a festival, I am sure. That the native going-out crowd in New Orleans also appreciates them says a lot about the depth of what has taken hold in that city.

Organized by Benny Amon, drums; Alex Belhaj, guitar; and Kris Tokarski, piano, they fill out the lineup with the best trad musicians you could expect to find. Ben Polcer is on trumpet for this album, alternating with Alex Owen on cornet. We also find Tyler Thomson and Andy Reid alternating tracks on string bass. The rising star Chloe Feoranzo is on clarinet, and the hardworking Charlie Halloran is on trombone.

In fact, they are all hardworking: just sticking with the organizers, Belhaj and Tokarski are also part of the On The Levee Jazz Band with Hal Smith, and Belhaj and Amons both play with The Messy Cookers Jazz Band. Amons also plays with Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road and Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers. That’s just scratching the surface.

Amons’ steady drum really makes the sound, which owes a debt to the early Chicago bands without being frozen in amber. “Blues My Naughty Sweety Gives To Me” feels brand new with clear ensemble playing bringing out both the guitar and piano. “Melancholy Blues” is also nicely balanced. By refraining from showing off they make it easy to focus in on one instrument at a time. Thomson plays the bass with a natural table-tapping ease. I’d guess that Tokarski picked “Swipsey Cakewalk” which builds to intense heat at a slow Joplin pacing. “Ready For The River” is the best of the five vocal tracks—the catchy tune, recorded by many in the late ’20s, is given a crisp presentation that had me thinking of Randy Newman.

The recording quality itself is very good. It was recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music with help of a Perkins Fund grant. The result stands out from the output of the more impromptu studios many groups seem to be relying on. It’s a top shelf new release that even comes with liner notes.

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