San Jacinto Stompers • A Thousand Goodnights

In these days of diminishing audiences and venues, it takes a brave soul to start a traditional jazz band, not alone keep an existing band viable. Banjo player Kevin Scott is just such an individual who has done both. For a good number of years he has led the successful Golden Eagle Jazz Band and has recently formed another band—the one heard here, the San Jacinto Stompers.

“San Jacinto,” by design will put one in mind of the San Jacinto Hall on Dumaine Street in New Orleans where there was considerable “stomping” in the old days. The San Jacinto Hall, which was opened in 1922, had a decent run until it was destroyed in a fire in 1957. During these decades of the 1920s through the 1950s, it was the site of many dances and social gatherings which featured bands that played the ensemble style of New Orleans jazz featured on this CD. Among those who played at the San Jacinto Hall were Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, and Peter Bocage, to mention just a few. This association of the San Jacinto Hall with the polyphonic New Orleans musical style made it a logical choice for Scott in naming his new band, thus the San Jacinto Stompers.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Readers of The Syncopated Times may not recognize most of the names of the Stompers personnel, but all of them have figured quite prominently in the British traditional jazz scene. Trombonist Brian Butler has played with Kevin Scott’s other band, the Golden Eagle Jazz Band and also with a number of other British jazz bands, such as pianist Dave Browning’s Jazz Cats and drummer Henri Harrison’s Hotshots. His musical activities extend beyond jazz, and he can be found playing with a 10-piece rock and soul band. Both Ron Rumbol, reeds, and Richard Church, trumpet, have played in the past with Colin Kingwell’s Jazz Bandits, who have appeared in the past in the U.S. Rumbol has also been with Bill Brunskill’s Jazzmen, and Church has been with New Orleans Heat. On bass John Sirett at one time led the Blackbottom Stompers and was a member of the Delta Jazz Band. Finally, Malc Murphy has played drums with more bands than one can count, the most prominent, perhaps, being Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen. So this “new” band is composed of “old” troopers, it seems, who do not have to earn their stripes.

The play list consists mainly of tunes that will be familiar to almost everyone. One exception may be the first track, “San Jacinto Stomp,” which also goes by other names, including “I Can’t Escape from You “and “You Can’t Escape from Me.” In 1944 George Lewis recorded this song under the “San Jacinto Stomp” title and is credited as composer on this disc, but the similar song “You Can’t Escape from Me” was composed by Sammy Lowe and Erskine Hawkins in 1939. So there is some confusion regarding the provenance of this tune. While the track on this disc features ensemble, as all the others do, the clarinet of Rumbol is clearly heard above the others, perhaps as a nod to Lewis.

Another seldom heard song might be “A Thousand Goodnights,” a tune I don’t remember ever having heard before. The piece, while taken at a slow tempo, still makes for a good closer, not being the flag waver that many other bands opt for on their CDs. Scott’s vocal is very adroitly punctuated by Butler’s fine muted trombone obbligatos.

UpBeat Records

Several of the other cuts are not often heard on traditional jazz CDs, but their treatment by this band shows how well they lend themselves to jazz renditions. “Roses of Picardy,” for instance, dates from 1916, about the same time as the founding of jazz, and was a very popular song during World War I. Another could be “Three Little Words,” dating from 1930, an extremely popular song that found favor with even Duke Ellington, who included an arrangement of it in his band’s “book.” The San Jacinto Stompers also render it an agreeable traditional jazz vehicle. Yet another seldom heard tune is “A Miner’s Dream of Home,” a favorite of Ken Colyer but not picked up by too many other bands.

The majority of the tunes, however, are found in many jazz bands’ repertoires and they cover several of the subgenres: rags (“Down Home Rag”), hymns (“Higher Ground”), gospel (“Old Time Religion”), blues (“Chimes Blues”). Perhaps most Americans think of “Chimes Blues” as a piano feature since the piano so frequently takes the “chimes.” Many—perhaps most—British bands do not have a piano, however, and follow the lead of the Chris Barber band by having the front line take the “chimes.” So it becomes a bit of a challenge for piano-less bands after Barber’s to render the chimes without slavishly following the Barber band’s version. The San Jacinto Stompers are successful in this endeavor, the rhythm section laying out while the chimes are played, incorporating some minor chords to great effect. The track ends with chimes followed by a fine ritard.

Along the way there are many pleasurable moments to be savored. These include a pair in “Down Home Rag” when Sirett shifts back and forth between 2 and 4 on the bass in the coda, the latter ending with an interesting ascending run by cornet to close it out. Another is the change of texture where the front line yields to the rhythm section, led by Sirett, for a chorus on “Three Little Words” prior to the several ensemble out-choruses. Yet another is that provided by Murphy on drums in “Down in Jungle Town,” when he takes his only solo of the disc, full of the pressed rolls and rimshot accents that were the stock-in-trade of the better New Orleans drummers. The entire rhythm section, it should be noted, gives admirable support to the front line and maintains unwavering tempos throughout, an accomplishment lacking in so many other bands.

For a live performance recording, this one is remarkably devoid of blemishes, attesting to the excellence of the musicians. The only minor one is the problem with the ritard that closes “Old Time Religion”—there seems to be a little confusion; otherwise, the music on offer that evening was first class and ably recorded by Geoff Spencer and edited, re-mastered and produced by Stuart McLean of Practical Sound Systems. The result of it all is 72 minutes of superb New Orleans-style traditional jazz that will bear much rehearing.

Contact Kevin Scott at [email protected] for more information on how to order this San Jacinto Stompers CD.


A Thousand Goodnights
San Jacinto Stompers

Personnel: Kevin Scott, tenor banjo, vocals, leader; Richard Church, trumpet, vocals; Ron Rumbol, clarinet, alto saxophone; Brian Butler, trombone; John Sirett, double bass; Malc Murphy, drums, vocal.

Born in Dundee, Scotland, Bert Thompson came to the U.S. in 1956. After a two-year stint playing drums with the 101 st Airborne Division Band and making a number of parachute drops, he returned to civilian life in San Francisco, matriculating at San Francisco State University where he earned a B.A. and an M.A. He went on to matriculate at University of Oregon, where he earned a D.A. and a Ph.D., all of his degrees in English. Now retired, he is a professor emeritus of English at City College of San Francisco. He is also a retired traditional jazz drummer, having played with a number of San Francisco Bay Area bands, including And That’s Jazz, Professor Plum’s Jazz, the Jelly Roll Jazz Band, Mission Gold Jazz Band, and the Zenith New Orleans Parade band; he also played with some further afield, including Gremoli (Long Beach, CA) and the Phoenix Jazzers (Vancouver, B.C.) Today he reviews traditional jazz CDs and writes occasional articles for several publications.

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