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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Blue Roof Blues

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19346





1. Just Like That
2. Panama
3. Blue Roof Blues
4. Bye-Ya
5. Way Way Back
6. Door Number 4
7. Just Like This
8. Weary Blues
9. Why
10. Hindustan
11. Just Like This, Just Like That
Jon-Erik Kellso – trumpet
Evan Christopher – Clarinet
Matt Munisteri – Guitar, banjo, vocals
Danton Boller – Bass
Marion Felder - Drums


New Orleans has understandably been in the news a lot recently, with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Yet it seems that the city has virtually been forgotten by US officialdom, which has tried to close its eyes to the city’s plight. On the other hand, jazz musicians and fans have done their best to help New Orleans. Aware of the city’s importance in the history of jazz, devotees have raised funds and held events to remind people that New Orleans deserves assistance and regeneration.

This album, subtitled "A Love Letter to New Orleans", is Jon-Erik Kellso’s tribute to the city which could be described as the cradle of classic jazz. New Orleans was the birthplace of numerous influential musicians, most notably Louis Armstrong. Louis’s influence is clear in the title-track, a heartfelt eleven-minute blues which ends with a wail of sadness. Like four other tracks on the CD, this is a composition by Kellso which somehow captures everything that is good about the New Orleans tradition. Jon-Erik says in the sleeve-notes "Blue Roof Blues is my homage to New Orleans and all those affected by the horrible hurricane season of 2005 – from those with blue tarps patching their roofs to those who ended up with no roof or no home at all". By contrast, Weary Blues exemplifies the cheerful, optimistic voice of the blues. It includes a cheeky banjo solo; a hot solo by Kellso using an attractively burred tone; a mellow clarinet solo; and a delightfully old-fashioned feature for 21-year-old drummer Marion Felder.

The spirit of New Orleans is also present in the habanera rhythm of Panama and the marching-style drums which introduce Bye-Ya. The latter was written by Thelonious Monk but it might have come direct from the levees of New Orleans. Way Way Back is a Duke Ellington composition and Kellso’s "talking" trumpet echoes the sound of such Ducal trumpeters as Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams. Evan Christopher’s clarinet also evokes the New Orleans style of Barney Bigard.

The clarinettist and trumpeter work seamlessly together – producing collective improvisation without the presence of a trombone. The sleeve-note says that Jon-Erik plays the trumpet but I suspect he’s on cornet for at least some tracks. In fact Kellso seldom over-reaches himself, maintaining a generally mellow tone and playing throughout with moderation and good taste. Matt Munisteri adds to the acoustic feel of the album with his unelectrified guitar and banjo.

A touch of the Orient is introduced with the lively Hindustan, which keeps listeners alert by changing key upwards for every chorus. The CD closes with tracks 1 and 7 superimposed ingeniously on top of one another.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? It’s all in this album.

Tony Augarde


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