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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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Sunset Café Stomp

Delmark 1244





1. My Baby
2. Low Down Dirty Shame Blues
3. Willie the Weeper
4. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me
5. Weary Blues
6. Hear Me Talkin’
7. Come on Coot, Do That Thing
8. Drop That Sack
9. Gully Low Blues
10. Sweet Mumtaz
11. Lonesome Blues
12. My Baby
13. Georgia Bobo
14. Beer Garden Blues

Roland Pilz – Cornet, vocals
Claus Jürgen Möller – Clarinet
Ullo Bela – Trombone
Cristoph Ditting – Alto sax, tenor sax
Andreas Clement – Piano
Owe Hansen – Banjo
Dietrich Kleine-Horst – Tuba
Gunther Andernach – Washboard, percussion

The Jazz-o-Maniacs was originally the name of an American band which was active in St Louis and made several recordings under the leadership of Charlie Creath in the 1920s. The more modern version is a German group which has been playing in the style of Louis Armstrong and King Oliver for 40 years. This DVD is a film of two appearances they made on a visit to the United States in March 2005 for the annual Bixfest, a tribute to Bix Beiderbecke held in Racine, Wisconsin. But first they went to Chicago to play at a hardware store which was the site of the Sunset Café, where Louis Armstrong and where the bands of Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie performed when it became the second home of the Grand Terrace ballroom. Even later, Sun Ra played there, so it has seen all kinds of jazz. The DVD includes interviews which fill out this interesting history.

The first four tracks were filmed at Meyers Ace Hardware Store in Chicago, where the band started by playing two numbers in the store’s office, the original site of the Sunset Café. It is fascinating to see the original murals still visible on the wall. Several guests join in for Willie the Weeper and Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me. The band’s music is very much in revivalist style, with much of the repertoire taken from tunes played by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven.

The Jazz O’Maniacs capture the feel of those early recordings, with leader Roland Pilz often sounding a lot like Louis. It has to be said that the musicians are not technically faultless, although this seems to be acceptable in many "trad" bands which somehow excuse technical flaws in the name of historical authenticity (even though classical musicians playing "authentic" instruments are seldom allowed this licence). But they all play with verve and enthusiasm. Percussionist Gunther Andernach deserves special mention for his expertise on the washboard. He contributes a remarkably impressive solo to Weary Blues and generally does all that is required of a drummer, using just washboard, woodblocks, cowbells and a solitary cymbal.

The recordings in Racine take place in a more conventional venue, with the audience seated at tables and applauding appreciatively. This allows more concentration on the music, although it also makes one aware of the minor shortcomings. At times the rhythm seems to limp along, with the tuba and banjo creating a rigidz two-beat feel. But the spirit is there: the Jazz O’Maniacs underline the "tradition" in traditional jazz. If you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself back in the Chicago of the twenties, without worrying about the gangster culture of the time.

Tony Augarde


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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