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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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DIXIELAND JAZZ

Four Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 988

 

 


CD1
1. Frankie and Johnny
2. I've Been Working on the Railroad
3. City of the Blues
4. Careless Love
5. Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home
6. Maryland, My Maryland
7. In The Good Old Summertime
8. Sensation
9. Shreveport Stomp
10. Tres Moutarde
11. Hindustan
12. When the Saints Go Marching In
13. Collier's Clambake
14. Collier's Climb (Key Changin' Blues)
15. Rose Room
16. After You've Gone
17. Indiana
18. As Long as I Live
19. A Good Man is Hard to Find

CD2
1. At the Jazz Band Ball
2. Ol' Man River
3. I'll Be a Friend with Pleasure
4. Singin' The Blues
5. Fidgety Feet
6. From Monday On
7. I'm Comin' Virginia
8. Royal Garden Blues
9. Louisiana
10. Jazz Me Blues
11. That's a Plenty
12. Tin Roof Blues
13. Royal Garden Blues
14. Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
15. Beale Street Blues
16. Muskrat Ramble
17. Basin Street Blues
18. Wolverine Blues
19. I've Found a New Baby

 

The word "Dixieland" is one of those vague terms which can be interpreted positively or negatively. It can conjure up a picture of wild musicians playing old tunes in a ragged style which disregards the traditions of classic jazz. However, Jazz: The Rough Guide gives a more helpful interpretation of Dixieland as "the standardized and internationalized version of Chicago-style jazz of the 1920s, with extrovert, even brash ensemble improvisations framing solo statements that are far more prevalent than in the New Orleans style typified by the King Oliver Creole Band or even the contrarily named Original Dixieland Band".

At any rate, this double CD illustrates a very acceptable form of Dixieland music by some of its top artists. These are the kind of easy-going sessions for which Eddie Condon made his name: assembling a bunch of jazzers who knew all the old tunes and could create instant magic together.

The first seven tracks come from a 10-inch LP called Happy Jazz by Red Allen's All-Stars. Recorded in 1955, the session justifies the title by using six all-star musicians, including trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, clarinettist Tony Parenti and trombonist Tyree Glenn. Red Allen developed his trumpet style in the orchestras of Luis Russell, Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong - and he was still developing until the fifties and sixties. As the sleeve-writer for his marvellous 1966 album Feeling Good (well deserving reissue), someone wrote: "Allen's trumpet playing is a frequently astonishing array of bent notes; smeared notes; choked half-valve notes; rips, glissandos; flutters; growls, and asymmetrical rhythms that somehow come out right". This off-the-wall style led Don Ellis, another daring trumpeter, to call Allen "the most avant-garde trumpet player in New York".

Tyree Glenn's abilities are well-known from his stint with Louis Armstrong's All-Stars and Duke Ellington. Here he shows his tender, lyrical side with some melodious solos on ballads. The other star for me on these opening tracks is drummer George Wettling. He stays mostly in the background but, when he does burst out, as he does at the end of I've Been Working on the Railroad, he is a veritable tornado.

Red Allen and Tyree Glenn are also featured on the last album in this collection: a 1957 LP entitled Dixiecats. Allen makes a compelling lead trumpeter, and his growls, runs and slurs are very evident on Tin Roof Blues. There are some useful contributions from clarinettist Buster Bailey and pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith.

It is a surprise to move from the first seven tracks to the next five, which sound as if they were recorded in an extremely resonant venue (perhaps a swimming bath?). These tracks were originally issued in 1952 as an LP by Wilbur De Paris and the Rampart Street Ramblers entitled New Orleans Jazz. This was the first LP recorded in stereo, using a method called "Binaural" devised by Emory Cook. The system never caught on - perhaps because it created this cavernous sound. Sensation is the worst track of all, with the level of discomfort raised by the thumping two-beat rhythm.

We return to sanity with the last seven tracks on the first CD. These are from a 1951 session by George Wettling's Jazz Band, a pick-up group assembled when "Collier's" magazine did a feature on Wettling and wanted to photograph an actual recording session. The recording is a bit echoey but it has the asset of such players as cornettist Wild Bill Davison, clarinettist Ed Hall and pianist Joe Sullivan. With Eddie Condon on guitar, this is very like the groups that Condon got together for fairly informal performances - and it has the same relaxed elegance. Collier's Climb is a piece by George Avakian sub-titled "Key Changin' Blues" because the key rises with each chorus. Indiana opens with Ed Hall accompanied primarily by George Wettling playing kettledrums!

Talking of Eddie Condon, the first ten tracks of the second CD come from an 1955 LP called Bixieland, by Eddie Condon and his All-Stars. The personnel includes such Condon regulars as Wild Bill Davison and Bobby Hackett (on five tracks each), Dick Cary, Ed Hall and George Wettling. The tunes are ones that were associated with Bix Beiderbecke, but there is no attempt to imitate Bix. I'm glad to find From Monday On in the programme, as it's a charming but almost-forgotten song, performed by Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys with Paul Whiteman in 1928.

Besides his choice of wonderful musicians, I love Eddie Condon's groups because of his endings. He often rounds off a number with one or more four-bar breaks, raising the temperature irresistibly. He does it here with At the Jazz Band Ball and Ol' Man River. But he can also let a band play a splendidly subdued ending, as at the end of Singin' the Blues. As Eddie says in his original sleeve-notes: "One reason I'm proud of these guys is that they romped and balladed it up".

As usual with Avid releases like this, the tracks are packed together thickly so as to provide excellent value, although the cramped arrangement of the sleeve-notes makes them difficult to read.

Tony Augarde 



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