1. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind
2. Down in Tonky Tonk Town
3. Coal Cart Blues
4. How Am I to Know?
5. Everybody Loves My Baby
6. There's a Cabin in the Pines
7. Sweethearts on Parade
8. Santa Claus Blues
9. Once in a While
10. The Song Is Ended
11. No One Else But You
12. In the Land of Beginning Again
13. I'm a Little Blackbird
14. Cake Walking Babies from Home
15. Of All the Wrongs You've Done to Me
Marty Grosz (guitar); Ken Peplowski (clarinet); Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet); Vince Giordano (bass, bass saxophone)
Recorded October 2001, NYC [74:57]
This artful example of the kind of chamber jazz immortalised by the Bechet/Spanier Big Four and by Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet in their summit meetings was recorded over a decade ago now. It retains its verve and imaginative spark by virtue of clever arrangements and outstanding soloing, as well as collective excellence.
Because with the two-man front-line and two-man rhythm, we have in fact a four-man collective ensemble. The arrangements ensure that solos are adeptly parcelled out and retain surprises; no pass-the-parcel soloing here, as in some bands, whose repetitious and formulaic arrangements are tedium itself. No, Grosz is too canny and laudable a practitioner ever to go down that route.
In Peplowski he has a versatile stylist, whose Jimmie Noone-derived fillips in Down in Tonky Tonk Town brought a smile of recognition to my face. Kellso's trumpet work is excellent and Grosz's playing is clever, and bassist Giordano, who sometimes plays bass saxophone, provides propulsive and sonorous rhythmic support. This is in no sense a `pastiche' arrangement and that goes for all these tracks. They are imbued with personality and individuality. When one of the front line players shakes things up a little, as Kellso does on How Am I to Know? the results are exciting, and how pretty are the trumpet and clarinet decorations around Giordano's bass sax solo. Incidentally Armstrong never recorded this song. And incidentally (again), the lyrics of the song were written by none other than Dorothy Parker.
I like the band's tempi, which are on occasion unexpected, but always sound just right. That includes the tempo-doubling outbreak on Of All the Wrongs You've Done to Me. And I like the way that Giordano is thrust into the aural spotlight on Once in a While to parade his Adrian Rollini-like tone.
In fact I like pretty much everything here, and that includes the excellent recording balance. Quality musicianship all round.