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



NEW BLACK EAGLE JAZZ BAND

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Own Label BE[LECD]4004

 

 


1. Tuning

2. Gatemouth

3. Scott Joplin’s New Rag

4. Down in Honky Tonky Town

5. Papa De Da Da

6. Spreading Joy

7. Black Cat on the Fence

8. When I Leave the World Behind

9. What Ya Want Me to Do

10. Black Bottom Stomp

11. Working Man Blues

12. Coal Black Shine

Recorded at Fontbonne College, St. Louis, Missouri, on July 9 and 10, 1975.

13. Sweethearts on Parade

14. Sensation Rag

15. Shimme-Sha-Wobble

Recorded at The Playhouse, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, on June 26, 1981.

Tony Pringle – Cornet and leader

Stan McDonald – Clarinet and soprano sax

Stan Vincent – Trombone and vocal (track #13)

Bob Pilsbury – Piano

Peter Bullis – Banjo and manager

C. H. “Pam” Pameijer – Drums

Eli Newberger – Tuba

 

This is the fourth in a series of fourteen limited edition CD’s, reissuing material by the band that previously appeared on LP’s—mainly on their own label but also on a few other small labels, such as Philo, Philips, and Dirty Shame—and on cassette tapes. Some of these cassettes were issued simultaneously with the LP’s but also contained additional tracks. Other cassettes with different material were issued in that format only. When the company that produced the cassettes went out of business, the digital masters were returned to the band. These form the basis of most of the material on this CD set.

The first twelve tracks were recorded on two days when the band, appearing at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival in the evenings, went to the college auditorium during the day to lay them down. (The name of the composer of the first track, the ephemeral Tuning (4 secs. long), will doubtlessly remain as elusive as the Bolden cylinder.) The last three cuts, recorded by the same musicians some six years later and in a different acoustic setting, were added to “fill out” the disc to a length more typically expected of a CD.

As do most of the New Black Eagles recordings, this one demonstrates the breadth of the band’s repertoire, from the tried-and-true to the seldom-encountered. On all of these there is that “infinite variety” that rejuvenates tired warhorses and renders the unfamiliar congenial. For starters the band leans heavily toward ensemble work, the lead constantly changing between instruments in successive choruses so that there is great variety, as can be heard in Down in Honky Tonky Town (and it is nice to see that title correctly given, the word being Tonky, not Tonk, the usual form given) or Working Man Blues, for example.

Then there are the lesser-known tunes, such as Black Cat on the Fence, What Ya Want Me to Do, or Coal Black Shine. Adding to the interest on the last tune, Bechet’s Coal Black Shine, is the small stumble and rapid recovery where, moving along at a spanking pace, the soprano sax and tuba are trading “two’s” and toward the end of their sequence get slightly out of step with each other but as the tension builds do manage to get back in sync just in time. Speaking of tempos, there is a wonderful assortment of such in this set, from cookers like this one to the very laid back Papa De Da Da.

In addition, there are nuggets along the way in many of the renditions, such as the beautiful “call and response” of the tuba and the cornet inWhat Ya Want Me to Do, and the surprise endings of the delayed stop chord on Papa De Da Da and the unexpected four-bar tag on Coal Black Shine after the tuba seemed to have sealed the ending.

Finally, a word or two about the two rags included in the tune list. Many bands will not attempt these as an ensemble, leaving them to a solo piano. The New Black Eagles, however, have some magnificent full band arrangements of these pieces, the two here being New Rag by Scott Joplin and Sensation, a Rag by Joseph Lamb. Most rags tend to have an often delicate beauty to them, and the band attempts to bring that out, letting the ensemble present the arrangement in each case. However, some interesting piano improvising can be heard going on above and behind the ensemble in Sensation, even though usually one seldom hears any improvising going on in rags presentations.

In the original LP liner notes, Al Webber says: “I have heard no band—‘live’ or on record—play New Orleans jazz with more emotional breadth, swing, dynamic variety, and all-‘round musicianship than the New Black Eagles.” This is a fair summing up of the performance captured on this CD. At the band’s web site <www.blackeagles.com> one can obtain more information.

Bert Thompson



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