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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 EAGLES
JAZZ BAND

Tony's Mining Company

BE[LECD]4005

 

 

1. You Always Hurt the One You Love

2. Big House Blues

3. When I Leave the World Behind

4. Georgia Cabin

5. El Albanico

6. Sing On

7. Panama

8. I Remember When

9. Lily of the Valley

10. Swipesey Cakewalk

11. That’s My Home

12. Stevedore Stomp

 

Recorded at Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, on June 21 & 22, 1985.

Tony Pringle – Cornet, leader, and vocals (tracks #1 and 11)

Hugh Blackwell – Clarinet and soprano sax

Stan Vincent – Trombone

Bob Pilsbury – Piano and vocal (track #3)

Peter Bullis – Banjo and manager

C. H. “Pam” Pameijer – Drums

Eli Newberger – Tuba

 

 

This is the fifth 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.

This recording emanates from one of the many visits the band has made over the years to Mount Gretna. The title, “Tony’s Mining Company,” is something of a pun, referring at one and the same time to a small restaurant in Mount Gretna by that name and, of course, the band itself—leader Tony [Pringle]’s group which mines so successfully the tunes it digs into.

If this is the first experience the reader has of the New Black Eagles music, it is a good introduction because this recording exhibits everything that makes them arguably the finest traditional jazz band extant—period.

Their musicianship is impeccable. Although almost any track could suffice to illustrate this, Big House Blues is a good example. As befits an Ellington tune, the front line harmonies in the opening and closing choruses are exquisite. The toms Pameijer uses in the “jungle sound” strain, which is led by the wah wah muted cornet of leader Pringle, are most appropriate. Vincent’s spare trombone solo rightly deserves the vocal plaudits offered by Pringle at its conclusion, and Blackwell’s plaintive clarinet solo fits exactly the mood of the piece. Newberger shows the depths—and the heights—to which his tuba can go, while Pilsbury displays a multiplicity of rhythms, both on his solo and in his backing of other soloists, on piano. And as he does everywhere, Bullis lays down that solid four/four chording on banjo. Each tune on this recording could thus exemplify the group’s virtuosity. And the applause from the audience at the end of each number is indicative of how much this musicianship is appreciated.

The selection of tunes and tempos contributes much to the interest this CD elicits. There is contrast in ordering of the tunes, resulting in tempos almost alternating between fast and slow. This contrast is shown even in the pair of Ellington tunes, the somber mood of Ellington’s Big House Blues in opposition to the joyful one of his Stevedore Stomp, the latter enhanced by the fast four-four coupled with the amazing tuba work which never fails to astonish me.

The tune list includes El Albanico, a Spanish march much embraced by several British army regiments and an unlikely candidate for a traditional jazz interpretation, which it gets here in no small measure. (The only other instance I know of a jazz band’s making a jazz vehicle of this tune is one by the Acker Bilk aggregation.) There is also the fine full-band interpretation of the disc’s only rag, Swipesey Cakewalk, taken at a jaunty tempo. Of four tracks not on original LP, two are spirituals, Sing On and Lily of the Valley, which are given outstanding renditions.

Another kind of variety is that afforded by the several rhythms, from two-four to four-four to shuffle, sometimes switching among them even within the same tune.

Mention must also be made of the sheer exuberance, both in the playing and in the attitude one senses. Quite audible is the encouragement and approbation the band members offer each other, especially on solos. When one member is soloing, there is no talking among the others, no showing little respect for their colleague or interest in what he is doing, but rather the reverse—close attention is paid to the soloist, punctuated with the approving comments and then a verbal pat on the back at the end. Such spur the musicians on to even greater efforts. These traits, I would add, are exhibited in all of the band’s recordings and concerts, not just this one.

Lastly, there are not many vocals on this recording, but I would cavil a little with the one on That’s My Home, where Pringle attempts an Armstrong imitation. Armstrong is really, like Dickens, inimitable. However, I did appreciate the nice little allusion to his original home when he changes the river from “Swanee” of the song’s lyrics to “Mersey” of England!

This is an album that all lovers of traditional jazz should not be without.

At the band’s web site <www.blackeagles.com> one can obtain more information.

Bert Thompson



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