1. All the Girls Go Crazy
2. Someday Sweetheart
3. Dippermouth Blues
4. Just a Closer Walk with Thee
5. Melancholy Blues
6. High Society
7. Snag It
8. Frogimore Rag
9. Canal Street Blues
10. Make Me a Pallet
11. Muskrat Ramble
12. Speak Softly Love
13. Lady Love
14. Feetwarmers Blues
15. Buddy's Habits
Mike Slack – Cornet
Tom Barnebey – Cornet
Roy Rubinstein – Trombone
Pete Main – Reeds
Bill Gould – Piano
Tom Clark – Bass
Bill DeKuiper – Guitar
Hugh O'Donnel – Drums.
Recorded in Oakland, Calif., on April 26, 2012.
The San Francisco Feetwarmers—located across the bay from San Francisco, actually—started out as a seven-piece combo but now have graduated to an
eight-piece band featuring two cornets, and stylistically they are more a Joe Oliver band than a Lu Watters one. Perhaps appropriately, three of the titles
on this CD—Dippermouth Blues, Snag It, and Canal Street Blues—are Oliver compositions, and Someday Sweetheart, High Society, Frogimore
Rag, and Buddy’s Habits were also recorded by one or other of the Oliver bands.
All of the musicians are band regulars except for Roy Rubinstein, who is guesting on trombone. He is originally from Britain and now lives and plays in the
Chicago area, having led his own band, the Chicago Hot Six, for the last thirty or so years; he visits the West Coast fairly frequently. The others are
well-known San Francisco area musicians and play—or have played—with local bands, Pete Main undoubtedly holding the record for such as he currently plays
with several of them.
Most of the tunes in this set should be fairly familiar, except perhaps for one or two. Jelly Roll Morton’s Frogimore Rag is not a simple ditty, but a
complex composition, as most of his tunes are. Speak Softly Love will become familiar when one thinks of the theme music of The Godfather,
which it is. Another is Lady Love, which only a few bands have in their repertoire and which is my favorite track on this disc. And finally there is the
12-bar blues Feetwarmers Blues, a Slack original which, as far as I am aware, no other bands are playing. All of the others, however, are well-known.
There are numerous good moments on this album. I very much enjoyed Main’s solos on clarinet, which are full of interesting ideas, and also the choruses
where he shares the lead with Rubinstein. Also among the best moments are the two-horn choruses where the harmonies are clearly worked out as they have to
be. (I’m not sure I can accept the claim that Oliver and Armstrong’s were virtually spontaneous, Oliver mouthing to Armstrong what he was going to play
just before doing so.) Despite a little raggedness, the thirty-two measures of the two-horns in Lady Love is a delight—they “trade” sixteen bars
of fours, then eight of two’s, and finally come together for a duet on the last eight. Another high point is the beautiful ascending chromatic runs by the
full band on Frogimore Rag.
The tempos (tempi, if you prefer) are all very well chosen with one exception. Speak Softly Love the first time through is almost dirge-like and
works well, but thereafter the tempo doubles, and as a quick-time tune it doesn’t do it for me; also the abrupt ritard in the last half chorus is a bit
jarring. I believe that maintaining the slow tempo throughout would have been more effective. Finally, although the band plays well and would be good to
dance to, I wish there was just a bit more excitement overall, something to really get the corpuscles moving.
All in all, however, this is an album worth having, providing over an hour of enjoyable jazz. More information is available at the band’s website