1. Murphy Interview
3. 50 Miles of Elbow Room
4. Introduction of band members
5. Saint Louis Blues
6. The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me
7. Doctor Jazz
8. Evolution Mama
9. Trouble in Mind
10. Bay City
11. When the Saints Go Marching In
12. Murphy Interview
13. I Am Pecan Pete
14. Sugarfoot Stomp
15. Perdido Street Blues
16. Aunt Hagar’s Blues
17. Bull Trombone
18. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
19. Helm Interview
20. Come Back, Sweet Papa
21. London Blues
22. When You’re Smiling
23. When the Saints Go Marching In
24. Radio Sign off.
Turk Murphy – Trombone, leader, vocals (tracks 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 23)
Leon Oakley – Cornet, vocals (tracks 7, 16)
Bob Helm – Clarinet & soprano sax, vocals (tracks 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 23)
Pete Clute – Piano
Bill Carroll – Tuba & trombone (track 17)
Carl Lunsford – Banjo, vocals (track 6)
Jimmie Stanislaus – vocals (tracks 18, 22, 23)
Recorded at several concerts and from radio shows in Germany, various dates
and places in 1973 and 1974. Details are given in liner notes.
The performances on this CD were taken from recordings made at several
concerts during the band’s tour of Germany in the early seventies and from
radio broadcasts there. The personnel of the band at this time was one of
the best that Murphy assembled, and this tour was designed to be the first
of four; but for unknown reasons Murphy decided it would be the first and
last. Such decision was not made, according to Oakley, on the basis of the
reception the band got—it was outstanding. To this day the abandonment
remains a mystery.
Some five tracks are given to speaking and contain no music. For the radio
segments, a certain PFC Craig Miller interviews some of the band members
for his radio show, giving it his best shot but betraying an almost total
lack of familiarity with the music. Murphy is asked to differentiate
between “traditional jazz” and “dixieland jazz,” for instance, (in a
nutshell Murphy points to trad. as being oriented toward the ensemble,
dixieland toward the individual musicians); and Helm to elucidate any
changes between the instruments of “yesterday” and “today” (and he replies,
“Not too many that we use in this band”). So there isn’t a whole lot to be
gained from these verbal tracks.
The music, however, is a different story. It is rich, full bodied, Oakley
playing as if on fire and seeming to inspire the rest to do likewise, Doctor Jazz (track 7) exemplifying this perfectly—such energy!
Oakley’s lip is sure (there are advantages to being in one’s early
thirties!) and he has perfect control, flubbing no notes, providing the
ideal backing to vocals and soloists. His vibrato is so fitting of anything
he does. His vocals, too, are on the mark, as are those taken by Helm and
Murphy. On these recordings Helm shows no trace of the “sour” tone (a
certain flatness) he so often had on the Yerba Buena Jazz Band recordings,
especially when he plays soprano sax. Murphy, as he did until the end of
his life, plays a blustery trombone and demonstrates an amazing tonguing
technique, especially on numbers such as I Am Pecan Pete (track
13), Murphy’s own composition, which charges at “take-no-prisoners” tempo.
The back line does not enjoy the best of acoustics and is, for the most
part, barely heard except for the odd solos, such as Clute’s onLondon Blues (track 21) or Lunsford’s and Carroll’s on Saint Louis Blues (track 5). And that leads to the one flaw in
this recording—there are so many locations and probably most had less than
top-the-line recording equipment, the result being a lack of balance on
occasion or a kind of “muddiness” to the overall sound.
But these are minor cavils. This disc more than makes up for any
shortcomings by the sheer exuberance, the fire, the joy of the playing. It
is very fortunate that Leon Oakley made the tapes available and Ted Shafer
had them transcribed, then issued this CD.
Merry Makers records are available at several on-line outlets, such as
cdUniverse and Amazon, and from City Hall Records, 101 Glacier Point, Suite
C, San Rafael, CA 94901, tel. 415-457-9080.