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TENEMENT JAZZ BAND

New Orleans Wiggle

Own label – no number

 

 

 

1. Bogalusa Strut

2. Dusty Rag

3. New Orleans Wiggle

4. Chocolate Avenue

5. Whenever You’re Lonesome

6. Cushion Foot Stomp

7. Big Chief Battle Axe

8. Mahogany Hall Stomp

Personnel :

Charles Dearness – Trumpet

Paddy Darley – Trombone

Tom Pickles – Saxophone

Mike Kearney – Banjo, vocal (track 5)

Simon Toner – Double bass

John Youngs – Guitar

Band chorus – vocal (track 1)

Recorded at The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-Tweed, June 25, 2018.

Formed a year ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Tenement Jazz Band is a group of local musicians who are all young men with an average age of around 32, as Tom Pickles informed me in an email. As to how the band got together, he told me that “A couple of the band played together in a band at University, led by cornet player T.J. Müller (now based in St Louis). That band went their separate ways some years ago, but when Paddy Darley (trombone/bandleader) returned to Edinburgh, he wanted to play traditional jazz again. Chuck Dearness (trumpet) and Tom Pickles (sax) had both played in New Orleans style funk bands for the best part of 8 or 9 years, so going back to the roots made a lot sense, being very comfortable with the collective improvisation element of the music. Paddy had joined several other bands with Chuck & Tom, so they were the natural choice. And around this time, John Youngs (guitar/banjo) who had played with Paddy at university also returned to Edinburgh.”

The band is, as Pickles says, “generally a 5 piece . . . but will add another set of strings, reed or washboard as required. ” Although they have been together barely a year, they have already appeared in Aberdeen and Glasgow as well as in their native Edinburgh, and this month they are on a tour of Scotland and then head for points south in March. These brave souls are depending on the music for a living, “though of course we all dabble in other things, with varying degrees of connection to music, when necessary,” Pickles adds.

The group have obviously studied well the classic jazz records and have deciphered what makes the New Orleans-style sound. The emphasis is always on the collective improvisation of the ensemble, rather than solos, although space is given for the latter. At the same time they do not try to imitate any one band’s style, to sound like any particular band. They sound like themselves, as it should be. Their arrangements are well-thought out—witness that of New Orleans Wiggle, for example, or Big Chief Battle Axe—and I particularly like their use of stop time in many of the tracks. They do not stick only to the off-beat on the stops but vary them, even from one part of the number to another, lending so much interest to the renditions. Bogalusa Strut and Cushion Foot Stomp nicely illustrate this feature. And throughout all of these cuts the passion with which these young musicians approach the music is unmistakable.

Their tempos are geared toward dancing (music for dancing being the aim of the classic New Orleans bands), most being on the brisk side as the lindy-hoppers—their peers—prefer. As a result, there are only two “slow” numbers on the play list for the album—Chocolate Avenue (a Clarence Williams tune I was totally unacquainted with prior to hearing it here) and Whenever You’re Lonesome. Although I am familiar with the selections other than the Williams’ number, I wouldn’t classify any as a “warhorse.” That marks another part of the band’s credo—to bring forward tunes that are not that well-known—and this is surely evident from the track list of this album. In addition to the Chocolate Avenue cut, May Aufderheide’s Dusty Rag was nicely rendered, even though at a slightly faster clip than I am used to hearing it played, along with other tunes that are not done to death, such as the title trackNew Orleans Wiggle or Whenever You’re Lonesome or Big Chief Battle Axe.

All told this CD provides some twenty-seven-odd minutes of pure listening pleasure. As to the album’s brevity, Pickles notes, “ We tend to market it as an EP for that reason - we set out to record 5 or 6 tracks, and came away with 8, but still wouldn't call it an album necessarily. Something full length will hopefully be our next move.” Short though it is, the album is a jewel, and I certainly hope that the next will be “full length.” (I may add that one can also hear—and see— the band on-line on YouTube.)

The Tenement Jazz Band’s reputation is steadily building. They are also a most welcome addition to the ranks of young traditional jazz bands, such as Tuba Skinny and the other youthful groups who have been emerging over the past few years, giving one hope that the future of traditional jazz is in good hands.

The CD is available from https://tenementjazzband.bandcamp.com , or interested parties can get in touch with them at tenementjazzband@gmail.com .

Bert Thompson

 


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