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SWEET MARY CAT & THEIR NORTH AMERICAN FRIENDS

Time to Dance Some More

Jazz Crusade JCCD3081[66. 00]

1. Old Spinning Wheel

2. The Bells of St. Mary’s

3. Tuxedo Junction

4. Shake It & Break It

5. Blues for Jimmy

6. Bugle Boy March

7. Chimes Blues

8. Exactly Like You

9. Pagan Love Song

10. Big Bill’s Short Number

Marie Dandrieux – Drums & leader

Christian Genin – Trumpet

Jean-Pierre Alessi – Reeds

Jacques Gauthé – Reeds

Big Bill Bissonnette – Trombone, vocal (track 8)

Reide Kaiser – Piano

Emil Mark – Banjo

Colin Bray – String bass

Special Guest: Bill Evans – Trombone (tracks 4-6)

Recorded at Audiophile Studios, New Orleans, LA, on Apr. 15, 2002 (tracks 1-6); Live Concert, Lyon, France, in 1993 (tracks 7-10).

This CD picks up where the same group’s previous one, Jazz Crusade JCCD3079, left off, the first six tracks here being from that same recording session. Filling out the CD are four tracks from a live concert in France in 1993 with the same personnel.

As per the album’s title, the first six tracks have tempi that are geared toward dancing. Of the last four tracks, taken from a concert, all are taken at danceable tempi except the final one, it being nothing more than a single note and probably an attempt at humor. The penultimate cut,Pagan Love Song, is very slow, sounding almost like a dirge, and Chimes Blues is also taken at a slower than usual tempo, but dancers other than lindy hoppers, perhaps, would find them quite congenial. On three of the tracks—Shake It & Break It, Blues for Jimmy, and Bugle Boy March—the band is expanded to nine pieces with the addition of Evans on trombone. He was present in the event that Bissonnette, who was still recovering from recent surgery, needed relief. As it turned out, Bissonnette did not need to be spelled, and Evans was added for these numbers rather than just being left in the wings, a supernumerary. On these tracks the band thus verges on the typical swing dance band size of nine to twelve pieces.

There is a good mix of tunes from the fast to the slow, from the familiar to the less common. The Bells of St. Mary’s we don’t hear too often, with its stop time bell chimes rendered here by the ensemble and echoed also in the piano solo. Interestingly, Chimes Blues contains no chimes sequence, as it usually does, either by the front line or the piano! The number that follows The Bells of St. Mary’s, Tuxedo Junction, is more often to be found in swing band compilations, one of the most often heard versions being that of the Glenn Miller band.

Another unusual number for a traditional band is Pagan Love Song, which the group takes at a very slow tempo, the trombone leading first time through, supported by some very precise obbligatos from the clarinet. Then muted trumpet replaces the trombone for another run through, again with clarinet backing. The succeeding clarinet solo begins with a sustained low note for several measures, followed by several quick runs through all the registers. The trombone solo which follows attacks with some staccato tonguing, and the piano solo has some resounding block chording. All of those devices lend interest to a tune which is not overflowing with that quality and seems to have attracted few traditional bands.

Ensemble is the order of the day with Sweet Mary Cat, and when an instrument takes the lead, it is most often backed by the rest of the group. The bass takes only one very nicely bowed solo chorus on Blues for Jimmy. There is no banjo solo, Mark being content to lay down a very solid, steady chording. Drums also do not solo, taking only an introduction and roll off to Bugle Boy March. This rhythm section, however, is to be congratulated on being so steady, not rushing in the slightest, giving the front line a marvelous cushion to rest on.

Just as JCCD3079 delivered a fine selection of New Orleans styled dance music, so this CD does the same. We can overlook such silliness as the last “track,” introduced by Bissonnette as his composition—a “short number” which consists of a single note. The other 65 minutes or so of music make this Jazz Crusade disc a worthwhile acquisition, available again from Upbeat at its web site www.upbeatmailorder.co.uk as well as from on-line sites such as Amazon.

Bert Thompson


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