Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dr. Michael White at the French Embassy

One of the delights of the 2009 Duke Ellington Jazz Festival was a perfromance by Dr, Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band at the French Embassy. From my review of the Festival, here are my observations on that event.

"Wednesday, June 10, La Maison Fran├žaise at the French Embassy in Washington hosted a gala performance, Vivre La Nouvelle Orleans, with Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Orchestra. This event occurred on the day of the horrible shooting at the Holocaust Museum which made traffic in Washington DC more miserable than usual so the performance went on a little later than originally scheduled. The program opened with some awards to several DC elected officials short speeches from (among others) the French Ambassador; Charlie Fishman, the Festival’s Executive Producer; and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial (current head of the National Urban league) who introduced Dr. White noting that he had taught Morial Spanish.

Then the evening belonged to clarinetist White and his marvelous band consisting of Gregory Stafford on trumpet and vocals, Lucien Barbarin on trombone, Detroit Brooks on banjo, Steven Pistorious on piano, Kerry Lewis on bass and Herman Lebeaux on drums. This is a classic line-up for groups playing traditional New Orleans jazz and from the opening moments of “Shake It, Break It,” the Original Liberty Jazz Band entertained with their marvelous music, played at a relaxed tempo and lacking the frenzy and hyper-ness of some “Dixieland jazz.” The contrapunctual playing during the heads, the marvelous solos with Stafford adding his husky vocals and the crisp rhythmic pulse made the entire evening a delight. Included were classic New Orleans numbers like Sam Morgan’s “Bogalusa Strut,” and originals based on their own experience but rooted in the New Orleans tradition like “Come Together” one of the selections to feature Stafford on vocals. White was featured on a superb rendition of “Summertime,” inspired by Sidney Bechet’s hit recording for Blue Note seventy-odd years ago. A hot original second line number had Paquito D’Rivera join the ensemble adding his contrasting clarinet style to White's before a marvelous take of Duke Ellington’s “Black & Tan Fantasy.”

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