Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mike Walbridge’s Chicago Footwarmers' “Crazy Rhythm”

Traditional jazz tuba-ist Mike Walbridge has been active on the Chicago scene for forty five years as leader of The Chicago Footwarmers and a member of the Chicago Salty Dogs. Clarinetist/alto saxist Kim Cusack has been jamming with Mike since their teens! The new Mike Walbridge’s Chicago Footwarmers release, Crazy Rhythm (Delmark) brings together some terrific traditional jazz from the sixties (originally issued on the Blackbird label) with new recordings from 2007. In addition to Walbridge and Cusack, the sixties recordings include Johnny Cooper, piano; Eddie Lynch, banjo; Glen Koch, drums; while the 2007 recordings feature Don Stiernberg, banjo / guitar; Bob Cousins, drums.

The band takes its name from the recordings that included legendary clarinetist Johnny Dodds and pianist Jimmy Blythe and other bands have used the name over the years. Walbridge’s combo, provides a lively, fun take on the music of such bands. Cusack is the main soloist while some space is provided to the Johnny Cooper’s solid two-fisted playing on the earlier sessions, and there are banjo breaks throughout. 

The renditions of such period numbers as Sugar, Angry, and Nobody’s Sweetheart, are done at such a nice relaxed tempo. Walbridge takes a short tuba solo to get the mood set on Tin Roof Blues, before Cusack enters with a lovely clarinet solo on a marvelous instrumental blues. Some may be familiar with Fats Domino’s hit When My Dreamboat Comes Home. This song is a staple of the traditional jazz repertoire, and the rendition here is nicely done with Cusack on alto, while they rip through the trad jazz flagwaver, ‘Nagasaki’ with Cusack on alto, Cooper pounding out a solo, Lynch takes a crisp break on banjo, as Walbridge pumps out the rhythm on the tuba and Koch swings the performance along. Darktown Strutters Ball, is taken at such a nice relaxed tempo while Love Me or Leave Me has a nice indigo feeling. 

It is easy to play this type of music that comes across as a parody or camp. Over the years Mike Walbridge and Kim Cusack have brought plenty of soul and feeling to traditional jazz that is evident on here.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is the Western End Jazz Band, which includes Mike Walbridge, performing Nobody's Sweetheart.

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