Sunday, October 12, 2014

Evergreen Class Jazz Band Plays Early Tunes

Delmark's latest releases include a re-release of Jump Records Early Tunes 1915-1932 by The Evergreen Classic Jazz Band. Originally issued in 1995, this CD has them rendering  interpretations of songs from the mid-nineteen teens until the early thirties. This Seattle ensemble is led by Tom Jacobus who plays brass bass (tuba) and string bass; and includes Craig Flory and Jake Powel on reeds; David Holo on cornet; David Loomis on trombones, kazoo and vocals; Dan Grinstead on piano; Al LaTourette on banjo; and Dale Roach on drums.

The brief notes on the back cover note that many of these performances were originally done by larger ensembles, but the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band (particularly Jacobus) have arrangements of these for the octet. This is a nicely performed traditional jazz album with an effort to evoke the sound and feel of such bands as Jimmy Noone, Erskine Tate, King Oliver and His Dixie Serenaders and Tiny Parham. There is plenty of spirit to be heard in the classicist approach they have starting with the exuberance of the opening Stomp Off, Let’s Go, to the swinging rendition of an early Bennie Moten recording Ding Ding Blues.

There is the twenties Oriental exoticism of Tiny Parham’s On the Bay of Old Bombay, with nice cornet from Holo, who may be overall the most consistent, and least dated sounding solicit here. The reeds of Flory and Powel are displayed to good effect on the lovely rendition of Jimmy Noone’s Apex Blues. The vocals on a King Oliver recording Got Everything are pretty corny (think about Rudy Vallee on a megaphone) but the plunger mute playing is solid. Loomis’ gutbucket trombone is a counterpoint to Powel’s soprano sax on Sidney Bechet’s Blues in the Air, which is followed by a lively performance of Fats Waller’s Minor Drag.

The rendition of the Joplin/Marshall Swipesy Cake Walk is in a classic ragtime orchestra vein (think about Joplin’s “Red Back Book’), while  Grinstead does a solo rendition of the Joe Jordan rag Nappy Lee. The novelty  Play Me a Frigid Air, has a dead pan vocal of the somewhat inane lyrics and followed by a strutting rendition of Stock Yards Strut. This was perhaps trumpeter Freddie Keppard’s most famous recording. It is played with stop time effects and a nice clarinet solo. Folks will know She’s Funny That Way from the classic Billie Holiday recording (He’s Funny …). The rendition here employs Jimmie Noone’s arrangement with  lovely playing although a forgettable vocal.

Other remakes include a lesser known Louis Armstrong Hot Five recording Put ‘Em Down Blues and a solid rendition of Duke Ellington’s Ring Dem Blues, although Powel’s bass sax solo sounds a bit awkward. This a pleasant traditional jazz recording with a number of vibrant performances. Those who enjoy this should check out the Delmark recordings of the youthful contemporary Chicago ensemble, The Fat Babies.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a 2014 performance of Stomp Off, Let’s Go.

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