Great Composers of New Orleans Jazz, Good Time Jazz GTJ CD15005

from The Mississippi Rag, March 1998

When Fantasy, Inc., the largest multi-label conglomerate in jazz, released the silver Leaf Jazz Band’s debut album in 1993, it proudly proclaimed it to be the “First Good Time Jazz Recording in Twenty-Five Years.” That album, Streets and Scenes of New Orleans (GTJ CD15001), featured a spare five-piece personnel consisting of trumpeter Chris Tyle, clarinetist Jacques Gauthe’, trombonist Dave Sager, pianist Tom Roberts, and drummer John Gill, while their second release, recorded only five months later, Jelly’s Last Jam (GTJ CD15002), reflected some substantial changes in the line-up, with Orange Kellin taking over for Gauthe’, Gill switching to trombone, Hal Smith in on drums, and Vince Giordano added on bass. Since that time, two other newly recorded sessions were released, Scott Black’s Hot Horns (GTJ CD15003) and Tim Laughlin’s Blue Orleans (GTJ CD15004), with the present album being the fifth in a new series designed to continue a tradition begun in 1949, when Lester Koenig issued his first 78 on the newly formed Good Time Jazz label. Another precedent being observed in this series is one that dates back to 1956, when Good Time Jazz authorized the recording of a number of New Orleans bands that might otherwise have never received national attention.

In this April 1996 edition of the Silver Leaf band we have Tyle (listed as playing cornet rather than trumpet), trombonist Mike Owen, clarinetist Kellin, pianist Steve Pistorius, guitarist/banjoist Craig Ventresco, bassist Marty Eggers, and Smith on drums and washboard. Trumpeter Duke Heitger is added on King Oliver’s “I Must Have It” and the intriguing final tune “Papa, What You Are Trying to Do to Me I’ve Been Doing It For Years,” while Tom Fischer’s alto sax provides a bonus voice on Sidney Bechet’s “Ghost of the Blues.” If you’re wondering why Gauthe’ wasn’t brought in to play soprano on this track, it is probably because he had his own Bechet project in mind at the time.

Built around the relatively unexplored theme of compositions written by New Orleans-born musicians, this collection includes quite a few rarities, with bassist Simon Marrero’s “Papa’s Got the Jim-Jams” receiving the well-deserved lead position. Premiered on a beautifully recorded 1927 Columbia record by Oscar Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, it is here reproduced with Tyle assuming the infectious vocal chorus initially performed by Papa Celestin’s drummer, Abby Foster. Both Johnny Dodds’ hymn-based “Weary City” and Spencer Williams’ dance-craze-inspired “Shim-me-sha-wabble” benefit by spirited performances all around, as do Clarence Williams’ and Armand Piron’s “You Can Have It,” Abbie Brunies’ “It Belongs to You,” Johnny DeDroit’s “Number Two Blues,” and Sharkey Bonano’s “Peculiar.”

Now, while most of these tunes should be very familiar to collectors of classic jazz, there are a few more that are here receiving their first public hearing. As was the case when Terry Waldo recorded the then recently discovered Jelly Roll Morton composition, “Exit Gloom,” here we find the recorded debut of three previously unheard vintage tunes and one, ragtime pianist Irwin Leclere’s catchy “Cookie,” which had been recorded only once before, in 1959 by an Edmond Souchon quartet with clarinetist Raymond Burke. Paced midway in the program is “Klondyke Blues,” an obscure tune written by clarinetist Alcide “Yellow” Nunez and recorded for Victor Records by his Louisiana Five in February 1919. The test recording remained unissued and a subsequent version was never undertaken, but the piece is such a quality had Lu Watters and Turk Murphy known it they would surely have included it in their own repertoires. Despite several discographical references to “Ramblin’ Blues” and “Them Ramblin’ Blues,” it would appear that the piece heard here, “Rambling Blues,” a collaborative effort by Nick LaRocca, Larry Shields and singer Al Bernard, is an entirely different song. The Silver Leafers give it a not stomping performance, aided considerably by Smith’s booting drums.

As alluded to above, the final track is the first-time documentation of a 1923 piece credited to Louis Armstrong and Preston Jackson (under his birth name of McDonald). Although Dick Allen’s notes tell us no more that that the tune comes from a lead sheet, sans lyrics, it is know that Jackson was working with Bernie Young’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago at the same time that Louis was with King Oliver’s group, thus making the partnership highly likely. Modeled in fashion of a medium-tempoed Oliverian stomp, the Silver Leaf performance highlights the second strain for its solos, thus emphasizing its harmonic and structurally similarity to the chords of “Sister Kate,” a tune long known to have been conceived by Louis Armstrong in New Orleans and sold, for a pittance, to the publishing firm of Williams and Piron.

Bill Mitchell

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