Jelly's Best Jam, Good Time Jazz GTJ-15002-2

from Jazz Times, November 1995

Four generations separate these musicians -- who (except for New York ringer Vince Giordano on bass) appear regularly at New Orleans boites -- from pioneers such as Jelly Roll Morton, this CD's unseen star.

Arrangements by pianist Tom Roberts and trombonist John Gill (a master of the Kid Ory smears) of less-familiar material, such as "Each Day," "If Someone Would Only Love Me," "Mr. Joe," and the novelty, "Mama's Got a Baby," capture Morton's orchestral approach to the keyboard. Orange Kellin's clarinet tells a mournful tale on "Blue Blood Blues" and Hal Smith keeps his percussion antiquarian and swinging. Chris Tyle's hot trumpet leads the charge with confident panache.

Four bonus tracks, rare 1938 performances of "Winin' Boy Blues," piano and vocal, and solo piano, "Creepy Feeling," "Finger Buster" and "Honky Tonk Music" makes this a must for Jelly Roll collectors. But the expert and loving re-creations of the five Red Hot Peppers recordings are fine and this CD should, on merit, appeal to people who dig jazz, not just "Jelly."

Dave Burns

from the IAJRC Journal, Spring 1995

Since New Orleans’ Jelly Roll Morton is back in the public consciousness, it’s fitting that this timely recording celebrates jazz music’s first major composer -- and it does so in both an interesting and novel fashion.

First off, a dozen of the old master’s compositions are performed here by one of New Orleans’ best and most actively working bands: the Silver Leaf Jazz Band, led by trumpeter Chris Tyle. This is the SLJB’s second CD on the newly revived Good lime Jazz label. While the configuration of the group is slightly different from that of its initial GTJ outing, we hear the same tight ensemble sound and well-rehearsed performances as before thanks to the arrangements primarily of John Gill and Tom Roberts and the musical direction of TyIe. The outcome is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the recordings of Jelly’s Red Hot Peppers.

At the same time, interspersed within the SLJB’s recreations are four original tracks of solo piano by Morton himself. Recorded in Washington only three years before his death for the old Los Angeles-based Jazz Man label, these recordings were acquired along with GTJ archives by the Fantasy group and could therefore be included herewith an unusual ploy in the recording business. I did not find the juxtaposition of old and new jarring. In fact, Jelly, just emerging from a period of relative obscurity, was in fine form for this 1938 date. Check out his dexterity on “Finger Buster.” For me, “Winin’ Boy” (with vocal) will always be a winner. These cuts make a nice lagniappe for the package as a whole.

Overall, this CD has much to recommend it. The varied musical program includes both better and lesser-known selections from the vast Morton corpus and it is well executed, both individually and collectively. Tyle’s confident lead is in evidence throughout while there is also plenty of space for him and the others to demonstrate their solo skills. This is another solid performance by the Silver Leaf Jazz Band.

Tom Jacobsen

From Offbeat Magazine (New Orleans), January 1995

Jelly Roll Morton has received more attention than usual recently, much of it from outside the traditional jazz domain. Attempts to interpret his music have ranged form spectacular misfires (the Dirty Dozen’s Jelly) to ingenious updating (pianist Marcus Roberts’ various recordings) to utter misrepresentation (Jelly’s Last Jam, the Broadway show which “adapted” his music and life to a more saleable agenda).

For all the lip service paid to Morton, little of his music is currently performed in the city of his birth. Many Dixieland bands plow through “Wolverine Blues” and the Morton-associated “Milneburg Joys” but most don’t go much further afield than that. There are able interpreters of Jelly’s music in the Banu Gibson and Preservation Hall bands, but at this point in time, the most accessible Morton specialists are the archivists who comprise the Silver Leaf Jazz Band. Its second release on the Good Time Jazz label is a solid, often top-notch look at the music of the first great jazz composer. Well-known Morton masterpieces like “King Porter Stomp” and “The Pearls” are here, as well as obscurities like “Mama’s Got a Baby” and “If Someone Would Only Love Me.” These novelties are well done, though I might have preferred a stab at more substantial fare like “Black Bottom Stomp” or “The Crave.” Chirs Tyle’s tautly emotional trumpet and Orange Kellin’s ever-tasteful clarinet animate some savvy arrangements by pianist Tom Roberts throughout.

As a peculiar bones, four recordings by Morton himself  (“Creepy Feeling,” “Finger Buster,” “Winin’ Boy Blues” and “Honky Tonk Music”) are interspersed here. I rather like the idea of a tourist buying this CD (on sale at their regular Bourbon Street gig at the Can-Can Jazz Café” and being jolted back to 1939 every four cuts – it never hurts for anyone hearing well-done recreations to have the original master in mind.

Tom McDermott


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