Silver Leaf Jazz Band: Streets and Scenes of New Orleans, Good Time Jazz GTJ-15001

from CD Review, June 1994

Traditional jazz is tricky stuff. In the wrong hands, it can turn into silly self-parody or solemn pedantry. Its unique blend of energy and delicacy, relaxed cheers and strong emotion need to be carefully balanced. For years we had to endure the antics of the the suspender and funny hat crowd, more recently we’ve been stared down by the stultifying tux and the gang.

The Silver Leaf Jazz Band neatly avoids typical traditional excess on Street and Scenes of New Orleans. It is, as the cover photo discloses, a white shirt and tie group – relaxed rather than silly, respectful rather than solemn.

As the disc’s title suggests, this excellent little band – just trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano and drums – pays tribute to the city that was a major site for the development of jazz. Each song title refers either to New Orleans or to a street, section or landmark of that city. For the most part, this concept works well. It’s a joy to her the Silver Leaf bringing renewed life to “West End Blues,” “Canal Street Blues,” “New Orleans Hop Scop Blues,” “Back O’Town Blues,” and more.

The emphasis is on exquisite ensemble playing, short pithy solo breaks, and occasional simultaneous improvisations that arise naturally from the arrangements. The Silver Leaf performances offer great rhythmic, melodic and harmonic variety within the commitment to traditional jazz style. Whether you consider yourself a fan of that style or not, you’re likely to find a lot to enjoy and appreciate here.

Streets and Scenes represents the return to active recording by the Good Time Jazz label. It couldn’t be a more auspicious new beginning.

Tom Krebbiel

From The Mississippi Rag, May 1994

The Good Time Jazz label is actively recording new material! And New Orleans’ own Silver Leaf Jazz Band is the featured band on GTJ’s first recording in 25 years. The SLJB performs a wide range of material in a variety of classic jazz styles; the band is simply one of the finest ensembles active in the traditional jazz scene today.

The Silver Leaf Jazz Band performs regularly in New Orleans at the “Can-Can Jazz Café” of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Their nightly sessions give the lie to skeptics who say that there is  no real jazz being played these days in the Crescent City. Though the band normally works as a quartet, for the recording session a ringer has been added in the person of world-class trombonist David Sager. He is teamed with trumpeter/leader Chris Tyle, clarinetist Jacques Gauthe’, pianist Tom Roberts and drummer John Gill. The result is a formidable quintet which explores the sounds of New Orleans jazz from its World War I-Era flowering to its revival in the 1940s.

Special mention should be made of the Silver Leaf Jazz Band’s ability to play the tricky “Rag-a-Jazz” pioneered by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The SLJB avoids the temptations of playing shrill burlesques, or lapsing into anachronisms. Instead, they display an understanding of and deep respect for this style of jazz. Though the “ODJB” cuts are excellent the standout track on the disc may well be “Basin Street Blues.” The SLJB has obviously been influenced by Louis Armstrong’s classic 1928 recording, but the band successfully evokes the spirit of Armstrong without resorting to note-for-note imitation of his record. It is truly an inspired performance! The CD’s theme has to do with New Orleans’ streets and scenes of intense musical activity which have been celebrated in song. The Silver Leaf band has managed to unearth some genuine rarities for inclusion in the program, alongside the “good old good ones” which one might expect to hear (such as “Tin Roof Blues” and”South Rampart Street Parade”). For instance, there are two Clarence Williams obscurities: “Decatur Street Blues” and “Gravier Street Blues.” These have been heard in Europe over the years, played by Ken Colyer, Bent Persson, Claus Jacobi and others; but have been largely ignored in this country.

“Back O’ Town Blues” is not the familiar blues associated with Armstrong’s All-Stars; the one heard on this disc is a toddle-like number played by the New York-based Cotton Pickers in the ‘20s. There is even a number from completely outside the traditional repertoire: “Border Of The Quarter,” from the Leon Redbone songbook (sung in good-humored Redbone-like fashion by John Gill). Most interestingly, there are four rarely-heard Johnny Wiggs compositions in the program: “Congo Square;” “Silver Leaf Strut” (actually called “Chef Menteur Joys;”) “Bourbon Street Bounce” and “Gallatin Street Grind.” These numbers are probably never played anymore, except at Hall Brothers Jazz Band reunions. “Chef Menteur” sounds for all the world like a Kid Ory tune. “Congo Square” features the hypnotic “bam-bou-la” rhythm also used in “Perdido Street Blues.” These two are especially good tunes and they ought to be heard more. The Silver Leaf Jazz Band deserves high marks for recording these unjustly obscure tunes.

Most traditional jazz fans are aware by now of the many important recordings featuring Chris Tyle, David Sager, Jacques Gauthé, Tom Roberts and John Gill. If, however, these are unfamiliar names, this disc will serve as a good introduction to their talents. The front line plays all the New Or1eans styles with authority and conviction. Tyle and Gill split the vocal chores which are in the best “Good Time Jazz” tradition. And the two-man rhythm section achieves a remarkably full and interesting without the aide of chord or bass instruments.

This CD shows the quality which everyone has come to expect from Good Time Jazz: first-class music, superb engineering, entertaining and informative line notes and an eyecatching package. This is a production which should not be missed.

Hal Smith

From Offbeat (New Orleans), February 1994

The Silver Leaf Jazz Band – Chris Tyle (trumpet and vocals), Jacques Gauthe’ (clarinet), Dave Sager (trombone), Tom Roberts (piano) and John Gill (drums and vocals) – is a gigging band, working regularly in the (French) Quarter. The result of this familiarity and practice is clearly heard within the tight ensemble work – the essence of New Orleans Dixieland – on Streets and Scenes of New Orleans. Individual parts blend successfully to the greater whole on the opening ensemble, which kicks off “Farewell to Storyville.” The clean production of the CD, whish was recorded locally at Ultrasonic Studios, also accentuates the professionalism of this release.

New York City might say “Give My Regards to Broadway,” but in New Orleans we celebrate Bourbon and Basin streets. The clever theme running through this disc, as its title indicates, is streets and neighborhoods throughout the Crescent City. So we move from the opener, “Congo Square,” composed by Johnny Wiggs (we hear a lot from Wiggs here), move to King Oliver’s sophisticated “West End Blues,” hear Lil Hardin-Armstrong’s smoky “Perdido Street Blues,” and finish with a “South Rampart Street Parade.” Images of lively dance parties and second-line parades are enhanced when set in this moving-around-the-city theme. The music tells the story.

The mix of tunes on the 71-minutes disc (you get your money’s worth) runs from the familiar – “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” – to the more obscure, such as the softly seductive “Gravier Street Blues” (written by Clarence Williams). This is a real fav on the album, with some fine New Orleans piano stylings from Roberts. In fact, the bluesy numbers – “Tin Roof,” “Canal Street” and “Basin Street” Blues – are the most satisfying here, with the bottom given attention by the trombone of the talented David Sager and a certain edge supplied by the horns of Tyle and Gauthe'.

Geraldine Wyckoff

from Stereo Review, July 1994

When I produced a series of New Orleans sessions for the Riverside label in 1961, I thought I was capturing the last gasp of traditional sounds from the cradle of jazz. I was wrong, of course. In fact, some of the musicians I recorded back then continued to play for another two or three decades, and there are still active keepers of the flame today. One such group is the Silver Leaf Jazz Band, a New Orleans ensemble whose members were transplanted from such places as New York, Pittsburgh and France. There is no innovation here; the band, which plays regularly in the tourist environment of Bourbon Street, is strictly a mirror of the past. The arrangements and many of the solos are derived from the classic recordings, which will make any collector feel right at home. "Perdido Street Blues," for example, is taken right from the 1926 performance by Lil Armstrong's New Orleans Wanderers, for example, complete with the wonderful George Mitchell/Johnny Dodds lead-in. Imitative? Yes, but the Silver Leaf gang has the right spirit to please the true traditionalists. 

Chris Albertson 

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