Many years have passed since the first edition of Big Bill Bissonnette’s International Jazz Band
back in 1964. The original front-end featured Kid Thomas Valentine and Emanuel Paul from New Orleans, British clarinet star Sammy Rimington, and Big Bill on trombone. The rhythm section of New Englanders Bill Sinclair, Griff Griffith and Dick McCarthy pulsed along with British drummer Barry "Kid" Martyn. It was such a great band that it took Bissonnette 33 years to come up with the second edition.
The 1997 Internationals showcase British players Sarah Bissonnette, Pat Hawes and Dave Brennan. The American side of the big pond features Bill Bissonnette, George Probert, Fred Vigorito, Clint Baker and the late Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen. With the possible exceptions of Clint Baker and Sarah Bissonnette, most buyers of Jazz Crusade albums will be familiar with the musicians on this session. Engineer Dave Bennett recorded the band in Upton, England during a 1997 tour. Dippermouth Blues
kicks off the first volume and shows off the power of the octet and then West End Blues
places emphasis on the dexterity of individual players. While cornetist Fred Vigorito will not replace Satchmo, this is a memorable version of a tune that is sacred to fans of vintage jazz. Vigorito is one of the most honest horn-men in the New Orleans style.
Pat Hawes wrote the colorful liner notes for these CDs and his romping piano style is felt throughout this concert. Hawes is a great "hot style" player and you’ll also enjoy his Jazz Crusade album "That Salty Dog."
Fans of the "Frisco" style of jazz will know all about reedman George Probert and drummer Clint Baker. Probert has been on the scene since the fifties and he’s recorded with Kid Ory, Bob Scobey, George Brunis and Ward Kimball. Drummer Clint Baker is a multi-instrumentalist who plays banjo, drums, trombone, clarinet, guitar and bass. He has worked with Jim Cullum, Leon Redbone, Rosemary Clooney and Dan Barrett.
Wrapping up the rhythm section are banjoist Dave Brennan and "Tuba Fats" Lacen. Dave Brennan leads his own jazzband in England and was one of the pioneer performers at the renowned Bude Jazz Festival. Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen played his final bar at Tipitina’s
with his Chosen Few Brass Band on January 9,2004. He died days later at the age of 53. Nobody loved New Orleans more than Tuba Fats. He was, in my opinion, the ultimate street musician. His album Street Music
is essential to any collection of Crescent City music.
There are certainly some highlights on the International Jazz Band concert. The audience favorite, judging by the applause, was the Ellington medley of Mood Indigo and Creole Love Call. Leader, Big Bill Bissonnette’s muted solo is especially impressive. Fine work by the both reed-players and Vigorito make this a special track. Dancers will love Saxawoogie
, an all-out barnburner giving everyone a chance to have fun and show their stuff. This rehash of "Kid Thomas Boogie Woogie" swings for almost nine minutes of happy laid back action. The two saxes do a helluva job on this riffin’ number behind Pat Hawes’ rollicking piano.
My wife is an ardent fan and collector of Just a Closer Walk
and loves the version on this disk. Her undisputed favorite is a thirty-year-old New Orleans rendition by Bob French. Savoy Blues
receives special treatment by the band. The tune has always been a staple of all the British bands but is often ignored on this side of the ocean.
There’s some very good jazz to be heard on the Big Bill Bissonnette’s latest release.