The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band
returns with their second release on Big Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade
label. The band, however, is quite different in personnel but just as exciting.
Led by reedman Jean-Pierre Alessi
the band features two American visitors in the form of trombonist Big Bill Bissonnette
and his long time buddy Fred Vigorito
on cornet. The Americans have played together for decades and really know how to turn up the heat.
The rhythm section has changed considerably since the earlier CD. The absence of a piano dictates that the banjo player be especially versatile and Henry Lemaire
fills the role admirably. The newcomers are a couple of the tightest players I've heard recently. Drummer Clody Gratiot
has the New Orleans style down perfectly and bassist Joel Gregoriades
grabbed my attention from the first note. The leader, in case you didn't know, is the prime exponent of the style of the late Emmanuel "Manny" Paul
. "Manny" was a New Orleans treasure having played with the great revivalists. Naturally, some of the tunes on the album are Manny Paul favorites like Washington & Lee Swing
and Lonesome Road
Let's take a run through Volume One and a few highlights. Washington & Lee Swing features a fine vocal by Big Bill and some swinging cornet passages by Vigorito. Mama's Gone, Goodbye
is a great tune at anytime and in this instance it's taken at a slower tempo than usual featuring some growling tenor work by the leader and a very imaginative solo by Bissonnette. Cradle Song
is the Brahms favorite that everyone knows, but seldom associates with a sizzling jazz band. The guys turn a 150 year old lullaby into a swinging jam. Vigorito is hot, hot, hot on this unlikely vehicle.
Back in 1949, Burl Ives and Dinah Shore both made hit records with another unlikely melody. Lavender Blue(Dilly, Dilly)
was, in this writer's opinion, a bit of a dog back then but the French bad turns it around nicely.
The showpiece is certainly Lonesome Road
. It's a ten-minute gem from start to finish with nice solos by everyone. Fred Vigorito's brilliant solo gets an enthusiastic response from the lively audience. Henry Lemaire and Joel Gregoriades contribute a couple of good solos too.
Bill Bissonnette takes the vocal on a tune that's been in his book for decades. The ever popular When Your Smiling
gives everyone a chance to stretch out.
J-P Alessi shows who's boss as he dominates a rip-roaring version of Kid Ory's Get Out Of Here
. The leader is featured again on the short but sweet Burgundy Street Blues
, a favorite of all revivalists.
Volume Two features the same well-rounded and exciting band with ten more favorites. They include a passionate rendition of Love Songs Of The Nile
, a tune forever linked to the late Billie and DeDe Pierce. The husband and wife team contributed so much to the success of Preservation Hall and New Orleans music. Other highlights from the second tome are Dallas Blues, Bye & Bye
and a sizzling Panama
This is one of Jazz Crusade's finest recent projects.