For the past thirty-years, revered New Orleans drummer and bandleader Bob French has carried the torch for the "Tuxedo Band," which is approaching a one-hundred year anniversary. Nonetheless, his legacy is firmly rooted within New Orleans’ traditional jazz aura. Reared by a musical family, French has performed and recorded with the crème de la crème of the Crescent City’s nomenclature of artistes. And as part of this label’s honors series, French is joined by New Orleanians; saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Harry Connick, Jr. who round out the shifting personnel amid these eleven works.
French’s second-line drumming techniques and sweeping press rolls augment the soaring horns, where trumpeter Leon Brown enlivens remembrances of Louis Armstrong during the opener, "Bourbon Street Parade." Here, Connick’s strutting impetus and reverse chord phrasings impart a heartening vibe. Vocalist Ellen Smith adds a sultry New Orleans edge on two pieces, augmented by gritty overtones while often intimating a sense that she lives and breathes the implications set forth by the lyrical content. Then on the piece written by legendary clarinetist George Lewis titled "Burgundy Street Blues," French executes a slow-drag beat in support of Marsalis’ weeping soprano sax lines. The band renders a medium-tempo swing vamp during "Royal Garden Blues," and spawns a trickling blues via a lamentable melody line heard on the traditional, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee.
This is the real thing folks. No imitators or wannabes here. French’s musicality diffuses the true and unadulterated essence of traditional jazz, where the artists’ interlace their enviable chops into puritanical forms that are uplifted into a modernistic presentation. (Essential listening.... )