Very little is missing from this collection. The Fremeaux company did their homework when they planned the project. The period of 1940 through the mid-fifties was an important time in the history of New Orleans jazz. Musicians like Bunk Johnson and George Lewis were pulled from relative obscurity into a new world of adoring fans in America and Europe.
The European fans were especially loyal to the jazz personalities from the Crescent City and it wasn’t surprising that much of the pioneer discographical studies were carried out by such people as Charles Delaunay (France), Hilton Schleman (England), Brian Rust (England) and later, Jorgen Grunnet Jepsen of Denmark.
There isn’t space to cover each and every track on a set of this size. Let’s just say that the music is good, both musically and historically. None of the great revivalists are omitted. In fact, many of the players on the "revival" recordings are also "pioneer" jazzmen. They include Baby Dodds, Pops Foster, Alphonse Picou, Albert Burbank, Jimmy Noone, Chester Zardis, Joe Rena, Johnny St.Cyr and Avery "Kid" Howard.
Many landmark recordings of the revival period are heard, including "Jerusalem (Burgundy Street) Blues" by George Lewis, the funeral piece "West Lawn Dirge" by the Eureka Brass Band and "Les Oignons" as rendered by Albert Nicholas in a quartet session with Danny Barker, James P.Johnson and Pops Foster. Surely, the list of musicians performing in this collection numbers more than one hundred. It’s the type of collection that would be invaluable to jazz radio stations and public libraries, not to forget the collectors of classic jazz.
Fremeaux & Associés is based in Vincennes, France and the company has a huge 146 page catalog covering jazz, blues, gospel, world music, children’s records and a section dedicated to all the historical vocalists of France.
This reviewer certainly has some favorites and it was nice to hear a number of these items for the first time. My own collection was lacking much of the music of Mutt Carey, Emile Barnes, Oscar Celestin, Wooden Joe Nicholas and Kid Rena. Clarinetist, Alphonse Picou, delivers the definitive "High Society" solo with Oscar Celestin’s Tuxedo Jazz band from a New Orleans session in 1954. There is even a track from the famed George Lewis "Jazz At Vespers" session recorded at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oxford, Ohio. The Lewis band features Big Jim Robinson, Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, Lawrence Marrero, Joe Watkins and pianist Alton Purnell. Kid Ory’s version of "Darktown Strutters Ball" is from a San Francisco session and highlights Alvin Alcorn, Albert Burbank and some great piano by Maryland-born Don Ewell.
With the exception of a couple of tracks, the sound reproduction is quite good and would be acceptable to most collectors. The entire collection is musically typical of the era and perhaps a bit rough around the edges to some ears. But that’s New Orleans jazz. Ya’ gotta’ love it!