Most fans of New Orleans Revival jazz are aware of Cliff "Kid" Bastien. Although his home base was Toronto, Cliff made his annual pilgrimage to the Crescent City where he had once studied banjo with "Creole George" Guesnon. "The Kid" became a legend in Toronto and held his gig at Grossman’s Tavern for more than 30 years. That’s possibly longer than Guy Lombardo hung onto his engagement at the Roosevelt .
Bastien always drove to New Orleans by car as he had a lifelong fear of flying. When New Orleans Delight
leader, Kjeld Brandt wanted to invite the trumpeter to tour Scandinavia, he knew he had a difficult task. He sweetened the pot by inviting another of Bastien’s old buddies from his original Camelia Band. George Berry had been in Toronto when Cliff put his Camelia band together. The British born Berry had recently been to New Orleans and met the legendary Emmanuel "Manny" Paul. Berry returned to Toronto with a tenor sax and was ready to help Cliff Bastien assemble his new band. It would be loosely patterned after Kid Thomas Valentine’s Algiers Stompers.
When Brandt played his trump card, Bastien relented and flew to Denmark for a tour in late 2002. New Orleans Delight booked concerts in various venues including the Seaside Jazzklub and some churches. The Seaside Jazzklub
session was released on the Music Mecca label in 2003 with enthusiastic fan acceptance.
This session is from December 1,2002 at the famed Sorgenfi Kirke
(Free Of Sorrows Church). Sorgenfri Kirke’s use as a jazz venue was the brainchild of Kjeld Brandt and organist Levi Baek. The church concerts are designed to communicate the primitive jazz of old New Orleans to a wider audience. Vintage and modern American hymns are always part of the evening’s set. Sorgenfri Kirke’s wonderful acoustics add to the enjoyment.
The new CD begins with "Just a Closer Walk" a hymn and New Orleans jazz standard. Everyone knows the beautiful melody and it warms the audience from the first note. The band follows with a number of hymns and two secular pieces San Antonio Rose
by Bob Wills and Highways Are Happy Ways
by Fred Rose. Halfway through the concert, the band stuns the crowd with a great version of Rivers Of Babylon
. Although a religious number, it made big bucks for the rock group Boney M
during the disco era of the late 70s.
Kid Bastien handles the vocals on seven tracks of the dozen tunes presented. His voice and style are well suited to the predominating content of sacred songs. Sadly "The Kid" passed away suddenly in Toronto only about 40 days after the Sorgenfri concert. Cliff played drums, trumpet, banjo, bass and a little piano. He taught himself to read music in order to teach other aspiring musicians to master the New Orleans style. After his passing, the band continues to play at Grossman’s. Each February, a big bash will be held in his memory. You can read a review of the 2nd annual Kid Bastien Forever Kick Ass New Orleans Jazz Party
by Joe Curtis here on JazzReview
. This year’s guest of honor was Kjeld Brandt who traveled from Copenhagen for the gathering.
New Orleans enthusiasts were further shocked by the death of George Berry in August of 2004. The reedman had just retired to his new home in Spain. Berry played beautifully on the Sorgenfri recording. The entire band seemed inspired in a near flawless performance.
I must acknowledge the beautiful packaging of this album. Major labels could learn a lot from the folks at Music Mecca records. A 36 page booklet with notes by Jazz Gazette writer Marcel Joly
and other friends of George Berry and Cliff Bastien is tucked into the glossy digi-pack. Joly is one of the foremost authorities on vintage jazz in Europe. His exhaustive research into the origins of the compositions on the CD guarantees an "interesting read." American fans may not be aware that, in Denmark, with a population equal to half of New York City, there is tremendous jazz interest. They have a glitzy jazz magazine titled Jazz Special
published six times per year and it rivals our Jazziz
in coverage and presentation. The magazine publishes in the Danish language.
This historic recording is the final document in the lives of two musicians who were loved by the jazz community. It deserves a place on the record shelves of die-hard New Orleans fanatics.