Europeans have always approached jazz from their own unique perspective, treating it as an art form to be studied and preserved, yet simultaneously savoring it as a vital expression of the human experience. The Jazz O'Maniacs from Hamburg, Germany fall squarely into this mold, and their new CD Sunset Cafe Stomp
showcases their remarkable ability to perpetuate the authentic sound of 1920s New Orleans jazz with a scholar's attention to detail while infusing it with a joie de vivre
that is noticeably missing from many attempts at recreating the music of the past.
The Jazz O'Maniacs have been playing together with only minor changes in personnel for forty years. Cornetist Roland Pilz, trombonist Ullo Bella, saxman Cristoph Ditting, and clarinetist Claus Jurgen Moller make up the band's tight front line - only the liner notes betray the fact that Moller's growly New Orleans clarinet was a last-minute replacement for another musician who couldn't make the trip overseas.
The rhythm section is anchored by tubist Dietrich Kleine-Horst and Gunther Andernach playing the washboard and associated percussion. Despite the gimmicky nature associated with washboard playing, Andernach pushes the band with the determination of any good jazz drummer. Pianist Andreas Clement and banjoist Owe Hansen round out the rhythm section. And if the group's name sounds familiar, they borrowed it from a 1920s jazz band from St. Louis, Charlie Creath's Jazz-O-Maniacs.
"Sunset Café Stomp" is a live recording made at the the 2005 Bixfest in Racine, Wisconsin, and finds the band playing in front of a very enthusiastic audience of American hot jazz fans. They do not perform any of the standard tunes associated with Bix Beiderbecke, but their mastery of the classic New Orleans repertoire, particularly the lesser-known pieces recorded by groups under the leadership of Lil Hardin, Johnny Dodds, and King Oliver, is impeccable.
This CD is also refreshingly free from the blight of over-played warhorses; instead of "Tin Roof Blues" or "When The Saints Go Marching In" we get to enjoy fresh, sizzling performances of great yet seldom-heard tunes such as "Gully Low Blues," "Georgia Bobo," and "Drop That Sack."
If you love traditional jazz (particularly the music recorded in Chicago during the 1920s by the great New Orleans musicians) but hate "Dixieland," then "Sunset Café Stomp" is sure to please.
(A DVD video release of this same performance is also available from Delmark.)