Over the years I've heard my share of mediocre "Dixieland" bands, usually made up of players who will admit that what they do is just a hobby. In fact, I tend to shun the word "dixieland" because it usually conjures up images of middle-aged white men wearing straw hats and striped shirts playing for the local Shriner's lodge.
But those who have read my previous writing for Jazz Review know that I enjoy jazz artists who have a strong appreciation for jazz tradition and who work to keep classic sounds alive for succeeding generations of listeners. New Orleans clarinetist Tim Laughlin
is a welcomed addition to that roster. His new album "The Isle of Orleans"
showcases a group of musicians that stay very true to the style and harmony of traditional New Orleans jazz, but inject youthful spirit and energy into their playing.
As a composer, Laughlin is so firmly embedded in his New Orleans roots that it is difficult at times to remember that this CD consists entirely of Laughlin's original compositions and not pieces from the traditional New Orleans repertoire. And it's all represented here, from the savory "Blues for Faz" ( a tribute to the great New Orleans clarinetist of the 1930's Irving Fazola), to the New Orleans marching gait of "Suburban Street Parade", and the sublime ballad sung by Phillip Manuel, "It's My Love Song To You".
Despite the snickers from hard bop and advante-garde disciples, there is still a lot of great music to be made using the language of traditional jazz. On this CD, Laughlin is joined by some of New Orleans' finest contemporary players including cornetist Connie Jones, long-time Preservation Hall banjoist Neil Unterseher, veteran drummer Hal Smith, tuba player Matt Perrine, and the youngest Marsalis brother, Jason, who debuts on vibes on three selections.
If you've passed over traditional jazz as a worn-out art form, you owe it to yourself to check out this wonderful CD. And if you are unsettled by feelings of happiness or have trouble with your feet involuntarily tapping, it's OK - just relax and enjoy the music.