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Time To Dance by Sweet Mary Cat & Their North American Friends

Unless you live in France or are a frequent visitor to New Orleans, you may not know of this fine unit. Sweet Mary Cat is one of the best traditional jazz bands in France and they can be found at major wine festivals including the famed Beaujolais celebration. Based in Lyons, Sweet Mary Cat has been a part of the scene for more than a decade. When on their pilgrimages to New Orleans, the band can likely be found at Frizel’s European Jazz Pub.

Jazz Crusade’s owner, Big Bill Bissonnette, who is also the trombonist for this date, arranged this session. Recorded in April of 2002 at the Audiophile Studio by Richard Bird, the session exhibits the qualities consistent with the venue. On this occasion, leader Marie Dandrieux, her husband Christian "KiKi" Genin and Jean-Pierre Alessi represent Sweet Mary Cat. The North American Friends are in reality, Jazz Crusade’s All Star Rhythm Section from many albums, Reide Kaiser, Emil Mark and Colin Bray. Another native of France appears in the form of clarinetist, Jacques Gauthe. Gauthe has been living in New Orleans for many years and his Creole Rice Jazz Band is a highly respected institution.

This CD is all about danceable jazz. The octet digs into their bag of dance tunes ranging from foxtrots, waltzes, a rockin’ boogie-woogie and even a samba. Keeping with the theme of dance music, the band doesn’t try to break any speed records. That doesn’t mean they aren’t hot. Their swinging take on Old Grey Bonnet will get your feet moving.

Marie Dandrieux is a rock-solid drummer steeped in the New Orleans style. Her vocal on "After The Ball" is witty and charming. Christian Genin’s trumpet style is hot and swinging. Jean-Pierre Alessi, a powerful reedman, comes out swinging from the first note. Add two powerful players in the form of Gauthe and Bissonnette and the pot boils.

The session begins with a fine old Kid Ory piece titled "I’m With You Where You Are." It’s one of those tunes that you’ll swear you’ve heard before, knowing that you have not. Happily, the band includes another great tune from 1915, "My Little Girl." Big Bill takes the growling vocal on the Albert von Tilzer song.

The French hit, "C’est Si Bon" by Andre Hornez & Henri Betti seems to inspire some powerful playing by one and all. Gauthe and Genin shine on "After The Ball" with Alessi playing wonderful harmony. Great stuff!

The session ends on a high note with J-P’s Boogie Woogie featuring Jean Pierre Alessi and pianist, Reide Kaiser. The rhythm section of Kaiser, Mark and Bray are always great. This CD is no exception.

A second album is titled "Time To Dance - Some More" and will be reviewed shortly.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Sweet Mary Cat & Their North American Friends
  • CD Title: Time To Dance
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Jazz Crusade
  • Tracks: I’m With You Where You Are; My Little Girl; C’est Si Bon; After The Ball; Laughing Samba; I Get The Blues When It Rains; Girl Of My Dreams; Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet; When My Dreamboat Comes Home; Three Little Words; J-P’s Boogie Woogie.
  • Musicians: Marie Dandrieux (leader, drums, vocal); Christian Genin (trumpet); Jean-Pierre Alessi (reeds); Jacques Gauthe (reeds); Big Bill Bissonnette (trombone, vocal); Reide Kaiser (piano); Emil Mark (banjo, vocal); Colin Bray (string bass).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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