I’ve had the opportunity of reviewing almost thirty CDs from Big Bill Bissonnette’s Jazz Crusade
label over the past few years. About a year ago, I raved about the Gregg Stafford / Dr. Michael White release titled Praying & Swaying - Volume One
and my praises were entirely honest. Now I find myself in the same position once again. Bill feels that this new album by Tuba Fats’ Chosen Few
at least equals the quality of the Stafford / White disk. An hour after the CD arrived in my mailbox, I emailed Bill Bissonnette and told him he had a knockout recording. I hadn’t yet read the liner notes and the disk had been thrown into my Macintosh for a preliminary audition. What I heard grabbed my attention for an hour.
Perhaps New Orleans jazz is not everyone’s "cup of tea" but there are diehard fans all over the world and I’m proud to be among them. The manner in which this band was assembled proved to be a stroke of luck. Bill Bissonnette had heard a 1980s LP by Tuba Fats and wanted to buy the session tapes for re-issue. Fat’s had only the items that were issued on vinyl and the other tapes had been lost. Not enough material for a CD. The answer was to assemble some of the original band and record a new session. As things turned out, only one of the originals, Stackman" Callier appears here and the others were handpicked by the leader. Two members of Jazz Crusade’s All Star Rhythm Section
were invited in the form of pianist Reide Kaiser and banjoist, Emil Mark.
If you read the musicians’ credits above, you may have noticed that all the principal players have a vocal spot. In clarification, thankfully, they don’t sing together but each gets a chance to strut his stuff on a single track. The gravely voices fit beautifully with each of the wind player’s propensity to growl on their instruments. Never heard an alto sax growl? You’ll witness it here via Darryl Adams in his first appearance with a "jazz band." He is normally involved with the larger brass bands including the Olympia Band. This may be the successor to Captain John Handy (1900-1971), a man you was not only a pioneer, but was also in the forefront of the New Orleans revival movement.
Elliot "Stackman" Callier is a veteran of Fats Domino’s reign in the Crescent City. Callier is a very hot tenor man!
Kenneth "Little Milton" Terry is a fine trumpeter who is a product of the fine tutelage of Milton Baptiste.
Eddie Paris was another original from the old Tuba Fats’ Chosen Few and a veteran of the Olympia Brass Band headed by Harold Dejan.
Gerald "The Giant" French is, at 31, the youngest player in the group. He is a regular at Preservation Hall and has a great command of the New Orleans style.
Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen is a New Orleans native and a highly respected member of the jazz community. ( I feel that he is one of the most appealing tuba players on the scene.)
He has toured England, Germany and the Netherlands in recent years.
All things considered, this is a great session by an outstanding band. The octet has the ability to swing powerfully and incorporate a great sense of humor. Stackman throws in phrases from the world of bop
including a bit from Sonny Rollin’s St. Thomas
with great success. The tunes were well chosen including spirituals, novelty songs such as "Ice Cream", old standards and traditional New Orleans fare. My favorites? I loved Big Fat Woman, Lil’ Liza Jane and Joe Avery’s Piece
aka "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker." Oh Lord! Let the Devil Have An Accident
is another gem with a vocal by Stackman Callier.
I look forward to more from this exciting congregation. Great stuff!