Brass bands are a time-honored tradition in New Orleans and this is second only to the Excelsior Band in age. The group was assembled in 1885 and was active until 1930. Manuel Perez led the band from 1903 and it usually included a dozen musicians. The second edition of the Onward Brass Band was led by Paul Barbarin, whose father had been a member of the original organization. Paul led the group from 1960 until his death. Paul actually died while leading the band at a carnival parade in 1969.
The new band seldom played the funeral dirges which were common to other brass bands of the time. Instead, they relied heavily on marches, spirituals and jazz pieces. Included on this CD are some of the tunes closely associated with the new group including "Just a Little While to Stay Here", "Maryland, My Maryland", "The Second Line", "Just a Closer Walk With Thee", "Basin Street Blues" and "Victory Walk" also known as "Joe Avery's Piece". There are eleven generous tracks in total.
This session was recorded by the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club who imported several bands from the Crescent City during the 1960s and 70s. Paul Barbarin was 69 years old at the time of this recording and most of the other players were of similar vintage.
Don't expect a highly polished performance on this record as this is a rough and ready bunch of old timers. Not all had extensive formal training.
If, however, you want to hear some very authentic New Orleans fare, "dis is de place". I was thrilled to hear Louis Cottrell, one of the most underrated clarinetists in New Orleans at the time. He positively shines on these tunes, especially "Tin Roof Blues". If you ever see a copy on vinyl of his great trio recordings, don't pass it by.
Cagnalotti and Alcorn are sometimes out of tune and show their age. The two trombonists, Tervalon and Eugene are cousins and have similar styles. I can't distinguish one from the other. Both, however are strong and competent players.
It was a great pleasure to hear Danny Barker's fine banjo work in this session. It can be difficult to hear a single banjo when two strong drummers are playing but Barker came through very nicely. The stars of the Onward Brass Band are, of course, Paul Barbarin and Freddie Kohlman. The drummers play their hearts out and make this a memorable session.
If you are already a fan of jazz roots or a novice listener who would like to hear where the joyful noise began, this CD is worthy