Here's a great session produced and annotated by the legendary George Avakian. If you're old enough to have purchased vinyl LPs, you have read Avakian's liner notes for Columbia, RCA and other jazz labels. Now in his eighties, the scribe's words are more informative than ever. Twelve pages of notes are included with the CD. One of the tunes on this recording is "Home", also known to some as "When Shadows Fall". I love the 1931 song and have collected more than 40 recordings of the piece in the last 30 years. Naturally, I felt I knew all there was to know but George Avakian filled in some details about the composers that I would never have known.
The session was recorded the summer of 1999 and you'll seldom hear a greater traditional jazz group. Ah, the sweet sound of "heavy metal"; the band is led by tuba player David Ostwald. David is classically trained and was bitten by the jazz bug as a teenager. He has gigged around New York for 20 years and handpicked a gang of like-minded locals for this recording date. All members are very much at home within the jazz style of the 20s and 30s including compositions by Louis Armstrong, Walter Donaldson, Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Irving Mills to mention a few. Fourteen wonderful oldies are treated with the respect they deserve including Jubilee Stomp, When Day Is Done, Diga Diga Doo, Panama, Lover Come Back To Me and New Orleans Stomp.
On April 17, 1928, Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang recorded the Rodgers & Hart tune "Thou Swell", a classic disk. Armed with trumpeter Randy Sandke, the Gully Low Jazz Band pay tribute to Bix with their own version of the song. Sandke's Bixian horn must be heard to be believed...fabulous. He does it again on other Bix standards, "Changes" and " OTaint So Honey, OTaint So". By my own admission, Beiderbecke has long been my favorite musician.
Other jazz greats are not neglected. Louis Armstong's "Don't Forget To Mess Around When You Do The Charleston" includes the only vocal on this CD and it's rendered by trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon in typical Armstong style. Benny Carter receives his reward with a beautiful rendition of his "Blues In My Heart". I can't thank the band enough for including another copy of "Home" for my collection.
The inclusion of Ken Peplowski ensures the success of any recording and we are treated to hearing "Pep" on both clarinet and alto sax. Wycliffe Gordon provides some imaginative trombone work including some really wild growls and special effects using only the mouthpiece. Pianist, Mark Shane is thrown many opportunities to show his super ability at the keyboard and plays a lovely solo on "Home". Drummer Herlin Riley gets a few kicks at the cat especially on "Diga Diga Doo". A highlight of this album is the appearance of one of my very favorite people, guitarist Howard Alden, who's classy style is reminiscent of the great Eddie Lang. Naturally, he sounds at home with the Bix related tunes. His banjo prowess is demonstrated on "Panama" where he and "Pep" are featured in an unusual, but most effective arrangement.
The folks at Nagel-Heyer Records have outdone themselves on this CD. Have a look at all the neat stuff on their website.