INTERNATIONAL JAZZ BAND
IN THE GUTTER
Jazz Crusade JCCD 3030 1997, 12 tracks, 73min
Clarinet Marmalade, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, In The Gutter, When I Was A Little Child, Just A Little While To Stay Here, One Sweet Letter From You, The Moose, It Feels So Good, Pagan Love Song, Old Black Joe, Four or Five Times, Canal Street Blues
This hand selected band was assembled for a series of European gigs in 1997. The leader, Big Bill Bissonnette acknowledges that people will consider the line-up unusual, and it is. The sound is quite reed heavy and at times sounds very much like a New Orleans marching band of the type that his wife Sara (nee Spencer) used to play when she lead the Rue Conte Jazz Band in Britain in the early 80s. Sarah's reed playing shows a much greater maturity than on the Rue Conte CD 'Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!' being more mellow and artistic. Her fellow reeds player is George Probert. It is George's soprano playing that catches your ear with him playing in a very distinctive style at sounds so very different from any other that I have heard. But back to the band's style; I am not sure that it has a true style as each tune seems to be approached differently from the others; mainstream on 'In The Gutter', marching band on 'Just a little while To Stay Here'(with Tuba Fats seemingly forgetting the words), a more New Orleans style (as understood by the Europeans) on 'One Sweet Letter From You', All very different and distinctive. It really has to be heard to be believed!
BIG BILL BISSONNETTE & his INTERNATIONAL JAZZBAND
LIVE IN CONCERT 1997 First Half
Jazz Crusade JCCD-3096 2004 8 tracks 65 min
Dippermouth Blues, West End Blues, Exactly Like You, Rose Room, Don’t Give Up The Ship, Careless Love, I Can’t Escape From You, St
BIG BILL BISSONNETTE & his INTERNATIONAL JAZZBAND
LIVE IN CONCERT 1997 Second Half
Jazz Crusade JCCD-3097 2004 9 tracks 67 min
Climax Rag, Mood Indigo/Creole Love Song, Saxawoogie, Savoy Blues, Somebody Stole My Gal, Ciribiribin, Just Closer Walk With Thee/West Lawn Dirge, Tiger Rag, Big Bill’s Short Number
To those of the British/Scandinavian persuasion of New Orleans jazz, just remember your scripture and ‘Be bold, be strong; for the Lord your God is with you’. Despite being an Anglo-American band BBB & his International Jazzband play in a very contemporary American New Orleans style and thus it has a hard driven sound that is not often found in Britain and Scandinavia where New Orleans jazz so often equates to the more conservative Ken Colyer inspired style. Just don’t be afraid, for although it may not be quite what you are used to, it is fun to listen to and very exciting.
This is the International Jazzband’s second edition; the first being in 1964. Big Bill himself roars away on trombone as only he can, Fred Vigorito stands out, as always, as a brilliant hot trumpet player, George Probert mixes and matches soprano and alto sax, and Sarah Bisonnette (nee Spenser) completes the front line on tenor and baritone sax. The back line comprises of ex-Colyer pianist Pat Hawes, Dave Brennan wearing his fingers out rhythmically on banjo, joined by Clint Baker on drums and Tuba Fats on, well tuba of course. Poor Tuba Fats, a man with talent and personality to match his size, died earlier this year (2004) and in some ways these could be regarded as memorials to him, even though he isn't featured as such.
Big Bill favours the 4:4 set up, whereas I am wary of it as too often the clarinet and sax clash. Well this time it can’t happen, because there is no clarinet! This then leaves the question of how the two sax players get on. Very well actually, where they do occasionally trip on each others toes seems to be where Sarah is on tenor and George on alto, so maybe it is the two instruments being tonally close to each other that is the problem rather than the players ability to weave round each other. To hear how well the two get on together you could listen to ‘Exactly Like You’, ‘I Can’t Escape From You’ or ‘Savoy Blues’. There is one tune, however, which for me has them really getting out of line: ‘Saxawoogie’. I found the duelling saxes just a might too much for both my taste and ears. I would like to say at this point just how much I felt that Sarah had matured since the days when she led the La Rue Conte Marching Band. There are times when she is still rather ‘busy’, but she has moved away from the constant ‘spiralling’ style she had with La Rue Conte. George, of course, is an old hand and I particularly appreciated his solo break on ‘Careless Love’ which demonstrates the power of the soprano sax once it is cut free from the shackles of excessive vibrato.
There is a lot here to listen to and enjoy from the raucous to the mellow; from the stirring to the maudlin (Tuba Fat’s wife had died just before the tour and the medley ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee/West Lawn Dirge’ is dedicated to her memory by Big Bill – just how Tuba managed to play after that I don’t know, because if it were me I would have been tasting tears in my mouthpiece).
Come on; buy this CD and walk on the wild side – be bold be strong!
SAMMY RIMINGTON, BIG BILL BISSONNETTE
Jazz Crusade 2006 JCCD 3117 64 min 9 tracks
Bogalusa Strut, Darkness On The Delta, Lord Lord Lord, After You’ve Gone, Should I, Rose Room, Just A Little While To Stay Here, Somebody Stole My Gal, The Work Is Waiting For The Sunrise
Jazz Crusade 2006 JCCD 3118 64 min 8 tracks
St Louis Blues, When My Dreamboat Comes Home, Ice Cream, Papa Joe’s Davenport Blues, In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree, I’m Alone Because I Love You, C-Jam Honeysuckle Rose
These two CDs are from a live concert recorded on 09 September 1993 at the Jaegersborg Hotel. The front line consists of Big Bill on trombone, Sammy and Leif Madsen, both playing clarinet and alto-sax, Papa Joe Errington on trumpet, and the back line has Peter Nisson on drums, Hendrik Stiigvad banjo/guitar and Holden Fogh on bass.
B3 and Sammy are so well known that they need no introduction, but I must say that B3 is at his peak on this recording. Joe Errington soon afterwards joined Papa Bue’s Viking Jazz Band and I saw him with them in 1995 when it was he who held the band together as Bue seemed to spend more time tippling than playing. B3 says Errington plays with shades of Armstrong and tinges of Beiderbecke. To me he plays in a similar vein to fellow Englishman Pat Halcox. Of the others Leif Madsen provides a sympathetic foil to Rimington and part of the enjoyment is listening to see who is playing what on the each of the tunes. The rhythm section is very competent, the only thing though is that the bass is rather over amplified (this is more noticeable on a personal player than on a main sound system).
I suppose the big thing for me was that from the first bars of Bogalusa Strut, with Rimington bringing the tune in, all I wanted to do was play alongside the band. This infection was bad enough when I did it in my head, but I was found to be annoying my fellow bus passengers by humming or whistling out loud. God help me, but when the wife was out shopping on a Saturday morning, I could even be caught using my replica 14thC hunting horn as a 2nd trombone. It really does make you want to join in and, at least in your head or with something more versatile than modified cow’s horn, you can pick a different instrument to be each time you play them! Honestly; with tunes that are as familiar as this and the way the music is presented, it is the ideal vehicle for any would be jazz player to learn the music by jamming alongside the band. This music really moves you and it would have to be a real jazz hater who didn’t get caught up in the sound and want join in.
The tunes, as I have said, are mostly standards and even the lesser known ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’ and ‘Rose Room’ I have by others. Of interest; ‘Ice Cream’ features both reedsmen on clarinet, as per Dutch Swing College, ‘Papa Joe’s Davenport Blues’ is a trumpet solo and on the stomping version of ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’, B3 treats us to some unique lyrics. The style of the band is club New Orleans, except on ‘C-Jam Blues’ which, as goes with the tune, is quite main stream.
I loved these CDs, but my family and the people on the bus aren’t so keen, or was it just my contribution to the music they didn’t appreciate?
ENCORE: BIG BILL & SAMMY – A VESPERS CHURCH SERVICE IN DENMARK
BIG BILL BISSONNETTE & SAMMY RIMMINGTON
WITH PETER NISSEN’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND
Jazz Crusade JCCD-3127 2007, 13 tracks 76 min
Lord Lord Lord, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Old Time Religion*, Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen*, Lead Me Saviour, His Eye Is On The Sparrow, This Little Light Of Mine*, Walking With The King, Old Fashion Love, Tipi-Tin, Summertime, The Man I Love*, Yes Sir That’s My Baby*
I enjoyed the previous Peter Nissen CD & I was delighted to find another CD of his on Jazz Crusade’s label. The fact that it also featured Big Bill Bissonnette & Sammy Rimington made it into a must have. The frontline, however, is more conventional than that on the CD with Tuba Fats, with just Leif Madsen and Sammy Rimington on reeds. Joining them and Nissen’s solid backline, is Joe Errington on trumpet and B3, of course, on trombone.
The two reedsmen do an excellent job together, so there is interweaving rather than clashing and tangling. Sometimes they are both on either clarinet or alto sax, sometimes one on each. Two tracks where their harmony shew up very clearly are ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ and ‘Old fashioned Love’.
B3 I always enjoy listening to as he can easily move from raucous to silky smooth in the slide of a trombone. ‘Papa’ Joe Errington on first hearing caused my right eyebrow to rise at times, though he also made me chuckle with delight elsewhere. However, the more I play the CD, the more I appreciate his playing, especially his mute work.
The tracks are from a 1993 tour of Denmark and recorded at Roskilde (a place I know & love). The first 8 tracks are from a church service & are all standard jazz gospel numbers. The remaining 5 tracks are from the following concert. Despite my love of gospel songs I must admit it is the latter that caught my ear as the rendition of ‘Summertime’ must be just how the composer intended it to be. B3 takes the intro and the rest follow on in the same lazy, hazy, almost dreamy tone & if that ain’t summertime, then you must live in the Antartic! The next track, ‘The Man I Love’ is just as wonderful with Lise Borgwardt shewing on this, and her other tracks (*), what a fine jazz singer she is. This lady has the type of voice that is best suited to traditional jazz in all its shapes & forms: full, well rounded, emotive and carefully inflected.
I am sure my wife wonders why I keep getting more & more jazz CDs, especially as I often complain how little I get to play them at present, but how can one resist when there are albums like this one just waiting to be got? The truth is, I would have had this CD for ‘just the ‘Summertime’ track alone.
I have just gone to merge & upload my files and find that I have two other CDs with this line up from the same tour: 'Sammy & Big Bill in Denmark', JCCD 3117/18.
BIG BILL BISSONNETTE MY BEST TO YOU
Jazz Crusade JCCD-7001A/B 2010 18 tracks 16 tracks 160 min
Mama’s Gone Goodbye, You Tell Me Your Dreams, Yes Sir That’s My Baby, Savoy Blues, Move The Body Over, Mood Indigo, Ice Cream, Beale Street Blues, Rocking In Rhythm, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Darktown Strutter’s Ball, Black Gal You’d Better Watch Your Step, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Bugle Boy March, Chimes Blues, San Jacinto Stomp, Early Hours, Big Bill’s Short Number
I’m With You Where You Are, St. Philip Street Breakdown, Brahm’s Cradle Song, Summertime, You Rascal You, Rose Room, The Mooche, Marching & Swinging, Corrine Corrina, Love Song Of The Nile, What Am I Living For, In The Gutter, I’m Alone Because I Love You, The Bells Of St. Mary’s, When The Saints Go Marching In, I Believe I Can Make It By Myself
In the years preceding his death, and with much nagging from me, my much missed father started to catalogue the old family photos, putting names and dates to them. After he had finished he collected his favourite ones and put them in a separate album, which I now treasure. With this double album Big Bill has done the same only with musical tracks.
Over the past 50 years BBB has played with so many traditional jazz greats that the list of just those he mentions take up almost half a side of the cover notes. In addition to playing of course, Big Bill has recorded both the famous and the not so well known for his Jazz Crusade label: something for which all traditional jazz lovers must give him both credit and indeed praise.
I have many Jazz Crusade CDs of Big Bill, but even I can’t claim to have all the tracks on these CDs. The tracks date from 1965 with George Lewis & the Easy Rider Jazz Band to 2005 with the French Preservation Jazz Band. The style of music varies a lot, as one would imagine given the wide variety of bands and line ups, but the quality of music is high throughout.
I have had these CDs for some time and not done the review. My wife had an accident which hospitalised her and what with that and other complications, jazz reviews went to the bottom of my priority list. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, because I kept intending to do the review “tomorrow”, I kept on playing the CDs and despite doing this regularly over the past 8 months, I haven’t got bored with them.
For the sake of your need to have good and honest New Orleans jazz to play and, for the sake of Big Bill who in his own words is, ‘a senile old codger’ though I very much doubt it, buy this album.: I guarantee you won’t regret it.