BIG BILL BISSONNETTE & THE EASY RIDERS JB
RHYTHM IS OUR BUSINESS
Jazz Crusade JCCD-3003 1986, 18 tracks, 72min
Tunes: Perdido St. Blues, Short Dress Gal, Sweet Mama, Shreveport Stomp, The Mooche, Bring It On Home to Grandma, Love Songs of the Nile, Apex Blues, Get Out of Here, Black Gal You Better Watch Your Step, Big Chief Battle-Axe, The Bells of St. Mary's, Rockin' N' Rhythm, I'll Take the South, Someday Sweetheart, Rhythm is Our Business, Black Cat Moan, Running Wild.
Jazz crusade seem to delight in recording bands with unusual line-ups. This one has Big Bill Bissonnette on trombone, Paul Bochmke on reeds, either Bob Shallue or Bill Sinclair on piano, Jim Tutunjian on bass and Bob Lasprogato on drums. Where's the horn? There ain't one! Have you ever heard the lead on 'Perdido St Blues' being played by a trombone rather than a trumpet? No? Well get this CD and see just how well it works. I was amazed, stunned and amazed, amazed and stunned. Big Bill and his Jazz Crusade label always stretches your understanding of traditional jazz, and yet does it in an entertaining and non threatening manner. Match Bissonnet's rasping raucous trombone with Bochmke's inventive reed playing and you have a very interesting combination. Whilst the back-line is good, it is the reduced front-line that grabs your ear and won't let go. Big Bill reckons that the band wanted to 'play' with jazz tunes in the New Orleans idiom, but in new ways. Well they sure did that, and they sound as if they had fun doing it. I sure had fun listening to them.
EASY RIDERS JAZZ BAND
THEN & NOW
Jazz Crusade JACD 3037/8, 1998, 25 tracks, 130 min
Early Hours, It's Tight Like That, Trouble In Mind, The Sheik Of Araby, Dead Man Blues, Gettysburg March, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Over The Waves, Summertime, Bugle Boy March, After You've Gone, Easy Riders' Drop-Out Blues, The Old Rugged Cross
Panama, Over The Waves, Apple Blossom Time, Marchin' & Swingin', Miss My Little Brown Ass, Solitude, West Indies Blues, Someday My Prince Will Come, Tipi-Tin, Storyville Blues, We Will Walk Through The Streets Of The City, Now Is The Hour.
This set of two CDs features Big Bill Bissonnette's Easy Riders Jazz Band with 33 years between them.
The first CD comprises of unissued recordings from 1965 & 66 made for the renowned George Buck. Sammy Rimington contemplating Ken Colyer's Jazzmen and visited Big Bill about doing a tour with the Easy Riders. Bill had already had Sammy in his International Jazz Band and took no persuading to have one of England's finest reedsmen in his band. Subsequently Sammy left Colyer and became a long-term member of the Easy Riders. Circumstances over took the band, and these recordings were never released.
The first thing that strikes you is that the sound, although definitely of the New Orleans flavour, is very different from the sound that was current, and still current, in Europe. The Europeans tend to stick to the early New Orleans sound, possibly because of the fact that they used original recordings of the master to learn the music. The American sound had moved on (here I have chosen to ignore the bands run by those bands run by the old masters themselves). The sound put out by the rhythm section is very distinctive and being a much more noticeably the driving force of the sound. The image that came to mind was that of a diesel, throbbing and powerful. The front line is also strong, so the rhythm boys do not overpower them; can anyone imagine Big Bill's trombone or Fred Vigorot's cornet being overpowered? Sammy plays his Albert action clarinet in a somewhat looser style than when with Colyer, and he even gets to 'skate'! One thing I loved was hearing a real jangling, 'pub' piano again, brought back memories of old Battersea and family piss ups, sorry parties. The band hangs together well, and plays some memorable jazz. The only negative is Big Bill's kazoo playing; sorry mate, but if you want to hear a real hot kazoo player you will have to shout me the air tickets!
The second CD is from a 1998 re-union. In the meantime two of the rhythm section had died and the third was only able to put in the odd appearance following a lung transplant. This does make a noticeable difference to the sound with the rhythm section more subdued. The other difference is that the band is more 'reedy'. After Sammy Rimington left the band the very capable, Paul Boemke took his place. This CD has both men in the line up with Sammy sticking to clarinet and Paul taking to tenor sax. Often a four-man front line gets too complicated and tangled, but the Easy Riders handle it all with their usual aplomb.
This is a very nice set and as a 2for1 offer, a bargain. It should appeal to American jazz fans familiar with the band and the sound. It needs to also be in the collection of those of us who are of the European school as it helps us to appreciate the depth and breadth of our favourite jazz style. New Orleans jazz is an idiom, not a straight jacket. These CDs help increase your appreciation of that fact.
As a Kiwi, albeit adopted, it was nice to have the album finish with, 'Now Is The Hour'. One tune that has got me worried is, 'Kiss My Little Brown Ass', with Big Bill on vocals. The tune is a variation of, 'Do What Ory Say', but the lyrics suggest that Bill is getting into zoophilia. Personally I never fancied kissing donkeys. Maybe it's an American thing!
WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS
BIG BILL BISSONNETTE'S EASY RIDERS JAZZ BAND
JAZZ CRUSADE JCCD 3060 2001 13 tracks 70 min
Linger A While, Maria Elena, Algiers Waltz, Chicken Ain't Nuttin' But A Bird, Daddy's Little Girl, Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, Moonlight & Roses, Tuck Me To Sleep In My Old Kentucky Home, Apple Blossom Time, Down By The Riverside, Creole Song, Solitude #2, Swing That Music
Warning: This Device Is Explosive; light blue touch paper and stand well clear.
Ok, so this is a CD, so don't set light to it; but this album definitely is a cracker, albeit not so much explosive as a cornucopia of musical fireworks. Take for example, ' Linger A While'. This is a lovely Catherine Wheel of a tune. Now try ' Maria Elena' for the sound equivalent of a Mount Vesuvius that rises and falls in intensity. Then ' Algiers Waltz'; a Roman Candle tune with coloured sound balls popping up into the air. 'Chicken Ain't Nuttin' But A Bird' is a Jumping Jack with short bursts of energy taking it all over the place. And so I could go on, but I won't. All I will say is that this 1998 recording, which includes alternative takes of two tracks released on JCCD-3038, 'Now - The Easy Rider Jazz Band', is not a $10 bag of Chinese Cheapies. It is an A 1 display that will cause you to go: 'Oooo', and 'Ahhhh' and leave you disappointed when the show is over.
JAM SESSION IN CONNECTICUT VOLUME 1
JAZZ CRUSADE JCCD-3084, 10 tracks, 62 min
I Want To Be Happy, Love Letters In The Sand, Mexicali Rose, Jada, Corrine Corrina, Lonesome & Sorry, Oh Dem Golden Slippers, I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket, Pretend, Sil Vous Plait
JAM SESSION IN CONNECTICUT VOLUME 2
JAZZ CRUSADE 2003 JCCD-3085, tracks, min
All I Do Is Dream Of You, Make Me A Pallet On The Floor, Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall, Tishomingo Blues, San Antonio Rose, Everybody Loves Somebody, My Old Kentucky Home, In The Garden, Collegiate
First of all, let me steal the punch line from ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and say: ‘DON’T PANIC’. If the phrase ‘Jam Session’ raises in you the rising fear of those sessions at the end of a regular jazz club session when inebriate members of the audience have finally worn down the band leader into letting them sit in with the band and musically destroy it, thus signalling to all others present that it is time to go home, rest assured this is not one of those ‘jam sessions’. In fact Jazz Crusade might have done better to have ‘lifted’ the title of one of my regular Web page haunts ‘Friends Re-United’.
The band consists of Fred Vigorito (cornet), Ron Going (clarinet), Jerry Zigmont (trombone), Bill Sinclair (piano), Emil Mark (banjo), Arnie Hyman (bass) and Bill Bissonnette (drums) who are current and past Connecticut residents who played regularly, or irregularly, with Big Bill Bissonnette’s Easy Riders jazz band. That they are familiar and at home with each other’s playing style is very apparent and they sound very ‘all together’ whether in ensemble or gently backing one another’s solo breaks. The notes say that the band’s influence was from the Bunk Johnson/George Lewis, Kid Ory, and Kid Thomas bands, though I felt they leant far more towards Ory and Bunk Johnson/George Lewis than they do towards the Thomas band. Many of the more recent American New Orleans bands have tended to ‘develop’ the medium and to other than American ears sound, to be polite, ‘different’, but these boys play very much in the revival idiom, so European and Antipodean listeners would feel very much at home.
I think that the two CDs are brilliant and highly recommend them to anyone. They even passed my multi-platform test, whereby I listen to them on my home stereo system (an oldie, but a goodie), a portable player, my personal player (complete with the noisy bus exhaust and raucous radio) and the car player (where the music has to battle a cheap sound system and NZ’s coarse chip road surfaces). Wherever and on whatever I played the CDs I was delighted in what I heard.
An unexpected pleasure was knowing how Fred Vigorito was going to play a tune. Now I am not saying that Fred is predictable, just because I know how he is going to work a tune, I know because that is exactly how I would have played it if only I had the skill and talent. I am sure that even the non-musicians out there play instruments in their head. Elsewhere I have said that in my head I play trombone like Geoff Cole, recently I have decided I play clarinet like Kjeld Brant. Well I now know I play cornet like Fred Vigorito. Ok, so I still think that the Guv’nor, Ken Colyer, played the best horn ever, but I wouldn‘t have played like him, I would play it like Fred.
There are some standards here amongst the material, but they are well and extensively worked, so don’t let that be considered a disadvantage. The CDs are blessed with many tunes that are rarely, or even never to my knowledge, played as New Orleans jazz thus giving the music a fresh feel.
I’m going to stop now, as you may think that I am going over the top and maybe I could be in need of psychiatric help (especially as you now know I run a jazz band in my head with me playing most of the parts – oh by the way, I drum like Malc Murphy). The truth is, I was blown away by this music and so will you be. If you don’t buy the CDs you are mad, mad I tell you, mad! (Exits stage left singing ‘They are going to take me away: aha …….)
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