TUBA FATS' CHOSEN FEW JAZZMEN
TUBA FATS' CHOSEN FEW JAZZMEN
JAZZ CRUSADE JCCD 3078 2001 10 tracks 73 min
Lead me Saviour, Hindustan, Over in the Gloryland, Big Fat Woman, Joe Avery's Piece, Amazing Grace, Ice Cream, Lil' Liza Jane, Oh Lord! Let the Devil Have an Accident, You Are My Sunshine.
Big Bill thinks this album is one of the three or four most important he has produced in his career. The New York Times believes that this recording is one of the 50 most important jazz recordings ever, regardless of genre. Is this just hyper sales technique? Is it bluff? Well, being English as opposed to American, I come from a race well known for its tendency to understate rather than exaggerate, as our Stateside cousins are inclined to do. After listening to this CD I actually agree with BBB: and the NY Times: this recording is significant, for to me it reclaims a lost history.
If you have read my other reviews of American bands, you will notice that I have mentioned that they have tended to, 'develop', within the idiom of traditional jazz, whereas the European bands have tended to be very conservative. For this reason I have, possibly because of my origins, preferred the European (especially the British and Scandinavian) interpretation, as it is 'truer' to the original material. This CD has caused me to ponder and reflect on the origins of traditional jazz, especially New Orleans and it's derivations. The jazz history books tell us that New Orleans jazz has its origins in the marching bands of that city. I have some CDs of marching bands, and although I can hear similarities, I have had a mental problem in linking the two together. This CD, using mostly musicians who have a close association with marching bands and linking them with a jazz drummer on a conventional kit, a pianist and a banjo player to bring them into a more 'jazz band' environment, provides the 'missing link'. Listen and you will also find that it provides another missing link: the link between acoustic blues, juke and traditional jazz.
When you read the list of musicians and see names like, Tuba Fats, Stackman, Little Milton, Funky Chops, Li'l Jazz and the Giant you quickly pick that they aren't your standard middle aged, middle class white jazz men. Nope, they's black jazz men and that is very much the key. White, and especially European, traditional jazz is based on the recordings put out in the 20s & 30s by black jazzmen, but black jazzmen under white sound engineers and white record directors and producers, usually for a white audience. Add to that a recording time of just over 2 min dictated by the recording medium and you end up with a rather polished, smooth and arranged performance. I know that people like Ken Colyer lived and played in New Orleans with black jazzmen. I know that many original artist were in the 50s and 60s invited to play to audiences both in their own country and around Europe, but look at how many white faces were in the bands they played with. And I don't count Louis Armstrong's All Stars as to me they were there to back Satchmo, not play themselves into stardom. This band plays with a total lack of inhibition and a full on commitment to wring out emotion that white bands just don't seem to have, no matter how good or 'pure' they are. If you want to hear these black cats play (albeit with a white pianist called Reide and a white banjo player called Emil - both Jazz Crusade stalwarts of the highest calibre) and play as they feel moved to play, then dig into your pockets and flash your cash.
The marching band influence is apparent straight away, especially as many of the tunes start off with drum intros that an ex-Boy's Brigade drummer such as I am familiar with. You can march to this music, you can walk to it (provided you are prepared to do so with a swing in your step), and you can dance to it. You can listen to it, you can analyse it, but most of all: you will enjoy it.
I don't think that I have raved on this much before about a CD, and certainly not about an American traditional jazz CD. One of the three or four most important BBB has produced in his career? One of the 50 most important jazz recordings ever, regardless of genre? I think that the NY Times and BBB are guilty of making understatements: and that from an Englishman talking about Americans! Not only does this CD teach you your jazz history, it provides you with huge entertainment and countless pleasure. The dust will never grow on my copy of this CD. Buy it, play it just the once, and you will say the same.
At the end of Hindustan Stackman claims: 'We rolled it, we rolled it!' Oh yes, you have rolled it alright. I just hope that now the ball is rolling others want to join in the game.
TUBA FATS' CHOSEN FEW BRASS BAND & JAZZMEN (*)
JAZZ CRUSADE JCCD 3078 2003 13 tracks 76 min
Oh Lady Be Good, Mardi Gras Iko/Food Stamps, In The Sweet Bye & Bye, Saint Louis Blues, Big Leg Woman, Mardis Gras In New Orleans, Those Were The Days, Red Dress, When The Saints Go Marching In, Panama Rag*, Bye & Bye*, Thunderstorm*, Lily Of The Valley*
Well Big Bill Bissonnette finally prised a pristine copy of the LP Street Music from the hands of Tuba fats and re-issued it together with four tracks left over from the 'Tuba fats' Chosen Jazzmen CD.
Throw away any perceptions you may have of a New Orleans street marching band being ok on the streets to walk behind, but a pain in the arse to listen to on the stereo. Ok, so at times it can frighten the dogs (personal experience!), but if you keep the volume within reason whilst the pets are around you can play this anywhere and to anyone. I know as I sneaked it on to a CD player at work the other week and got no complaints, in fact it raised a few smiles.
The first nine tracks are from the Brass Band LP and were recorded in 1985. Full of excitement and verve they are the very best of New Orleans marching music and the bandsmen excellent whether ensemble or solo. Of the tracks, I fell in love with 'In The Sweet Bye & Bye', though why it was allowed to fade out whilst the alto was wailing up a storm I can't understand, nor can I understand why 'Those Were The Days' is only 1:34 long with a fade in and fade out. Shame really, as I wanted to hear more.
Any other drawbacks? Well there is the odd pop & whistle (and I am not talking about Milton Batiste's contribution on 'Mardi Gras In New Orleans') from faults on the master. One day, when I am retired, I will copy the CD onto my Hard Drive and re-edit them out. Ok, so you think they add character to the sound, fine, but I am gonna get them varmits one day. But they are a minor irritation and few and far between, it is just me and my search for perfection.
The final four tracks complete the 2002 recordings of the Chosen Few Jazzmen reviewed elsewhere. The sound is similar but the change in line-up, particularly the dropping of the second trumpet and the use of a drum kit rather than separate snare and bass drum makes subtle changes to the output. I raved when I heard the Chosen Few Jazzmen the first time and would rave again now, except I can't think of any more superlatives to add!
Buy, listen, enjoy.
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