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THE NEW WOLVERINE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
VOLUME 4: FRIENDS WITH PLEASURE
NWJO CD 196, 1996 , 22 tracks 74 min

Copenhagen; Sweetest Melody; Oh Baby; Blue Reverie; Clarinet Marmalade; Imagination; Angry; Rhythm Of The Day (Take 2); My Pretty Girl; Allah's Holiday; Changes; Flashes; I'll Be A Friend with Pleasure; In The Dark; Out O'Town Gal; Sugar; Futuristic Rhythm; Cryin' All Day; Russian Rag; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; Wa Da Da; Rhythm Of The Day (Take 1).

Extract from, "Mississippi Rag". (March '97, page 32). Reviewed by Tom Jacobsen

I managed to catch only the first two days of this year's Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, but among the several highlights of my brief stay was an opportunity to hear (on two different occasions) an excellent band from Sydney, Australia, that was previously unknown to me - The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra.

As it turns out, this was the NWJO's second appearance at the Bix Fest (they debuted there three years ago) - so some MISSISSIPPI RAG readers may already be familiar with the work of this outstanding musical ensemble. For the rest of you, much of the following is background copied from the full and informative liner notes written by band member Trevor Rippingale.

The NWJO was founded in 1984 with the primary aim of celebrating "the music of Bix Beiderbecke and the musicians and bands with whom he played." Yet, from the very outset, the band's repertoire also included the music of "other classic artists of the jazz and swing eras of the '20s and '30s."

The NWJO is a tight and talented collective of seven musicians, most of whom are seasoned full-time professionals as well as skilled multi-instrumentalists.

Rippingale describes himself as "coordinator," rather than leader, of this "informal partnership." He notes that "enthusiasm for Bix and the music of the 'Jazz Age' is the catalyst which unites and leads us to spend many hours listening to original recordings, selecting those that appeal, then transcribing and scaling them down into arrangements which maximise the sound of our small group yet still preserve the spirit and feel of the era." And so they do, very successfully, in my opinion. At least four of the band members have contributed to the transcribing and/or arranging of the tunes heard here.

Of the 21 tunes (one with two takes) on this CD, more than half (11, or 12, if one includes "Angry," which he played but never recorded) were performed by Bix in a variety of contexts: with the Wolverines, the "Gang," and his own orchestra, or with Tram, Goldkette, and Whiteman. The album's title track, "I'll Be A Friend With Pleasure," was among the last numbers recorded by Bix as leader of his own band in September 1930. Two others ("Flashes" and "In the Dark," played here so well by pianist Robert Smith) were Beiderbecke compositions but were never recorded by him.

The remainder of the program is an eclectic melange of tunes associated with other groups of (the later '20s and '30s (eg Red Nichols, Jack Pettis, Fats Waller). One such number, a fetching reflection of the Jazz Age heard here in two takes, is "Rhythm of the Day," originally recorded by Ross Gorman's band (with Nichols and Miff Mole) in 1925. It is a good indication of the way the NWJO works up a selection, as described in the liner notes: "Jim Elliott transcribed and scaled down the original arrangement from 17 to a seven-piece arrangement. Commencing on trombone Jim changes to soprano sax and over-dubs tenor sax. Trevor [Rippingale] starts out on alto, changing to bass sax (Barney Acquelina on the original) to duo with Eric Holroyd's 'Red' Nichols cornet lead, until Jim's soprano enters, weaving a lovely trio until the final 'misty' chords." The basic difference between the two takes is one of tempo.

The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra is, in sum, a first-rate musical organisation. These Aussies are clearly well schooled musicians with a fine sense of history and authenticity and a real feel for the music they play. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this recording (as I did their live performances) and am happy to be able to recommend it warmly.


THE NEW WOLVERINE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
ROLL ON MISSISSIPPI, ROLL ON
NWJO CD 197, 1997 , 19 tracks 65min

Jazz Battle, Keepin' Myself For You, Roll On Mississippi Roll On, Waste No Tears, The Chant, Blue River, I'm Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now, The Mooche, There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth The Salt Of My Tears, Sensation, The Japanese Sandman, In A Mist, Ol' Man River, Candlelights, Bessie Couldn't Help It, Deep Harlem, Susie, Sweet Patootie, Miss Annabelle Lee

I came across these two CDs via Kings Jazz Page. Being Ozzies, and thus neighbours, I thought I should buy them, especially as I like Bix Beiderbecke. The Orchestra are a mix of The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Temperance Seven and the West Jesmond Rhythm Kings. Like the last band, the NWJO play a lot of neglected material. The style does vary, but those tracks that are of tunes recorded by Bix, are quite true to the originals. Mind Bix varied his style a lot depending on who he was playing with, and what they expected of him. I always thought that it was when he was with 'The Gang' that we saw the real Beiderbecke, but, having listened to the piano solos of Bix compositions, I am not sure. It has been said that Bix was very conscientious about the piano scores . . . and he wanted to be remembered mostly for them." (George Avakian, in "Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz". 1957). I wish I hadn't know that as I found them over complex, dreary and not at all 'jazz'. Overall; an impressive pair of CDs. The earlier volumes of the band's work are out of stock, however, they issue a new album every year, so check out their Home Page and keep up to date.

To purchase THE NEW WOLVERINE JAZZ ORCHESTRA CDs, contact Trevor Rippingale, P.O. Box 8, Seaforth, NSW 2092, Australia. Phone/FAX: (612) 9948-6802. E-mail to holroyd@read.net.au

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