CHRIS BLOUNT'S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND
THE OLD RUGGED CROSS
LAKE LACD 16 1990 15 tracks 54 min.
Mary Wore a Golden Chain/ Amazing Grace/ Lord, Lord, Lord/ Only a Look/ Royal Telephone/ The Old Rugged Cross/ In the Sweet Bye and Bye/ The Hand of God/ Lead Me Saviour/ It is no Secret/ Walking with the King/ An Evening Prayer/ Yes Lord, I'm Crippled/ His Eye is on the Sparrow/ End of a Perfect Day.
There are many magic words in the English language, and one of them is "however". I am going to use it in this review. Chris Blount's New Orleans Jazz Band is one of the foremost New Orleans Jazz Bands around today. The standard of musicianship is extremely high and, as should be in a New Orleans band, there is no one hero dominating the proceedings. Now I will use that word; however, there are tracks on this CD that never seem to get going, where there is an apparent lack of inspiration and improvisation. Perhaps this is why some tracks are quite short. Examples of this are "Amazing Grace", and "The Old Rugged Cross". The last mentioned particular pales when compared to versions put out by other bands, especially Max Collie's Rhythm Aces version which is almost 3 times longer and yet never gets repetitious.
But, still, this is a beautiful album. The quality of the recording is superb and well balanced. If you listen to the lyrical clarinet and superb muted trumpet and trombone on "Lord, Lord, Lord" you will readily forget any earlier criticism of the Band. On the sleeve it mentions the parishioners dancing around the aisles. Well after listening to "Walking with the King", and my two favourites; "Mary wore a Golden Chain", and "Royal Telephone", you will understand why. I must mention two other things; the haunting beauty of the clarinet solo on "End of a Perfect Day", and the unhappy way the line "I sing because I'm happy" on "His Eye is on the Sparrow" is delivered. Don't misinterpret what I said at the beginning; Jazz Journal was right when it said that this album "can truly be judged a must". I am both a Christian and a jazz lover. This album meets both my needs.
Jazz Crusade JCCD3046, 1999, 15 tracks, 71 min
Carolina Moon, Goin' Home, Dr. Jazz, Salutation March, Too Busy / Clarinet Marmalade, Give Me Your Telephone Number, Four or Five Times, Get Out Of Here, Milneberg Joys / Rose Of Picardy, Melancholy, At A Georgia camp Meeting, Mama Inez, The Moose - A March
Chris Blount had a habit of surprising jazz fans, and he certainly did so when he died suddenly this year! A player in the George Lewis mould, Chris toured and played extensively in the UK and Europe, both with his own band and as a guest player with other bands. Both fans and fellow jazz musicians will certainly miss him.
This CD comprises of three separate sessions. The first is from 1995 with an all star band of Norman Thatcher trumpet, Dave Vickers trombone, Barry Grummett piano, Dave Brennan banjo, Mick Kennedy bass and Malc Murphy drums. With Thatcher being the nearest thing around to Ken Colyer and all but the pianist and the bass player having either been sides men or regular players with The Guv'nor, you know how the tracks sound: pure New Orleans played in a smooth yet crisp manner that delights the ears. At times it is very hard not to think that you are not listening to the Rimington/Cole band of 1961-63.
The second session is from 1993 with Ged Hone on trumpet, Big Bill Bissonnette on trombone, Mac MacDonald banjo, Ken Matthews bass, and Dion Cochrane drums. This band has a harder edge and more forceful style, and it is quite noticeable how Chris Blount shows his ability to vary his style to fit in with those he is playing with.
The final session is from 1996 playing with his then band of Derek Winters trumpet, Ron Radford trombone, Barry Grummett piano, Tony Peatman banjo, Harry Slater bass and Steve Upton drums. Again the pace changes, and so does Chris' clarinet playing. It is amazing that the man could show such variety of delivery and yet remain so completely within idiom. Having just read my notes, I am struck that I amgiving the impression that Chris Blount was a broken and weak reed, blowing this way and that. It is not true. What is true is that he had complete sympathy with those he was playing with and was able to catch, and then complement their interpretation of New Orleans jazz.
Chris Blount was often underrated as a jazz clarinettist, not least by myself, but this CD shews him at his best, and is a fitting, and indeed a fond, farewell to a great talent.
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