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.



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!