THE HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND
DIGGIN' A NEW BONE
HSJB Recordings HSJB911 1991 12 tracks 49 min
Marie, Short Dressed Gal, I've Got a Feelin' I'm Fallin', Oh Baby, Wild Man Blues, Hiawatha Rag, Get Out'a Here and Go Home, I'm Coming Virginia, Keepin' Out of Mischief Now, Puttin' on the Ritz, 'Bone Man, Blues, Dans Les Rues D'Antibes.
THE HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND
HSJB Recordings HSJB921 1992 19 tracks 70 min
Shake it & Break It, Any Old Time, Keepin' Out of Mischief Now, Shimmy Sha-Wabble, My Walking Stick, I'm Commin' Virginia, Marie, I Had Someone Else Before I Had You, Emperor Norton's Hunch, The Chant, Some day Sweetheart, Big Bear Stomp, Tishomingo Blues, Rose of Washington Square, If Someone Would Only Love Me, Waitin' for the Robert E Lee, My Mother's Eyes, When I Leave the World Behind, Apex Blues.
In the winter of 1993 the Auckland Vintage Jazz Club gave notice that they would be hosting a concert by the High Sierra Jazz Band from Three Rivers California. Normally when I hear of a traditional jazz band from the US of A I mentally relate them to the POMs and sport: you know they invented soccer, cricket, rugby et al, but now everybody else in the world is better at it than they. However, courtesy of an LP loaned by a mate in Auckland who had seen the band before, I was sufficiently impressed to gather my wife to me and hie off to the concert. The venue for the concert had been selected by some yuppie tour organiser and the acoustics were ratshit, and what passed for food tasted as if it had been made from it, but the HSJB exceeded all expectations. I bought the above two CDs and then got another dose of Californian jazz the next morning when my wife and I attended a gospel service put on by the HSJB at the Henderson Samoan Church. Now, whilst the quality of the music on both the albums is excellent, to hear the band at their best you needed to see them live in front of an audience and watch them both feed off of each other. Like Acker Bilk, leader Al Smith has a good line of banter, but it is when he starts playing the cornet that the audience starts to pay attention: his style is like a good cider - sharp and clean and sparking. The band has a brass bass which gives them a stomping stride as in "Short Dress Gal", but this does not prevent them from producing some fine slow numbers such as "Wild Man Blues". This is not an Oomph band. The tuba player, Earl McKee, is also a talented singer with a pleasant voice that is probably more suited for light opera than jazz, in fact in my mind when I hear him I remember the rotund singer in the Black & White Minstrels being backed by good old George Chisholm and his Jazzers. Piano and banjo are played by brothers Bruce and Stan Huddlestone, both very competent players. But my memories of the band are clouded by the other two HSJB members. Who can forget trombone player Howard Miyata smiling and swaying with ecstasy when another player gave a solo and then encouraging audience participation with exaggerated clapping a la John Lennon (nor shall I forget the fact that his shoes had lights in the heels that turned on and off as he stomped his feet). Then there was the drummer, Charlie Castro, who was also an entertainer. His most striking moment came when the band played "Big Bear Stomp" and he donned a full American Indian war bonnet, and, yes, by the looks of him he was entitled to wear it ! The surprise was the fact that there is no reed player in the band, Al Smith said it was a Californian tradition !
"Choice Cuts" is a selection of tracks from earlier albums issued by the band, and "Diggin' a New Bone" is the last one issued, though I was informed that there is another one in the pipeline. Although you could say that I bought the CDs as souvenirs of a pleasant evening I have written to the HSJB and asked to be informed when they get their next album on the market as I want more ! If you would like a taste of this band before their next visit to Godzone write to : The High Sierra Jazz Band, PO Box 712, Three rivers, CA 93271, USA
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