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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Complete Live at Bovi's Town Tavern

Gambit 69298



1. Announcement
2. Oh Baby
3. Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now
4. Sugar
5. Blues
6. Struttin' With Some Barbecue
7. Ain't Misbehavin'
8. There'll Be Some Changes Made
9. That's A Plenty
10. Theme and Closing Remarks
11. Sunday
12. I'd Do Anything For You
13. Black and Blue
14. I Found A New Baby
15. Sugar
16. Love Is Just Around The Corner
17. Washington And Lee Swing
18. When It's Sleepy Time Down South

Pee Wee Russell - Clarinet
Tommy Tomasso - Trumpet
Porky Cohen - Trombone
Ed Soares - Piano
John Pell - Bass, tuba
Ray Cerce - Drums


Pee Wee Russell was a controversial figure in jazz, because his unorthodox style of playing the clarinet made many people accuse him of playing badly or out of tune. Yet Russell's unusual approach was probably deliberate. He is quoted in the sleeve-notes as saying "You've got to get lost once in a while". I think it was Art Tatum who occasionally played wrong notes just to see how he could recover from them and Pee Wee Russell probably used the same method. His hesitant, expoloratory style could sound mournful but it could also express pathos in an exceptional way.

This disc contains two separate sets recorded at Bovi's Tavern in East Providence, Rhode Island in 1964 and never before released on CD. Russell is accompanied by a group of little-known musicians. Only trombonist Porky Cohen is known to have performed with such notables as Charlie Barnet, Glen Gray and Lucky Millinder. The spotlight is firmly on Pee Wee most of the time, although pianist Ed Soares gets to play quite a few solos.

Russell's playing is not as squeaky as it could sometimes be, although his improvisations still go down unexpected paths. The repertoire consists primarily of old Dixieland standbys but Russell puts a novel slant on them. For instance, he sounds out of tune in Sunday, and his fluttering notes in the verse are definitely strange. And his solo on Black and Blue seems to wander tentatively. Yet when the band is improvising collectively at the start and end of numbers, he fulfils the decorative role expected of a clarinettist in the Dixieland front line.

Despite the average quality of the supporting band, this album is worth getting if you want to hear or study what Pee Wee gets up to. His playing has the individuality which makes jazz soloists special.

Tony Augarde

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