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


New Orleans Jazz (Dixieland)
Volume Three

Merry Makers Record Company MMRC-CD-45



1. Copenhagen
2. Snag It
3. She's Crying for Me
4. Antigua Blues
5. Suez
6. Where Did You Stay Last Night?
7. Buddy's Habit
8. Aunt Hagar's Blues
9. Snake Rag
10. I'm Going Away to Wear You Off My Mind
11. Honey, Where You Been So Long?
12. Sorry
13. Misery Blues
14. Sic 'Em, Tige
15. Jazzin' Babies Blues
16. Creole Belles

Walt Yost, Mike Slack - Cornets
Charles Sonnanstine - Trombone (vocals, tracks 2, 11, 13)
Roy Giomi - Clarinet
Bill Gould - Piano
Ted Shafer - Banjo
Candy Sealy - Tuba
Jack Mangan - Drums


For several decades, now, Ted Shafer has been a good friend to traditional jazz, leading his band, The Jelly Roll Jazz Band (the name alluding to one of Shafer's favorite musicians, one Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton), and heading up his record company, Merry Makers Records. The band has several configurations, from a five-piece "drumless" New Orleans one to that featured on this CD, an eight-piece (sometimes nine-piece when an extra banjo is added) group styled after the King Oliver and Lu Watters two-horn groups, and personnel can vary. The record company has issued recordings by many artists, both well known and lesser known, that might otherwise not have seen the light of day.

Now an octogenarian, Shafer still busily seeks out gigs for his groups and issues recordings of his band and others. Recently he said that he still has quite a bit of unissued material by various bands and that he is anxious to get it all out "before it's too late," as he put it.

As a glance at the tune list for this CD indicates, several of the tunes are from the Oliver book. The Jelly Roll Jazz Band's trombonist, the late Charles Sonnanstine, and a pianist friend, the late Robin Wetterau, painstakingly transcribed charts from the recordings by the Oliver, Watters, and Morton bands, and these are the basis for the Jelly Roll Jazz Band's book. Chromatic runs like those in Snake Rag can hardly be pulled off by two horns in harmony without charts, after all. However, the instrumental solos have not been copied; so what we have is not an exact copy of the Oliver band's or the Watters bands' renditions but rather some variations within the improvisational spaces. Variety can also be found in the tune selection-not many bands today are playing Antigua Blues, Suez, I'm Going Away to Wear You Off My Mind, or Sic 'Em, Tige, to name just a few. In fact, not many of the tunes could be termed "war horses".

This is a live recording made at a concert given back in 1992 for the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California in Berkeley, and it evinces some of the shortcomings that such recordings are prey to having, especially where the equipment is portable. The balance is a bit off here and there, the vocals are rather under-miked, and there is some (minimal) crowd noise. But these flaws are not serious enough to really interfere with what is otherwise a most enjoyable hour-plus of classic jazz played by a band that has a firm grasp of the material, attacks it with a joyful enthusiasm, and does not stumble.

It is available from Merry Makers Record Company, 926 Beechwood Circle, Suisun City, California 94585, U.S.A., for US$16, international posting included.

(One caveat: this CD, like most Merry Makers discs, comes with a paper label, a fact one may wish to keep in mind if the disc might be played in a car's CD player.)

Bert Thompson

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