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



NEW BLACK EAGLE
JAZZ BAND

On the River

Own Label BE[LECD]4011

 

 

1. When I Grow Too Old to Dream

2. Sensation Rag

3. Trog’s Blues

4. One in a While

5. Oriental Man

6. Breeze

7. Kinklets

8. Dans les Rues d’Antibes

9. Black Cat on the Fence

10. My Journey to the Sky

11. Flatfoot

12. I’m Travellin’

13. Joe Avery’s Piece


Recorded on the Golden Rod Showboat on the River, St. Louis, MO, on June 17, 1973.

Tony Pringle – Cornet and leader

Stan Vincent – Trombone

Stan McDonald – Clarinet and soprano sax

Terry Waldo – Piano

Peter Bullis – Banjo and manager

“Pam” Pameijer – Drums

Eli Newberger – Tuba


This is the eleventh in a series of fourteen limited edition CD’s, reissuing material by the band that previously appeared on LP’s—mainly on their own label but also on a few other small labels, such as Philo, Philips, and Dirty Shame—and on cassette tapes. Some of these cassettes were issued simultaneously with the LP’s but also contained additional tracks. Other cassettes with different material were issued in that format only. When the company that produced the cassettes went out of business, the digital masters were returned to the band. These form the basis of most of the material on this CD set.

By all rights the recording session from which these tracks derive should have been a disaster. The band was appearing at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival of 1973 and assembled in the theatre of the Goldenrod Showboat at the ungodly hour (for a musician) of 9 a.m. after only about three hours’ sleep. As if that were not enough, the temperature was over 95° and the air conditioning could not be turned on as the noise would have been picked up by the mikes. The only succor came from the table cloths, which became “sweat rags,” and a case of cold beer from the producer. Despite all of that, the band rose to the occasion and what resulted was no debacle.

The first eight tunes comprised the original LP, and the last five came from the same session and were added to fill out the CD. This early version of the band provides all of the features for which the band later became known. The selections exemplify the breadth of the book, containing as it does such variety. Probably about half of the tunes will be familiar, the rest introducing the listener to “new” numbers or renewing his or her acquaintance with some not heard in some time, such as Sensation Rag, Kinklets, Black Cat on the Fence, or My Journey to the Sky. Few bands have these in their repertoires.

The band’s penchant for ensemble playing is evident throughout, the first track, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, making this clear. Solos are judiciously inserted between ensembles in many of the numbers, but it is the ensemble that is given emphasis. The first cut also exhibits the exuberance the members evoke while getting their teeth into a tune. It opens at a brisk tempo and never flags, the musicians remaining energized, in spite of the weariness they might have been experiencing before the downbeat. In fact, several of the tempos were a bit of a surprise to me and I’m not sure if the conditions referred to above played any part in their choice. Once in a While comes roaring out of the gate and must have been a severe test (or trial) for Bullis as he maintains the four/four on his banjo without wavering; his right hand must have been something of a blur, I would imagine. Other tunes that fall into this “unusually up-tempo” category are Oriental Man and Joe Avery’s Piece.

Bechet’s composition Dans les Rues d’Antibes is brisk—perhaps a bit more than usual—but provides a fine vehicle for Stan McDonald on soprano sax. Notable is the exultant “whoop” on tuba with which Newberger ends the piece. Newberger also is amazing as always, playing the uninterrupted four/four on tuba that he manages through circular breathing, no matter how fast the tempo, also keeping things moving and not bogging them down as so many lesser tuba players do.

Among the lesser-known pieces, My Journey to the Sky is, as Pringle says, “a lovely gospel piece.” The same can be said ofI’m Travellin’ which, like Pringle, I first heard played by the Crane River Jazz Band on an English Parlophone 78 record. (The other side was I Want a Girl Just like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad, played by the Saints jazz band, both performances being recorded at a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the early 1950’s.) I’m sure that Pringle would agree that it would be instructive for the listener to also seek out the Crane River performance alluded to above, and doing so takes nothing away from the superb New Black Eagles’ rendition on this CD, one which provides a very entertaining hour and a quarter or so of exhilarating jazz. Thoroughly recommended.

At the band’s web site <www.blackeagles.com> one can obtain more information.

Bert Thompson



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