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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



THE BLACK EAGLES

Live at the World Music Concours,
the Netherlands

OWN LABEL: BE[LECD]4016

 

 

  1. In the Sweet Bye & Bye
  2. Pontchartrain
  3. Perfect Rag
  4. Maizie/Martha
  5. Careless Love
  6. Oriental Man
  7. Perdido Street Blues
  8. Wolverine Blues
  9. That Creepy Feeling
  10. Panama
  11. Love Songs of the Nile


Recorded at the Rodahal, Kerkrade, The Netherlands, on July 17, 1981.

Personnel: Tony Pringle, cornet and leader; Stan Vincent, trombone; Rudi Balliu, clarinet; Butch Thompson, piano; Peter Bullis, banjo; Eli Newberger, tuba; C. H. “Pam” Pameijer, drums.


At the beginning of my review of BE[LECD]4015, I said it was one of two additional CDs in what was originally to be the 14-CD “limited edition” reissue series by the band. This CD, BE[LECD]4016, is the second added disc. However, it will not be the last as others have surfaced for future release, so the series will be extended further.

Once again the band provides a master class in what a traditional jazz band should sound like, even with two substitutes! For this tour Butch Thompson had been booked ahead of time for the clarinet spot, the band being quite familiar with his playing and knowing he “fit” with what they do. However, at the last minute Bob Pilsbury took ill and could not make the trip, and no substitute was found. Butch, a very able pianist as everyone knows, moved over to that chair and the band left for Holland with no clarinetist in sight. Once there, they listened to various clarinetists on record and one, Rudi Ballieu, struck them as being “right” for the band. Fortunately he was available and willing, and so the lineup was complete. Before this concert, Ballieu had played with the band only once—the night before—but listening to this recording, one would never know he was a “sub”—and a last minute one at that—so seamlessly did the ensemble come together and his solos flow.

The CD opens with a sprightly In the Sweet Bye and Bye, followed by Pontchartrain with its slower tempo and a magnificent clarinet solo that has all the filigree of a balcony in the French Quarter of New Orleans, followed by a trombone solo, which contains some nice counterpoint with piano. Thompson’s moment in the sun comes when he solos on Perfect Rag, taken at a very brisk pace, leaving one almost breathless. But there is never a misplaced note. Maizie/Martha (one takes his choice) contains a nice textural change when Newberger and Bullis complement each other in a duet, the others dropping out and Newberger playing four on the tuba as Bullis does also on the banjo. In similar fashion, Pringle and Thompson do the same kind of thing on Careless Love, Pringle resorting to his mute for some thoughtful exploration of the melody, followed by a true solo by Thompson, after which Bullis and Vincent get in on the act, duetting on a couple of choruses, the rest having laid out. These changes in texture add so much interest—one is hardly aware that the tune lasts for a little over ten minutes.

Following the lengthy exploration of Careless Love, the tempo picks up considerably on Oriental Man, Newberger once again seemingly confounding the laws of nature regarding breathing with his fast four-beat all through the tune, thanks to the circular breathing technique he has mastered. The band’s execution of dynamics also adds to the excitement on the out choruses as they build in volume. After that run through, the tempo slows a bit, Balliu delivering masterfully the solo over the stop time of Perdido Street Blues, followed later by a banjo/tuba duet.

The next two numbers again provide a change of pace. Wolverine Blues is a trio piece, featuring Balliu leading, Thompson and Pameijer accompanying him. After that Thompson once again dons his ragtime hat, giving a note-perfect rendition of the almost-never-heard Jelly Roll Morton composition That Creepy Feeling, replete as it is with Morton’s beloved Latin tinge and his famous breaks.

The last two cuts are familiar tunes. The first, Panama, is the longest of the set at almost twelve minutes. In his solo, Balliu interposes a chorus of The Skater’s Waltz followed by one of Goodnight Irene, their chord structures being the same as Panama’s. Thereafter everyone takes a chorus or two with ensembles interspersed. In his solo, Newberger hearkens back to Balliu’s by slipping in a few measures of Skater’s Waltz! It is all quite leisurely, reflected a little in the length of the cut, everyone having been provided with all the room he wanted. The musicians’ enjoyment is palpable.

For the final track, Love songs of the Nile substitutes for the band’s usual closer, Purple Rose of Cairo, bringing to an end an hour and a quarter of superb traditional jazz. In the notes to the original cassette of this recording, Pringle said that the band members “feel the music is some of the best we have ever produced.” Anyone familiar with the band’s recorded output will be hard pressed to disagree, I should imagine.

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

Bert Thompson



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