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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



JACK MCLAUGHLIN'S
FRENCHMEN STREET
JAZZ BAND
OF NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA

There'll Be a Hot Time in the
Old Town Tonight

Frenchmen Street FSCD 151

 

 

1. John Brown’s Body

2. Oh Didn’t He Ramble . . . I’ll Fly Away

3. Mañana

4. Second Line on Monday

5. There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

6. Precious Lord

7. Jambalaya

8. Down by the Riverside

9. Love Songs of the Nile

10. Bring It on Home to Grandma

11. Muscrat [sic] Ramble

12. New Orleans

13. Will the Circle Be Unbroken

14. Trouble in Mind

15. Mama Inez

16. 4 or 5 Times

17. When I Move to the Sky

18. Nobody’s Fault but Mine


Personnel :

Jack McLaughlin – Eb (on tracks5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 16, and 18) and Bb (on all other tracks) clarinets

Rachel Hamilton – Piano

Ben McIvor – Guitar and vocals (tracks 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, and 16)

J. P. Vaughn – Guitar

Peter Boys – Bass and vocal (track 11)

Craig Goeldner – Sousaphone

Ryan McIlwain – Banjo

Mike Hawkins – Snare drum

Jasmine Abbott – Guitar and vocals (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18)

[Data on vocals not given on CD or digipak notes but provided by Jack McLaughlin. On some tracks the vocalist is joined by others as a backing chorus.]

Recorded live at the Goeldner Studio, Kotara, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, on June 1 and July 6 and 20, 2015.


My first contact with Jack McLaughlin occurred several decades ago. He was then and still is a confirmed “moldy fig”—in his words in the note he enclosed with the review copy, “I've always been the ultimate N.O. style purist.” We last met up in 2007 when we played together in two or three bands at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, at which he had been a regular attendee and continued to be for a few more years.

For some thirty years or so McLaughlin led a trio in Newcastle, Australia, consisting of clarinet, banjo, and sousaphone. When two of that group died some five years ago, he then, as he said in his note, “made up a band comprising a couple of occasional jazz musos and some younger ones who knew nothing of our old style music. I finished up with 2 guitars, mandolin, banjo, string bass, snare drums, and female vocalist. Introducing them to Django was a success. A couple of them are quite religious so the hymns are also band favourites.” This CD features that group—minus the mandolin—which is still holding down a weekly gig “at Carrington Place Hotel on a Thursday night [and is] one of Newcastle's treasures and a must for visitors to Newcastle.”

Laughlin’s attempt to keep the traditional jazz flag flying is laudable. However, the composition of the group results in something of a shortcoming, namely that it is rhythm heavy and very thin on the front line, that being only McLaughlin’s clarinet. Piano takes the lead sparingly, so to compensate, it seems, every track has a vocal. And therein lies another problem—or two. First of all, the vocals are woefully undermiked, some being barely audible, such as Down by the Riverside. And second, I’m afraid Ms. Abbott, who is given vocals on over half of the tracks, is not really a jazz singer. That is not to say she does not have a good voice, but it sounds as if she would be more comfortable with ballads than with jazz vehicles. Her voice is a little too refined, lacking the touch of roughness that good jazz singers have, especially the blues singers. She does better with the hymns and gospels, her best effort coming with When I Move to the Sky, which suits her vibrato and diction well.

The main strength of the album lies in McLaughlin’s clarinet, its being firmly in the New Orleans tradition and well miked to boot. (Since the album was recorded in the studio, I am mystified as to why there was not better mixing to resolve the undermiking of other instruments and voices and also to achieve better balance.) But the clarinet is not able to carry such a burden alone, given the depth of the rhythm section. Perhaps in place of one or two of the guitars another horn, such as a trombone, would greatly lighten the load on the reed, as well as adding to the voicing’s interest. However, finding one, especially among the young turks of today, is no easy feat. Undoubtedly McLaughlin would have included one had such been available.

While the music of the album makes for pleasant listening, I was a little disappointed overall; but I understand the difficulty of assembling such a group from among the young players today. Perhaps with more exposure and experience, and/or with an augmentation of the front line, this group will meld into a balanced New Orleans style band. McLaughlin surely is to be commended for his attempt so far to create such, for carrying the torch, and for doing his utmost to pass it on. Certainly the ranks of the traditional jazz world are sorely in need of replenishing by the young, and I applaud his efforts in this regard. I will be interested in hearing a follow up album should one appear, as I hope it will.


For more information, one can contact Jack McLaughlin by email at <mclaughlin.jack@gmail.com>.

Bert Thompson



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