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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



Happy Pals California

THE HAPPY PALS NEW ORLEANS PARTY ORCHESTRA

NOLA

New Orleans North CD-016

Patrick Tevlin – Trumpet, vocal (tracks 6, 9)

Chuck Clarke – Drums

Toby Hughes – Alto sax, vocal (tracks 2, 10)

John Williams – Clarinet

Charlie Trainor – Piano

Bernie Attridge – String bass

Chloé Watkinson – Vocal (tracks 5, 8)

 

 

 

 

 

1. Climax Rag

2. A White Sport Coat

3. Some of These Days

4. Mom and Dad’s Waltz

5. Dream

6. Milk Cow Blues

7. Clarinet Marmalade

8. Weed Smoker’s Dream

9. Royal Telephone

10. Sloop John B

11. Kid Thomas Boogie Woogie

 

Recorded live on the Dutch Alley Stage (at the bottom of St Philip Street by the levee) at the French Quarter Festival, New Orleans, Apr. 12, 2014. (Details of vocals and location supplied by Patrick Tevlin. They are not included in the CD insert.) Time: 66m. 55s.

All of the selections on this CD were recorded at a single session at the New Orleans French Quarter Festival, rather than being a collection of tracks from several sessions, as is usually the case with such festival recordings. Since the only editing was the removal of chatter between the songs, we have it, warts and all, we might say; but fortunately there are few of these. The set opens with a stomping Climax Rag, overtones of the Kid Thomas band(s) becoming immediately apparent. Collective improvisation is the order of the day, and echoes of Thomas’ horn can be heard from Tevlin. There is no banjo or trombone in the line-up, but they are hardly missed. Piano and bass supply all that is needed in the way of chords and, coupled with the drums, rhythm; the alto sax fills the trombone’s usual role. The boisterous approval of the audience bursts forth with the last note of the repeated phrase of the coda, intimating that it is clearly party time, befitting the band’s name. This atmosphere pervades the entire set, and the musicians both contribute to it and are energized by it.

While most of the tunes will be familiar, a few are not (at least to me), such as A White Sport Coat—a pleasant ballad; Mom and Dad’s Waltz—a dance enjoyed by New Orleanians that Kid Thomas usually catered to in his repertoire; Weed Smoker’s Dream—a reefer song and the original of the later “cleaned up” version, retitled Why Don't You Do Right?; or Sloop John B—a Bahamian folk song popularized in the late 1950’s by the Beach Boys under the title The John B. Sails, here played with a Latin beat, of which Jelly Roll Morton would have approved.

Vocals are handled proficiently by Tevlin, Hughes, and Ms. Watkinson. Tevlin puts on his Kid Thomas hat on Milk Cow Blues, the longest tune on the set, and clearly supplies some visual shtick, judging by the audience’s reactions throughout the song. As I recall, Thomas would don some female attire when taking the part he sang in falsetto, but what Tevlin does here is unknown to me. I guess you had to be there! Obviously the audience gets a huge kick out of this number, but I must admit it has never been a particular favorite of mine. Hughes is quite adept at handling the ballad and the folk song he sings. Watkinson, for her part, can belt out a tune, even wearing a blues hat on Dream, but she can also be the sultry seductress as she shows in Weed Smoker’s Dream.

This group tries to provide the authentic, old-time traditional New Orleans jazz, rough around the edges but loaded with emotion. In my book they succeed admirably in doing this, and judging by their reception, the audience finds they do, too. Other than being in New Orleans for the French Quarter Festival itself, this is perhaps the next best thing, capturing as it does the party atmosphere and playing the traditional jazz that is at the center of this festival. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

At the web site www.tevlin.ca one can get more information on this recording.

Bert Thompson



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