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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



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When Louis Met Bix

Andy Schumm (cornet); Enrico Tomasso (trumpet): Matthias Seuffert (clarinet, alto and tenor saxes); Alistair Allan (trombone); Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano); Thomas ‘Spats’ Langham (banjo, guitar); Malcolm Sked (double bass); Nicholas Ball (drums)

Recorded November 1015, Y Studio, North Shields, UK

LAKE LACD 345 [66:24]

 

 

 

Ol' Man River

Milenberg Joys

Chloe

Mandy Make Up Your Mind

Who's It

Put 'em Down Blues

Whispering

Manhattan

Skid-dat-de-dat

Bessie Couldn't Help It

Come On And Stomp, Stomp, Stomp

My Melancholy Baby

When She Came To Me

I'm Just Wild About Harry

The Baltimore

 

Here’s an album full of what-might-have-beens. It attempts to recreate what happened when Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong jammed together after hours at what is conjectured to have been the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago. Replete with a contingent from Paul Whiteman’s band the Bix-Louis headline meeting is put into its musicological context in this 15-track disc with repertoire appropriate for the 1927-28 date (the latter seems more historically plausible). Armstrong was on record as having said he’d only ever jammed with Beiderbecke and never tried to ‘carve an ofay’ (black slang for a white), by which he meant not jousting to the death in a cutting contest but just jamming for kicks. It’s against this background that one can enjoy this disc.

The spirit is collaborative with Andy Schumm taking the part of Bix and Enrico Tomasso donning Louis’s mantle, if such a thing is possible. The Lake repertory company is on hand to lend fine support and take pertinent, stylish and stylistically aware solos. Breaks are well demarcated, the niceties of both players’ styles being finely explored. In Ol’ Man River Matthias Seuffert’s clarinet sounds rather like Pee Wee Russell whereas on Milenberg Joys it sounds defiantly Johnny Dodds-like. Here Morten Gunnar Larsen, a stylist to his fingertips, and a man who has absorbed all the ramifications of Jelly Roll Morton’s playing, unveils his own characteristically inventive take on it, supported by springy rhythm. That last quality is due to the well-meshed rhythm section, not last Spats Langham’s sprightly banjo and guitar and Malcolm Sked’s ever dependable double bass work.

In something like Put ‘Em Down Blues, a number Louis recorded with his Hot Five, Bix – alias Schumm - fits in comfortably in the ensemble, playing his solo where Louis took the vocal on the disc and that’s something that occurs in Skid-Dat-De-Dat, where ‘Bix’ again fits his blues saturated but punchy solo into the ensemble fabric. With Bessie Couldn’t Help It we return to the ‘big band’ treatment heard elsewhere on the disc to good effect, textures thickening appropriately: here too Tomasso plays one of his best solos – delving to the valuable lower-mid range of the horn as he does so. We end with a duo, Bix on piano – which he played very well - and Louis on horn playing The Baltimore.

Lake has released this in its Vintage Recording Project series and it was recorded using ribbon microphones: clarity and warmth are a given. This is an enjoyable wish-fulfilment album spearheaded by two brass maestros who really know to evoke without stooping to copying.

Jonathan Woolf




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