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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


On the Road

Own Label BE[LECD]4014



1. Oriental Strut

2. Jelly Bean Blues

3. The Mooche

4. The Martinique

5. Mon Homme

6. Shake It & Break It

7. Cherry

8. Copenhagen

9. Original Jelly Roll Blues

10. Stomp Off, Let’s Go

Recorded at Mt. Gretna, PA, on Aug. 19, 1978 (tracks 1-3); York College, PA, on Nov. 1, 1978 (tracks 4-8); Mt. Gretna, PA, on Aug. 17, 1979 (track 10); and Mt. Gretna, PA, on Aug. 18, 1979 (track 9).

Tony Pringle – Cornet and leader

Stan McDonald – Clarinet and soprano sax

Stan Vincent – Trombone

Peter Bullis – Banjo and manager

Bob Pilsbury – Piano

C. H. “Pam” Pameijer – Drums

Eli Newberger – Tuba and finger cymbals

This is the last 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.

The New Black Eagles have established an enviable record of being in existence for over forty years. During that time they have traveled widely, playing gigs all over the U.S. and beyond, as their web site informs us:

“The band has performed extensively all across North America, and has toured throughout Europe countless times. They have performed in New Orleans, London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Toronto to name a few.”

So the title of this CD, “On the Road,” is appropriate, the band having spent much time over the years “on the road” although, somewhat ironically, all of the tracks on this CD were recorded at only two locations, about twenty-five miles apart, in one state: Pennsylvania—but still a road trip for the Boston-based band.

As is true of just about any performance by the New Black Eagles, almost any track on this CD could be part of a master-class for a traditional jazz band. The band is exciting, each player knowing precisely what his role is and all functioning together so coherently and intimately as they improvise the ensemble work, garnished by the solos each player musters as needed. This can be seen clearly in the longest track on the disc, Ma Rainey and Lena Arant’s Jelly Bean Blues. A lesser band stretching this tune out to eleven-plus minutes would have the audience stiff with boredom, but then this is not a lesser band! The track opens with the banjo soloing on the four-bar intro, setting a sedate blues tempo, and then the rest of the ensemble joins in, led by Pringle’s spare but insistent cornet as he seems to squeeze the notes through the instrument. After a few solos, Pilsbury as always is impressive soloing on piano, and after a chorus accompanied by Bullis on banjo, takes a true solo as the banjo drops out, adding deft touches such as a hint of boogie in his left hand. Later in the tune the banjo takes a solo which is punctuated with notes from Newberger, who, in turn, then solos on tuba with underpinning of chords from the banjo. All of these figures and pairings lend so much interest—one is simply unaware of the passing of time. And when the track ends, there can be no doubt that the tune has been thoroughly investigated and all its nuances explored.

Each track has its subtleties, such as Newberger’s grasping the opportunity in The Mooche to explore the top and the bottom of the tuba’s range, or, after the several clean breaks in The Martinique, Vincent ends the last of them with a superb trombone glissando and soars into his solo. Copenhagen is another—taken at a sprightly tempo and given fine bottom by superb, but not overwhelming, drumming by Pameijer as he works over all of his kit. Then there is the facility with dynamics that the band exhibits, particularly on Shake It & Break It but also on each tune as required. And there is the “surprise” ending on Shake It & Break It where the audience breaks into applause as the tune has apparently ended, only to hear the band, after what turns out to be merely a pause, launch into a reprise of the last sixteen measures and the closing turn. Wonderful stuff.

I would be remiss if I did not add a plaudit to the soprano sax playing of Stan McDonald. He does not play it with the “wide-as-a-house” vibrato so favored by Bechet and does manage to play it in tune. It is not my favorite reed instrument, but in MacDonald’s hands it is certainly rendered palatable.

This disc brings to an end the CD reissue series of previous LP’s and tapes. The whole series is an amazing testament to the band’s durability and the excellence of its music output. Undoubtedly the band will continue to record and issue CD’s.

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

Bert Thompson

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