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MARIETTA, OH, USA - New Orleans jazz can be mesmerizing and sometimes it seems merely ordinary. The secret, as in all music, is in the playing. Good musicians can produce good music. Great musicians are likely to come up with sounds that seem heavenly.
Dr. Michael White plays clarinet as well as anyone currently doodling on that magic stick. If you question that statement, just pick up a copy of the good doctor's new CD, "Jazz from the Soul of New Orleans" (Basin Street Records). It will convince you.
This album features eleven delightful arraignments by White and the resulting music ranges from toe tapping to terrific. There's not a single clinker in the lot, as White leads a talented crew who sound completely at home with this kind of jazz. Opening with a sprightly rendition of "Hindustan," the album shifts into a gospel mode with the next tune, "If We Ever Needed Jesus," featuring a sultry, soulful vocal by Juanita Brooks, backed by her banjo-playing brother, Detroit Brooks. The song seems like it comes straight from a church pew songbook, but it didn't. White wrote it.
In the liner notes, White explains that the band's goal is to both preserve and expand the New Orleans jazz tradition. Mission accomplished. The album's selections include songs both elderly and fresh-faced, each played with a verve and entrancing beat.
Dr. White, working with a hugely talented band, makes this CD something that should continue to delight buyers for years. I recommend it highly.
Tommy Newsom's Good StuffAnyone who watched the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson should recall the talented tenor sax man who led the band on nights when Doc was away. Newsom could be counted on to respond to Carson's question with a wry or even weird comment that seldom failed to win a big laugh from the studio audience.
Newsom has been around for many years and his work in a straight-ahead groove makes him one of the most listenable of the hundreds of brilliant tenor specialists operating in music today. Newsom does his usual great job with "Friendly Fire" (Arbors Records), a satisfying blend of tunes old and older.
Bob Enevoldsen plays trombone with astonishing skill and a leaning toward old-fashioned swing/jazz. John F. Hammond is a steady hand on the piano, while Bob Bain plays guitar in a solid manner, but never trying to show off. Jim Hughart lays down a steady beat on bass and the excellent drummer Dave Hunt rounds out the group.
Though there are no missteps to be found, several arraignments stand out, including "Just Friends," "Do Nothing' Till You Hear from Me" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." If you like jazz with a firm grounding in swing, "Friendly Fire" should meet your desires.
Good Sounds from RockfordCan you make a living as a musician these days? Mike Williamson demonstrates that with luck and a whole lot of hard work, it can happen.
Headquartered in Rockford, Ill., Williamson has spent more than a quarter-century on tour and delivering packages of musicians who perform for any event, from a club meeting to a full-fledged concert. There's no pretense involved. The people working with Williamson are often housewives and their mates with no dreams about hitting the Big Time. They delight in delivering good music that entertains a wide array of audiences.
Williamson, who sings well, released an album, "In Good Company", which has a dozen songs that should cross over and please everyone from Grandma and Grandpa to all the members of the first grade class at a rural school near Rockford.
"In Good Company" Williamson works with five musicians who perform with professional aplomb. Williamson may never achieve the status of "star," but he's a working music, an occupation that's all too rare.
For information on obtaining the CD, send e-mail toMwillia142@aol.com.
Novelty Piano Duo DelightsIt's a shame that what was called "novelty piano" now has been almost a forgotten genre of the music world. But wait a minute! Dick Hyman and John Sheridan, two experienced hands in the recording studios, have a new album, "Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's).
In a CD as crisp and full-throated as a morning songbird, the duo performs this 19-track CD with considerable aplomb. Excellence is what it's all about. With tricky rhythms and easy skill, Hyman and Sheridan show they were made for each other, particularly in the concert hall.
The program includes four tunes originated by Willie Smith, whose nickname was "The Lion." Trumpet genius Bix Beiderbecke composes four novelty tunes, and the duo makes them as fresh as hot popcorn on a carnival midway.
This is marvelous stuff. Give it a spin.
NEXT TIME: New music from excellent pianist Peter Kater, whose CDs offer tidbits of numerous kinds of music, all packaged prettily. And new CD's from Henry Butler, Jon Cleary and the Larry Goldings Trio. See you then!
Bob Powers always is interested in hearing from record distributors who deal in jazz, rock, folk, and anything that's good. For instructions on getting your album reviewed, contact him at email@example.com.
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