In this second volume of Once again from the start! by the Red Beans ‘n’ Rice Jazz Band, Stuart McLean continues his account of the band’s history in his liner notes. While the first volume featured performances from 1996, 1998 and 1999, this volume focuses on the period shortly after the band’s formation in 1992, with “some early recordings that have now been revealed” from 1993, we are informed. he. Many of the same staff from Volume 1 are on volume two, John “Dusso” Winter on trumpet being the only “newcomer” here. He provides a solid lead and on several tracks, a vocal.
The list of tunes on both CDs is varied, including blues, marches, pop songs, spirituals – something for everyone – and by a variety of composers including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver , WC Handy, to name a few. I imagine the titles will be familiar to most people. “Uptown Bumps” is more generally titled “The Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”, perhaps, and there is a bit of confusion over “San Jacinto Stomp”. Some people claim that George Lewis co-opted another track, “You Can’t Escape from Me”, simply giving it the title “San Jacinto Stomp”. And to further complicate the matter, there’s the song called “I Can’t Escape from You”, which some people say is simply a refocusing of “You Can’t Escape from Me!” Since “I Can’t Escape from You” is also on this album, we have the chance to compare “San Jacinto Stop” with it and decide if it’s the same track or different ones.
Speaking of “recognizing” the tunes, I found myself having trouble with these from time to time. Mr. Morton once said, “My theory is never to reject the melody. Always make the melody go one way or another. Sometimes I found that was not the case here. For example, “Milenberg Joys” didn’t become clear to me until halfway through, when the clarinet took the lead. The piece doesn’t open with the usual ascending arpeggio, nor is it hinted at anywhere in the piece, so until I got my bearings with the clarinet, I was a bit lost. Another cut where I had difficulty was “I travel”. It’s a piece not often played by bands, the most memorable to me being the performance by the Crane River Jazz Band, led by Ken Colyer, at the famous concert on July 14, 1951 at the Royal Festival Hall held by the National Federation of Jazz Organizations. But the trail is nice, if a little mysterious.
As before, the band relies heavily on ensemble work, which elicits no complaints from me. The solos to be heard are distributed fairly evenly mostly on the frontline, with the backline tending to be simply supportive. There are a good number of clarinet-trombone duos, where each instrument alternately plays solo and counterpoint, and this, in turn, lends a lot of interest. The rhythm section is generally reliable when it comes to tempos, but once or twice they tend to rush a bit like, for example, on “Bye and Bye” and “Uptown Bumps”. These tend to be minor cavils, however.
A slightly bigger shortcoming is in sound quality, where there is little to no separation of instruments, leading to some “confusion”. As Stuart McLean points out in the insert, “Recording equipment at the time was not as sophisticated as it is today, with sound recorded on audio tape, often by simple small recording machines with single mono reception. Considering that, the band still managed to sound pretty good…” As the contents of these two CDs attest, they did manage to sound “pretty good”.
Contact Stuart McLean at [email protected] for information on the acquisition of this double album.
Once again from the start! Flight. 2: “Unite”
Red beans and rice
Practical sound systems (no number)
Recorded at King’s Head, Beccles, UK in 1993.
Staff: John “Dusso” Winter, trumpet, vocals; John “Tidge” Riches, clarinet, alto sax; Jeff Rous, trombone; Robin Campbell Burgess, sousaphone; Norman Munroe, banjo; Brian Hewkin, drums.
Born in Dundee, Scotland, Bert Thompson came to the United States in 1956. After a two-year stint playing drums with the 101st Airborne Division Band and doing a number of airdrops, he returned to life civilian in San Francisco, enrolling at San Francisco State University where he earned a BA and MA. He continued his education at the University of Oregon, where he earned a DA and Ph.D., all his degrees in English. Now retired, he is Emeritus Professor of English at City College of San Francisco. He is also a retired traditional jazz drummer, having played with a number of San Francisco Bay Area bands including And That’s Jazz, Professor Plum’s Jazz, the Jelly Roll Jazz Band, Mission Gold Jazz Band and the Zenith New Orleans Parade group; he also played with musicians further afield, including Gremoli (Long Beach, CA) and the Phoenix Jazzers (Vancouver, BC). Today, he reviews traditional jazz CDs and occasionally writes articles for several publications.