The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3016: George Probert plays Siren Songs

Personnel: George Probert [reeds], Ted Thomas [ct], Ron Going [cl], Brad Roth [bn], Mike Fay [sbs], Clint Baker [dm]

Songs:  Smiles, Oriental Man, Algiers Strut, Just A Closer Walk with Thee, Swanee River, Hiawatha Rag, For Me & My Gal, Melancholy, Moonlight, I'm Confessin', My Life Will be Sweeter Someday, Cielito Lindo, If Ever I Cease to Love, Postman's Lament, I'll See You In My Dreams.

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3016: George Probert plays Siren Songs

Jazz Journal International

The antics of the Firehouse Five plus Two could not hide the fact that the members were expert and knowledgeable musicians, and none more so than George Probert whose stint with Kid Ory only went to confirm his status. All these years later, George is still going strong, expanding his expertise and personality to embrace a wide range of reed instruments. He is, as one would expect, particularly impressive on the straight soprano weapon, but alto and baritone also find him well in command and his ocarina playing has more than mere charm. The band of West Coasters back him up well in a nice range of material, with Going providing an effective foil, and occasional duet partner, on clarinet and the cornetist sounding remarkably like Ken Colyer at times. The rhythm could be a bit more dynamic, but altogether this is very pleasant music in the educated traditional style. On top of that, of course, there is the individuality and sometimes eccentricity of George Probert; when he takes off on any of his instruments the music truly catches fire, but at other times he is a thoughtful supporter of his colleagues and an effective orchestrator of the overall sound. This is a very apt portrait of the musical talents of a man who is by no means as well known as he ought to be.
- Christopher Hillman


American Rag - U. S. A.

JCCD-3016 contains 71 minutes of excellent uncompromising uptown New Orleans jazz, waxed 9/19/95 under the leadership of multi-reedman George Probert. His sidemen include three members of the Gremoli band, cometist Ted Thomas, clarinetist Ron Going and bassist Mike Fay; one of the best banjoists on the circuit, Brad Roth: and drummer Clint Baker, who gets the one solo allocated to a back-liner. In fact. almost everybody plays all the lime, a "solo" generally meaning that one of the horns has become more prominent in the ensemble. The two reeds give the sextet a distinctive texture, while Probert's doubling on clarinet, bass clarinet, ocarina and sopranino. soprano, alto and baritone saxophones adds a pleasing element of surprise. The band sticks single-mindedly to business, urged on by Thomas' Tony Pringle-ish yelps and jabs, digging in to generate an earthy back-allev atmosphere that's a real grabber. Whether you're one of George's legions of admirers or an uptown buff, you'll love this one Five stars.
- Tex Wyndham


Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.

Veteran reedman George Probert is best known for his 1950s recordings with Bob Scobey, Kid Ory and particularly his long association with the Firehouse Five Plus Two. While he's usually thought of as a soprano saxophonist (an instrument on which he has created his own strong and clearly identifiable style), he's also a master of the clarinet, bass clarinet, sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones plus the ocarina. Over the last 20 years or so, he's appeared at many European and American festivals, usually with his own loose, free-swinging jam session bands, but also with the Frisco Syncopators or the Misbehavin' Jazz Band.
The Siren Song album finds Probert utilizing his myriad horns in an energetic New Orleans revivalist groove with a group made up primarily of the band "Gremoli" with a couple of personnel changes. Reed Renaissance pairs him with fellow reedman Bob Helm, veteran of the Lu Watters and Turk Murphy jazz bands, and, with a minimalist two-piece rhythm section, turns them loose on a repertoire made up primarily of standard dixieland and pop tunes.
The Gremolians joining Probert on the full band album are cornetist Ted Thomas, clarinetist Ron Going and bassist Mike Fay, with further support provided by Brad Roth's clean and rock-steady rhythm banjo and Glint Baker's propulsive, idiomatically colorful drumming. Thomas provides a clear lead voice during ensembles and several interesting, flavorful solos, while Going not only gives Probert a foil for several reed duets that occur during the performances, but lends a strong dose of New Orleans ambiance with his unique Albert system stylings. Probert invests most of his solos on all instruments with a charging fierceness on the uptempo tunes (which constitute most of the album) and a wailing passion on the slow ones. His support band, clearly inspired, rises to the occasion.
- Ted des Plantes


IAJRC Journal - U. S. A.

On this recording, George Probert, of Firehouse Five PJus Two fame, plays everything but the kitchen sink - even bass clarinet, sopranino and ocarina - with five New Orleans-style players from California. Ron Going, on his Albert-system clarinet, and Probert, on bass clarinet, play wonderfully in duet on "Melancholy." Ted Thomas at times, especially on "Algiers Strut," "Smiles" and "Moonlight," plays the cornet in a sparse style that is similar to that of Tony Pringle, the leader of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band. Bill Bissonnette, in the album notes, indicates that Thomas has given "a nodding glance in the direction of Ken Colyer."
In the summer of 1930, Louis Armstrong was booked to front s. house band, run by Leon Elkins, in Frank Sebastian's New Cotton Club which was located across the street from the MGM Studios in Los Angeles. Louis Armstrong and His Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra recorded "Confessin'" (better known as "I'm Confessin' That I Love You") for Okeh in 1931. This tune, with great solos from Probert's saxophone, Thomas' comet, and Going's clarinet, is easily the best played piece of music on this recording. Another great rendition is that of Con Conrad's "Moonlight." Thomas' cornet punctuates the counterpoint on the front line and there is a nice clarinet solo, followed by one from Thomas' muted cornet, with Glint Baker (usually a trumpet player) effectively playing the cymbals on the offbeats as the band really swings.
There is a great ensemble opening to "My Life Will Be Sweeter Someday," followed by Going's clarinet solo over the alto sax, and Probert soon takes his sax into soloistic heights. Thomas' cornet chorus has a lot of bite to it, and there's an interesting rhythmic background. "Smiles," introduced in the theatrical musical Passing Show of 1918, became a favorite of the public who bought many records of it. Probert takes a solo on his alto sax, with some intricate contrapuntal patterns from Going's clarinet in the background. Mso, on "Smiles," banjoist Brad Roth and bassist Mike Fay, with Baker's expert use of the cymbals, really produce a hot, rollicking beat. This recording's tunes, some of which are frequently played by traditional jazz bands, are played very well by Probert.
- BG


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