Personnel: Big Bill
Bissonnette [tb], Fred Vigorito [ct], George Probert [ssx,
asx], Sarah Spencer[rd], Pat Hawes [pn], Tuba Fats
Lacen [tu], Dave Brennan [bn], Clint Baker [dm]
Songs: In the Gutter, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Clarinet
Marmalade, When I Was A Little Child, Just A Little While to Stay Here,
One Sweet Letter From You, The Moose - A March, It Feels So Good, Pagan
Love Song, Old Black Joe, Four or Five Times, Canal Street Blues.
In The Gutter with the
INTERNATIONAL JAZZ BAND 1997
Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.
Bissonnette assembled an international group for a European tour in 1997,
commencing with a full house at the Royal Festival Hall's Purcell Room.
They played other venues in England as well as a few in Holland and Germany.
The material on this CD is from a studio session at "The Bull at
Most of the tune choices are familiar New Orleans standbye, but they never
seem to grow old. Among the not so familiar are "When I Was A Little
Child," "It Feels So Good" and "In the Gutter."
"Child" and "Good" are pretty basic - each involving
only one chord shange. "In the Gutter" based on the chord structure
of "I Got Rhythm" is a spirited eight minute stomp. Stephen
Foster's "Old Black Joe," an inherently somber and sentimental
song, getas effectively rejuvenated in a peppy update 140 years after
Clearly Bissonnette knew what he was doing in selecting what appears to
be, at first glance, an improbable line-up of musicians. From the West
Coast came George Probert and Clint Baker. From the East Coast, Big Bill
Bissonnette and Fred Vigorito. From New Orleans came Tuba Fats Lacen.
England was represented by Pat Hawes and Dave Brennan. All these palyers
are comfortable and proficient in the Uptown New Orleans style as typified
by such bands as Bunk Johnson, Kid Thomas, George Lewis and the Preservation
Hall Jazz Band. As a matter of fact, Bissonnette and some of his sidemen
actually sat in with several of the then-living legends in these bands
many years ago. Spontaneity, ebullience and conviction are what we look
for in this tradition, and we find these qualities in the new International
Jazz Band 1997.
- Bill Mitchell
Cadence Magazine- U. S. A.
Don't know about you, but for this writer Dixieland music almost always
sounds like a lame senior citizens' community attempt at reliving the
past- Bissonnette's hardcore New Orleans style - quite different from
Dixieland, though the distinction is lost on many is damn near exciting.
Voung whippersnappers like ourselves are given a feel of how hot early
Jazz must have sounded to the age group that would embrace rock and roll
a half century later. Even "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"
has an edge, mostly thanks to the forward playing of Bissonnette and Vigorito,
who incorporate a degree of romanticism that would never cut it in contemporary
Jazz. None of this Pete Fountain drivel for these guys - the group's output
sounds so refreshingly foreign and authentic as to leave the listener
with that rare glimpse of what kick-started the whole Jazz movement. Through
these guys having mastered those heart-on-sleeve solos and primitive tuba/banjo
chunky rhythms that personified the era, their impressive recording moves
far beyond merely imitating an earlier era. If you can't get into early
Jazz because of how distant all those remastered 78s still sound, check
out these guys.
- Dave McElfresh
Jazz Journal International - British
I had the pleasure of hearing this band at the Purcell Room before their
recent European tour; this recording at the Bull's Head was made partway
through the tour, and it is evident that the experience had brought them
The star of this selection, as he was in the flesh, is the remarkable
George Probert, veteran of many West Coast bands; mainly concentrating
on the soprano saxophone (the straight version favored by Bechet) he makes
it sing with an expressiveness and authority which is very much his own
even though it owes a good deal to the New Orleans clarinet style. Sarah
Bissonnette's tenor style is also very much Crescent City based and, although
displaying less subtlety of invention than Probert, she fits in well with
him. Big Bill's basic trombone style is well integrated into the band's
ambience, and it is good to renew acquaintance with his erstwhile Connecticut
associate Fred Vigorito, who plays with crisp drive, nice tone and plenty
of feeling for the apt phrase. Pat Hawes proves the ideal pianist for
this sort of group, keeping the rhythm going but often surprising the
listener with an imaginative touch. Dave Brennan is the epitome of tact
and support-iveness and the young American Clint Baker provides a lively
and imaginative bottom end, while Tuba Fats shows that the long New Orleans
tradition of brass band rhythm is still in good hands. The pleasure of
that earlier live evening is well recaptured by this CD but, more than
that, the music is quite capable of standing on its own as a fine example
of one of the best aggregations of traditional-style musicians still around.
At the start, the sounds lacks something in definition and presence, but
by the third track it has settled to an entirely acceptable standard.
- Christopher Hillman
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