The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3034: Gregg Stafford - That Man from New Orleans, Vol. 2

Personnel: Gregg Stafford [tp/v], Big Bill Bissonnette [tb/v], Paul Boehmke [cl/asx], Roberta Hunt [pn], Emil Mark [bn], Colin Bray [sbs], Dennis Elder [dm]

Songs: Lily of the Valley, Dippermouth Blues, St. James Infirmary, Hindustan, Over in the Gloryland, Summertime, St. Louis Blues, Bourbon St. Parade.

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3034: Gregg Stafford - That Man from New Orleans, Vol. 2

IAJRC Journal [International Association of Jazz Record Collectors]

Gregg Stafford is an enigma. While most trumpet players of his generation generally took Miles Davis or Clifford Brown as stylistic departure points, Stafford elected to pursue a career in traditional Jazz. A few of his New Orleans urban brothers (notably Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton) have attempted occasional forays into the music, but generally following the model set by Louis Armstrong. Stafford, on the other hand, has elected to recreate the sound of earlier-styled players such as Mutt Carey, Kid Thomas Valentine and possibly Freddie Keppard, using their clipped phrasing and declamatory lines in place of the bravura displays of the Armstrong disciples. While I suppose some might interpret this as acknowledgement of limited technique, I believe that it is honestly conceived and gives a fair picture of what Carey, Valentine and even Keppard might have sounded like in their unrecorded prime.
The band is built around Stafford. The rhythm section is made up of native Torontonians whose pedigree in the New Orleans revivalist movement goes back to the early 1970's at least, with drummer Elder's leadership of the Silver Leaf Jazz Band. Bassist Bray (who also contributes the notes) has been a mainstay of numerous groups in Toronto, most notably the Hot Five Jazzmakers. Pianist Hunt (referred to by Bray as being "barrelhouse" in her playing) was a regular at the time with Kid Bastien's Happy Pals, and banjoist Mark (perhaps better known as a pianist) is also active on the scene. This quartet lays down a solid four-beat cushion that forms the stemma of contemporary New Orleans rhythm. The other members of the front line were both Connecticut natives - trombonist Bill Bissonnette (who issued the recording) plays a no-frills tailgate style which is strongest in its ensemble conception, and reed player Paul Boehmke. Boehmke is compared to Jimmie Noone in the notes, although beyond a characteristic staccato octave figure he uses frequently on fast numbers, I don't hear any particular attempt at imitation. His alto sax playing is much more derivative - his gruff attack, barking phrases and perpetually charged drive being suggestive of Pete Brown on speed. As one might expect of a band assembled for a single engagement, the repertoire is conservative, leaning heavily on chestnuts of the New Orleans dance hall, circa 1960. Spirituals, blues, Jazz standards, marches, and pre-1920 pop tunes are the order of the day, with the only deviation being Summertime which contains the best clarinet and trombone solos of the date.
Stafford seems most comfortable on medium tempo stompers like Algiers Strut, St. Louis Blues and Glory land, but acquits himself very well on his vocal and trumpet feature, St. James Infirmary. Indeed, the best band numbers are the medium/fast drivers Sheik OfAraby, Bugle Boy March, Royal Garden Blues, Hindustan and Dippermouth Blues - all of which, coincidentally or not, either are or end up in the key of Bb. The set formats are virtually identical - fast Jazz tune/medium spiritual (reversed on the second set); slow bluesy tune; fast Bb pop tune; fast spiritual; slow bluesy tune; medium-fast stomp; fast march. The individual tunes tend to run on longer than I would like, several over ten minutes, with Tin Roof Blues topping out at thirteen. While such length is sometimes not even noticeable if interesting arrangements or textural variations are used, here the jam session format prevails and such niceties are largely absent. Under such conditions, time tends to pass much more quickly in a live performance than on a recording, but fortunately the professionalism and stylistic integrity of the musicians lifts the performances.
The commitment to the material is evident and a collective spirit present that devotees of the style will find highly appealing. The recording quality is generally good, although Mark's banjo draws the short straw, being largely inaudible except for his single solo (on Hindustan). The vocals by Bissonette (who sounds rather like Turk Murphy) and Stafford tend to be part of the fabric of the band sound rather than in the foreground, which is in keeping with the ensemble esthetic. Of the soloists, Boehmke stands out, with a technical fluidity and a range of sounds guaranteed to keep his efforts interesting. Stafford plays a mostly mid-range lead with occasional bursts of notes hinting at a command of his hom not especially necessary in this style.
- John Dark


Jazz Journal International - British Magazine

This 2-CD set, on Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade label represents the first album to be issued under Gregg Stafford's name. Born in 1947, Stafford is one of only a handful of younger black playing in the old New Orleans tradition. A native New Orleanian, he appears regularly at Preservation Hall.
This music was live at a concert promoted by the Classic Jazz Society of Toronto. There are no great surprises here and indeed why should there be? All the players are enthusiasts of the New Orleans jazz stylings of the so called revival.They operate within the parameters of the idiom, with obvious enjoyment shared by an enthusiastic audience. The material, too, is familiar with many old favorites. Gregg Stafford plays with a jaunty assurance, both in ensemble and solos. Bill Bissonnette plays gutsy, rough-hewn trombone in the Jim Robinson manner. Bill's singing is an extension of his trombone style.
I enjoyed Paul Boehmke's clarinet - he plays sensitively with no outright cloning fortunately - just good jazz. Generally the rhythm is OK.
Bill Bissonnette remains a single minded devotee who has done much to keep the spirit of the music alive, including recording many albums by British musicians in recent years. This value for money album will certainly appeal to fans of the later day New Orleans jazz tradition. Audio quality is good but Colin Bray's bass is a little under-recorded. Both CDs have commendable playing time.
- Pat Hawes


Victory Review - U.S. A.

Few African-Americans have carried on the traditional New Orleans sound. One is trumpet man Gregg Stafford, a graduate of the Preservation Hall series and the Young Tuxedo Brass Band. He is a monster traditional player with a big, open, warm and yet biting tone, with some links to Louis on "Dippermouth Blues" and "Saint James Infirmary," to King Oliver styles. He drives home the roaring "Royal Garden Blues" and takes a cue from Big Bill Bissonnette's muted talking trombone on the slow walking "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."
This was a live 1998 concert recording in Toronto with a pick-up band. Bissonnette, Emil Mark on banjo and Paul Boehmke on reeds are out of the New England Easy Riders. Colin Bray on driving bass, Roberta Hunt on piano and Dennis Elder on drums were locals. Stafford's vocals are like a kind of a modern, light Louis though, on "Some of these Days" done non Chicago Style with nice clarinet by Paul Boehmke. I love Stafford's staccato drive on the end of "Just A Little While to Stay Here."
The piano work of Hunt is full bodied with bold rhythmic stride throughout. She can carry space well as in "Tin Roof Blues" behind the talking trombone and vocal of Bissonnette or can stride and romp as on "Algier's Strut." Would like to see Stafford get a first class studio session with the time to bring it off. That would be the traditional jazz recording of the decade. He's that fine.
- Chris Lunn


The Bolden Times - Canadian Newsletter

Gregg Stafford plays the trumpet with poise and taste, direct and lyrical. His upper register is confident, clear and hot, never losing the exquisite tone of his instrument. He is a product of his New Orleans heritage. Stafford led a hand-picked group from the Easy Riders Jazz Band in the U.S., consisting of Big Bill Bissonnette, who plays with an eccentric virtuosity, acts as a humorous master of ceremonies and is renowned for his recording activities; Paul Boehmke who plays the clarinet with a lovely round fluid tone and doubles on alto sax, and Emil Mark who plays elegant banjo.
Local musicians assisting were Dennis Elder, drummer and leader of the Silverleaf Jazzmen, Colin Bray from the Hot Five Jazzmakers, bass player, collector of recorded rarities and scholar, and Roberta Hunt, who plays piano with Cliff Bastien's Happy Pals. The band opened with an explosive Royal Garden Blues, making it apparent that the local rhythm section would provide strong support to the exciting front line which performed with much fine soloing and ensemble work. Stafford soloed with both heat and grace.
- Terpsichord


The Jazz Rag - British

THAT MAN FROM NEW ORLEANS is from Big Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade label. The man in question is trumpeter Gregg Stafford, recorded "live" m Toronto with Big Bill, reedman Paul Boehmke (very good) and a Canadian rhythm section led by the relentless Roberta Hunt on piano. This is good sturdy New Orleans jazz without frills. The material rarely strays outside the typical hymns, marches, Stomps and blues and Stafford is nothing if not positive: a forthright and exuberant player. For all that there's an air of relaxation about the proceedings, with 10-minute tracks often swinging along at rnid-tempo, though the extended solos catch Big Bill out at times.
- Ron Simpson


Boxel Jazz Website - New Zealand

New Orleans' jazz is black music. So how come so few black Americans play it today? Where is today's King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, or Bunk Johnson? Well it ain't Wyston Marsalis as he but rarely plays in the style. Nicholas Payton doesn't live up to the hype. Wendell Brumous shows some potential. Gregg Stafford? Oh yes, he der man!
These CDs, recorded live at a Toronto jazz festival are hard driving, hot New Orleans style jazz played by Gregg with members from various America and Canadian outfits. Every member deserves a mention: Big Bill Bissonnette moaning his trombone in his unique style, wicked reeds wizard Paul Boehmke, the 'all together' rhythm section of Emil Mark on banjo, Colin Bray on bass and Dennis Elder on drums, and the wonderful Roberta Hunt playing a 'barrel house' piano that compliments the rhythm boys, underlines the front line and contributes the odd solo break. But these CDs belong to Gregg Stafford.
The sleeve notes tell that Gregg is a snazzy dresser, wearing what at times must be startling outfits. Silk shirt and cravat one minute, a pin stripe suit complete with patent leather shoes the next, and then a racoon skin coat! He is also said to be compulsive, like cancelling his air flight and instead driving from New Orleans to Toronto and gaining his first experience of tackling snow in the process. His playing is as sharp, punchy and snappy as his clothes; as impulsive and dynamic as his personality.
These are two brilliant and exuberant CDs. If you like New Orleans Jazz you have just got to have them. Even lovers of other Traditional and Dixieland jazz styles should get them. Ok, at times some of the musos get 'off mike', but this is live jazz. The 'liveness' is emphasised by the way the musicians feed off and drive each other on, ensuring that each tune is explored to the max. The shortest track is 5:31 and the longest, the extraordinary, 'Tin Roof Blues', is a full boded 13:07. Lie back, close your eyes, and you are there, caught up in the music with the wildly enthusiastic audience. And Gregg Stafford? Oh yeh, he is de man alright!
- Geoff Boxell


Jazz Journal International - British Magazine

This 2-CD set, on Bill Bisson-nette's Jazz Crusade label, represents the first album to be issued under Gregg Stafford's name. Born in 1947, Stafford is one of a handful of younger black musicians playing in the old New Orleans tradition. A native New Orleanian, he appears regularly at Preservation Hall.
This music was recorded live earlier this year at a concert promoted by the Classic Jazz Society of Toronto. Colin J. Bray, President of the Society, plays bass; other Toronto-based musicians on show are pianist Roberta Hunt and drummer Dennis Elder. Completing the band are three Americans. Emil Mark, usually a piano player, is on banjo for this session and clarinettist Paul Boehmke doubles on alto. Both work regularly with Bill Bissonnette.
There are no great surprises in store here and indeed why should there be? All the players are enthusiasts of the New Orleans jazz stylings of the so called revival. They operate within the parameters of the idiom, with obvious enjoyment shared by an enthusiastic audience. The material, too, is familiar, with many old favourites. Gregg Stafford plays with a jaunty assurance, both in ensemble and solos. He also sings Some Of These Days, Lily Of The Valley, St James' Infirmary and Over In The Glory-land pleasantly enough, but with no great distinction.
Bill Bissonnette plays gutsy, rough-hewn trombone in the Jim Robinson manner. Bill's singing Sheik Of Araby, Tin Roof Blues and St Louis Blues is an extension of his trombone style. I enjoyed Paul Boehmke's clarinet-he plays sensitively with no outright cloning fortunately-just good jazz. Generally the rhythm section is OK. Roberta Hunt, described as 'the only real barrelhouse piano player in Toronto', has a nice sense of timing and is solid in her comping if unambitious solo-wise. Emil Mark plays steady banjo.
Dennis Elder, who leads his own Silverleaf Band in Toronto, is a follower of the Sammy Penn style of drumming, which he picked up personally from Penn in the 1960s. Like his mentor, whose playing I have found hard to take on record, Dennis sometimes manages to confuse the basic pulse with ill-judged explosions and rub-a-dub phrasing of a corny nature as on Summertime. Gershwin's beautiful melody does not respond well to the chords and harmonic approximations employed here, some of which are blatantly wrong: it's a very subtle tune.
Bill Bissonnette remains a single minded devotee who has done much to keep the spirit of the music alive, including recording many albums by British musicians in recent years.
This value for money album will certainly appeal to fans of the latter day New Orleans jazz tradition. Audio quality is good but Colin Bray's bass is a little under-recorded-both CDs have commendable playing time.
- Pat Hawes


Cadence Magazine - U. S. A.

Stafford and a band put together by the Toronto Classic Jazz Society played at their concert this year. The program was captured on two CDs on in a lengthy example that shows the audience for New Orleans Jazz continues to thrive on new versions of the old material. As the title indicates, Stafford is from New Orleans and has been involved in this music for many years although he is still referred to as a youngster. He is a strong trumpet player and has a likeable stage presence as evidenced by the crowd's response to his playing and singing.
Playing with a sextet, Stafford and the other members get a lot of solo time, which is not always the case with New Orleans musical bands. Although this was a newly formed ensemble, they played with a professionalism that belied that fact. The band has a full sound, with Bissonnette standing out frequently. They easily meshed into a unit and showed no signs of unfamiliarity. Another very noticeable difference in this recording is the length of the tunes. Instead of many short stints, the band played longer versions of up to 13 minutes. Also contrary to the earlier styles, each member often solos in turn after the opening ensemble work. This approach works well with this very competent band to allow the individual talents to emerge. Yet on the ensemble parts, they play with gusto to a very appreciative crowd.
This was Stafford's first recording under his name. He is another addition to a small group of enthusiasts dedicated to the perpetuation of early Jazz forms. His playing is polished and shows a lot of assuredness. I am sure his efforts will be appreciated by fans of this musical style.
- Frank Rubolino


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