The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3048: Walking with the King -
Gregg Stafford & the Easy Riders Jazz Band

Personnel: Gregg Stafford [tp/v], Big Bill Bissonnette [tb], Sammy Rimington, Paul Boehmke [rd], Bill Sinclair [pn], Emil Mark [bn], Arnie Hyman [sb], John Russell [dm]

Songs: Fidgety Feet, In the Sweet Bye & Bye, Walking with the King, Moonlight, Savoy Blues, Climax Rag, Aunt Hager's Blues, Martha, What A Wonderful World, Honky Tonk Town, The Faithful Hussar, Cielto Lindo, Yellow Dog Blues, Caldonia.

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3048: Walking with the King -
Gregg Stafford & the Easy Riders Jazz Band

Boxell's Traditional Jazz Website - New Zealand

Gregg Stafford strikes again! This time with Big Bill Bissonnette's Easy Riders Jazz band. They were made for each other: exciting, explorative, emotional. The CD kicks in with the fast and raucous "Fidgety Feet" and then, just as your mind and heart are about to explode, they bring you down with the slow and sweet "In the Sweet Bye & Bye." And so it goes on, nursts of explosive expressive energy combined with mellow melodic musings. All played with enthusiasm and honesty, the band obviously enjoying themselves.
I suppose I should say that this album belongs to Gregg, and yes, he does shine. But this is good New Orleans, and thus complimentary with mainly ensemble work. Although he may play and sing Louis Armstrong tunes, unlike Satchmo, he isn't a "look at me" artist using the other band members as a backing group. This CD belongs to Gregg Stafford & the Easy Riders Jazz Band.
The members of the band are Uncle Sam's finest New Orleans style jazzmen, plus Sammy Rimington, who needs no introduction or flattery from me. Gregg, well he is the man. His fame is spreading as time goes by, mainly as a result of his being invited to play at international jazz festivals and his Jazz Crusade recordings.
The band is built on the rock solid rhythm section of Bill Sinclair on piano, Emil Mark on banjo, Arnie Hyman on bass and John Russell on drums. The front line is the best sounding four-man line up around. Complimenting Gregg on trumpet are Sammy Rimington and Paul Boehmke on reeds and Big Bill Bissonnette himself on trombone. In my quieter moments I have always wanted to play a trombone like Geoff Cole, but I confess, in my more hyper moments I want to play a trombone like Big Bill!
Sammy's reed playing on clarinet & alto sax is as wonderful as ever. I am not a big fan of the tenor sax, but Paul Boehmke is a revalation, especially his contribution on "Moonlight." And you say, what of Gregg? He is class. World class. I don't know what sound bite Big Bill has put up on his website but I hope it is the George Lewis arranged "Savoy Blues" which blew me away. It demonstrates the quality of this band and caused me to rethink my prejudice against four-man front lines.
When my old mum died we played traditional jazz recordings. From the time they carried the coffin out of the chapel we played up-beat gospel. I have told my family that, when my time comes, I want the same tape used for me. However, I think I will replace Ken Colyer's "Walking with the King" with Gregg Stafford's version on this album. Does that tell you something? Well it should: buy this CD!
- Geoff Boxell


Cadence Magazine - Dec 1999 - U.S.A.

The spirit is alive in a reunion of the original Easy Riders Jazz Band, who made their first record in 1962 and broke up in 1968. New Orleans trumpet player Gregg Stafford was chosen as the special guest soloist for this project. Stafford recorded That Man from New Orleans released last year as a 2-fer on Jazz Crusade. Bissonnette, Boehmke & Mark all played on that memorable session & this new album confirms why Stafford is such an inspired choice to play with the Easy Riders. His pithy solos combine drive and excitement shaped with earthy elegance from the uptempo "Fidgety Feet" to his evocative wah-wah mute in "Moonlight" and the breezy ballad "What A Wonderful World." One senses a bright musical intelligence informing the evident passion playing - notably in the dramatic poise of his solo during Ory's "Savoy Blues" that inspires impressive subsequent solos by Rimington and Bissonnette. Of course this session is also distinguished by the characteristic zest of the ensembles and the exuberant polyphony of "Walking with the King," "Moonlight" and "Climax Rag," qualities that long-time admirers of this band continue to relish with every release. The words of Louis Armstrong can be used to sum this one up best as, "one of those good old good ones."


AMG *** Review - U. S. Jazz Guide

The Easy Riders Jazz Bandstarted recording its distinctive interpretations of classic New Orleans jazz back in 1962. The group recorded fairly regularly between that year and 1966, and then went on hiatus for more than 25 years before again appearing on record, still with its original Jazz Crusade label. The Easy Riders continue to be headed by trombonist Big Bill Bissonnette and original pianist Bill Sinclair is also hanging in. Sammy Rimington, who came on board in 1964, is still wailing away with his exuberant New Orleans-style clarinet. In addition to the new members, this album has a guest: trumpeter and vocalist Gregg Stafford. New members and guests notwithstanding, the band hasn't changed its inventive, enthusiastic response to the music and the way it's played, both of which are so unique to the Crescent City sound.
The play list primarily consists of familiar pieces from the traditional jazz repertoire, with a couple of non-traditional jazz ringers thrown in like "Caldonia" and "What a Wonderful World." These two tunes feature Stafford's gravelly voice, so perhaps they were on the agenda to accommodate him. In addition to these, the program is filled with other gems. The fortuitous selection of the Kid Ory arrangement of "Aunt Hagar's Blues" makes this one of the preeminent tracks on the CD. Among other things, it has some well-placed shouts by Paul Boehmke. Kid Ory's "Savoy Blues," one of the classic tunes that has attracted clarinet players over the years, is a fine vehicle for Rimington. He gets help from Stafford, but it's mainly his show. The highly syncopated "Climax Rag" is something one would be sure to hear in a Bourbon Street bar during the street's heyday as the wellhead of jazz. But the album really comes together in W.C. Handy's "Yellow Dog Blues," where the group is in ensemble (or as close to ensemble as traditional jazz ever gets) for more than 6 minutes; as individual performers, they let it all hang out for a rousing version of one of the favorite tunes of this jazz genre. It's good to have this group back in the studio once more, even though the Easy Riders have to go to Connecticut to record New Orleans music.
- Dave Nathan


Jazz Rag - British

Big Bill Bissonnette consciously looks back 30-odd years to when his Easy Riders Jazz Band recorded with aging New Orleans legends. Now the Easy Riders are the old guys and the New Orleans guest trumpet player Gregg Stafford is the youngster! Gregg Stafford playing, hot, a bit wild, unafraid of risks, fits in with the Rider's philosophy and Bill Bissonnette does his own review in his liner notes: "Those who like the Easy Riders sound will like it. Those who don't still won't." Paul Boehmke's tenor sax shows up well, more rhythmic than melodic, swinging on a minimum of notes, though I suspect the driving solo on Caldonia is Sammy Rimington on alto sax.
- Ron Simpson


Doctor Jazz-Netherlands

This was more or less a reunion for members of the Easy Riders Jazz band from 1966 with special guest Gregg Stafford. I was not too enthusiastic about his playing on a previous CD, maybe because that was a live recording. For this studio session, everything was carefully prepared. For Stafford some titles were even new. A Surprise too is the strong playing of Paul Boehmke along with the constant Sammy Rimington. These men play with much pleasure and that is, as the CD advances more and more prominent. Sometime they reach a boiling point, especially with the help of the swinging rhythm section. Recommended!
- Gerard Bielderman


Jazz Journal International - England

Gregg Stafford is a younger resident of New Orleans; in fact he is younger than most of his colleagues here - ironic since the Easy Riders made their impact on the city's music by accompanying many of its legendary and seemingly ageless of its inhabitants in earlier years. Now, sadly, all the oldtimers are gone, but a nucleus of their youthful supporters from those days, now themselves grown august, manages to recapture much of the robust sound and spirit of those exciting times, while their guest echoes the more traditional virtues of his home town - reflecting more the middle period sound of such as Ernie Cagnolatti and Joshua Willis but still very much in the same groove as his colleagues. His muted work adds a touch of legato to what is often a rather over-excited approach by the band, and Sammy Rimington also provides some light and shade to offset Big Bill's earthiness.
The rhythm is enthusiastic rather than subtle, and the overall effect is rather approximate, generally justified by the exhuberance and sheer whole-heartedness of the groups approach. Stafford comes out of the exercise with credit, showing a great deal of sympathy with Bissonnette's own aims and objectives while maintaining a crisp musicianship throughout.
- Christopher Hillman


Jazzreview.com - U.S.A.

Gregg Stafford is, at 45, one of the younger New Orleans revivalists on the scene today. Gregg took over the lead of Danny Barker's Jazz Hounds after Barker's passing. This session for Jazz Crusade was recorded in April 1999 and includes many New Orleans standards plus Armstrong's What A Wonderful World and the perennial swing tune Caldonia.
Gregg and the group carry the set off in great style including Kid Ory's arrangement of Aunt Hager's Blues and the George Lewis version of Savoy Blues. Big Bill Bissonnette is in fine form and plays more forcefully than I have heard him in the past. Havin' a good time Bill?
The two reedmen double on sax and clarinet beautifully. Bill Sinclair plays a 60 minute ball games on piano, just swinging all the way. Stafford's lead trumpet is confident and immpecable. He never relaxes the New Orleans punchy style for a moment.. I really enjoyed The Faithfull Hussar, one of Satchmo's tunes that he always introduced as Hazzah Cuzzar. Somehow the King could never remember the name of this tune. This album is a nice choice for those who like their jazz "hot."
- Richard Bourcier


Just Jazz Magazine - England

I met Gregg Stafford (1953) for the first time in New Orleans in 1977. He was a young, black cornet player who regularly appeared at jam sessions. His style was even then completely original and was probably the reason he was not very much appreciated by the "connoisseurs". Gregg followed a typical New Orleans tradition that says that you can learn and borrow from your elders,but that you also have to try to develop your own style that will distinguish you from your fellow musicians. All through the years I heard and saw how Gregg mastered his instrument more and more and today I don't hesitate to call him the number one traditional jazz trumpet player in New Orleans. He is now leading his own band at Preservation Hall in an exemplary way. What distinguishes him from other young, black trumpet players is that he not only plays traditional jazz to make a living, but that he also shows an enormous love and respect for this music. Contrary to others, this is for him THE way he WANTS to express himself musically, which he does in a completely individual way, just like his predecessors before. When I heard and saw him play in New Orleans he often reminded me of the expression used by the great, black American boxer Mohamed Ali: "I fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee". Gregg's trumpet playing is indeed sparkling, full of unexpected turns and showing great variety between soft notes and explosive ones. Most young black musicians in New Orleans have somewhere in their family an older musician they are boasting about. Gregg discovered, after some research, that he is a distant relative of Henry "Red" Allen. Like most young, black, traditional jazz players Gregg came to jazz from working with the marching bands. After the dance halls disappeared in the fifties, the brass bands have become the breeding ground for new jazz talent.
This CD is not Gregg's first one on Jazz Crusade. Earlier there was a live session recorded in Toronto in March 1998. The results were so good that Bill Bissonnette decided to record as soon as possible another session with Gregg. This happened in April 1999 and that is the session I'm reviewing here. If I had to describe Gregg's playing with ONE adjective, I would use the word "hot": exciting, intense, impassioned. In the twenties the word hot was used to distinguish the music of the jazz bands (Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven, Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers) from the sweet style of the dance bands then in fashion. After it was used to indicate the earlier jazz styles (New Orleans, Dixieland, Chicago, Swing) in contrast to more modern jazz.Well, Gregg is absolutely hot! Real New Orleans music also has a "sweet" quality (remember Jelly's definition of jazz as "soft, sweet and plenty of rhythm"!) and Gregg has mastered this aspect of the music too. Listen, for instance, to his delicate rendition of the Louis Armstrong hit "What A Wonderful World". "Sweet" doesn't mean here "sugary" but rather "sentimental" or "romantic".
Let me say immediately that I was glad that Bill went for a four-piece frontline with two reed players. Although the great jazz authority Bill Russell (and with him many others) hated the presence of a saxophone in a New Orleans ensemble, I think that it adds a warm voice to the band. The idea that a New Orleans frontline should only consist of trumpet, trombone and clarinet is for that matter completely against historical evidence. All black bands recorded IN New Orleans in the twenties - and I admit there were only very few of them, which is a pity - had, without an exception, a saxophone in the frontline (Sam Morgan, Oscar Celestin, Louis Dumaine, Piron etc.). In the Sam Morgan Band the alto-sax of Earl Fouché even played a primordial part. I also think that Sam Rimington
and Paul Boehmke inspire each other just like they did on the "Now" album. On this CD you'll hear Sammy mostly on clarinet and Paul on the tenor-sax. On some numbers they reverse it and you'll hear Paul on clarinet and Sammy on alto-sax. Big Bill's gut bucket trombone is a perfect fourth partner in this frontline. This man has had his share of heavy criticism in some circles but I think his feeling and sincerity compensate more than enough for his lack of technical virtuosity. Those caring for virtuosity are looking in the wrong place if they try to find it in New Orleans jazz!
Of the hot aspect of the music I was talking about, we get the full share right away in the first number "Fidgety Feet" (also known as "Warcloud"). It swings like hell! What a contrast with "In The Sweet Bye And Bye", the second number of this CD. This beautiful hymn (often played at jazz funerals) begins with an ensemble led by muted trumpet and accentuated solemnly by Bill Sinclair's piano. Sammy shines on clarinet and Gregg plays a beautiful solo on open trumpet. Paul Boehmke's tenor-sax reminds me of Manny Paul with the Eureka Brass Band. "Savoy Blues" with first great blues piano, then Gregg really wailing like no one else, then an excellent clarinet solo by Sammy with Paul accompanying it with blues riffs on his tenor-sax during the second chorus followed by a very well played trombone-tenor-sax duet and, of course, the classic Kid Ory inspired trombone solo. Beautiful number! On "Climax rag" Gregg goes through the usual trumpet breaks in exemplary fashion. On those numbers where Sammy swings his John Handy based alto-sax, Boehmke proves that he doesn't have to take second place on the clarinet to his more famous colleague; his approach is totally different but just as beautiful to my ears. My conclusion is that Gregg hardly could have composed a better band in New Orleans to do right to his exceptional talent. This splendid perfectly recorded CD, playing for 74 minutes, proves once more that New Orleans jazz is far from dead."


Jazzitude.com - Internet Publication

Gregg Stafford is one of New Orleans' hidden treasures, largely unknown to those outside the Crescent City. He is best known for his authentic interpretations of traditional jazz. Several of his recordings are available on the Jazz Crusade label, and are well worth the investment for anyone who enjoys trad jazz or wants to check it out.
Walking With the King offers up a fine collection of traditional tunes, played by Stafford and the members of the Easy Riders Jazz Band. In his liner notes trombonist and label owner Big Bill Bissonnette says "Those of you who like us and the Easy Riders sound will like it. Those of you who don't [which means basically every major jazz critic in the world!] still won't." It's hard to imagine anyone not liking this recording unless they simply flat-out don't like or understand traditional New Orleans jazz (and many so-called "major jazz critics" don't)! Still, I'll turn in my jazz critic's card anytime for the privilege of enjoying such raucous, spirited performances as the opening "Fidgety Feet," the ebullient "Moonlight," and the fabulous "Aunt Hagar's Blues," based on the Kid Ory arrangement.
The band of "old timers" that the Easy Riders Jazz Band has become is in fine form here, with Bisonnette and Sammy Rimington (Paul Boehmke plays reeds on "Aunt Hagar's Blues") providing incredible energy to the ensemble work and some very hot solos to boot. One of the things that the Easy Riders and Stafford bring to this music that is sorely lacking from some other performances and recordings is genuine love, respect, and enthusiasm for the music, and that last element cannot be overemphasized. We are talking, after all, about music that was initially created by musicians who could not read music and who had no access to 'advanced' musical theory. They created this sound from the basic ability to play their instruments, the ability to listen and respond to the other musicians in the band, and the rest was enthusiasm and the conveyance of real emotion, be it joy, worship, or the blues. That spirit is contained in abundance on this CD, and it is one reason I would heartily recommend it and enjoy it over recordings that may be more "technically" advanced or correct in some way but which don't live and breathe as this one does. Wallking With the King comes heartily recommended. Put it on and you'll soon have an instant party in your living room.
- Marshall


JazzGazette.com - Internet Magazine

I met Gregg Stafford (1953) for the first time in New Orleans in 1977. He was a young, black comet player who regularly appeared at jam sessions. His style was even then completely original and was probably the reason he was not very much appreciated by the "connoisseurs". He stood very much in the shadow of a very young trumpet player visiting from England, Colin Dawson, a youthful copy of Kid Thomas Valentine. Traditional jazz fans have the bad habit of thinking in prefixed ways. For many of them a clarinet SHOULD sound like George Lewis, a trombone like Jm Robinson and so on. Young Colin sounded like Kid Thomas, so he was "good", Gregg sounded like Gregg, so he was "bad". Meanwhile Colin has left the world of New Orleans jazz a long time ago. I dont know what he is doing right now, but the last time I heard him - which is already many years ago - he played a kind of swing/jump style, loud and quick, and very little reminding of the relaxed New Orleans style of his youth. Contrary to this, Gregg followed a typical New Orleans tradition that says that you can learn and borrow from your elders, but that you also have to try to develop your own style that will distinguish you from your fellow musicians. All through the years I heard and saw how Gregg mastered his instrument more and more and today I dont hesitate to call him the number one traditional jazz trumpet player in New Orleans. He is now leading his own band at Preservation Hall in an exemplary way. What distinguishes him from other young, black trumpet players is that he not only plays traditional jazz to make a living, but that he also shows an enormous love and respect for this music. Contrary to others, this is for him THE way he WANTS to express himself musically, which he does in a completely individual way, just like his predecessors before. When I heard and saw him play in New Orleans he often reminded me of the expression used by the great, black American boxer Mohamed Ali: "I fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee". Gregg's trumpet playing is indeed sparkling, full of unexpected turns and showing great variety between soft notes and explosive ones. Most young black musicians in New Orleans have somewhere in their family an older musician they are boasting about. Gregg discovered, after some research, that he is a distant relative of Henry "Red""Allen. Like most young,black, traditional jazz players Gregg came to jazz from working with the marching bands. After the dance halls disappeared in the fifties, the brass bands have become the breeding ground for new jazz talent.
This CD is not Gregg's first one on Jazz Crusade. Earlier there was a twofer (Gregg Stafford in Canada, JCCD-3033/3034) with a live session recorded in Toronto in March 1998. The results were so good that Bill Bissonnette decided to record as soon as possible another session with Gregg. This happened in April 1999 and that is the session I'm reviewing here.
If I had to describe Gregg's playing with ONE adjective, I would use the word "hot". A literal translation in Flemish would be "heet" but in jazz speech it means something more: exciting, intense, impassioned. In the twenties the word hot was used to distinguish the music of the jazz bands (Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven, Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers) from the sweet style of the dance bands then in fashion. Later it was used to indicate the earlier jazz styles (New Orleans, Dixieland, Chicago, Swing) in contrast to more modern jazz.Well, Gregg is absolutely hot! Real New Orleans music also has a "sweet" quality (remember Jelly's definition of jazz as "soft, sweet and plenty of rhythm"!) and Gregg has mastered this aspect of the music too. Listen, for instance, to his delicate rendition of the Louis Armstrong hit "What A Wonderful World". "Sweet" doesnt mean here "sugary" but rather "sentimental" or "romantic".
Let me say immediately that I was glad that Bill went for a four-piece frontline with two reed players. Although the great jazz authority Bill Russell (and with him many others) hated the presence of a saxophone in a New Orleans ensemble, I think that it adds a warm voice to the band. The idea that a New Orleans frontline should only consist of trumpet, trombone and clarinet is for that matter completely against historical evidence. All black bands recorded IN New Orleans in the twenties - and I admit there were only very few of them, which is a pity - had, without an exception, a saxophone in the frontline (Sam Morgan, Oscar Celestin, Louis Dumaine, Piron etc.). In the Sam Morgan Band the alto-sax of Earl Fouche even played a primordial part. I also think that Sam Rimington and Paul Boehmke inspire each other just like they did on the "Now" album by the Easy Riders reviewed in the previous issue. On this CD you'll hear Sammy mostly on clarinet and Paul on the tenor-sax. On some numbers (Honky Tonk Town, Faithful Hussar, Yellow Dog and Caldonia) they reverse it and you'll hear Paul on clarinet and Sammy on alto-sax. Big Bill's gut bucket trombone is a perfect fourth partner in this frontline (gut bucket means unpolished and earthy). This man has had his share of heavy criticism in some circles but I think his feeling and sincerity compensate more than enough for his lack of technical virtuosity. Those caring for virtuosity are looking in the wrong place if they try to find it in New Orleans jazz!
Of the hot aspect of the music I was talking about, we get the full share right away in the first number "Fidgety Feet" (also known as "Warcloud"). It swings like hell! What a contrast with "In The Sweet Bye And Bye", the second number of this CD. This beautiful hymn (often played at jazz funerals) begins with an ensemble led by muted trumpet and accentuated solemnly by Bill Sinclair's piano. Sammy shines on clarinet and Gregg plays a beautiful solo on open trumpet. Paul Boehmke's tenor-sax reminds me of Manny Paul with the Eureka Brass Band. On "Walking With The King" we hear Gregg with a buzz mute, while a plays a wa-wa solo in the best King Oliver tradition on the next number. I'm not going to describe this CD track by track. I will only point out some - for me that is - other highlights. There is, for instance, "Savoy Blues" with first great blues piano, then Gregg really wailing like no one else, then an excellent clarinet solo by Sammy with Paul accompanying it with blues riffs on his tenor-sax during the second chorus followed by a very well played trombone-tenor-sax duet and, of course, the classic Kid Ory inspired trombone solo. Beautiful number! On "Climax rag" Gregg goes through the usual trumpet breaks in exemplary fashion. On those numbers where Sammy swings his John Handy based alto-sax, Boehmke proves that he doesnt have to take second place on the clarinet to his more famous colleague; his approach is totally different but just as beautiful to my ears.
My conclusion is that Gregg hardly could have composed a better band in New Orleans to do right to his exceptional talent. This splendid perfectly recorded CD, playing for 74 minutes, proves once more that New Orleans jazz is far from dead."
- Marcel Joly


EuroClub.com - Internet publication and jazz radio station

Big Bill Bissonnette owns Jazz Crusade Records, plays fine trombone and campaigns ceaselessly on behalf of genuine no-holds-barred improvised jazz. He admits that many critics don't like the stuff he records for his label and I think that I can understand why. It's because - as on this CD - Bill insists that his jazz should be as spontaneous as possible and that sometimes means that the result can be a little rough round the edges. Ok - he agrees that bands should run through the numbers they're going to record - but he wants his recordings to preserve the essential spontaneity - the creativity of improvised jazz. I think he's right and I also think that this album - probably above all that he's made - justifies his ideology. Take the opening track - Fidgety Feet - for example. It's a superb romp, foot stomping at its best but from a pure ascetic point of view it goes on for probably two choruses too long. By that time the front line have run of new melodic ideas but have far from run out of excitement and pure 'steam'. They're having a ball and so they continue as they would have in a club session with the crowd urging them on and on. But - for those who don't like this "warts and all" approach my answer - and I suspect Bill's - is "tough". If you don't like your jazz pure but would rather have it rehearsed, arranged and sanitised that's fine. I like that jazz too and there's a place for it. But there's also a place for Bill's more raw approach which gives greater encouragement to the creation of original ideas by his individual musicians. Take this CD as an example of that - New Orleanian Gregg Stafford has never been heard better. He's creative, soulful, exciting and more satisfying than I can remember. Clarinettist and saxman Sammy Rimington too is more passionate than I can remember. Paul Boehmke's reedwork is also inspired as is Mr. Bissonnette's trombone. The rhythm men too rise to the occasion - Bill Sinclair on piano, Emil Mark on banjo, Arnie Hyman on bass and drummer John Russell - all become an integral part of a very exciting 'machine'.
There are many highlights here - Stafford's pulsating vocal on Walking With The King, his quite different treatment of What A Wonderful World, the band's soulful approach to Yellow Dog Blues. This album is a superb example of just how creative and inspiring jazz can be today if you are prepared to accept it in its unpasteurised, unadulterated form.
- Brian Harvey


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