Gregg Stafford Meets Brian Carrick - Streets of the City-
Jazz Gazzette - Belgium
It always gives you a good feeling to find out that you have been exactly
right about something. I heard Gregg Stafford for the first time more
than twenty years ago in New Orleans. While the jazz crowd preferred to
listen to a young Englishman imitating Kid Thomas and paid no attention
to that young, black local musician, I already felt that Gregg would be
great some day. Through the years I watched him grow as a musician and
today he is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best traditional trumpet
player in New Orleans.
It's a credit to Bill Bissonnette that he too recognized Gregg's enormous
talent and decided to let the world know about it. This is already the
third session he recorded with Gregg and the fourth CD (the first one
was a twofer) on Jazz Crusade. In all honesty I must also credit Mike
Dine for he released a session with Gregg on his 504-label too. Bill is
a master in musical chemistry. Coupling Gregg with Brian Carrick is another
proof of this. I suppose they seldom or never had played together before
this date. The music on this CD makes you think they have been working
together all of their life.
Gregg has mastered the art of mixing the hot with the sweet, one of the
most important qualities of good New Orleans music. He started on cornet
and it is amazing how well he transposed the warm sound of that instrument
to the trumpet, the instrument he is playing now. I apologize if I have
used the following description of his playing before, but it is still
valid: like Mohamed Ali he flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee!
His singing matches his trumpet playing. He has a lovely warm voice with
a natural growl that reminds me of young Louis. The way he sings is influenced
by the great Satchmo but it surely is not one of those stupid mimicries
we hear so often and which I've learned to hate. Take "Kiss To Build
A Dream On", for instance. In that tune I seem to hear the influence
of the singing of another great New Orleans trumpet player, Teddy Riley.
I was told by another trumpet player that Teddy's instrumental work influenced
Gregg's trumpet style too. Not being a musician myself I feel I should
respect this opinion but, to my ears, Teddy sounded much more modern than
Gregg, except when he was playing the traditional brass band music.
Brian, who plays "an old mini-bore-elastic-band-held-together"
clarinet (description by Bill Bissonnette!) once owned by George Lewis,
is simply the best today in the Lewis school of New Orleans clarinet playing.
He proves it once again on this CD. Emil Mark, who usually plays banjo,
is the perfect band pianist feeding the front line with simple but effective
playing. I have already repeated several times elsewhere the high regard
in which I hold Colin Bray, "Mr. Reliability" in person. Together
with Sven Stahlberg, Sweden's gift to New Orleans drums, they make up
a driving, swinging rhythm section. Initially Bill himself was going to
sit behind the drums for this session but when he found out that Sven
was in town he called him to invite him for his first session for Jazz
In his liner notes Bill Bissonnette raves about the trumpet work on "Darktown
Strutters' Ball" and he sure is right. In his out-chorus Gregg repeats
the same note over and over creating a tremendous swing, just the way
Louis used to do it. One of the other highlights of this CD is "Punch's
Long Distance Blues". It starts with lovely low register clarinet
exposing the theme in a relaxed medium tempo. Gregg sings and I don't
know if he actually is familiar with Punch Miller's version, but he reminds
me of Punch here. After a short, fine bass solo Gregg solos on trumpet
full of controlled passion and Emil plays some simple but beautiful piano.
Brian shines on "High Society" and, if it is true that this
number was a test case for clarinet players in early New Orleans days,
Brian would have made the test with flying colors. Gregg plays some great
trumpet comments behind the classic Picou variations.
The track that, for me, beats everything on this wonderful CD is the first
one. Gregg starts "Streets Of The City" with a chorus a cappella
with a tone as sweet as honey. There is a moment of sheer magic when the
others join in for the second chorus. Marvelous! There is a great solo
by Brian and then Gregg sings the lyrics quietly and his voice sounds
as warm and sweet as his trumpet. The number rocks along gently with further
great solo work from clarinet, trumpet and piano. I never heard a sweeter
and more relaxed version of this song.
My poor mind would be much more at ease about the future of this music
in New Orleans if there were a lot more young musicians like Gregg and
Michael White in the city. Well, there are a couple of others I know,
but still not enough to speak about a second (or is it a third?) revival.
Let's hope that the efforts made by Preservation Hall nowadays to present
the music to school kids will result in a new generation ready to continue
a tradition that has been maintained for at least a century now. This
CD, recorded perfectly in George Buck's studio, plays for 74 minutes and
is an absolute must for everyone with the slightest interest in New Orleans
This sure is a WINNER!
- Marcel Joly
King Jazz Review-England
Despite, or to some, inspite of a few natural blemishes, this CD should
in time rank among the classics of its gender heard play during the first
quarter of the Millennium year, Two Thousand. Compartmentalise, yes, and
why not, so I'll open with str.bass-drums-piano as a first unit, not in
any way to diminish voice from the star jazz artist of the group, but
to say how fortunate that Big Bill was to "bump into Sammy Rimington's
drummer, Sven Stahlberg" just two days before this album was about
to go into production, as he agreed to take up the drum chair to produce
these fourteen recordings and what seems remarkable to me is, that pianist
Emil Mark is from Connecticut, USA; bassist Colin Bray is from Toronto,
Canada, and North European previously mentioned Sven, make up the rhythm
assembly which commands attention by way of complete unity and musical
understanding of each other, that operates so smoothly throughout these
numbers, exemplified in All Of Me. With regard to the second unit, eight
years ago in the Kingarth Hotel, seven miles from Rothsay, the seat of
the Isle Of Bute jazz festival in Scotland, I attended a Brian Carrick
jazz concert and I am almost sure I saw an elastic band attached to his
clarinet then as described in Big Bill's liner notes. Brian Carrick is
from England, and he is the only jazz artist in this group of five whom
I've previously heard playing.
Gregg Stafford is a New Orleanian, and he trumpets the third of my envisaged
units composing the full group of five. Odd, you might say enabling units
of one jazz artist, but that is how thoughts came to me during my first
listening run of the album.
A half a minute of warm, sentimental muted trumpet introduction on the
opening and title number Streets Of The City, a truly beautiful sound
leading into wonderful harmonious rhythms governed by unique, yet I'd
say, New Orleans clarinet tones, which bring back memories when I was
young, singing the song "Red River Valley" to this tune. The
number is over seven minutes long and I just did not want it to end, for
the lilting and dancing inculcation movements make for a special mindset.
On Darktown Strutter's Ball one hears a seven measures, clarion, unified,
perfect pitched, articulated trumpet of brilliance and 'talk-i-cism' vocals,
which are an extention, in the main, of the trumpeter's instrument style,
a voice medium which perhaps 20% his kinship of America could well support
in amends for coming second to England's appreciation of Louis Armstrong
as a great jazz singer. Comparisons ! What I can say is, that perhaps
in this epoch, the voice will be more marked for following on in the Western
Half of the numbers feature the vocals from this very fine trumpeter,
and, I'm talkin' about - Gregg Stafford.
The album sound is excellent and dependent on variations in CD playing
machines, it would not be prudent to mention balance, but just to say,
that I enjoyed hearing the string bass on this album by Jazz Crusade,
and will mention Blueberry Hill in so doing. Maryland and Gettysburg are
candidates for support coming from in particular the US military bandsmen,
who during and immediately after WWII imparted some great turn-arounds
to our Guardmen and Marine bandsmen "over here" so I'll return
to blow them A Kiss To Build a Dream On - it is the tune I'm referring
to. The clarinet on Maryland plays the melody whilst the trumpet blows
the internationally known counter statement in riff fashion.
In Jelly Roll Morton's, or was it King Oliver's Dr Jazz, three triple
bars of consious syncopation giving the number its personality, give me
great pleasure and no doubt will to many more people during the course
when they come to listen to when Gregg Stafford and Brian Carrick met
each other and their superlative Streets Of The City rhythm team. If one
wants to absorb pleasure, then encounter All Of Me which is the second
of the over seven minutes tracks. It's all music. It's the best of small
group jazz music. Don't miss it.
I'll close on the eight plus minutes Basin Street Blues in which Gregg
sings the praises of his beloved Crescent City, but his playing on this
tune has been inspired by the beautiful high and low register clarinet
playing of Brian, the jazz artist from England, a country that has featured
a number of New Orleans styled clarinettists come George Lewis, and so
the call and response is, that Big Bill must be well pleased with this
album, which should in turn appeal to many throughout the wide world accordingly.
- Ian King
Geoff Boxell's Jazz Website-New Zealand
When you see a CD featuring America's leading black trumpet player and
one of England's finest reedmen, you know it's worth having, and this
CD certainly is. From the minute the first track cuts in with Gregg playing
a beautiful mute trumpet and Brian weaving a magic clarinet, you start
tapping. Record producer, Big Bill Bissonnette, has made something of
a protégé of Gregg, he has also made a point of featuring
British jazzmen. On this CD he has brought the two together and matched
them with a fine second line consisting of Sven Stahlberg on drums, Colin
Bray on bass and Emil Mark on piano.
All the tracks are well worth listening to. I particularly liked "Punch's
Long Distance Blues," which allowed all the members of the band to
show themselves at their best. Brian Carrick plays some excellent low
register clarinet. Emil Mark plays complimentary piano to Gregg's vocal;
Colin Bray adds a beautiful break on his string bass. Gregg tops it off
with some innovative horn playing. I should also mention "High Society,"
where Gregg's muted underscoring of the clarinet virtuoso break gives
this popular tune a new twist. But the whole CD is excellent and full
of surprises. One surprise I wasn't keen on, however, was the end part
of "Darktown Strutter's Ball,." Gregg continually plays a high
note. Originally I thought that the CD was flawed and it was repeating.
Then I realized that Brian Carrick was weaving away beneath the note!
My father came in whilst I was playing the CD. He said, "Very nice
but what it need to make it perfect, is a trombone to add a bass element
to the front line." Maybe there is a hint there for Big Bill when
he is working out this year's recording schedule.
- Geoff Boxell
Jazzreview.com - U.S.A.
Now here's a truly international outfit! We have a trumpeter from New
Orleans, a British clarinetist, a piano man from Connecticut, a Canadian
bassist and a Swedish drummer. Music is still the only universal language.
This session is one of the most satisfying I've heard recently from a
New Orleans studio. Jazz Crusade producer, Big Bill Bissonette, utilized
George Buck's "Audiophile Studios" for this recording. The sound
is nothing less than great. Engineer, Richard Bird, outdid himself on
Gregg Stafford is a portrait of pure energy and talent with both his trumpet
work and high-flying vocals. Gregg, at 45 years of age is usually heard
with musicians many years his senior. On this CD he is playing with musicians
of similar vintage and it works out very well. Brian Carrick plays an
old clarinet that once belonged to his hero, George Lewis. Although he
follows the Lewis style, I find his solo work even more inventive and
exciting than his mentor. Perhaps I'll be shot by a purist for that statement
but it's my honest opinion. Just listen to his solos on High Society and
Basin Street Blues.
Emil Mark plays piano in a style reminiscent of Billie Pierce and Sing
Miller. Emil is probably better known as a banjoist to many fans but his
piano on this recording goes to prove his versatility. I've heard bassist,
Colin Bray, both live and on record many times and feel strongly that
this CD allows the listener to truly appreciate his true strength because
of the wonderful sound quality achieved in this studio. He absolutely
shines on all 14 tracks.
Big Bill Bissonnette originally was going to be the drummer on this date,
but, when he heard that Sammy Rimington's drummer, Sven Stahlberg, was
in New Orleans, he ceded the drummer's stool to Sven. Stahlberg shows
talent for capturing the real Crescent City style. Be it a stomp or a
march, this rhythm man never falters. The tunes are well selected and
include such standards as Punch's Long Distance Blues, Darktown Strutter's
Ball, Streets of the City, A Kiss to Build a Dream On and Paul Barbarin's
classic Gettysburg March. The absence of a trombonist really puts the
pressure on Carrick and Stafford to play their hearts out. My wife, a
Coltrane and Miles buff, was listening as I auditioned this CD and commented
"That record reminds me of every reason I became a jazz fan."
Now that's a compliment!
- Richard Bourcier
Cadence Magazine - U.S.A. - August
This band stays very true to its traditional roots. Co-leaders Gregg
Stafford and Brian Carrick have a nice rapport, weaving jauntily around
each other on a good selection of ancient blues and marches. "Streets
of the City" and " Doctor Jazz" in particular have a nice
strutting panache and Carrick takes a really nice polished solo on "Punch's
Long Distance Blues," If you like tradiional jazz, this is a good
- Jerome Wilson
Jazz Journal - England
Although having come to New Orleans jazz as a Johnny-come-lately, Gregg
Stafford is essentially eclectic, he has forged a style which is very
much his own in the local middle period manner. Now, Stafford is one of
the few left in the city playing in something like an older way and a
very refreshing sound he makes too. Brian Carrick's loyalties are much
more closely defined and he can be inhibited by the shade of George Lewis.
Here, however, he shelters comfortably behind the trumpeter, leaving originality
to his partner but complementing him nicely - and even making a decent
job of the clarinetist's poisoned chalice, High Society. In the two man
front line format, Emil Mark on piano plays an equal third part, imressively
supportive and inventive while keeping the music moving with firm enthusiastic
encourage from bass and drums. As an example of what is still possible
within the confines of the New Orleans style without resorting to sterile
imitation, this will knock down no walls but neither will it cause any
- Christopher Hillman
AMG **** Review - U. S. Jazz Guide
Big Bill Bissonnette's quest to maintain the appeal and vigor of New
Orleans traditional jazz by recording major practitioners of this music
on his Jazz Crusade label continues. Not only is he successful in making
this important music available, but he is equally successful in garnering
some of the best players in the world to perform it. And "world"
is an especially accurate descriptor for this album. The two front-line
stars Gregg Stafford and Brian Carrick come from different countries;
the former is from New Orleans and born into the tradition, and the second
is one of the the top traditional jazz performers in the U.K. Different
nationalities notwithstanding, this traditional jazz has become universal,
bringing together likeminded musicians irrespective of their geographic
derivation. Many of the items on the play list are usually associated
with Louis Armstrong. While it's hard to think of any of this music not
being associated with Armstrong, "A Kiss to Build a Dream On,"
"High Society," "Basin Street Blues," and "Blueberry
Hill" have a special immediacy to Satchmo. Stafford opens "A
Kiss to Build a Dream On" with the same slow chorus, emphasizing
every note like he is singing through the trumpet. The back and forth
between Stafford and Carrick makes "Blueberry Hill" one of the
album's highlights. Stafford plays the melody while Carrick extemporizes
underneath, creating a purity of interpretation. But it is "Basin
Street Blues" that is the CD's tour de force. This classic gets an
eight-minute workout by the group, with everyone getting a chance to be
on center stage. Stafford's expressive vocalizing is icing on the cake.
There's a relaxed approach to "Honeysuckle Rose," where Carrick's
smooth, middle-register clarinet takes the honors. Stafford and Carrick
are handsomely backed by a fine veteran group of musicians. Emil Mark's
piano is especially active on all the cuts, comping to accent the statements
the two soloists make on the various tracks. Mark also gets some significant
solo time on such tunes as "Streets of the City." This CD offers
a generous 70-plus minutes of traditional jazz at its best, and is highly
- Dave Nathan
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