The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3062: Swayin’ & Prayin’ Vol. 1 “At the Cross”-
Dr. Michael White, Gregg Stafford

Personnel: Gregg Stafford [tp,v], Dr. Michael White [cl], Reide Kaiser [pn], Emil Mark [bn], Colin Bray [sbs], Taff Lloyd [dm]

Songs: Nobody’s Fault But Mine, 29th & Dearborn 1 & 2, I Shall Not Be Moved, Saturday Night Function, Canal Street Blues, At the Cross, Fusty Bottom Blues, Bye & Bye/Saints, Flee As A Bird to the Mountain, Lead Me Savior, Blues In the Night, Bugle Call Rag.

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3062: Swayin’ & Prayin’ Vol. 1 “At the Cross”-
Dr. Michael White, Gregg Stafford

Jazzreview.com - Internet Publication
{selected as album pick of the week }

New Orleans fans, lend me your ears. Here is one of the finest modern recordings ever recorded in the Crescent City. "At The Cross" is a wonderful session of spirituals and blues performed in the style of the cradle of jazz. Starring New Orleans natives Gregg Stafford and Dr. Michael White and a fabulous rhythm section, this record just has it all. Trumpeter, Gregg Stafford drives the group with tremendous power whether he is blowing an open horn or hiding behind a plunger. Stafford is a study in energy and purity of sound. Like the late Bix, Gregg Stafford is prone to sudden explosions that will knock your socks off. Canal Street Blues and Bugle Call Rag are fine examples of Stafford explosions.
Dr. Michael White has devoted most of his life to preserving the musical heritage of the major New Orleans clarinetists. His fluid style cannot be ignored and his occasional low register vibrato is something that has to be heard, especially on some of the spirituals. Michael White is also an encyclopedia of classic jazz and he spends much of his time preaching the merits of Johnny Dodds to all to his eager students.
The rhythm section is not to be denied. Emil Mark is the banjo player of choice for many New Orleans recording artists and his consistency is legendary. He has worked with The Easy Riders and Sammy Rimington's Mouldy Five as well as with Stafford and White on their earlier recordings. I had not heard drummer Taff Lloyd before and really have no background information on his history. The first audition of this CD told me that I wouldn't need any details as his playing tells the story. Whether swinging wildly or sustaining a lengthy press roll as he does on the funeral dirge "Flee Like a Bird", Taff captures the style with perfection.
When a group like this wants to swing in a hot style, the choice of bassist Colin Bray is almost a foregone conclusion. Colin has been a fixture with The Hot Five Jazzmakers (all six of them) in Toronto since replacing the Australian bassist John Reed many years ago. Colin is another authority on the history of vintage jazz and has assisted and advised broadcaster/ guitarist Jeff Healy on his national jazz radio series in Canada. Bray loves and understands the New Orleans style. I first heard pianist Reide Kaiser when he sat in as intermission pianist at the "C'est What" club in Toronto some years ago. He played a Fat's Waller medley and blew the roof off the little jazz bar turning me into an instant fan. Reide is actually a lawyer in Toronto and God knows that nobody loves a lawyer unless that fellow happens to be a really great stride player. Reide and Colin engage in a beautiful duo track, Fusty Bottom Blues, which was recorded in Toronto by engineer Brian Graville. Brian is also well known Canadian pianist/trumpeter. The fact that both the Toronto and New Orleans recording engineers understand classic jazz, contributes greatly to the end result on "At The Cross." Richard Bird carried out the engineer's duties in New Orleans.
This is a "high energy" performance in every way. If you must have one example of classic jazz by contemporary musicians, this is the one to get. Highly recommended! It's going to be one of my
desert island records.
- Richard Bourcier


Boxell's Jazz Website

If you have read any of my other reviews of Dr Michael or Gregg Stafford, you will know that I consider them to be two of America's finest living jazzmen. So, it should be no surprise to find that with the two of them together in the same band I am blown away. This is black American jazz getting back to its roots, albeit with some fine white boys in the second line giving them excellent support.
The music is a mix of gospel, spiritual and blues. Mostly it is played ensemble, but there are some fine solos too. In addition to solo breaks Gregg gets to provide a gut wrenchingly beautiful interpretation of ' Flee As A Bird to The Mountain', and Dr Michael solos on an upbeat ' Lead Me Saviour'. But it is not just the two stars who make this CD the must buy that it is; Reide Kaiser on piano, Colin Bray on bass, Emil Mark on banjo and Taff Lloyd on drums are superb. They go beyond complimenting the front line and when they get a solo break of their own they shine.
There is no such thing as perfection; however, if they can find a black trombonist of the same quality as Dr Michael and Gregg and the rest of the band, then maybe we will come close to it. If there are no black American trombonists who can fit the bill, I wonder if Jazz Crusade label owner Bill Bissonnette can be persuaded to bring in Englishman Geoff Cole to take the role. Buy this CD now. If you do not, I will come looking for you to know why!
- Geoff Boxell


All About Jazz.com

The lines between blues, jazz and old time gospel sometimes get blurred when traditional jazz players get together. The three genres are honored on this meeting between Gregg Stafford and Dr. Michael White, both members of a generation when the traditional music no longer held the same place in the hearts and minds of jazz fans it once had. But these two keepers of the flame are New Orleans natives and for them, the music is in their blood. For almost 70 minutes, they reveal just what that heritage means as they present a program worthy of Preservation Hall.
On the Gospel side, the aggrieved Stafford trumpet pays its last homage to a dearly departed on "Flee as a Bird to the Mountain" with muffled drum roll from Taff Lloyd. The more gleeful, hallelujah I'm redeemed gospel gets revealed by White's clarinet on "Lead Me Savior" with Emil Mark's banjo doing rhythm duties. Hot jazz is front and center with " Bugle Call Rag" as White's wailing clarinet and Stafford's "dirty" trumpet go at each other full blast. There's a clever medley of "Bye & Bye" and traditional jazz's national anthem, "When the Saints Go Marching in". This track is one of four cuts where Stafford vocalizes in his Louis Armstrong derived manner. Of the blues cum jazz tunes, the Ellington/Bigard "Saturday Night Function" stands out.
The two leaders are joined by veteran musicians well steeped in the ways of this music. Reide Kaiser's piano supports the melody and is featured on "Fusty Bottom Blues", while the banjo, bass and drums admirably perform their roles as the setter and keeper of the pace. This album is authentic stuff and is recommend.
- David Nathon


Just Jazz Magazine - England

JCCD-3062: Praying & Swaying Volume 1 - "At the Cross"
After listening to this marvelous CD several times I can only say: "Hurry up Bill, let us have volume 2 as soon as possible!"
I have had the good fortune to follow the musical careers of Gregg (born 1953) and Michael (born 1954) almost from the start. I was probably the first to write about them in an international jazz magazine. I have witnessed them grow on their instruments to become the wonderful musicians they are today. They both started out in marching bands and later had the chance to play together with some of the old veterans at Preservation Hall. That's really the old way of learning the trade! I can still hear Michael say what a thrill it was to be there and sit in George Lewis' chair. It's now their turn to carry the flag of the traditional jazz music of the City and they do so with a lot of pride and enthusiasm.
Unlike most of the other young, black musicians in New Orleans, who incorporate more modern jazz styles in their playing, Gregg and Michael have returned to the sources. They have listened to the classic recordings of the twenties and what they play today is a kind of anthology of New Orleans music from different periods, a mixture of so-called revival and classic jazz. In fact, the music they play is timeless. It is America's classical music; it sounds as fresh and exciting today as at the time it was created.
These two New Orleanians are accompanied - I should rather say: "work together with" - a first choice rhythm section hailing from Canada, England and the US. Reide Kaiser, a Toronto lawyer, is the piano player with the Hot Five Jazzmakers, a great band from Canada. His sparkling playing fits this band like a glove. Emil Mark is the banjo player with Big Bill Bissonnette's Easy Riders and he learned his trade in the golden sixties from the New Orleans bands Bill brought to Connecticut. He's a model of rhythmic consistency and good taste. Colin Bray is without any doubt one of the best traditional jazz bass players today. Besides slapping his bass in the great New Orleans tradition, he uses his bow very effectively on several numbers. He is also a member of the Hot Five Jazzmakers in Toronto. Taff Lloyd, from England, is a very dynamic drummer who's not afraid of hitting his drums and hitting them hard when the situation demands it! The old saying that drums should be felt and not heard never worked in New Orleans music. Listen to all the great exponents of this style: Baby Dodds, Sammy Penn, Alec Bigard, Albert Jiles, Cie Frazier...you can HEAR them on every recording they made. Taff reminds me most of the not often enough recorded Alec Bigard. His exciting drumming adds a lot to the success of this recording.
Initially Big Bill Bissonnette, the producer of Jazz Crusade Records was going to play trombone at this session. Unfortunately fate decided otherwise and at the time the recording took place Bill was in hospital recovering from a triple bypass operation. Colin Bray handled the session in his place. The idea of concentrating on blues and gospel music was Bill's and he suggested the tunes for this session. This CD - the first of two - proves that it was a sound idea and I can't wait to hear the rest of the session on volume 2. There's plenty of blues here in all kind of forms: the fast "Canal Street Blues" (a King Oliver classic) and "Bugle Call Rag" (which is not a rag at all), the beautiful and elaborated "29th & Dearborn" from a Johnny Dodds session in 1938, one from the early Ellington songbook, "Saturday Night Function" and even a bluesy popular song, "Blues In The Night" (with the famous 'My mama done told me" riff) a song written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer in 1941 and recorded a.o. by Jimmie Lunceford. One, "Fusty Bottom Blues", was recorded later on in Toronto by just Reide Kaiser on piano with Colin Bray on bowed bass, a wonderful example of classic blues piano!
The religious numbers are, with the exception of one, all in the medium to medium fast category and evoke the joyful singing at the old Baptist churches. The exception is "Flee As A Bird To The Mountain", a real tour de force by Gregg Stafford, who plays it as a slow dirge only accompanied by muffled drums and some piano chords in the later part. Here, more than on any other track, the beauty of his tone in the staff is remarkable and makes me think of the great Willie Pajeaud, who was famous in New Orleans for the exquisite way he played dirges with the Eureka Brass Band. Gregg is really a "complete" trumpet player who combines the hot and the sweet in a marvelous mixture, sizzling hot one moment and full of tenderness the next. I know I've said this before but I have to repeat it here, he always reminds me of Muhamed Ali's device: "I flutter like a butterfly and sting like a bee." He is also a wonderful singer and his many vocals are sheer delight.
Another tour de force is Michael's up-tempo rendition of the hymn "Lead Me Savior". It's just clarinet and rhythm, building up tension, chorus after chorus, to an exciting climax. If I had to describe Michael's playing with one word, that word would be "passion". In the low register his tone has a beautiful wooden quality. Listen to "29th & Dearborn" for instance! Brian Wood, in his excellent book "The Song For Me" calls him "the undoubted successor to all that has gone before in New Orleans clarinet playing". I couldn't agree more!
This CD is really full of highlights and it is impossible to name them all here. There's the joyfulness of the medley "Bye & Bye/Saints", there's the growing excitement in "Bugle Call Rag" where Gregg and Michael alternate choruses, one hotter than the other. There's Taff Lloyd playing some delightful Sonny Greer licks on "Saturday Night Function", there's Colin's bowed work on "I Shall Not Be Moved" and "At The Cross", there's Gregg's wa wa solo on "Blues In The Night", there's the combination of clarinet and muted trumpet on "29th & Dearborn" (of the two versions included here I seem to prefer the alternate one). Maybe my favorite track is the one they used as title for this CD: "At The Cross". This seldom heard hymn is introduced in a slow first chorus by clarinet and piano. Then the full band starts to swing gently the second chorus. Gregg's vocal is spine chilling.
Whether you love classic New Orleans jazz from the twenties or prefer the music of the revival, you cannot afford to miss this fantastic recording. Give us volume 2 Bill!
- Marcel Joly


Kings Jazz Review - England

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis with his New York, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, played the Barbican Centre, London in February, giving tributes to Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Two days following, on the 12th of February 2001, those two "pieces" (The Armstrong one, I Listened to) were recorded on Radio 3 in the UK. Here, I found it odd when Marsalis said that he was not influenced by the "Uncle Tom" Louis Armstrong trumpet style, (not sentiments that would be heard coming from a jazzer of my sort this side of the pond), Wynton having been born in New Orleans only ten years before Louis died. Different epoch. Makes the difference. However, I found it strange without the fruit, that although the "piece" was miles (no pun) apart from the Louis Armstrong style, the Wynton Marsalis Barbican Concert would not have been realized the way it was, had he not, in some way, been influenced by Satchmo, or perhaps it was the songs chosen, or his sidemen, who caused such a phenomenon ring in my ears. True, on hearing the Marsalis concert and having watched his input to the Ken Burns films on TV, I cannot deny that he must be one of the greatest jazz trumpeters in the world today, and I'll add, that by the same token, Gregg Stafford on this Jazz Crusade album "At The Cross" also lies not far off that KJR proclaim.
The opening Jazz Crusade number Nobody's Fault But Mine has Gregg on vocals and on four others. I found this to be anathema, musicological to church choir gospel, and therefore, perhaps voice on this album ought best, to have been restricted to, on the title At The Cross song alone. A street car named - no, not that one, but a thoroughfare in Chicago where she was perhaps once known. I listened to tracks 2 & 13, 29th & Dearborn, ten minutes of one directly after the other, and felt that there was a keen desire in the playing for a new phase in New Orleans music. It was this surmise that influenced the point made in the previous paragraph.
Fusty Bottom Blues is new to me. It shows the piano skills of Canadian, Reide Kaiser, accompanied by bassist Colin Bray using his exquisite technique of use with the string bow. This classic jazz and blues number was recorded on the 6th of February 2001 in Toronto and is the coaxial number of the album, together with their rhythm colleagues, Emil Mark and Taff Lloyd, make uncompromisingly, to the enjoyment of these recordings.
Any great jazz dancer will aspire to perform to the 15 minutes of Canal Street Blues and Bugle Call Rag combined of perfect solos interactive timekeeping, right up to the very last upbeat of the last bar/measure - sheer tuneful delight.
All the tunes here have their own specialities, so there is a feast there for many listeners to grab their interests, dirge or otherwise. As the group progress, it is Dr Michael White on clarinet, exemplified on Lead Me Saviour who will keep the memories of Johnny Dodds and George Lewis alive. Well-chosen title "At The Cross."
- Ian King


Jazzitude.com - U. S. Internet Magazine

Jelly Roll Morton was once heard to opine "Rejoice at the death and cry at the birth: New Orleans sticks close to the scriptures." Certainly the paradoxes inherent in the blues, gospel, and jazz are key to the interpretation and full enjoyment of the traditional jazz that was created in the Crescent City. The combination of the spiritual and the secular is present on all the great recordings associated with early jazz, whether it was actually recorded in New Orleans or not.
It might seem almost impossible for a group of present day musicians to recreate that peculiar combination of elements of the black experience in America with the conviction and energy that was present on such classic recordings as those found on the Jelly Roll Morton Hot Pepper sessions or the music laid down by Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens or by countless groups of musicians who never made it into a recording studio. Yet that is precisely what Gregg Stafford and Dr. Michael White have done along with a group of musicians dedicated to making sure this music is not lost to modern listeners.
Both White and Stafford are superlative musicians who have researched and deeply understand the music of their hometown. But unlike some interpreters who take an altogether too academic stance toward playing traditional jazz, these guys have a real feel for it that will make the listener feel like he or she is sitting at Café Du Monde on a lazy Saturday afternoon, sipping a luscious café au lait and watching the tourists drift in and around Jackson Square. Listen to the slightly mournful but soothing "Saturday Night Function" which not only sports fine ensemble work, but also features Stafford blowing a gorgeous solo that instantly identifies him as one of our top-notch trumpet players. On the joyous "Canal Street Blues" both Stafford and White offer up hot solos while the second line support team of pianist Reide Kaisser, banjo player Emil Mark, bassist Colin Bray, and drummer Taff Lloyd offers excellent support. Listen to Lloyd accenting behind Stafford's solo and you'll understand why so many trad jazz revivalist groups fail to get the sparks flying-they too often relegate the rhythm section to simply keeping time without being a real part of the ensemble. Just remember, this is jazz kids, and Art Blakey and Elvin Jones got their inspiration from somewhere! Kaiser's piano work deserves mention as well-check out his work at the beginning of "Fusty Bottom Blues."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great interpretations of such spirituals as "At the Cross" and "Lead Me Savior," which are beautiful. Stafford's vocals on "At the Cross" and "I Shall Not Be Moved" convey a sense of spiritual longing and hardship tinged by a faith that allows joy even in the midst of sorrow. The ensemble work here, with White weaving his way around Stafford's concise statement of the melody, is transcendent.
Dr. Michael White has recently cut two albums for Basin Street Records that are quite good, but which offer up somewhat more modernized arrangements and feature some original compositions. Praying & Swaying-Vol. 1: At the Cross offers up the real deal for both listeners who've worn out their original early jazz recordings or who aren't familiar with traditional jazz but want to check it out, and there isn't much out there that can compare with it.
- Marshall Bowden


Mississippi Rag [U.S.A.]

In the beginning, New Orleans jazz was a utilitarian music, played at dances, picnics, parades and worship services. This is a program of spirituals, blues and jazz standards -- volume one in a series and subtitled "Praying and Swaying."
There's an interesting mix of tunes. As incongruous as it may seem to have Harold Arlen's "Blues in the Night" (1941) followed by "Bugle Call Rag (1923), an Elmer Schoebel jazz classic recorded on Gennett as "Bugle Call Blues" by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings masquerading as the Friar's Society Orchestra, Gregg Stafford and Dr. Michael White make it work. A point of interest is that "29th and Dearborn," which appears in two takes on this CD, is the same composition that Richard M. Jones called by the name of "Riverside Blues" when the King Oliver Creole Band recorded it in 1923. The Bob Crosby band recorded it in 1936 as "Dixieland Shuffle."
Both trumpeter/vocalist Stafford and clarinetist White are no strangers to the Jazz Crusade label or to the kind of New Orleans-based music that many of the readers of The Mississippi Rag prefer. And, even though, as with all good traditional jazz performances, the real glory is in the ensemble, it's impossible to overlook trumpeter Stafford's stirring rendition of the traditional on-the-way-to-the-cemetery funeral march, "Flee as a Bird." I also was particularly taken by his singing on "Nobody's Fault But Mine Dr. White continues to play his superb liquid-sounding New Orleans-style clarinet throughout.
- Joe H. Klee


IAJRC Journal - U. S. A.

This disc combines spirituals, blues and jazz. The music is somewhat reminiscent of the New Orleans music of the 1960s-I refer to the Southland Records, for example.Yet this is different because it is not the 1960s and musicians have some more modern influences as well. It only adds to the flavor and makes this recording a pleasure to listen to. This CD indicates this is volume one. One would hope there would be a follow-up to this one. The music is valid and tasteful. I would recommend the compact disc to anyone who has interest in New Orleans jazz; not so much as it is performed today by most musicians, but of a bygone era.
- Herb Young


EuroCulbdeJazz.com - Internet Jazz Radio

The title of this CD set is misleading. From the title alone you might imagine that you are in for a session of dirge-like religious music. Nothing could be further from the truth because this is very hot and happy New Orleans jazz played by two of the Crescent City's leading men.
It's exciting, full of great lyrical playing with both Stafford (trumpet) and White (clarinet) showing that not only do they have distinctive styles - i.e. they copy no-one - they also have 'something to say'. In other words what they play is always worth hearing - it's like listening to a good storyteller whose words and voice itself are gripping - an experience you want to go on because its so absorbing that times just drifts by.
Give this CD a try .
- Brian Harvey


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