“The Thomas Band at Moose Hall 1968 Vol. 1” -
IAJRC Journal—U. S. Jazz Magazine
These two discs represent either most or all of a concert done by the Kid Thomas band for the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club in October, 1968. I'm not sure if the actual sequence of numbers played that night is represented here or whether the program was changed to suit the release. In any event, if budget considerations dictate purchasing one or the other, I would go with Volume 1, which has the strongest performances overall.
This band is somewhat different than the stereotypical New Orleans trad band of the 1960s - the substitution of Emanuel Paul's tenor sax for the usual clarinet in the front line imparts a darker sound to the ensemble, further enhanced by Paul's predilection for the low register of his instrument. I would guess that the members of this group would never have identified themselves as "Dixieland" musicians in this context - rather, that they would have seen their group as first and foremost a dance band. The tempos of the tunes are neither very slow nor very fast, clearly showing the leader's concern with presenting something dance-able. Tunes such as In The Mood, I'll See You In My Dreams, The Object Of My Affection and especially a waltz and an extended boogie woogie number were not usually presented by Dixieland groups of that period, but were likely important parts of the dancehall fare in New Orleans during the time these musicians were most active.
The band itself had been together for quite a while at the time of this concert. Kid Thomas himself had been leading bands in New Orleans since the late 1920s, although mostly on the fringes of what would be called "Traditional" or even "New Orleans" Jazz in its most recognized form. By the 1960s, Thomas' group was clearly a synthesis of many different influences - New Orleans, Swing, blues, Rhythm & Blues and even Rock & Roll, with all its component parts being distilled into a functional dance unit. Of the band members performing on this concert, Sammy Penn and Paul were the longest serving, with their tenures each stretching back twenty-five years. Louis Nelson had been with the group since 1954, Joseph "Twat" Butler joined in 1960 and Char-lie Hamilton in 1965. For the most part, these musicians stayed with Thomas until their playing careers ended - Penn died less than a year after this recording, but Nelson and Paul were still playing into the 1980's.
Halfway through the first CD it is clear that the band is no pickup group - they obviously have routines and sequences well worked out. While the ensemble sound is sometimes a bit rough, the presentation is excellent, as are the solos for the most part. For me, the standout musician on these discs is Nelson, whose trombone playing is remarkable for its range in terms of dynamics and color. His solo on Blueberry Hill and his first chorus on Girl Of My Dreams demonstrate a refined technique while his work on Bourbon Street and Sweet Sue show a boisterousness more in keeping with the classic tailgate trombone style.
The leader's trumpet playing is incisive and economical - his style was bound by the constraints of leading the ensemble, although he takes a beautifully understated solo on Blueberry Hill. Emanuel Paul's tenor sax playing is very different from the usual concept of a Jazz saxophone sound. While occasionally coarse in the manner of the early R&B "honkers," Paul is capable of much greater tonal sophistication, as he shows on Algiers Waltz. Charlie Hamilton was somewhat handicapped by being under-recorded at this concert as well as having to deal with a piano of very questionable mechanics, but his solos show a great affinity for the early styling of Earl Hines. Butler is a no-frills bass player who was occasionally called on to take a novelty (and often incomprehensible) vocal. Penn was renowned for his showmanship both behind the drums and at the microphone and here sings Girl of My Dreams. He also maintains a solid beat which, combined with Butler's propulsive thumping, must have been irresistible to dancers.
On a technical note, the sound quality of these recordings is nothing short of excellent - the wonderful stereo on these discs is a welcome change from the usual 'live' recording sound.
Boxell's Jazz Website
As a kid, did you ever watch one of those French Foreign Legion films,
where the legionaries are trapped in a fort and hoards of Bedouin are
swarming over the walls? The hero turns to his nervous colleagues and
says; 'Courage , mon braves, courage'. Well that's what I needed when
I first listened to this CD. I cannot argue that it is not New Orleans
jazz, for indeed well-known natives of that city play it. The recording
is a live concert in 1968 for the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club. The
problem is that it is New Orleans jazz, but not as I know it. To my ears,
raised on the European interpretation of New Orleans filtered through
the laid back and mellow teachings of the Guv'nor Ken Colyer, it is brash,
hard driving and at times discordant. Yet some how I am fascinated, rather
like a snake before a charmer! Like the snake once it is over I find that
I need to hide in my nice quite and dark basket before coming out to face
the charmer again.
I have commented in other reviews about the different ways in which New
Orleans jazz has developed in its native America and how it has developed
in Britain/Europe. If you are not sure what I mean, then get this CD and
play it alongside say Jazz Crusades JCCD-3055 'That Salty Dog, Pat Hawes'.
Alternate the CDs track and track about and see what I mean. Whilst as
a child of British/European traditional jazz I am more comfortable with
Colyer style New Orleans jazz, I believe that it is essential that traditional
jazz lovers expose themselves to all the various nuances of the music.
If you are American, then get one of jazz Crusade's CDs by a European
band. If you are European, or like many Ozzies and Kiwis more used to
very early American or later British/European style New Orleans jazz then
try this CD to see the difference.
'The Thomas Band At Moose Hall 1968' is a unique experience and of historical
value being a 'lost' recording and never before issued. If you fancy some
hot spicy Creole gumbo, this could be right up your street!
One question that I have, and still await the answer to: does the 'Twat'
in bass player Joseph 'Twat' Butler's name mean the same as 'twat' does
in London slang? Cos if it does I sure wouldn't be happy if it were me
that was being called it!
- Geoff Boxell
All About Jazz.com
Kid Thomas was72 when he took his Algiers Band into Moose Hall in Stamford,
CT. The performance was recorded but languished in the vaults of the Connecticut
Jazz Club for more than 32 years. Shame on somebody. But happily Bill
Bissonnette's enterprising Jazz Crusade label found them and this CD is
the first of a multi volume release. Thomas was a master of lyricism and
could create novel sounds from the instrument. Listen to his work on "Kid
Thomas Boogie Woogie". Thomas also developed a unique muted trumpet
style which is put on display on "Blueberry Hill" and vocal
fun with "Eh! Le Bas".
Kid Thomas is not the only star on this album. Trombonist Louis Nelson,
who has been with Thomas since 1944, gets the lion's share of solo time.
Maybe Thomas wasn't feeling well that night. Nelson delights the crowd
with rhapsodic solos on "Blueberry Hill" and "The Object
of My Affection" and a mournful "Just a Closer Walk with Thee".
Along with Nelson, the sweet sounding tenor sax of Manny Paul is conspicuous
throughout the session. Although never quite reaching the prominence of
the clarinet in trad New Orleans music, it was nevertheless a major instrument
in these aggregations as the reed instrument of choice for ballads. Coleman
Hawkins expanded the parameters of the instrument, but he didn't invent
Another factor which separates this CD from other albums devoted to this
music is the presence of a number of ballads (as distinguished from slow
drags) reminding us that these traditional New Orleans groups were equally
at home with sweet ballads as with the hot stuff. Recommended.
- Dave Nathon
Here's another milestone recording for Jazz Crusade. This album features
several of the New Orleans revival legends caught live at a 1968 concert
for the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club. The entire band has since passed
on and this is your chance to hear them at their best in an informal concert
where they were clearly among friends and dedicated fans. To the uninitiated,
this style may appear a bit rough. You should, however, consider that
this was a "rough and ready" group by their very nature. Based
in the Crescent City, this little band performed in street parades and
legendary venues including Preservation and Tradition Halls. On occasion
they were called upon to appear for jazz societies all over the world
and the fans loved them. They were both exciting and approachable. Autographs
and anecdotes were free in those years. Trumpeter Kid Thomas was a sincere
and honest performer who always gave 150 percent. Leading a simple life
in New Orleans, Thomas Valentine developed an electrifying trumpet style
which was copied by aspiring trad musicians everywhere. The "Kid"
passed on in 1987 and my trusty calculator tells me he was 101 years of
age. He had played professionally since 1922. Another bright star in this
combo was the legendary drummer Sammy Penn. One of the most exciting and
imitated rhythm men in New Orleans, Penn was a master of the wood-blocks
and accents that were explosive in their delivery. I know a number of
musicians who claim to own a drum that was once played by Sammy. Penn
must have gone through a hefty number of drum kits over the years if all
the stories are true. Louis Nelson is featured on trombone and may be
familiar to those of you who watch PBS. He appeared in a jazz special
some years ago with a number of younger musicians and some of his contemporaries.
Pianist Charlie Hamilton is a fine musician with boundless energy. Although
he seldom solos on this CD, he plays a sixty minute ball game and is easily
heard among the heavy-handed rhythm section. We can't get away without
shouting the praises of bassist Joseph "Twat" Butler and the
legendary Emmanuel Paul. Manny Paul receives ample room to solo here and
he takes full advantage to show his stuff. He was a prime attraction at
Preservation Hall for years and a member of the famed Eureka Brass Band
since the early 1960s. There are ten tunes in all and the opener is really
interesting in that each band member is introduced by the jazz club host
as they perform Basin Street Blues. This is classic New Orleans Revival
- Richard Bourcier
Kings Jazz Review - England
It would not be uncharacteristic today in 2001 for the young mini skirted
spindly-legged, prancing filly seen in the flashing lights, London clubs,
to shriek out nervous giggle, giggles on first coming across the sound
of this Vol 1 Moose Hall album.
One can picture a colourful painting on the front-face of the big cigar,
big smiling, Sammy Penn bass drum, toe-peddled designed timekeeper, leather
or burlap covered beater, creator of a prominent sound on these recordings.
The CD was produced on the 13th of October 2000 from tapes found in the
vaults of the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club, where, since 1968 they
had lain waiting to be brought out to see the light of day. A shift from
the Sammy Penn bass drum peddle, towards the - piano keys of Charlie Hamilton
would have been rewarding with regards to the sound quality. However,
I'm sure that the fillies, given the chance would take more to the animate
Penn beat, rather than the monotonous mechanical one, that they are so
much indoctrinated to flip to, today.
At the time, Big Bill Bissonnette was away in California and J.P."Pete"
Campbell then directing the club is recorded announcing the line-up of
the group to an appreciative audience, listening to the intro of Red River
Valley which opens with sharp, perfectly clipped annotated sounding notes
coming from the horn of Kid Thomas Valentine, leading his Algiers Stompers
for the presumably evening gig.
Born 47 months before 1900, Kid Thomas came to New Orleans when he was
26 years old, and much has been written about him since with words pouring
from the pens of scribblers to this day. This Moose Hall concert gives
countenance for the reason why that is happening. There are interesting
liner notes by buff critic Marcel Joly on New Orleans music.
Early violinist, banjoist and here on tenor, Emanuel "Manny"
Paul, I predict from these recordings, that come a score or within years
after his death in 1988, his style of saxophone playing will be influencing
the aforementioned panties popping fillies, who will be screaming out
to hear more of the same, making the Manny Paul saxophone style, the "In
2010's" jazz sound of the future.
The father of many recordings, one in principle, Kid Thomas at Moulin
Rouge, the leader of the Louis Nelson Big Four, Louis Nelson plays a beautiful
trombone - euphonium style. The nearly eight minutes Blueberry Hill is
bliss. It opens with trombone, following with tenor, piano, ensemble,
and finally trumpet - a Thomas formula, which leads to a subconscious,
hypnotic, craving, making one, to want to listen to his Moose Hall jazz
music for evermore. Just a Closer Walk With Thee divinely sums it up.
Jazz artists nearer to home, Chris Barber, Sammy Rimington and others
will have much to reminiscence over Louis Nelson and his trombone style.
You can hear the vocals of Kid on Eh! La Bas. The cheerful bassist, Joe
Butler comes to the fore on the sprightly number, Four Leaf Clover. I'll
now close my appreciation on - The Object Of My Affection - which sure
is catching - it's a Garnet Clark/Django Reinhardt, Scottish/French popular
of the time dance tune, recorded in Paris four years before the outbreak
of WWII, and which one could have listened to then in Edinburgh and throughout
Scotland. Thanks to Jazz Crusade, now, you can also do so on Moose Hall.
- Ian King
Just Jazz - England
If Alden Ashforth and David Wyckoff hadn't asked Bill Russell in 1950
about any unrecorded New Orleans musicians we might have missed out on
"Kid Thomas" Valentine. On Bill's recommendation they heard
Kid Thomas at Speck's Moulin Rouge in Marrero and were impressed. Armed
with a new-fangled tape recorder they returned next year to record Kid
Thomas at Hope Hall, Algiers. Thus, for the first time, a wider public
was able to appreciate his unique trumpet playing, although that unique
style had been appreciated locally for nearly three decades. Equally remarkable
is that Kid Thomas continued playing and recording for another three decades
and the evidence shows his sparse, impressionistic styling retained its
Let me confess this is the first time I have written a record review.
An immediate difficulty arises: music is difficult to describe, it can
only be played, listened to, experienced, but ultimately it remains impervious
to and detached from language. What is it exactly that can be said that
conveys any depth of meaning about the music concerned or that supersedes
the music itself? There is a sense in which musicologists are trapped
either in writing in clumsy technical language that is inadequate (not
only because it is incomprehensible to the laity but because it is ponderously
irrelevant) or having to resort to the arbitrary and subjective literary
device of metaphor. After all, according to Thelonius Monk, writing about
music is like dancing about architecture! Hans Keller in the 1950s concluded
that only music itself could serve as a critical tool. Or, as Sadie Goodson
said to Linda Young when asked at one of Big Bill's recording sessions,
what it was like playing for Bessie Smith, "Buy the records!"
My advice is buy these two records because they represent a formidable
addition to the Kid Thomas oeuvre.
Since these tracks were recorded live at the Connecticut Jazz Club the
balance is less than perfect. Nevertheless, recording engineer Michael
Fast did remarkably well under difficult circumstances. Nowadays with
dozens of mikes and control panels to balance a symphony orchestra what
is achieved is often the ability to hear everything at the expense of
spontaneity. At Moose Hall nearly 33 years ago (goodness, is it really
that long?) they all sound relaxed and on top form. Kid Thomas at 72 played
another ten years before gradually handing over to Wendell Brunious at
Preservation Hall. A mere youngster at 66, Louis Nelson played for many
years after. Manny Paul, two years younger than Nelson, toured the then
Soviet Union with Kid Thomas in 1979. Charlie Hamilton, born 1904 or 1906,
depending on which authority you believe, lived to 1989. If there are
any "purists" out there who might complain that Charlie sounds
too "modern" they should remember that George Lewis initially
preferred him to Alton Purnell. Only Sammy Penn, born 1902, was nearing
the end of his career, although his playing here gives no hint he was
to die in 1969 on tour with the Preservation Hall Band. In other words,
all present in 1968 were on top of their playing form, and none more so
than Manny Paul who never played better in my opinion. The band absolutely
rips through even the slower numbers with that characteristic Kid Thomas
Amidst the jazz standards like "Algiers Strut", "Streets
of the City", "Closer Walk", "Bourbon Street Parade",
and so on, there is more unusual fare: the Fats Domino hit of 1956, "Blueberry
Hill", also "Girl of My Dreams", plus in "In the Mood"
and "I'll See You In My Dreams" played as a melody. There is
also a stirring "Oh! Lady Be Good" a number associated with
Lester Young who lived in Algiers until around 1927. He recalled growing
up in New Orleans and playing in his father's group, the New Orleans Strutters,
and is quoted as saying that around WW1, "I liked to hear the music
in New Orleans .... there were trucks advertising dances and I'd follow
them around." The family lived in Algiers and Lester's father, Willis
Young played occasionally with the Henry Allen Brass Band. An intriguing
possibility is that Kid Thomas and Lester Young might well have known
If you enjoy Brian Carrick and Derek Winters (two of the nicest men in
British jazz) giving their interpretation of the Kid Thomas - Manny Paul
style and doing their best to ensure the Algiers Stompers sound lives
on, these two fine CDs are sure to please and delight.
Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.
These two CDs recorded at a Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club concert
bring us the Kid Thomas Valentine band at the height of its powers in
the late 1960s, with a standard repertory of Thomas' favorite tunes. The
band was made up of Thomas, trumpet; Manuel Paul, tenor sax; Louis Nelson,
trombone; Charlie Hamilton, piano; Joseph Butler, bass; and Sammy Penn,
drums. The inimitable and sweet Joe James was gone from the piano stool,
but the rest of the band is the basic Kid Thomas aggregation - as comfortable
with each other as six musicians likely ever get.
Thomas was by then 72 but ageless, Nelson and Paul playing effortlessly
and Sammy Penn in his usual forceful form. His unique thrashing drum style
is clearly captured here, without sounding overbearing. Joseph Butler
plays and sings with all his usual effervescent energy. The numbers are
relaxed, casual but driving, and Thomas' laconic lead is as spare and
effective as ever. Solo space is given more to Nelson's sweet singing
style and Manuel Paul's bluesy honking.
The basic Thomas set-pieces are all here - Penn singing froggily on "Girl
of My Dreams," Butler's blues-hollering style on "Down by the
Riverside" and "Four Leaf Clover," Thomas himself singing
and clowning on "Eh! La Bas." The band's signature tunes are
played with gusto - "Algiers Strut," "Kid Thomas Boogie
Woogie" -along with a sprinkling of jazz and pop standards. The concert
gives a pretty fair picture of this archetypal New Orleans dance-hall
band of the 1950s, as it might have sounded on a working night at the
Happy Landing or some other smoky neighborhood tavern-dance joint.
All the musicians seem in fine fettle here, the recorded sound is quite
good, with only a few faded spots on some vocals. Otherwise, this is like
a fresh sonic Polaroid snapshot of the Thomas band. If you don't know
this unique variant on basic New Orleans jazz, these two CDs give an excellent
introduction to the whole band, Kid Thomas Valentine and each of the bright,
idiosyncratic jazz personalities who worked with him.
- William J. Schafer
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