The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3075: Rare Cuts-Well Done Vol. 4: Creole George Guesnon/Kid Thomas Band/St. Cyr's Birthday

Personnel: Guesnon tracks: George Guesnon [vocal], Henry Goodwin, Wingy Carpenter [trumpet], Art Hodes, Little Brother Montgomery, Edward J. Allen [piano], Jimmy Shirley [guitar], Pops Foster [string bass], Bob Warren [drums];
Personnel: Kid Thomas Band tracks: Kid Thomas Valentine [trumpet], Paul Barnes [clarinet], Manny Paul [tenor sax], Louis Nelson [trombone], Charlie Hamilton [piano], Emanuel Sayles [banjo], Joe Butler [string bass], Alonzo Stewart [drums]

Songs: Graveyard Blues, Top & Bottom Blues, Mississippi Town [Jackson Blues], Iberville & Franklin Blues, Black Woman Blues, Good Bye Good Luck to You 1&2, The Seond Line, Just A Closer Walk with Thee, Eh! La Bas, Tin Roof Blues, When the Saints Go Marching In, Johnny St. Cyr Birthday Greetings

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3075: Rare Cuts-Well Done Vol. 4: Creole George Guesnon/Kid Thomas Band/St. Cyr's Birthday

JazzGazette.com - Internet Publication

We all know Creole George Guesnon as one of the top banjo (AND guitar!) players in New Orleans and we treasure his recordings with George Lewis, Kid Thomas, Kid Sheik, Alvin Alcorn, Jim Robinson, The Mighty Four etc. and of course also his two solo albums, one for Icon (now reissued with some fabulous stuff added on American Music AMCD-87) and one for Jazz Crusade. We also knew that he had recorded before the revival but most of us never heard those sides. Now they are all here. On all these tracks George is featured as a blues singer.
On the first two tracks we hear the trumpet of Henry Goodwin, a fine musician from Columbia, South Carolina, who worked in his long career with a lot of famous bands (Claude Hopkins, Charlie Johnson, Cab Calloway, Lucky Millinder, Sidney Bechet etc.). On piano is Art Hodes, who came to the States from Russia as a child and grew up in Chicago's South Side, a breeding ground for blues and jazz musicians. His illustrious and long career should be known by every jazz lover. Guitarist Jimmy Shirley, also from South Carolina, plays great blues guitar on these tracks and also on the next four numbers. The quartet accompanying Creole George is completed by that ace bass player from New Orleans, Pops Foster. Unfortunately he sounds somewhat underrecorded. George is a fine singer with a mellow voice, who wrote many songs.
On the next four tracks we can hear the work of Theodore "Wingie" Carpenter, the one-armed trumpet player from St.Louis, who played with many territory bands before settling in New York. He is an extremely fine blues player who reminds me somewhat of the great Tommy Ladnier.
On the final track, recorded at the St.Charles Hotel in New Orleans, George is accompanied by Eurreal "Little Brother" Montgomery on piano. Little Brother, born in Kentwood, Louisiana, grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and in New Orleans. He too had a long and successful career, both as a band pianist, singer and soloist. I suppose "Goodbye Good Luck To You" was one of Creole George's favourite compositions because he revived it when he recorded for Grayson Mills' Icon label in 1959. It's a beautiful song!
Next we have the 1973 Kid Thomas Band recorded live in Cohasset, MA. Although the recording is not exactly hi-fi it comes as a welcome addition to the collection of every New Orleans lover. As far as I'm concerned, there'll never be enough Kid Thomas on record! In fact, despite the somewhat rough recording, the sheer force of Tom's trumpet playing comes through better than on many studio recordings. The presence of the exquisite, limpid clarinet of "Polo" Barnes, makes this live recording even more interesting. His solo on "Just A Closer Walk With Thee", played as a funeral dirge here, is a gem. Bill Bissonnette heard Brian Carrick play the same chorus one night at Fritzel's in New Orleans. Asked about it, Brian told Bill he picked it up from an old Raymond Burke recording! I'm not surprised because I heard Raymond play the same or similar chorus several times at Preservation Hall. In my opinion it is one of those things that belong to the collective memory of New Orleans music. On the same track Kid Thomas, on muted trumpet, plays what Percy Humphrey called a "whispering chorus", showing his lyrical side which is so often neglected in the writings about him. Manny Paul is his usual magnificent self on all tracks. His tenor sax sound must be one of the most original sounds in New Orleans history.
A lot of bad things have been said and written about Alonzo Stewart's drumming. He originally came out of the New Orleans rhythm & blues scene and when he was heard for the first time with a traditional jazz band on a 1964 tour of George Lewis in Japan, it was obvious that he wasn't completely familiar with this music. Unfortunately his later reputation was mainly based on these recordings. When you listen with an open ear to these 1973 recordings, you will probably agree with me that his playing isn't bad at all. Probably Kid Thomas had straightened him out by then! Of course the poor man had the impossible task to replace Sammy Penn in the Kid Thomas band, one of the greatest drummers in New Orleans history.
On "Eh La Bas" we can listen to one of Kid Thomas' hilarious vocals. Tom had a devilish pleasure doing those things. It was his hokum side! "Tin Roof Blues" is as down to earth as you could wish for. Tom plays another fine muted solo and leads the final ensemble with glorious open horn. The unavoidable "Saints" is great fun. Alonzo's vocals introduce all the band members one by one (except, for some reason, Charlie Hamilton and Joe Butler) and he plays a drum solo himself. I must admit that the second chorus of it is more than a little bit on the noisy side. Anyway this version of the "Saints" brought back sweet memories of the last set at Preservation Hall.
The final side is somewhat of a curate's egg. Some of you might even not play it again. Nevertheless, for those seriously interested in New Orleans music, it has great documentary value because it allows us to hear the speaking voices of many of our heroes. Bill Bacin, a jazz fan from Texas, went around in New Orleans with a tape machine and recorded birthday wishes for banjoist Johnny St.Cyr, who was recovering from an operation in California. Even if you're one of those who don't care about these human interest documents, you'll still have 60 minutes left of great and rare jazz music. Recommended!
- Marcel Joly


AMG Expert Review: - U. S. A.

For Volume 4 of his Rare Cuts- Well Done series, Big Bill Bissonnette has pulled together two blowing sessions and a spoken dedication to legendary banjo player Johnny St. Cyr on the occasion of his 73rd birthday. The first seven tracks capture banjoist/ guitarist/vocalist Creole George Guesnon from two sittings in New York and an early, 1936, set from New Orleans. Born in 1907 in the Crescent City and having performed with some of the greats of that city, one doesn't find many references to this performer in any of the standard works including The New Groove Dictionary of Jazz, nor is there a mention of albums he might have made as a leader in Tom Lord's Jazz Discography. Here he is heard with such fellow classic jazz performers as Art Hodes and Pops Foster. The next five tracks belong to the ubiquitous Kid Thomas Band performing in Massachusetts and having a ball while they're at it. There's one of the more rousing, raucous versions of "Eh! La Bas" accompanied by groans and shouts and someone singing female falsetto (or maybe a member of the audience). Joining the band was clarinetist Paul "Polo" Barnes" who worked with Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver Bands. One of the most attractive cuts on this CD is Barnes' chorus on a "Just a Closer Walk with Thee". The only music on the last track is Sweet Emmett Barrett singing "Happy Birthday" as more than 30 stars of traditional jazz offer their greeting to St. Cyr with several references to his recent eye operation. While this album is the stuff jazz sprung from, the only problem is the sound is not as consistently sharp as on the three earlier releases in this session. Small matter though. Recommended.
- Dave Nathan


Mississippi Rag - U. S. Jazz Publication

From the archives of Jazz Crusade in Bridgeport, Conn., here is yet another CD for the hardcore post-WWII New Orleans constituency. Seven tracks are by the fine banjoist/vocalist Creole George Guesnon, with supporting casts which include such luminaries as Pops Foster, Art Hodes, and, on the last number, Little Brother Montgomery. Guesnon is perhaps best-known for his splendid banjo work on many N.O. band sessions, including the superb Jazzology All-Stars, but these recordings actually date back to 1936, 1940 and 1946, when Guesnon worked frequently as a solo act or with pick-up groups.
Then come five tracks by a fairly familiar lineup led by Kid Thomas Valentine (Louis Nelson, Emanuel Paul, Polo Barnes, et. al.) and recorded live in the summer of 1974 at a concert in Cohas-set, Mass. Tacked on at the end is a greeting to Johnny St. Cyr on his 73rd birthday by 33 New Orleans musicians (some of them twice), led off and recorded in the Crescent City by entrepreneur and superfan Bill Bacin. As Bill Bissonnette's notes say, "It is an extraordinary personal event where you can actually hear the living voices of some of your jazz heroes." Bissonnette is Jazz Crusade, in case anyone didn't know.
The backups on the first six Guesnon tracks are more generic small-band blues than they are "New Orleans style," but none the less effective for that. Particularly enjoyable is the work of the under-appreciated trumpeters on the two sessions, Henry Goodwin and Theodore (Wingy) Carpenter, both of whose careers in jazz stretched from the mid-'20s into the '60s with a great variety of bands. (A note to trivia lovers: Carpenter's left arm, irreparably damaged in an accident when he was a teenager, was amputated by Doc Cheatham's uncle, a noted surgeon.) Guitarist Jimmy Shirley, who worked for Ella Fitzgerald and Buddy Tate among others, appears on both sessions and sounds fine.
Guesnon, for those unfamiliar with that side of his talent, sings with a pleasant voice and clear enunciation a variety of blues ranging from the plaintive to the good-time to the flat-out dirty, all of which he wrote himself. His banjo playing is nowhere in evidence, perhaps because the banjo hadn't yet come back into its post-Revival popularity when these recordings were made.
The Kid Thomas concert takes are so-so live recording; the band sounds a bit distant, but utterly recognizable. (It's exactly the sound the late Cliff Bastien was after all those years in Toronto.) Thomas is still feisty, Nelson is at his jaunty best, and Barnes' tone is its inimitable self. Even though both the tunes and the manner in which they are played can hardly be news, for fans who can never have enough Kid Thomas records, this one is a must. Perhaps the best track is the almost 10-minute blues — as always, the real, deep New Orleans thing from these guys. It's so good it can make you think you've never heard it before.
- Jim Leigh


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