The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3076: Albert Burbank-Burgundy Street Blues

Personnel: Albert Burbank [clarinet], Jack Fine [trumpet], Noel Kaletsky [reeds], George Edward Stevenson [trombone], Bill Sinclair [piano], Dave Duquette [banjo], John Toumine [string bass], Mike Burgevin [drums]

Songs: Burgundy Street Blues, Shake That Thing, Lonesome Road, Lord Lord Lord, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, When You Wore A Tulip, See See Rider, Royal Garden Blues, High Society, That's A Plenty, Walking with the King

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3076: Albert Burbank-Burgundy Street Blues

Boxell's Jazz Website - New Zealand

Should one read the sleeve notes before or after playing the CD? An interesting question. My wife and I played this, and others, whilst travelling up to Coromandel the other weekend; it was the first time she had heard it. Her first words were 'Oh this has got soul.' We pushed comments back and forth and came to the conclusion that it was an especially good recording of a four man front line with a very fine balance. The fact that it was a live recording and yet still managed to achieve such balance was impressive. On reaching our destination and prior to putting down some preliminary comments, I read the sleeve notes. Ooops! Jazz Crusade's Big Bill Bissonette says that he had brought Albert Burbank up to the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club, out of catfish catching season, which Albert refused to miss. Of the recording BBB was annoyed that the others in the front line oft took three choruses to Albert's two and thus could have been seen to have 'walked over him'. BBB also felt that, apart from reedsman Noel Kaletsky the others had no conception of the Burbank style. And Lyn and I thought they sounded so good together! But BBB is right about Noel, he is just fine, and that from someone who is cautious about the use of a sax in traditional jazz.
If you haven't heard Albert Burbank then you should, like British clarinettist, Cy Laurie, he has a very distinctive style that cannot be mistaken for anyone else's. All in all, a far better CD than BBB will concede. I think well worth having, even if you only get it to see if BBB is right or my wife and I.
- Geoff Boxell


Just Jazz - British Jazz Magazine

Recorded in concert at the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club on the 27 September, 1969, this curate's egg of a CD affords a welcome opportunity to hear one of the most original instrumentalists of the earliest days of New Orleans jazz in the shape of Albert Burbank. And the 67 year old (1902-1976) veteran is on great form, playing and singing in pure, unadulterated New Orleans Creole-style. His passionate tone alone - which he probably inherited from his first teacher, Lorenzo Tio Jr, and for which he used a French 'double embouchure' - is alone worth the purchase of this CD. For a comparison, it's close to that of John Casimir, the famous brass bandsman who specialised in the E-flat instrument. In fact I can't think of a other New Orleans man who put as much passion into his reed work as Burbank.
On numbers like Burgundy Street Blues, which Albert refused to play until its creator, George Lewis, had passed on, he is at his passionate, emotive best. He's poetic, lyrical and yet heart rending in his emotion. But it's not just the slower numbers on which he comes into his own. When I Grow Too Old To Dream is, for example, taken at a medium bounce tempo, but again Burbank's input is classic -similar, perhaps, to Barney Bigard, but the Ellingtonian lost his unique New Orleans intonation along the way during his time with that classic big orchestra. Here, though, you can hear that original dawn-of-jazz-style completely unadulterated by time or age - it's superb and a wonderful insight into the early days. Burbank spent almost his whole life in and around the Crescent City and hearing him is like being exposed to a wonderful time warp. You can, of course, hear a much earlier (more powerful) example of his work on American Music AMCD-5, where he is heard with the inimitable Wooden Joe Nicholas, Jim Robinson, Lawrence Marrero, Austin Young and Josiah Frazier.
Sadly, several members of the accompanying band on this CD appear to have failed to realise what a unique giant of an original talent they had the privilege of playing with that night in 1969. Both the over exuberant John Handy-like sax work of Kaletsky and the often raucous trombone of Stevenson are more often than not totally unsympathetic, and drown poor Albert out. They also hog their solo choruses, taking far too many in blatant exhibitions of lack of musical taste. Jack Fine's trumpet work is excellent on the slower numbers, but on the uptempo offerings he, too, descends to ill-conceived Dixieland histrionics. The rhythm section is, however, fully supportive throughout - thank goodness - and provides good, sensitive, bouncy backing.
Despite the efforts of some of the front-line here, there is enough of fabulous Burbank on this CD to merit you investigating it - nay - buying it, because it gives us a rare and valuable late example of genuine New Orleans Creole clarinet work of a school that these days is almost completely ignored in our world of George Lewis clones. There was another school, fellers - the Tio school - this is it and it's great stuff. Listen and learn opportunities like this come along all too infrequently.
- Brian Harvey


JazzGazette - Internet Publication

It's often said - and I have written it a couple of times myself! - that this or that number is worth the price of a CD. Most of the time this is only a figure of speech. Very few people will buy a CD for just one number. Well, in the case of this new Jazz Crusade CD, everyone really interested in traditional New Orleans music should buy it for just one number and consider all the rest on it as a very generous lagniappe. What we have here is a unique event in New Orleans recorded history: a New Orleans musician belonging to the same generation as George Lewis playing George's creation "Burgundy Street Blues". While all over the world George Lewis followers played this anthology of New Orleans blues phrases as a tribute to the master, his fellow pioneers of the music considered it as "not done". "Burgundy Street Blues" was seen as George's property and nobody touched it Willie Humphrey, for instance, got very upset when some self-proclaimed jazz connoisseur requested it at Preservation Hall. "I'll play the blues for you" Willie said, "but I'll play my OWN blues."Albert Burbank never played the number while George was still alive. After he was gone he played it as a tribute to his old friend, but unlike all the others, who stayed as close as possible to the Lewis version, Burbank, as a true New Orleans veteran, played it his own way. Fortunately this five concert was recorded by Hank O'Neal, so that today we can all listen with admiration and awe to "Burgundy Street Blues" the Burbank way. Older collectors might have heard it already because it was on a limited edition LP (CTJC SLP-6), one of the annual albums the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club published with excerpts of the concerts of that year. The sound quality on this CD is much better and we get a big part of the rest of the concert as well.
Albert Burbank was one of the clarinet wizards of New Orleans who, for many years had to live in George Lewis' shadow. Nevertheless he was as important a player as George. Some connoisseurs, like Sonny Faggart of Center Records, even preferred him to Lewis. I want to quote my good friend Brian Wood from the introduction he wrote to Raymond Lee's excellent Burbank discography: " For me, Albert Burbank was a player of enormous intensity and depth of feeling who, with no disrespect to George Lewis, has unfairly languished under the more famous player's reputation. The emotional intensity of such as Israel Gorman and Steve Angrum (and I would add Mile Barnes to that list! MJ) has proved too much to accept for many listeners who preferred the lyricism of Edmond Hall, Barney Bigard or George Lewis. It has always seemed to me that Burbank bridged the cultural gap without compromising any lyricism on the one hand or fervent intensity on the other." I entirely agree with that statement!
Burbank (born 25.3.1902) came to relative fame when he recorded for Bill Russell's American Music label with the ferocious trumpet player "Wooden" Joe Nicholas, Albert Nicholas' uncle. Later on he became well known in the New Orleans kitty halls, both in Dixieland Hall and Preservation Hall. He toured Europe with Kid Thomas in 1971, where I had the good luck to hear him in person. Like so many of his fellow New Orleans musicians, Albert hated to leave his city, especially in the fishing season. Hence his only short stay with the famous Kid Ory band in San Francisco in 1954.
To have a full CD of unissued Albert Burbank is a real feast for every New Orleans fan. One could only wish that Bill Bissonnette's own Easy Riders Jazz Band had still been active in September 1969. They would have been a much better foil for Burbank than the pick-up band on this CD. The Easy Riders all were familiar with the difficult art of ensemble playing, the way it was done in New Orleans. In his very honest liner notes Big Bill complains about the lack of empathy some musicians in the band show for the subtility of Burbank's playing. Of course Bill is right, but I think he exaggerates a little bit. In my opinion they could have done a lot worse. In the rhythm section both Bill Sinclair and Dave Duquette (both former members of the Easy Riders) were steeped in the New Orleans tradition. The bass player and the drummer play adequately, but don't have the same familiarity with the music of New Orleans. Trumpet player Jack Fine had recorded with New Orleans musicians earlier in his career (Danny Barker and Bob Thomas in 1954) but nevertheless had the tendency to overblow and to take solos longer than necessary in this kind of music. His preference for the high register doesn't help either, especially not in the final ensembles. I seem to remember I read somewhere that he is living and working in New Orleans now.
George Edward Stevenson (1906-1970) is a veteran of the bands of Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Johnson, Rex Stewart, Claude Hopkins, Lucky Millinder and Sammy Price to name just a few. This was probably his last recording. His solo work on this CD is excellent, but again for the ensembles a New Orleans style player would have been more suitable. After all Stevenson came from an entirely different tradition and one can hardly expect a professional to change his style - especially at the age of 63! - to adapt to a band which was already stylistically a mixed outfit to start with.
I like Kaletsky's (another Easy Rider!) work on this CD, it's warm and relaxed.
If you are a true New Orleans fan you need this CD. It's not perfect, but so few things in life are. Adding eleven tracks to Burbank's recorded output, which is not that big, is reason enough to buy it. And, of course, there is that SPECIAL Burgundy Street Blues!
Recording quality is good. Playing time: 72 minutes.
- Marcel Joly


Klee Website - Internet

Albert Burbank was born in New Orleans, the cradle of jazz, on March 25, 1902, and died in the same city on August 15, 1976. He began playing clarinet at the age of 17 and worked alongside such legendary players as Buddy Petit, Punch Miller and Kid Ory. On September 29, 1969, the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club brought him into the Materese Restaurant in Newington, CT for a concert. It was the practice of the club to bring in New Orleans pioneers and put them on stage with available musicians from the tri-state area for a jam. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. This is one of those times that it almost worked, with some reservations.
Jazz Crusade record producer Big Bill Bissonnette begins his liner notes with an acknowledgement of that fact. "Make no mistake about it, Albert Burbank is the whole show here. Everybody else is a minor supporting player -- although unfortunately not all of them seem to comprehend it."
Klee's CDs - Internet Publication
As was so frequently the case, witness Bunk Johnson's band or some of Sidney Bechet's bands of the New Orleans revival of the forties and some of Louis Armstrong's All Star Units, otherwise capable musicians looked at it as a chance to compete one on one with some of the founding fathers of the music. Once you lose the ensemble spirit of New Orleans Jazz, it becomes something different, not better ... not worse ... just something other than New Orleans Tradixieland Jazz. Nobody knew this better than Albert Burbank whose Creole clarinet obliggati intertwined their intricate patterns with whatever else was going on. It was a lesson well learned with Kid Ory's band on the west coast and at Preservation Hall in the Crescent City.
This is not to put down the other musicians on the date. They came prepared to do what they knew how to do in their normal playing of multi chorus solos urging each other on to further heights and lengths. Under different circumstances that would have been exactly what the doctor ordered. Being hired to accompany a seminal primitive New Orleans player like Albert Burbank, it was nothing if not inappropriate. That's the reason for the caveat expressed in the liner notes by Big Bill and in this review by myself.
It's also the reason that the opening track on the CD comes closest to what Albert Burbank is all about. Playing George Lewis's Burgundy Street Blues Albert Burbank plays the blues for half a dozen choruses with only the rhythm section comping sensitively behind him. This is the real deal. Once the other horns come in, it's a free for all ... every man for himself ... devil take the hindmost. As Big Bill put it, when he used to run the sessions for the club "if the guest took a two-chorus solo, you didn't take three. You understood that it was a privilege to stand next to these luminaries. That didn't happen at this concert."
Yet what did happen was some good "Nicksieland" playing by the band over which you do get some opportunities to hear the creole clarinet of Albert Burbank which, in itself, is enough to order this CD from Jazz Crusade, 585 Pond Street, Bridgeport CT 06606 or their website at www.jazzcrusade.com.
- Joe Klee


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