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
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
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
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
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
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
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
place an order? Click here for info.