Jack McLaughlin [Eb clarinet], John van Buren [banjo], Rachel Hamilton
[piano], Tom Rowell [sousaphone], Gavin Anderson [guitar]
We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven, Flee As A Bird/Nearer My God
to Thee/ Pleyel's Hymn, If Ever I Cease to Love, Just As I Am, Oh Didn't
He Ramble, When I Move to the Sky, Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet, Shall
We Gather at the River, Scatterbrain, Whistling Rufus, Ice Cream, There'll
Be A Hot Time In Old Town Tonight, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, Plastic Jesus,
Let the Great Big World Keep Turning, I Like Bananas, Smokey Mokes
Jack McLaughlin plays Eb Clarinet - "If We Never Meet Again This
Side of Heaven"
JazzReview.com - Internet Publication
Jack McLaughlin is an Australian jazz clarinetist steeped in the history
of a bygone era. A jazz purist by nature, McLaughlin follows a less traveled
path and, though influenced by George Lewis, plays the music much as it
would have been played by Louisiana parlor groups of seventy years ago.
The focus of this release is split between the music and the vintage instrument
being played. On a visit to Germany, Jack met clarinetist, Eberhard Kraut,
and became fascinated by his collection of historical instruments. Of
special interest was Kraut's rare metal Albert system clarinet. The metal
clarinets came into use in the middle of the 19th century and were designed
for use by the military in all weather conditions. With the help of the
German collector, a metal instrument was found on the British market and
McLaughlin became the new owner. The Australian musician is not the first
to be infatuated by the vintage metal Alberts. George Lewis owned one
for a number of years but returned to the ebony axe in the late 1940s.
Today it is the clarinet of choice for Britain's Brian Carrick and the
Danish jazz star, Kjeld Brandt.
Jack McLaughlin and the Oz band appeared recently in New Orleans at the
2003 French Quarter Festival , performing at the Continental Airlines
International Stage on Bourbon Street. Jack and his group also played
a couple of days at Fritzel's where traditional Crescent City jazz is
The McLaughlin attack differs from many other players on the current scene.
Jack plays every bit of the tune. He even plays the verse to the 1928
hit, Ice Cream . I've heard that old warhorse a hundred times and was
unaware that a verse existed. He drags other gems out of retirement too.
An ancient Hoosier Hot Shots tune shows up in the form of I Like Bananas
(because they have no bones) and gets the McLaughlin treatment. This CD
is a collection of traditional New Orleans fare including spirituals,
marches, pop songs and novelty pieces. One tune in particular will stick
in your head for a week. Originally a radio jingle for WWVA in Wheeling,
West Virginia the melody resurfaced about 1975 as an irreverent but amusing
Plastic Jesus . Embraced by the drug culture, the tune gathered a cult
Jack McLaughlin's third CD shows his dedication and love of the music.
Sound samples are available at the Jazz Crusade website. If you would
like to know more about the rare metal clarinets, I encourage you to read
Eberhard Kraut's fine article . McLaughlin and his instrument were written-up
recently in the publication Mississippi Rag.
- Richard Bourcier
Cadence Magazine - U. S. A.
This is a different animal. Recorded in Australia it sounds a lot like
something actually recorded in the 20's, not the least because of Jack
McLaughlin's instrument of choice, a rare metal E flat clarinet which
produces a shrill, piping tone that's both eerie and instantly memorable.
It sounds like something you'd hear at a funeral which may explain why
there are so many funeral hymns here. With banjo and sousaphone lurching
along behind, this almost sounds like a Salvation Army band.
This music may sound creaky and old-fashioned but it is still arrestingly
lovely. Gavin Anderson sings two hymns, "When I Move To The Sky"
and the title track beautifully. Relatively uptempo pieces like "Scatterbrain"
and "There'll Be A Hot Time" perpetuate the antique charm of
the set. Compared to the work of the real musical giants of the 20's this
doesn't sound like much. Put Sidney Bechet or Louis Armstrong on this
same set of tunes and they would blow this group away. Nevertheless this
group's sound carries a fragile sweetness that lingers in your head long
after you've played the CD. This is something beyond the usual traditional
- Jerome Wilson
Mississippi Rag—U. S. Jazz magazine
The problem with this CD is that I have trouble imagining who would buy it and listen to it more than once. Not because it is bad - it's just very peculiar. It features Australian reedman Jack McLaughlin playing a simple system (jazz fans would say "Albert system," probably) metal Eb clarinet and recounting as literally as possible music associated with New Orleans brass bands and jazz, with a rhythm quintet something like a banjo band. His cohorts are Rachel Hamilton, piano; John van Buuren, tenor banjo; Tom Rowell, sousaphone; and Gavin Anderson, guitar and vocals.
McLaughlin plays the little Eb clarinet as it was commonly wielded for parades in New Orleans. Its tone is thin, reedy and flutelike, and McLaughlin's playing was admittedly shaped by George Lewis's infectious style. The only jazz player I know of who specialized in the Eb horn and made it his own was Odell Rand of the Harlem Hamfats. He was what is now known as a "little person," and I suspect his choice of the horn was as much visual as aural -the tiny instrument in scale with the tiny player! Otherwise, it is hard to know why someone would play the horn except in a brass band, to cut through the sound of bigger, louder horns.
McLaughlin plays straight from the score or from ear the numbers here, without much adornment or attempt to create original variations and swinging drive. The whole band is rhythm-deficient, and a drummer might have been a major help. As an archaeological "document," the CD succeeds because of the finicky attention to detail: we hear (repeatedly) the verse of "Ice Cream"! We hear the Carnival anthem "If Ever I Cease to Love" as it might have sounded in 1875, without syncopation or swing! We hear the gospel number Bunk Johnson once essayed, "When I Move to the Sky," in its rare, churchy 12/8 time! We hear "Didn't He Ramble" in 6/8 time!
As I said, this is an odd CD. The only numbers that really sit up and swing are two anomalies, given the context - the 1939 pop-swing hit "Scat-terbrain" (by Johnny Burke and Harold Spina} and the semi-folk comic commentary "Plastic Jesus" from 1964 (by Ernie Marrs, Ed Rush and George Cromarty or some combination thereof). It's as if McLaughlin can only play the early-jazz-associated numbers with a petrifying reverence (and at quite low tempos), but for these cheap pop-radio numbers, he doffs his halo and plays with exuberant energy.
Alas, the older tunes are of documentary interest but not very musical, and extracting the Eb clarinet from its brass band context seems quixotic. If you are deeply infatuated with a purist approach to New Orleans jazz and to sheer old-timey-ness for its own sake, this CD may twang your heartstrings, otherwise it's not musical enough to carry itself from head to heart.
William J. Schafer
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