Personnel: George Lewis [cl],
Coo Coo Talbert, Percy Humphrey, Punch Miller, Charlie Love, Sharkey Bonano
[tp], Big Jim Robinson, Clement Tervalon, Louis Nelson [tb],
Alton Purnell, Sweet Emma Barrett, Armand Hug [pn], Lawrence Marrero,
Creole George Guesnon [bn], Slow Drag Pavageau, Sherwood Mangiapane
[sbs], Joe Watkins, Paul Barbarin, Louis Barbarin [dm]
Songs: Royal Garden Blues, Bugle Boy March, Willie the Weeper,
Savoy Blues, Bye & Bye, Runnin' Wild, Climax Rag, Sheik of Araby,
Maryland My Maryland,Golden Leaf Strut, Fidgety Feet, Careless Love, Bill
Bailey, High Society, Uptown Bumps, Wolverine Blues, Original Blues, Just
A Closer Walk with Thee.
George Lewis--Jammin' in the 50s
IAJRC Journal—U. S. Jazz Magazine
There are some who might label this music as easy - however, compared to the recording quality of most of the tracks, the performances themselves are models of sophistication. Nevertheless, there is much to be gained from a close listening to this
material, especially that which features George Lewis and His Ragtime Band, heard here at the very beginning of its rise to popularity. As Bill Bissonette's liner notes say with only slight hyperbole, this band "stood between the extinction and survival of a music." While the nucleus of the group had already been recording together for eight years, it would be over the course of the next half decade or so that Lewis and his band would extend their reputation and influence well beyond New Orleans.
The nine tracks featuring Lewis are taken from three of the popular "Dixieland Jambake" (not "Clambake" as the notes say)
broadcasts on New Orleans' WDSUin 1950 and 1951. The 1951 session has much better sound quality than the two from the previous year, but the music on the earlier sessions is far more compelling, with the single difference between the two bands being the trumpet player. On the last session, the redoubtable Percy Humphrey plays a precise lead on Sheik ofAraby, Maryland My Maryland, and Climax Rag. The 1950 version of the Lewis band however featured the under-recorded Elmer "Coo Coo" Talbert whose playing seemed to encourage a degree of abandon seldom heard on a Lewis recording until the legendary Jazzman session of 1953 and rarely thereafter. While none the tunes from the first two broadcasts approach the complexity or variety of the 1951 performances, interesting moments abound. The momentum of the pile-driving choruses on the ensemble versions of Royal Garden Blues and Willie The Weeper remind the listener of an earlier Jazz aesthetic where solos were rare. With the exception of Savoy Blues and Bye and Bye, the tunes including Talbert are almost entirely ensemble-driven, with the idea of textural variety taking precedence over individuality. On Savoy, Lewis shows his knowledge of subsequent developments in Jazz by delivering a free but accurate paraphrase of the Louis Armstrong solo from the original recording. Not to be outdone, Jim Robinson follows by playing the Kid Ory solo virtually note for note. Bye and Bye features a holy roller-style vocal from Talbert who calls on Lewis, Robinson and pianist Alton Purnell for individual testimony. The remaining two numbers, Bugle Boy March and Runnin' Wild are again primarily ensemble, featuring the remarkably varied lead playing of Talbert, who died suddenly just two months after the October broadcast.
The second half of the CD promises far more than it delivers. Taken from a 1958 Art Ford TV program taped in New Orleans, this session features a grab bag of local Jazz musicians and is most notable for the fact that it was integrated (although on film, the races are spatially divided by the piano and, significantly, the Creole Alphonse Picou). While it was an inspired idea to bring musicians of an already vanishing generation such as Picou, Peter Bocage, and Charlie Love to play alongside contemporary players in the idiom, in retrospect it would have been far more productive to feature them in smaller combinations rather than collectively. Unfortunately, the spirit of the jam session prevailed and, as is so often the case in such assemblages, anarchy was the order of the day. While some fine moments occasionally rise from the ashes (Hug's piano solo after everyone else suddenly abandons Wolverine Blues; Eddie Miller's tenor sax on 2:19 Blues; yet another version of Picou playing the High Society clarinet solo), the overall impression is one of chaos - with the Saints Go Marching In finale being the most horrific example. A video of the entire program (with several performances not included here) occasionally surfaces on Ebay and viewing the show goes a long way towards understanding the maelstrom of sound contained herein.
A couple of picky points - Original Blues is actually 2:19 Blues (or, Mamie's Blues if you prefer); Uptown Bumps is My Bucket's Got A Hole In It; Eddie Miller's name is not in the credits, but it is definitely he on the film playing tenor sax (he was apparently in New Orleans on vacation and was invited to participate in the taping of this show).
John Clark Jr.
Boxell's Jazz Website-New Zealand
Of all the classical period jazz clarinet players, George Lewis would
have had the biggest influence in Europe, if only because of his visiting
and playing with bands there. Listen to most European clarinetist and
you will hear the man's style and phrasing being nourished and kept alive.
This CD is from three American radio sessions: Dixieland Clambake; September
and October 1950, April 1953; and an Art Ford TV programme, August 1958.
All sessions come with the original intros. The sound quality is not always
the best, but the balance isn't too bad. Whatever shortcomings I might
find in the technology, there is no denying the quality and balance of
the bands George Lewis leads. To hear this CD is to begin to understand
why people became so excited when George spearheaded the traditional jazz
revival in the 1940s. For this reason alone, you need this CD in your
The only thing that grated for me was the condescending tone of the announcers.
Perhaps the fact that, just after listening to the CD for the first time,
I watched the film, 'Driving Miss Daisy', and had just finished reading
a biography of a Southern States family entitled: 'Slaves in the Family',
made me sensitive. But then, maybe we need to hear and feel that prejudice,
to understand some of the feelings and emotions that lie beneath New Orleans
- Geoff Boxell
Jazz Gazette: Belgium
This CD is what we collectors call a gap filler, because it offers us
sessions hitherto unavailable on CD. They were available before on LP.
Four of the first six titles were on Folklyric 9030, all six on Rhythm
LP5, one of Barry Martyn's elusive and limited productions. The three
following ones were also on Folklyric 9030 and two of them ("Sheik"
and "Maryland") on Heritage HLP 1005. The complete Art Ford
show was on Rarities NO62, a Keith Smith issue. The sound quality is,
as could be expected for this kind of rare material, rather rough, but
definitely clearer than on the LP's mentioned above. The George Lewis
band was in great shape in those days. The music is
wonderful all the time. It's interesting to hear the band with the two
trumpet players who preceded Kid Howard. Elmer Talbert's playing is rough
and ready, but very exciting. Percy's is more sophisticated but also driving
hot. If it hadn't been for his insurance business that kept him homebound,
he probably would have stayed with the Lewis Band. In "Savoy.Blues"
something strange happens. When he comes to his solo, George plays two
choruses of "Burgundy Street Blues". I can't remember hearing
him do that on "Savoy Blues" before or since. Was this planned
or was George just absent minded for a moment? I guess we will have to
live with that question unanswered!
The Art Ford show is somewhat of a curiosity. Those who have the video,
which was sold some years ago in New Orleans and at the Ascona Jazz Festival,
will know what to expect. It is one of the most interesting filmed documents
in New Orleans history. For those who haven't seen the film, can you imagine
seeing and hearing three great clarinet players (Picou, Lewis and Shields)
playing together? And what about Big Jim and Louis Nelson playing side
by side, or Kid Punch, Charlie Love and Percy Humphrey? Hakan Hakansson's
and Lennart Falt's George Lewis discography gives detailed personnels,
because they vary from title to title. It
would take too much space to copy this information here. For those who
haven't this fascinating book, the good news is that a new edition is
being prepared. Don't miss it, even if you have the first edition. The
amount of new material by George Lewis that came to surface after the
discography was published is staggering!
Although this is meant to be a George Lewis CD (and he IS present on every
track except probably "High Society") you'll hear more of Picou
on the tracks where he is present. George Lewis was a courteous and humble
man and it is clear that he let the older man take the limelight. If you
have seen the video you'll know that it would have been hard to keep him
away from it! Picou plays like a little devil, although he was almost
seventy at the time. It's great to hear him do his famous solo on "High
Society" once again. It's even better to SEE him do it. When you
listen to this track, try to imagine how Picou orders the band to get
down with a gesture of his hand, like he was saying: "Watch out,
here I come!" The tracks with Bocage on violin ("Careless Love"
and "Uptown Bump" aka "The Bucket's Got A Hole In It")
It's remarkable how one instrument can change the sound of a band. Another
example of this is when Sharkey Bonano comes in on trumpet. Although he
was a good trumpet player, his concept of the music is totally different
to that of the black musicians. He is a typical dixieland player and as
a result the sound of the tracks he is on ("Fidgety Feet", "Closer
Walk/Saints") is more frantic and less relaxed. The other white guys
on the program (Hug, Mangiapane, Shields, Miller) keep themselves much
more in the prevailing mood. Eddie Miller even has a short, nice duet
with Picou on the final "Saints". Having Clem Tervalon on the
program was a mistake. He makes a mockery of the slow "Just A Closer
Walk" bit which precedes the long "Saints". In this case
seeing it is worse than only hearing it. To see a heavy weight grown up
act like a little tot makes my stomach turn. Fortunately he could only
ruin this little part of the program! I don't need to tell you that this
CD belongs in every George Lewis collection.
- Marcel Joly
AllAboutJazz.com - Internet Magazine
Bunk Johnson, the leader of the New Orleans traditional jazz revivalist
movement passed away in 1949. With its leader gone along with many of
the big bands and the emergence of bop, traditional jazz was pretty much
hanging on by a thread and may have gone off the radar screen of the jazz
loving public if it were not for the likes of George Lewis and those who
appear with him on this album. This CD is made up of three sessions from
the 1950's featuring Lewis with ensembles of various sizes. The first
two sessions are from the Treasury Department-sponsored Dixieland Clambake
broadcasts and the last from an Art Ford TV program. These performances
help to kick off another "Dixieland" revival during the 1960's.
Since then, the music hasn't gone very far away. These Lewis groups are
made up of well known, veteran New Orleans players bringing a high level
of authenticity to the playing. Sweet Emma Barrett, Percy Humphrey and
Big Jim Robinson who were later to become part of the Preservation Hall
Jazz Band, appear are here. Sweet Emma does a swinging, gutsy vocal on
"Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey" with Lewis' clarinet noodlin'
behind her. Another good vocal comes from the shouter and trumpet player,
Coo Coo Talbert, as he goes at it on "Bye & Bye". But it's
New Orleans jazz sessions that are the real gems. A rousing "Royal
Garden Blues" has Lewis' clarinet wailing away behind trumpet and
trombone and the sturdy drumming of Joe Watkins. In contrast, a dirge
like "Original Blues" is something one might hear from a marching
brass band as it accompanies a recently departed to the grave site. In
sum, this is the music as it was played in New Orleans by those players
who grew up and lived there and are steeped in a tradition unencumbered
by the influence of modern jazz. Big Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade company
is to be commended for making these seminal sessions available to the
jazz public. Highly recommended.
- Dave Nathan
Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.
Ensemble is the order of the day on tracks 1 through 6. Watkins plays
more snare drum than cymbal, and Pavageau plays more two beat than four-to-the-bar.
"Royal Garden Blues" is ensemble from beginning to end, building
wonderfully and led by the trumpet player Elmer Talbert, who Lewis said
was his favorite. Connoisseurs will recognize the headlong drive and clarity
of Lewis' playing here, typical of other recordings circa 1950 such as
the Good Time Jazz session of a few months earlier. Percy Humphrey replaces
Talbert, who died during the winter, on tracks 10-12 from another Jambake
broadcast in April 1951. Humphrey presumably kicked off these more relaxed
The remaining tracks are from the well-known Art Ford Jazz Party show
recorded at New Orleans' WDSU-TV in August 1958. The music from this informal
(bordering on chaotic) session, featuring an assorted cast of at least
19 musicians, first appeared on Rarities LP 62, and a video was produced
and made available by Don Perry some years ago. Certainly the music included
here (all the tracks with Lewis) couldn't be more different from the Jambake
material. It needs to be said that much of the charm of this program was
visual, and the musicians never really sound comfortable. None of what
they played measured up to the wonderful sight of Jim Robinson and "Sweet
Emma" Barrett dancing together. Eddie Miller, who actually takes
a nice tenor solo on "Fidgety Feet," is uncredited on the sleeve,
but it hardly matters, and the Jambake tracks are certainly worth the
price of the CD.
- Butch Thompson
place an order? Click here for info.