Published in the french Jazz Dixie Swing journal, January 2020
This is one of the best CDs in this style that I’ve had the chance to listen to in many years. The first word that comes to my mind is ”authenticity”. They don’t work like an orchestra that recreates or ”revisit” the music of the twenties, but like a group that could have played in Chicago or New York during those years, if we put aside the constraint of chronology…
Everything is right: the sound of each of the musicians, the atmosphere of togetherness and above all, which is rare today, an instrumental intonation and a collective blend that is the one of those years. Even the vocals have the stamp of the period.
The repertoire, varied and original, presents several tunes that one would like to hear more often. And even such a worn out number like ”At the Jazz Band Ball” is here given back its charm and freshness, thanks to the arrangement and a great sense of rhythm. The diversity of moods (and of tempi) is a pleasure for the ear… The happiness and joy of life of ”March of the Hoodlums”, the subdued lyricism of ”I’ll Be a Friend with Pleasure”, the melancholy atmosphere in ”Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You”, that leaves nothing to be envied from the McKinney’s Cotton Pickers version, the blues feeling of ”Dancing Dan”.
The arrangements, all made by Paul Strandberg except two, give the tunes an efficient structure, without being a straight jacket for the band they blend smoothly with the improvised parts.
The musicians are of high quality: technically impeccable, perfect knowledge of the period idiom and a personal expression that serves the ensemble. The perfect understanding between the two cornet players is certainly a great asset for the success of this CD… Listen to Paul and Kiki so Bix inspired, when they answer each other in ”Take Your Tomorrow” or complete each other in ”No, No, Nora. But nothing is missing with the other members of the band regarding their quality as improvisors or rhythm makers. We salute the good taste of the soloists and the relaxed pulse, appreciated by the dancers, that constituted the swing of the period and that the rhythm section here generates with skill.
The recording is overall satisfactory. Remember that we are dealing with ”live” concerts.(that keeps from ”improving” the music afterwards that studio recordings permit…).
A little minus: why include a bonus track with a jam session on ”Avalon”, badly recorded, and that in spite of the conviction of the soloists, reminds us that this music, if it’s not structured by arrangements may fall into banal ”dixieland”. But I don’t want to finish with this remark, very marginal anyway, compared to the enchantment that this CD amounts to.
Do your ears a favor and enjoy jazz in its original purity and vigor while listening to Paul and his Gang.