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Reviews by Scott Yanow

Date Posted: 2010-01-15

January 2010 - Los Angeles Jazz Scene

Alvin Alcorn
Southland Sessions
(American Music)

Alvin Alcorn was one of the finest New Orleans jazz trumpeters who was active in the 1950s. He was with Don Albert`s orchestra for a period in the 1930s and found some fame when he toured with Kid Ory`s popular band during 1954-56. Otherwise, he spent most of his life living and playing in New Orleans. Alcorn had a mellow tone, a knack for gradually building up ensembles, was reliable, and he was very effective both as a lead player in freewheeling groups and as a soloist.

Southland Sessions features Alcorn with four different groups during 1952-54, shortly before his association with Ory. Alcorn leads a pair of overlapping all-star groups that include the legendary clarinetist Raymond Burke and trombonist Jack Delaney, is featured in a similar band under Delaney`s leadership, and is heard on four alternate takes from a date headed by pianist Octave Crosby that also features clarinetist Albert Burbank.

The musicianship heard throughout this CD is impressive and the versions of such tunes as “Over The Waves” (heard by two different groups), “Gettysburg March,” “Original Dixieland One Step,” and “Roses Of Picardy” rank with the best. This is very infectious music that is expertly played (no one slips out of tune), quite joyful, and impossible to resist. It is recommended and available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow
The other reviews are from the November 2009 issue of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene

Don Ewell/Yoshio Toyama Duet
Dream A Little Dream Of Me
(Jazzology)

Don Ewell was one of the most skilled stride pianists to emerge after World War II. Although the piano style was greatly overshadowed by bop, Ewell (along with Ralph Sutton, Dick Hyman and Dick Wellstood) kept it alive for decades. Ewell was also an expert interpreter of Jelly Roll Morton`s music.

Trumpeter Yoshio Toyama is best known for leading the Dixie Saints, a Japanese dixieland band modeled along Louis Armstrong`s All Stars that has played regularly for years at Disneyland in Tokyo. Although in that band he is cast in the role of Armstrong, when he is heard in other settings, Toyama displays a voice of his own.

Dream A Little Dream Of me is a set of duets recorded in Yokohama, Japan in 1975. Both Ewell and Toyama sound inspired by the setting and it must have been a thrill for the trumpeter to play with one of his idols. They alternate romps and expressive ballads, with their renditions of “Home,” “King Porter Stomp” and “Exactly Like You” being standouts. Three numbers, most notably James P. Johnson`s “Snowy Morning Blues,” are outstanding Ewell solo showcases. And for the final three performances, the duo is joined by clarinetist Masahiro Goth, whose fluent style fits in quite well.

Dream A Little Dream Of Me is a delight from start to finish. Fans of Don Ewell and Yoshio Toyama will certainly enjoy this, along with dixieland/trad/swing collectors. It is available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow

Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs
Greetings From Chicago
(Jazzology)

Hal Smith has been the drummer on scores of recording sessions ranging from New Orleans jazz to small-group swing and various idioms in between. He recently told me that Greetings From Chicago is the best date that he has ever been involved with. Although I can think of others that I would rank a bit higher, this is a rewarding session.

Smith is heard as a sideman with pianist Ray Skjelbred`s Cubs which also includes clarinetist Kim Cusack, guitarist Katie Cavera and bassist Clint Baker. The Baker-Smith rhythm team is always exciting (swinging as hard as a combo from 1936) while Cusack and Skjelbred are the main soloists. The pianist, who in this setting often sounds a bit like Jess Stacy or Joe Sullivan, is in top form throughout the 21 selections which include both vintage standards and such lesser-known tunes as “Oh Baby (Don`t Say No, Say `Maybe`),” “My Galveston Gal,” “I`ll Bet You Tell That To All The Gals,” and “Shanghai Honeymoon.” Cusack`s clarinet recalls Pee Wee Russell a bit although he has a smoother style. There are occasional vocals from the musicians but, as Eddie Condon would say, “no one gets hurt.”

The results are tasteful, inventive and highly recommended to those who love the hot jazz combos of the 1930s. Greetings From Chicago is available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow

Burke/Vidacovich/Shields/Bouchon
Clarinets
(GHB)

Brunies/Delaney/Miller
The Out-Of-Towners
(GHB)

Joe Mares, the younger brother of Paul Mares (famous for being the cornetist with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings during 1922-25), was an amateur clarinetist who loved New Orleans jazz. After recording some New Orleans groups and selling the music to other labels, in 1953 he founded his own record company Southland. Its prime was during the first ten years when Mares recorded a variety of top local and visiting artists. Unlike on some of the other New Orleans jazz records of the time, the musicians on Southland were always in-tune, they were skilled equally as soloists and ensemble players, and their sessions tended to be concise, often just four or six songs since Mares liked to combine together different bands on the same album.

George Buck purchased the label in 1969 and has gradually reissued most of the Southland dates. Clarinets has some of the finest playing by clarinetists Raymond Burke and Pinky Vidacovich that was ever recorded, both from 1960. Burke, a legend among fans of New Orleans clarinetists, is in excellent form on a quintet date that has Jeff Riddick on piano and his dated but charming organ. In addition to the five numbers originally released (which include “Eccentric,” “I`m Forever Blowin` Bubbles” and “Riverboat Shuffle”), two versions of “Smiles” (with drummer Monk Hazel on vocals) are being released for the first time. Pinky Vidacovich, a largely forgotten name, is heard on five numbers in a quintet with pianist Armand Hug including “Sidewalks Of New York” and “Rose Room.”

Also on Clarinets are clarinetist Harry Shields and tenor-saxophonist Lester Bouchon. They both perform “Singin` The Blues” and “Alice Blue Gown” on Mar. 8, 1954 with the same rhythm section. The Shields tracks were never released although they are fine; Joe Mares obviously preferred Lester Bouchon`s versions.

The Out-Of-Towners received its name because the three sessions on this CD feature such imports as trombonist George Brunies, trumpeters Teddy Buckner and Lee Collins, clarinetist Matty Matlock, and tenor-saxophonist Eddie Miller, none of whom were living in New Orleans at the time. Brunies, Buckner and Matlock comprise a powerful front line with Buckner in particularly excellent form. Lee Collins and Raymond Burke are strong assets on a session by trombonist Jack Delaney while Eddie Miller romps on five numbers with Armand Hug in a quintet. Of the 15 selections on this CD, four were previously unreleased. Dating from 1953-58, the music on The Out-Of-Towners is 1950s New Orleans jazz at its best.

Both sets are highly recommended to classic jazz, dixieland and New Orleans jazz fans, and are available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow


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