If you are looking for a band that plays everything loud and fast, that sandwiches solos between an opening and closing ensemble, I'm afraid this one is not for you. It is an uptown New Orleans-style band, thus playing ensemble most of the way through, with the occasional solo judiciously interspersed among the ensemble passages, and giving attention to dynamics.
The musicians are all quite well-known in New Orleans jazz circles, having earned their spurs long ago. On clarinet is leader Norrie Cox, an ex-Brit, who came to the U.S. in 1966, having led a band in England, but having taken a long sabbatical from playing until 1989, when he put together this group. (More information can be found in his website www.norriecox.com) Charlie DeVore on cornet has long been a fixture in the Mid-West, as well as in New Orleans itself, having played with, among others, the famed Hall Brothers' New Orleans Band at Mendota's Emporium of Jazz in Mendota, Minnesota, during its 25-year life. Trombonist Jim Klippert lives in Moraga, California, but when he was back East he was one of the original New Black Eagles, and he also played for a time with the Grand Dominion Jazz Band and is active in the San Francisco Bay area. Mike Carrell, banjo/guitar, played for many years in Madison, Wisconsin, with the Highway 51 Jazz Band; he passed away in 2004. Bill Evans on string bass is another alumnus of the Hall Brothers' New Orleans Band, as is drummer Don 'Doggie' Berg. For these musicians, dynamics does not mean 'I'm playing as loud as I can'. It does mean shading the volume to suit the passage and their fellow bandsmen. They are given to listening to each other carefully, to 'playing for the band', not their own egos. And the result is a very satisfying recording.
While most of the tunes are quite familiar, it is a pleasure to hear the renditions given them here, most including the verses. Tempos are not frantic but danceable - were there dancers at this recording session, I'm sure we would, indeed, 'hear them feet' shuffling on the dance floor.
The CD opens with a laid-back 'When You And I Were Young, Maggie' and that sets the tone for the rest of the recording. Norrie Cox supplies some fine clarinet work as he leads into 'Does Jesus Care' and also on 'Blues For John Steiner, a variation of George Lewis' 'Burgundy Street Blues'. (Steiner was a jazz historian and promoter and a long time friend of Cox). A couple of the other titles may not be familiar, but their alternate titles will make them so - 'Alabamy Bound' ('Don't You Leave Me Here') and 'Sometimes My Burden Is Too Hard To Bear' ('Silver Bell').
Charlie DeVore plays some beautiful muted cornet, Jim Klippert some very nice legato trombone where needed, nice glissandos ala Jim Robinson elsewhere, and the rhythm section provides solid backing. If I had one small nit to pick, it would be that the drums tend to be a little too dominant, for my ears at least - some judicious tweaking of the balance would have helped. That is not to say that Doggie Berg plays too loud, and he does lay down a fine New Orleans sound with his press rolls, tom-tom accents, and wood-block work. In short, this is a 'righteous' band.
From the above you have probably guessed that I like this CD and I think you will too.