GENE MAYL'S DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS
Bob Hodes (cnt) Bob Mielke (tb) Bill Napier (cl) Robin Wetterau (p) Gene Mayl (tu) (bass on #7) Jack Vastine (bj) (on #6-8 only); Bill Young (drs) (Omit all but clarinet, piano and drums on #3. Vocal on #1 and 7 by Mielke and the band on #4 and 5 by Hodes, Napier and Mielke) August.1953
1 When Erastus Plays His Old Kazoo (3:15) (Spier-Coslow-Fain)
2 Basin Street Blues (untraceable!) (Spencer Williams)
3 Shreveport (2:58) (Jelly Roll Morton)
4 Down Among the Sheltering Palms (3'18") (Brockman-Olman)
5 I'm Sitting on The Top Of The World (3'27") (Lewis-Young-Henderson)
6 Mecca Flat Blues (3'11") (Robinson-Blythe)
7 I'll Be Glad When You're Dread, You Rascal You (3'12") (Sam Theard)
8 Some of These Days (3'32") (Shelton Brooks)
"… We just want people to hear a happy, rocking band that plays what we think is New Orleans jazz."
It's very seldom that you can find just the right statement, made by just the right man, to lead off some comments on the work of a band that strikes you as having produced some of the most joyful and legitimate jazz music that's been turned out in a long time. But it so happens that Gene Mayl once summed it up quite neatly, in the sentence quoted above.
Mayl is the bespectacled and thoroughly dedicated (though by no means are you to let that last word frighten you) 24-year-old tuba player who is the instigator, the driving force, and the cement that binds together the DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS. His remark was made in an article that appeared in a jazz magazine in 1950, when his band had not yet moved out of his home town of Dayton, Ohio - although it was then busily rocking the foundations of that previously sedate city. The personnel of the group has changed almost completely since then. Only the name remains - that and one other thing, which was probably the most important ingredient from the start: Mayl's deep-rooted understanding and love of traditional jazz, and his instinctive sureness about the way he chooses to play it.
The D.R.K. today consists of highly talented young musicians from - quite literally - both ends and the middle of the country. They've played important roles in the different facets of the jazz "revivals" of the past several years. All of them share Mayl's basic sentiments about the music they want to play: that it should have plenty of life, that it should rock, and that the sound and the spirit of the original New Orleans style is the best possible jumping-off place.
Mayl, whose phenomenal tuba sets the pace here, has led similar groups in the Midwest, New York and New England, and has sat in with the best of them from California to France. Bob Hodes, on cornet, is known in New York as the leader of the Red Onion Jazz Band (whose album of New Orleans Encore - Riverside RLP2503 - also features the raggy piano of Robin Wetterau). Bob Mielke is a Californian who first created a stir in the East in 1947, with Bob Wilber's Wildcats (Riverside RLP2501: Young Men with Horns), and has more recently been playing in and leading groups on the West Coast. Clarinettist Bill Napier is another product of the West Coast "revival," having recorded with Turk Murphy and other stalwarts of the neo-traditional school. Aided by the steady backing of Bill Young's drums and Jack Vastine's banjo, these component parts have combined to produce perhaps the happiest recorded examples yet of today's new-old-jazz.
Some of the best words to use in describing this music appear unfortunately, to have been pre-tempted. You could call this "good time jazz", but that term seems to have been put to use by another record company. Once you might have been able to call it, quite accurately, music that "swings", but obviously that word has been running off in other directions for some fifteen years or so. Perhaps it's best to turn again to the articulate Mr. Mayl, who once complimented another band by saying that, despite their difficulties, "they at least manage to strut." Mayl has also pinned down his ideas in more detail by nothing that "We aim for New Orleans in the Hot Five and Seven and Red Hot Peppers sense, not the straight 4/4 sense. The early bands rocked more than the revived groups."
Gene Has also pointed out that this business of playing along the paths first established by the early masters of jazz is a matter of getting the right "feeling," mote just "repeating the notes that King Joe or Louis once played." And an important part of this feeling is the rollicking good-rime spirit so much in evidence in the numbers that make up this LP. Overly serious students of jazz are apt to ignore or forget the fact that there was a substantial streak of "hokum" in the efforts of the Old Masters of jazz. Oliver and Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton never forgot that they were entertainers, and that they might as well entertain themselves, too.
This un-selfconscious spirit of hokum turns up largely in the several vocals. The front line takes a couple of cracks at being a vocal trio, with cornetist Bob Hodes keeping his position as the lead voice. Bob Mielke solos on two other numbers, with scat assistance from the rest of the boys, revealing a singing technique with all of the virtues and (intentionally, you can be sure) some of the drawbacks of the balladeers who assisted the white jazz bands of the vo-do-de-o" Twenties.
The tunes here manage to cover a goodly share of the adventurous range of the D.R.K.'s ever-expanding repertoire. There is traditional jazz material, handled with fitting 'but not at all ponderous) homage such numbers as Basin Street and Shreveport very specifically pay tribute to, respectively, the Armstrong-Hines and the Morton versions, but Hodes and Napier and the rest have their own definite contributions to make. Down Among the Sheltering Palms, a pop tune of yesteryear that calls for no notable respect, gets a two-faced treatment, opening as no-holds-barred corn, switching deftly into hard-driving two-beat, and finally returning to its original state. Then there's a treatment of the straight-forward blues in Mecca Flat, and an exploration of the for-from-negligible jazz content of that standard. Some of These Days (where, doubtless out of deference to Sophie Tucker, there is no vocalizing). There are also some exuberant workouts on comparatively unlikely popular numbers of the past, including I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, once left for dead after a wonderful assault by Louis Armstrong, but cheerfully resuscitated here.
It adds up to an exceedingly lively session: good jazz that has obvious affection for its New Orleans past, but doesn't hold with stagnant ancestor-worship. It's fun to listen to (and clearly was fun to create), and does a remarkable job of indicating that jazz is broad enough to include power and beauty and humor - and sometimes, somehow, all three at the same time.
Produced by Bill Grauer,
Notes by Orrin Keepnews,
Cover by Paul Bacon
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, N.Y.