DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS / NEW ORLEANS JAZZ PARTY
New recordings in the traditional jazz spirit
Bob Hodes (tp) Charlie Sonnanstine (tb) Joe Darensbourg (cl) Robin Wetterau (p) Gene Mayl (tu) Jack Vastine (bj) Vocals (on #2, 3 and 6 by Vastine)
Dayton, Ohio; December, 1953
1 Blue Mama's Suicide Wail (2'58") (Spencer Wiliams)
2 Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home (vcl) (3'56") (Hughie Cannon)
3 Darktown Strutters Ball (vcl) (2'40") (Skelton Brooks)
4 Irish Black Bottom (3'46") (Armstrong-Venabes)
5 Ory's Creole Trombone (3'18") (Edward Ory)
6 Melancholy (vcl) (3'35") (Bloom-Melrose-Schoebel)
7 St. James Infirmary (2'41") (traditional)
8 Come Back, Sweet Papa (3'00") (Barbarin-Russell)
Gene Mayl's DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS, now in existence for just about a full decade, must hold some sort of longevity record among present-day jazz bands. But age can be very deceptive. For there is of course nothing even slightly decrepit or faintly sedate about these musicians and their music. No present member of the Dixieland Rhythm Kings has passed his mid-twenties - statistic that could undoubtedly be deduced with no difficulty by anyone listening to just a few bars of the vigorous, youthful jazz they have produced here.
As for their repertoire, this collection is made up of tunes at quarter-century old that, in all cases, have defied the years most successfully. They prove quite able to serve (you might even say, eager to serve) as vehicles for the unique combination of freshness and traditionalism that characterizes the D. R. K. approach to jazz.
The title "New Orleans Jazz Party" can be offer as an accurate working definition of that approach. The reference to the city of New Orleans is of course only an indirect one. It denotes the spirit that was largely born and bred in that Louisiana port, that manifested itself so magnificently in Chicago in the 1920s, and that lives on today with undiminishing vitality and no geographical limitations. While there are some very fine jazz traditionalist still operating out of New Orleans, a very large share of this spirit now rests in the hands and horns of younger white bands. Very prominent among these are the D.R.K. who have staked a virtually undisputed claim as the Number One standard-bearers of righteous jazz in just about all points east of Dayton, Ohio (which is their leader's home town, the band's birthplace, and still a very frequent stamping group for the group).
Theirs is very much a happy, rollicking, strutting music, making it entirely apt to describe this LP as a "party". For the band has always been very much aware of one key element in early jazz that is too often overlooked or minimized: the great jazzmen of the '20s were entertainers. Out to please audiences (and themselves as well), they were not afraid to inject sizable doses of what has been called "hokum". Also, they were under no restrictions in choosing their repertoire. It is only in retrospect that their efforts have come to be considered, quite properly, as a lasting art-form, and that many of their tunes have come to be regarded (not very sensibly) as hallowed material, not to be touched by the mere mortal jazzmen of today.
These are points to keep in mind when casting a glance at the selections included in this LP. On the one hand, the D.R.K. is not afraid to pitch into material that might, in more routine versions, be corny or trite. Numbers like Bill Bailey and Darktown Strutters Ball, which have been used and abused by purveyors of just about every musical style you can think of, become examples of fresh and good-time jazz when this gang lays hand on them and applies the hokum treatment. At another extreme, the D.R.K. makes so bold as to tackle a whole handful of tunes that have, with rare exceptions, been left strictly alone by traditional-jazz groups ever since the Louis Armstrong - Johnny Dodds - Kid Ory group of titans first recorded them. Since the numbers are clearly superior to others that have been played and replayed to death through the years, the only possible explanation for their neglect is an assumption that they were too closely identified with these greats for anyone else to risk suffering by comparison.
But it's one of the Rhythm Kings' revolutionary tenets that such an attitude is sheer nonsense, if for no other reason than that it would be a thoroughly bad musical idea - quite apart from the dangers of comparison - to do no more than mimic the notes played by one's predecessors. The D.R.K. avoids strict repetition like the plague it is, and aims instead for a continuation of the jazz feeling of the past, played as these youngsters, as inhabitants of the 1950s, choose to express themselves. They are patterning their sound on that of the New Orleans-style greats simply because they happen to believe deeply that this is the richest and most valid way of playing jazz. And under these circumstances, what better structures could the D.R.K. select on which to build their own music than tunes on the order of Irish Black Bottom and Ory's Creole Trombone.
Ever since Gene Mayl and the brilliant deep-down trombonist Charlie Sonnanstine first began playing together, at very tender ages, in the early '40s, they have understood these points. (And they have been more articulate than most musicians, it's safe to say, in expressing them. although they understandably prefer to let their performances do the bulk of the talking.) In the past decade , although the D.R.K. has undergone many personal changes, it has always included Mayl and usually Sonnanstine, and the men who have joined with them have almost invariably shared their musical concepts and tastes. This is certainly true of the group that made this LP. Before joining the D.R.K., Bob Hodes and Robin Wetterau had played together for some time in New York area, with such traditionalist groups, as Bob Thompson's Dixieland Foot Warmers and Hode's Red Onion Jazz Band. Joe Darensbourg (who, incidentally, was replaced by Ted Bielefeld shortly after this recording session, the only recent change in the band's line-up) had been a member of Kid Ory's band on the West Coast. And Jack Vastine, a comparative Newcomer to this jazz style, obviously has a way with the banjo - and a voice - that fit solidly into the D.R.K. picture.
This high fidelity LP was recorded by E. D. Nunn of SAUKVILLE, Wisconsin,
one of the country's leading recording engineers and produced of Audiophile Records.
Other LPs in Riverside’s Contemporary Jazz Series include:
Young Men with Horns – Bob Wilber’s Wildcats (RLP 2501)
Carl Halen with the Dixieland Rhythm Kings and the Washboard Five (RLP 2502)
New Orleans Encore – Bob Hodes’ Red Onion Jazz Band (RLP 2503)
Gene Mayl’s Dixieland Rhythm Kings (RLP 2504)
George Lewis – New Orleans Jazz Band and Quartet (RLP 2507)
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street, New York 19, N.Y.