Various Artists: The Atlantic New Orleans Jazz Sessions
The traditional music of New Orleans has such a rich heritage and yet is so misunderstood and undervalued these days that its hard for me to convey in words just how important the music in this precious edition really is. The Ertegun Bothers, founders of the Atlantic label, were very fond of the traditional styles of the time and we have them to thank for preserving what is a remarkable document. For the record, this 4CD/6LP set contains the original records Paul Barbarin and his New Orleans Jazz, The Young Tuxedo Brass Band-Jazz Begins, and the four volumes of recordings released previously as Jazz at Preservation Hall.
The initial recordings heard here are the 1955 sides by drummer Paul Barbarin. Presented in early and surprisingly glorious stereo, this master New Orleans drummer leads a talented cast with such familiar names as Willie Humphrey, Danny Barker, and Milt Hinton. The historic fare includes such standbys as "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Eh La Bas". While collective improvisation is the norm, there's also lots of solo space and Barbarin more than lives up to his reputation as one of the Crescent City's finest.
For a perfect example of that classic saying "you are there", one need look no further than the 1958 remote recording of the Young Tuxedo Brass Brand as they recreated funeral and parade music in the streets of New Orleans. This is the type of music that inspired the renown "second line", with the parades working up steam and adding drummers and players as they progressed. The sound quality is impressively strong and the history imbued in these sides is quite significant.
The remainder of the recordings in this set come from five nights taped in July of 1962 at the famed Preservation Hall. An icon of the New Orleans jazz community, the hall was an important venue in terms of giving many of the older and once innovative players new exposure and steady work during a time when traditional and Dixieland styles had largely gone out of fashion with the majority of fans. There are sets to be found here from Paul Barbarin, The Eureka Brass Band, Billie and De De Pierce, Punch Miller, Jim Robinson, and George Lewis. Among these groups are such luminaries as Louis Cottrell, Alcide Pavageau, Emanuel Sayles, and Ernie Cagnolatti. All of these men were in their '60s and '70s, yet they still had much to say and these sides might be considered some of the best of their modest recorded outputs. Like the other material in this set, the sound quality is superb and it's a joy to hear this type of music presented in such a desirable sonic light.
I can't overstate how astonishing and attractive the music on this set truly is. If you haven't yet explored this stylistic era of jazz you really owe it to yourself, and I can't think of a better place to start in terms of true New Orleans jazz. If you know some of these names and maybe own some of these sides, then I certainly don't have to tell you about the magic contained therein. A 16-page booklet contains a resplendent and informative essay from Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator of Tulane University's jazz archives, and a treasure of period photographs. This limited edition set is only available by mail so contact Mosaic Records at 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, Connecticut, 06902 or call (203) 327-7111. On the internet go to www.mosaicrecords.com.