For as long as there has been jazz there’s been the myth of its demise. At various points in the long and winding history of its evolution detractors and even its devotees have waxed authoritatively about the so-called “Death of Jazz.” Prognosticated causes have run a wide gamut ranging from the birth of new styles to the select innovations of certain unsavory individuals. One truism remains when all the dust clouds of rhetoric settle, jazz survives.
When the pair of releases collected on this disc were recorded the cessation of traditional Dixieland jazz was widely being touted. While bands that celebrated the earlier sounds of the music were perhaps fewer in number than in previous eras as these recordings demonstrate there were still people playing it. Beebe’s brand of trad jazz is shade on the polished side, with tight, rollicking charts and smooth, almost croon-like vocals. The arrangements usually aren’t all that adventurous, but the band sounds like it’s having a grand time and the upbeat tempos employed on many of the tunes are often infectious. The linchpin of both groups is the redoubtable Barrett Deems who’s spry sticks and brushes keeps each piece perambulating at a tasteful step. Even mellow numbers like “Whinin’ Boy Blues” have an underlying aura of enthusiasm that deflects some of the schmaltz set up by the corny vocal turns. Beebe blows hot and cold alongside his partners but more often than not pulls off hefty solos on his larger brass. Hooks is the other principal soloist and his rich woodsy tone fits beautifully, particularly on the slower numbers.
The second session trades up Kuncl’s banjo for Schneider’s reeds and the shift in sound gravitates more toward swing as a result. Bridges and Lewis share trumpet duties on all of the pieces and Beebe works off their dual foil with numerous happy growls (check “Chimes Blues”). Deems is again in control of the rhythm section, providing the central push and bassist Groner again reserves himself to mainly walking chores (this time on curiously amplified strings). Behr is a little less restricted and opts for several forays into stride territory such as in his solo on the opening “Indiana.” Schneider cycles through his reeds with audible relish and the variety of his palette is an effective agent in keeping the ensemble sound from stagnating. Overall both sessions are fairly unremarkable, but together they offer conclusive and often enjoyable proof that traditional jazz still had blood flowing in its venerable veins during an age when reports of its extinction were widely exaggerated.
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