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Album Review

Greg Poppleton: Back In Your Own Backyard

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There is something about early jazz before the Swing Era, especially that of the 1920s. Its infectious happiness, innocence and floating lightness, its close ties to Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook and how much this music was an integral part of the times makes it irresistible to almost anyone even remotely interested in the history of jazz.

However, jazz is forever restless, and, even back then, always in search of new means of expression. Those who loved this music pushed back, so to speak, and a number of revivals have taken place over the years. The advent of the compact disc in the 1980s saw a burst of activity by collectors of 78s to preserve this music while introducing it to another generation (see Rivermont Records, Jazz Oracle, Mosaic Records, Frog Records, Timeless Records and Retrieval Records).

The seminal histories of early jazz were written by Gunther Schuller (Early Jazz, The Swing Era) and Richard Sudhalter (Lost Chords). A few of the people who have worked to keep early jazz alive are band leader Alex Mendham (see Whistling In The Dark), Vince Giordano and Rich Conaty who hosted The Big Broadcast radio show on WFUV for over forty years, playing jazz and pop music from the 1920s and 1930s until his untimely death late in 2016.

Add to the above vocalist Greg Poppleton from Australia. From the age of three, when he saw Louis Armstrong on television, Poppleton caught the early jazz bug and never looked back; his entire persona reflects the jazz age of the 1920s and the Swing Era of the later 1930s. Not only that, he shares his love of this music over the radio on Phantom Dancer broadcast.

Given the knowledge of the era and the authenticity of performance Poppleton's latest release, Back In Your Own Backyard is real delight, sure to surprise lovers of early jazz that such is happening Down Under, as well as win over "newbies" to the music. The twelve tracks are all very well known tunes, mostly from the 1920s, but with four from the 1930s—The Real Dixieland Book / Tunes Of The Twenties has most of them.

Most tracks are around three minutes, with a few getting close four, each being an almost perfect interpretation of what the song is about. Accompanied by the Bakelite Broadcasters (Paul Furniss: clarinet and alto saxophone, Geoff Power: saxophone, trumpet and trombone, Grahame Conlon: banjo and guitar and Lawrie Thompson: drums, washboard), Poppleton and company get inside each tune with their complete commitment to the style. It would take an extremely jaded heart not to smile and tap your foot, much less dance around the room.

All the tracks are extremely well done, but standout tracks include the plaintive "They Didn't Believe Me" (1914—Jerome Kern/Herbert Reynolds), "I'll See You In My Dreams" (1924 -Isham Jones/Gus Kahn) which will be familiar to any fan of the movie Sweet And Lowdown, the pure fun of "Egyptian Ella" (1930 -Walter Doyle), a "Honeysuckle Rose" (1929 -Thomas "Fats" Waller/Andy Razaf) which would make Fats himself jealous and low-key version of "Makin' Whoopee" (1928 -Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn).

Every second of Back In Your Own Backyard is as authentic as can be, making listening to Poppleton and the band not only a joy, but a clear window into the essence of the music of early jazz era.

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