Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra: Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II

Jerome Wilson By

Sign in to view read count
There have been several ensembles in the past couple of decades that delved into the novelty jazz recordings of the Thirties and Forties. In the Netherlands there have been Beau Hunks and the Willem Breuker Kollektief and in this country there have been Don Byron's Bug Music group and Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra.

The Ghost Train Orchestra's usual focus is on the "hot jazz" of the Twenties and Thirties but in 2013 they put out a CD of whimsical chamber jazz pieces, newly arranged by Carpenter for this band, from composers like Raymond Scott and Reginald Forsythe called Book of Rhapsodies. Now they have released a followup, Book of Rhapsodies, Vol. II which goes even deeper into the genre to the point of including three pieces by a completely forgotten arranger of the time, Hal Herzon.

There is only one Raymond Scott composition this time out, the opening "Confusion Among a Fleet of Taxicabs," but several of the other tunes carry his air of whirling cartoonish delirium. This particularly applies to Herzon's three arrangements. "Hare and the Hounds" flies over hill and dale with violin and clarinet in the lead and "Deserted Ballroom" could be the soundtrack for a Max Fleischer haunted house cartoon with the comical menace of its whooshing voices and swooping horns and the occasional injection of hot jazz soloing. Meanwhile Herzon's "Pedigree on a Pomander Walk" sports a clockwork rhythm close to Scott's "The Toy Trumpet" underpinning the whimsical, toy-like beats provided by the chorus and orchestra.

Voices play an important part in this set, from Carpenter's deadpan baritone introductions of the various pieces to the wordless massed vocals that flow through several tracks enhancing and filling out the sound. Vocal elements are featured up front on two tracks. On Alec Wilder's "A Little Girl Grows Up" Gita Drummond does girlish "la-la-las" in front of the chorus in a small Blossom Dearie-like voice over a bouncy melody played with flair by the orchestra. Wilder's "Kindergarten Flower Pageant" has a children's choir singing lyrics by Carpenter's son Alex over an endearing march theme laid out by flutes, tuba, and accordion.

Wilder's "Walking Home In Spring" sounds like a Forties' dance band in a relaxed mood playing a pleasantly sauntering melody that's passed around various members of the orchestra while his "House Detective" is a cute bit of sophisticated swing with space for nice clarinet and violin solos. Then there are Reginald Forsythe's compositions which really come out as patchwork quilts in Carpenter's arrangements. "Lament for Congo" sounds like a mutation of Henry Mancini and Raymond Scott with its bouncy swing horns, twangy rock guitar and solemn clarinet soling, while "Deep Forest" mixes thumping drums out of early Duke Ellington and a bit of hot swing in with the sweeping sweetness of the voices and strings. Forsythe's "Garden of Weed" brings the CD to a rousing close with its slow drag beat reminiscent of Ellington's "The Mooche" and Don Redman's "Chant Of The Weed," and wailing blues clarinet by Dennis Lichtman that step by step leads the entire band into a screaming climax.

The inventiveness of Carpenter's arrangements and the band's playing, particularly Carpenter, Lichtman, and violinist Mazz Swift, is really impressive. The addition of voices adds a lush new dimension to this music and the emphasis on forgotten composers like Wilder and Forsythe brings in a greater variety of sounds than you usually hear in this type of retro novelty music. This is sassy, funny and sometimes quite beautiful, an outstanding piece of work.

Track Listing: Confusion Among a Fleet of Taxicabs; Hare and the Hounds; A Hymn to Darkness Part 1: Deep Forest; Pedigree on a Pomander Walk; Walking Home in Spring; Deserted Ballroom; A Little Girl Grows Up; Fantasy Impromptu; Kindergarten Flower Pageant; A Hymn to Darkness Part 2: Lament for Congo; The House Detective Registers; Garden of Weed.

Personnel: Brian Carpenter: trumpet, voice, tape loops, toy piano, arrangements; Dennis Lichtman: clarinet; Ben Kono: alto saxophone, flute; Petr Cancura: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet; Mazz Swift: violin; Emily Bookwalter: viola; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Ron Caswell: tuba; Avi Bortnick: guitar; Michael Bates: double bass; Rob Garcia: drums; Gita Drummond: girl's voice on "A Little Girl Grows Up"; Evan Price: violin; Rob Reich: accordion on "Kindergarten Flower Pageant". Book of Rhapsodies Adult Choir: Aubrey Johnson: soprano; Katie Seiler: mezzo- soprano; Mazz Swift: alto; Tomas Cruz: tenor; Brian Carpenter: baritone, narration; Joe Chappel: bass. Book of Rhapsodies Children's Choir: Boston City Singers Cambridge Children's Chorus Directed by Wendy Silverberg - Lucy Alexander, Lucas Berman, Anisa Brown, Gita Drummond, Hannah Erickson, Nina Mazereeuw, Ava Posiko, Layla Posiko, Kiera Putrih, Annie Stone-Peterson.

Title: Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Accurate Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Alleviation CD/LP/Track Review Alleviation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Last Minute Panic CD/LP/Track Review Last Minute Panic
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Murphy CD/LP/Track Review Murphy
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Haberdashery CD/LP/Track Review Haberdashery
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Song of the Silver Geese CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Silver Geese
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Live at Kolarac CD/LP/Track Review Live at Kolarac
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Roll On" CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Over the Rainbow" CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Left Right Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Luck Child" CD/LP/Track Review Luck Child
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Far from Over" CD/LP/Track Review Far from Over
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 8, 2017
Read "Air and Light and Time and Space" CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!