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Percy Humphrey w/ the Crescent City Joymakers: Climax Rag

Derek Taylor By

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What’s not to love here? Six venerable patriarchs of classic New Orleans jazz reconvening for a rollicking trip down memory lane. As far as Hot Jazz goes it doesn’t get much more combustible than this. The roster reads like the roll call for a dream Dixieland band. The indefatigable Robinson, for years George Lewis’ right hand man and undisputed Goliath of the growling trombone. The knavish Burbank, blessed with a sweet sultry tone that could just as easily turn and bite the unsuspecting listener caught napping. The irascible Guesnon, who’s hectic banjo strums were matched in reliability by the uncertainty of his erratic mood swings. “Slow Drag” Pavageau, another Lewis alum, and architect of stout bass lines that were the sturdy pillar for countless midnight jam sessions. Frazier, a drummer who brought a boundless rhythmic imagination to bear on the stereotypic simplicities of Dixieland percussion patterns. And finally their leader, the peerless Humphrey, whose brassy punch on his instrument fueled the fires of innumerable parade bands to a fever pitch in much the same manner he manages on this session. Each man’s history is steeped fully in the music and their devotion boils over in the festive polyphony that marks each of the numbers on this disc.

Sure the program is made up of tunes that have been done countless times and perhaps been done to death. But there’s a reason why these aged melodies have endured the years. It’s the same reason why these men were still going strong when this session was waxed and it’s the same reason why listeners can find so much to enjoy in these performances today. Classic music sustains. It reminds us of the past while still casting a nostalgic eye to the present and future. Though precocious in years these men, just like the music they were playing, were still youthful in spirit.

From the opening blast of the title track that opens the sluice gates with a noisy gush of swaggering bravado it’s plainly apparent that this was a band that was serious about having a swell time. Just lend your ear to any of the proceeding tunes for a similar taste of their cheerful disposition. Throughout Frazier keeps a loose time incorporating all the percussive tricks of his trade from wood blocks to cow bells. His rhythms are ably flanked by “Slow Drag’s” deep slaps and plucks and Guesnon’s brisk strums. The resulting rhythms deliver an ideal canvas for the horn players to splash and dabble across with jubilant abandon. An added bonus is the absence of the stodgy erudition that so often mars the music of revival bands that take themselves and the music to seriously. Best of all the duration of the original album is nearly doubled with the addition of eight alternate takes, the perfect opportunity to enjoy the program again in slightly different sequence and solo order. This disc is definitely belongs in any collection of New Orleans jazz.


Track Listing: Climax Rag/ Yes Sir! That

Personnel: Percy Humphrey- trumpet; Jim Robinson- trombone; Albert Burbank- clarinet; George Guesnon- banjo; Alcide

Title: Climax Rag | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Delmark Records

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