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Dr. Michael White: Dancing In The Sky

Jim Santella By

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Traditional jazz gives you the kind of feeling that cannot come from other forms of music. Folkloric in its content, the songs connect you with history. It sets your mind at ease. "Dancing in the Sky” places you in the midst of a New Orleans funeral procession, as everyone returns from the cemetery and decides to celebrate a life. It’s a time for reflection and a time for moving forward.

Two traditional numbers and a double handful of Michael White originals bring this session around for an hour and ten minutes of pure enjoyment. His throaty clarinet leads the session with a genuine spirit. A professor of Spanish and Afro-American music at Xavier University, White explains, “The original songs have been inspired by the moods, passion, people, events and places that are part of my personal life’s experiences.”

On this session White has taken care to include glimpses of New Orleans from many different aspects. He’s included a happy piano rag, a soulful gypsy serenade, a lowdown blues, a dreamy nod to “Lazy River,” and a Mardi Gras parade among that many hues portrayed. Nicholas Payton, Steven Pistorius, Gregory Stafford, Lucien Barbarin, and Kerry Lewis form a cohesive partnership around the clarinetist that results in a fruitful listening experience. Dancing In The Sky is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

As Thais Clark sings “Angel in the Day (Devil at Night),” you have to smile at her timeworn message about an unfaithful husband who’s been sleeping around. The band’s tailgate trombone, wah wah trumpet, rhythm banjo and rollicking lead clarinet provide emphasis for the tune’s meaning. As her interpretation of the lyric moves from broken heart to a novel prescription for the blues, Clark brings you into her confidence and makes everything feel all right. It’s this kind of slow, gut-wrenching passion that makes White’s session work so well.

His light, Swing Era bounce (“New Orleans Bounce”) doesn’t fare as well. On it, the leader and the band turn their corners too fast and muddy the waters with dance grooves. “Down By the Riverside” and “Amazing Grace” preserve the memory of earlier New Orleans sounds. The album has several high points—twelve of ‘em: twelve strong tracks that capture your imagination and take you on a tour through history and through the Deep South. Highly recommended.

Visit Basin Street Records on the web.


Track Listing: Algiers Hoodoo Woman; Dancing in the Sky (Reflection); The Truth of the Blues; Give it up (Gypsy Second Line); The Hag

Personnel: Dr. Michael White- clarinet; Nicholas Payton, Mark Braud- trumpet; Lucien Barbarin- trombone; Steven Pistorius- piano; Detroit Brooks- banjo, guitar; Herman Lebeaux- drums; Kerry Lewis- bass, tuba; Gregory Stafford- trumpet & vocal on

Title: Dancing In The Sky | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Basin Street Records

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