The Barb City Stompers is a trad through swing band that was formed in 2004 but the pedigree of some of the players goes back well beyond that date. Clarinetist John Skillman has been a member of the Buck Creek Jazz Band for thirty one years, for example, while Roy Rubinstein has offset his career as a physicist with over fifty years of trombone playing. In fact with the exception of drummer Aaron Puckett the whole band has pursued careers outside of music. Maybe it's that factor that makes their music a product of love and devotion.
There's no doubting that they know their stuff nor that they have something personal to say. That's no mean feat given the age of a lot of the material here. As a soloist Rubinstein simply oozes character and the fact that the group has no cornet/trumpet lead in fact affords both him and Skillman space to do their own things. This freedom is demonstrated on "Martha Too." The brief duet between Skillman and guitarist Larry Rutan affords the leader the chance to show off his individual sound and instrumental conception.
"Sweet Sue" might be nothing if not venerable but again the rendition is fresh enough to still all thoughts of hackneyed repertoire and put a smile on the face. Indeed the very informality of proceedings, suggested by the idea of professional people coming together to make a little music on the side, feeds that informality. These guys play out of love and not simply because they want to score reactionary points.
It's the kind of love worth shouting about too if "Hindustan" is anything to go by. Skillman seems to get a kick out of taking the music every which way, rhythmically speaking, and when he settles into the clarinet's lower middle register he proves himself to be one of the most distinctive players working in this field. Even when muted, Rubinstein turns in some testifying work over backing spritely enough to take the roof off, but with the right measure of restraint to ensure that proceedings don't get hackneyed.
"Old Stack O' Lee Blues" might be as trad as trad gets but again it doesn't matter. This is a band that plays for its own pleasure as much as for that of any paying audience and the chances are that neither they nor the audience ever lose sight of the joyous aspect of this strand of jazz.
Track Listing: Milenberg Joys; DeKalb Blues; Martha Too; When I Grow Too Old To Dream; Hindustan; Sweet Sue; Lady Be Good; I'm Travellin'; Yes Sir! That's My Baby; Old Stack O' Lee Blues; I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles; My Old Kentucky Home.
Personnel: John Skillman: clarinet; Roy Rubinstein: trombone; Larry Rutan: guitar; Robert Hintzsche: bass; Aaron Puckett: drums; Diana Skillman: vocal (9).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.