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The Dixie Ticklers: Standing Pat

Bruce Lindsay By

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The Dixie Ticklers play New Orleans jazz. The band's press release puts it even more emphatically: debut album Standing Pat is "an in depth study of New Orleans jazz." If that phrase sends out alarm bells and anxieties about overly-reverential treatments of tired old trad standards, fear not. Because Standing Pat isn't really an in depth study; it's a fresh take on the music from a bunch of young British jazzers who mix reverence with a happy disregard for slavish reproduction. There's a spot of John Coltrane in there, too.

Clarinetist Dom James is the band's founder and leader. The band may be young, but it's already making waves in the UK jazz scene and beyond. Guitarist Nicholas Costley-White won a 2011 Yamaha Parliamentary Jazz Scholarship, bassist Tommy Antonio is assistant director of the London Vocal Project and trumpeter William Rixon has performed with Lianne La Havas and Joss Stone.

The tunes are, for the most part, old and well-established favorites. There's "Wild Man Blues" and "Ballin' The Jack" (both credited to Jelly Roll Morton), Sidney Bechet's "Suey," Duke Ellington's "Purple Gazelle," Louis Armstrong's "My Heart," and Johnny Green's "I Cover The Waterfront."

Rixon's confidently swinging trumpet leads "I Cover The Waterfront." "St Louis Blues" gets a sprightly workout, mixing slow blues with lively, up-tempo grooves; Rixon and drummer Daoud Merchant are in especially energetic, crowd-pleasing form. Antonio adds a rousing vocal chorus and a short but punchy arco solo to "Ballin' The Jack."

It's not all a paean to the old and familiar. James' own composition, "Boujis," is a soft-toned, mid-tempo number that mixes the New Orleans sound of the clarinet and trumpet with Latin-influenced percussion and guitar. There's also an unlisted and uncredited 'hidden' tune, "Our Friends." It centers on a bass riff and vocal refrain that are immediately reminiscent of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." It may not be New Orleans, but it's a pleasing end to a delightful album.

Track Listing: My Heart; Monkey Puzzle; Wild Man Blues; Suey; Purple Gazelle; Boujis; St. Louis Blues; Ballin’ The Jack; Swing A Lullaby; I Cover The Waterfront; Oh, Didn’t He Ramble; Lil Liza Jane; Our Friends.

Personnel: Dom James: clarinet; William Rixon: trumpet; Nicholas Costley-White: guitar; Tommy Antonio: bass; Daoud Merchant: drums; Zands: percussion.

Title: Standing Pat | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Dom James Music


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