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The New Wonders: Steppin' Out

The New Wonders: Steppin' Out
There's something effervescent and addictive about the music of the late 1920s. Perhaps it is the fact that technological advancements allow for superior sound quality of the music of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven, Bix Beiderbecke and Sidney Bechet. Reinforcement from period entertainment such as "Boardwalk Empire," (HBO, 2010-14) "The Great Gatsby," (Warner Brothers, 2013) et al, has opened new ears to the classic stylings. With Steppin' Out, cornetist Mike Davis and his cadre of cats offer a highly entertaining album with ten terrific tracks, nine from that era.

An infrequently recorded George Gershwin two-beater, "Do Do Do," opens the session in a light-hearted mood with Davis crooning and do-do-doing the back and forth with other Wonders. The classic '20s tune from Spencer Williams, "Everybody Loves My Baby," is taken at a perfect—and swinging—tempo over a banjo-backed bed. A brief chorale intro sends "Love Will Find a Way" off and Davis' beautifully toned cornet charms this one up front. Trombonist Josh Holcolmb delivers a fine ride, clarinetist Ricky Alexander and pianist Andy Schumm add class. An original from pianist Andy Schumm, "Half-Seas Over" is a Bixian romp in which Davis' flexibility and technical chops soar. The more harmonic complex interlude then sends Schaumm off on a rollicking solo. The shout chorus is a hellzapoppin' party driven by Colin Hancock's drums. This is a highlight track.

Davis' cornet playing is tasty-toned and he has got the chops, flexibility and feel for the genre. Further, his arrangements are elegant and are so well done that one might think these are transcriptions of the original recordings. The sidemen here are also masters of the style. One would testify they are close to hearing Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Lang, Baby Dodds, Adrian Rollini et al.

The slower-going "My Fate Is in Your Hands," on which Davis croons, is all Rudy Valle without a megaphone. "My Melancholy Baby" is anything but here. A slower duple-beat groove has this classic thriving. Josh Holcomb and Ricky Alexander back-and-forth before Davis pines, Holcomb states and Alexander rags and a nice key change leads to a fine shouter. "My Gal Sal" is a gut-bucket bonanza of hot jazz. Davis' flexible chops wail opening and covering the "Cornet Chop Suey." Certainly not as fast and furious as Louis Armstrong's classic rendition, but Davis and team rock it. "Helen Gone" is a minor drag taken more swingingly here than the Vincent Rose raggy original. "My Blue Heaven" ends the festivities swingingly with a clickety-clack accompaniment. Terrific back and forth solos from Josh Holcomb and Mark Davis and a neat bass ride from Josh Rattman.

Steppin' Out is a fine effort that pays tribute, adds embellishment, and certainly salutes the style in a most enjoyable and admirable manner. Dancing optional.

Track Listing

Do Do Do, Everybody Loves My Baby, Love Will Find a Way, Half-Seas Over, My Fate Is in Your Hands, My Melancholy Baby, My Gal Sal, Cornet Chop Suey, Helen Gone, My Blue Heaven.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Steppin' Out | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Turtle Bay Records


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