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Phil Parnell knows what it means to miss New Orleans. Having lived in the city from 1965 until 1996, he swapped the heat and the scent of magnolia and southern fried chicken for the chill and the rebarbative reek of fireweed and fish and chips of Walthamstow, East London. "I have been to a good many cities around the world and I have found none that match the charm, magic, beauty and excitement of New Orleans," he says. "I wasn't born there and I no longer live there but I will always consider it my home." That Don't Keep Me From Cookin In A Gumbo Pot is his way of dealing with his homesickness.
Parnell persuaded New Orleans vocal icon Lillian Boutté to take the lion's share of the vocals, wrote nearly all the music and words, played piano and organ and produced the album at Village Studio, the record company he's set up in Walthamstow. More tracks were laid down in Denmark, home to Parnell's bassist Torben Bjørnskov and drummer Espen Laub von Lillianskold. The result is an astonishingly authentic New Orleans sound that harkens back to nights in Tipitina's or The Rusty Nail.
The ebullient Boutté is in cracking form on the two Parnell originals that kick things off"Cookin' In A Gumbo Pot" and "Greasy Spoon"with a great piece of dodgy rhyming on the latter: "It may not be nutritious but it'll always be delicious." And some morestarting with the titleon "Bitchin' In The Kitchen," a rousing rock 'n' roller written by Parnell and Boutté.
The only number Parnell did not have a hand in writing is "My Darlin' New Orleans" which was originally recorded at the Community Arts Centre in New Orleans by Ron Cuccia and the Jazz Poetry Group in 1979. It was penned by Cuccia, pianist John Magnie and saxophonist Charles Neville. It's so finger lickin' good, it's amazing it's only been revived once before, by L'il Queenie and the Percolators in 1981.
Parnell even penned new words to that old Jelly Roll Morton warhorse "Buddy Bolden's Blues," where he pays tribute to nearly every jazz, blues and R&B icon to ever come fromor byThe Big Easy; Hugues Pannassié and Brian Rust must be turning in their graves. There's a nice Mardi Gras feel to "Party All My Troubles Away," but Boutté's unaccompanied and preaching "Take A Fool's Advice" tends to go on a bit, though it does contain a piece of excellent, existential advice: "When you wake up in the morning, just be grateful you ain't dead."
Guitarist Don Vappie gives Boutté a break on "Lately (Tryin' To Get A Message To You)" and makes a very creditable job of it. Parnell tackles the closer, "Wish We Could Be There Today," a post-Katrina ballad. For all his many other talents, the man's no singer and the pallid vocal detracts from the heartfelt lyrics. Ain't that a shame. But, when all's said and done, That Don't Keep Me From Cookin In A Gumbo Pot is a truly remarkable effort.
Track Listing: Cookin' In A Gumbo Pot; Greasy Spoon; My Darlin' New Orleans; Buddy
Bolden's Blues; Lately (Tryin' To Get A Message To You); Laissez
Faire; Music Man; Take A Fool's Advice; Bitchin' In The Kitchen; Try
One More Time; Party All My Troubles Away; Wish We Could Be There
Personnel: Lillian Boutté: vocals; Phil Parnell: piano, organ; Don Vappie:
guitar, vocals; Danny Ilett: guitar; Gregory Boyd: steel drums; Peter
Rudeforth: trumpet; Pete Wraight: trumpet; Finn Peters: tenor
saxophone; Bob McKay: baritone, alto saxophones; Finn Burich:
trombone; Rick Trolsen: trombone, tuba; Thomas L'Etienne: clarinet;
Ben Martin: tenor saxophone; Andy Crowdy: bass; Torben Bjørnskov:
bass; Chris Hill: electric bass; Dylan Howe: drums; Scott Hammond:
drums; Espen Laub von Lillianskold: drums; Imelda May: background vocals; Tanya Boutté: background vocals; Neil Thomas: background vocals.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.