The Dukes Play Real New Orleans Dixieland

Daniel Kassell By

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Although trumpeter Frankie Assunto and his brothers founded the six-member DUKES OF DIXIELAND 50 years ago drummer leader, Richard "Dickie" Taylor keeps the beat fresh and alive with the seminal rhythms of the New Orleans back-beat. Most evenings you can enjoy THE DUKES aboard the Steamboat Natchez unless they are on the road as they have flown in tonight August 5, 2000 to play Ocean Grove New Jersey's 5000 seat Great Auditorium.
Trumpeter Kevin Clark musically fronts this band supported by Ben Smith on slide trombone and vocalist, Earl Bonie - clarinet, Everett Link - bass and a quietly smiling and cute Jamie Wight at the grand piano.
Immediately after the audience stood and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" the Dukes kicked off "Just A Little While To Stay Here" with an easy going back and forth New Orleans swing reminiscent of players of long ago across the Mississippi river in Algiers and by the conclusion of "Bourbon Street Parade" we all wanted to "go down to New Orleans" and board the Natchez for some mouth watering dinner cruise rice and beans.
On "Wabash Blues" Ben Smith's plunger mute duo with Dickie's drums was in sync as Jamie's piano filled in behind the declining "Wa Wa" until near the end of his solo the trombone slide fell off to much audience amusement. On "Panama" Mr. Bonie's aggressive upper register Louis Cottrell styled clarinet solo marked him as an authentic New Orleans player while Kevin's powerful trumpet and understanding of the Caribbean back-beat made this tune swing. An overlooked Bix tune "Borneo Bay"arranged intentionally by Kevin Clark to have a current New Orleans Street Band back-beat built on a that continuous riff -momentary stop time plus a shuffle beat. Kevin's closing comment was right on, "Everything old is new again".

It's Richard Taylor who keeps that persistent back-beat going with the Bob Crosby version "Who's Sorry Now"; Kevin remembered Clyde McCoy with lots of "Sugar Blues" trumpet tricks and plunger mute effects; Jamie 's solo opened "Sweet Georgia Brown" reminiscent of the Globetrotters; Earl recalled Bechet after his own sharp intonation introduction to "Petite Fleur" - "just beautiful", we overhear a woman say during the applause; Ben Smith reprised his version of "Tiger Rag", a favorite since he was 9 years old, of course it's very fast and full of exciting trombone slides.

Everett Link moved his bass next to the drums for a duo performance of "Big Noise from Winnetca" where Richard played rhythm on the bass strings as he kept time on the bass drum and sock cymbal with his feet - to much applause I might add.

In true Gospel tradition Ben asked the audience to supply the gestures in response to "Momma Don't Allow No . . .Hand Clapping, Foot Tapping, Right Foot, Left Foot, Both Feet Stomping . . .", to their delight until the last, "THE DUKES don't allow no "Saints" playing in here" is also ignored and a joyous rendition results to close The Duke of Dixieland show. But that's not all, Pete Fountain is next!

The white haired, mustachioed Pete Fountain waddled on stage in a tan vest jacket over matching khaki slacks, to his right are Drummer Brian Barberot, Tom Maggiore - tenor sax, Jimmy Webber - trumpet & flugelhorn, Mike Geneby - trombone and to his left bassist Oliva "Stick" Felix, Ronne Duane at the grand piano all in light green short sleeved shirts and black slacks.

"Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", the "Basin Street Blues" and "Wolverine Blues" are arranged tour-de-force numbers for Pete's rich toned clarinet as he sidles back and forth, hips shaking side to side with each cliche right up to the double or triple endings, not a note out of place just like his classic records and nightly performances at his New Orleans club.

For "A Closer Walk With Thee" Mr. Fountain played the melody medium-up tempo, Jimmy on flugel with trombone and tenor background but Jim switched to trumpet to play the top over Pete lightly blowing in low register, they built it, Pete then backed up and put the clarinet bell over the mic to make that wonderful chalameau sound that just melts every care away while the band sustained each religious chord.

Pete called drummer Brian, "Mr. Dreamy Eyes" before playing over his tom-tom beat on "Honky Tonk Train"; as Ronne Duane begins "Tin Roof" Mr. Fountain comes in softly as the band does three stop beats, piano solos elegantly before Mr. Webber played a pleasing mid-register trumpet solo.

During the concluding medley, "Do You Know What It Means . . ., It Had To Be You, My Blue Heaven and so on, Pete evokes more memories that draw recognition and applause before he put the cap on his clarinet, baseball cap on his head and walked off stage to a standing ovation.


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