Dr. Michael White has recorded fairly often since the early '90s, and displays the feel and spirit of the best New Orleans clarinetists. On some of his previous sessions, he slips out of tune in spots, but happily that is not the case on Dancing in the Sky, which is easily his finest recording to date. White composed all but two of the selections and, while some pieces are based on obvious predecessors, others are more original. White is joined by an excellent rhythm section, one of three trumpeters (Nicholas Payton, Mark Braud, or Gregory Stafford), and trombonist Lucien Barbarin. The opening "Algiers Hoodoo Woman" is a little reminiscent of "The Mooche," having the same mysterious feel. Payton, who takes both a wah-wah and an open solo, perfectly fits into this classic style. "Dancing in the Sky (Reflection)" is a cheerful piece featuring Gregory Stafford on trumpet and vocal. "The Truth of the Blues," a quartet showcase for White, is essentially George Lewis' "Burgundy Street Blues," while the catchy "Give It Up" has the same chords as "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon." "The Hag's Rag" is a delightful new rag by White, on which he recalls Tony Parenti a bit. The old-time vaudevillian blues "Angel in the Day (Devil at Night)" features the singing of Thais Clark and a surprise ending in the lyrics. "Jambalaya Strut" brings back the sound of Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers in an arrangement that expertly uses breaks with White emulating Johnny Dodds and Payton taking a stop-time solo. "Where the Mighty Mississippi Sleeps" is a melancholy ballad that contrasts with "New Orleans Bounce," a lengthy romp for White on a medium-tempo blues. The set concludes with the feel of early-'30s Duke Ellington on "Creole Nights," a vocal by Gregory Stafford on "Down by the Riverside," some emotional clarinet on a slow "Amazing Grace," and a parade band stomp ("Dancing in the Sky [Transition]") that has all three trumpeters interacting. Everything works on this memorable outing, which is highly recommended to fans of New Orleans jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow