When he recorded this album, Kid Thomas Valentine had been playing New Orleans traditional jazz for almost 60 years, having started playing when he was just ten. This was by no means unusual for young, African-American children in New Orleans during the early part of the 20th century, when jazz was born and nurtured. And, like many of his contemporaries, he did not find himself in a recording studio until relatively late in his professional life. In Thomas' case, he recorded first in 1951. Being a very good lead trumpeter, he tended to lay out the melody sparsely and then let his band players pick it up from there. Thomas was also known for the use of various types of mutes: plunger, derby, and others. That's the case with this session recorded in the Connecticut home of Pete Campbell while the Thomas contingent was touring that State. The play list on this CD goes a little beyond that of the typical traditional jazz repertoire. There's such tunes as "Oh! Lady Be Good" and "Ciribiribin," but these are played with that special tempo and syncopation which sets New Orleans playing apart. One of the album's most appealing tracks is a song that was especially favored by traditional players, "Just a Closer Walk." Kicked off by another veteran who was there at the beginning, trombonist Louis Nelson, every member of the group gets an opportunity to state the melody as they see it. Then the ensemble takes over in a style recalling the music that accompanies a recently departed friend during the trek to the grave site. Another feature of this album is that there is no clarinet. Rather, Manny Paul is heard on New Orleans-style tenor sax, giving the music a fuller sound. He is particularly effective in "Tin Roof Blues." This is an excellent, entertaining document about the way the jazz was played in the Crescent City during the early years, and is highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan