With an over-the-top (and perhaps tongue in cheek) name like the World's Greatest Jazz Band, all modesty has been happily tossed out the window. Whether any band can actually live up to such a title is questionable, but At Manchester's Free Trade Hall, England 1971 does qualify as a fine recording of a vivacious live show. This rather large band (nine players), including trumpeters Yank Lawson and Billy Butterfield, and pianist Ralph Sutton, turns back the clock to a jazz form -- Dixieland -- that hadn't been "in" since the 1910s. The set list, "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Carolina in the Morning," and "Bourbon Street Parade," reflects this backward glance. The odd thing about this date for anyone immersed in contemporary jazz (anything from Coltrane on) is how melodic and fun jazz was before it became sophisticated. Sutton and clarinetist Bob Wilbur's freewheeling solos on "Ain't Misbehavin'" concoct an intoxicating mood, while the instrumental interchanges and intertwinings by the band throw the proceedings into high gear. The band offers quite a few variations on the Dixieland style, varying the arrangements and featuring different players on different cuts. This, plus the fact that most of the tracks hover around three- to five minutes, means that these two discs keep the listener tuned in. The only factor that seems a bit old-fashioned here are the song introductions, though they do provide a space to identify the featured musician(s) on each cut. At Manchester's Free Trade Hall, England 1971 delivers over an hour-and-a-half of spontaneous, effervescent jazz, and stands as a worthy testament to the World's Greatest Jazz Band.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2