A veteran sit-in cornetist with various Dixieland bands and the backup groups of Leon Redbone, David Bromberg, and more recently Madeleine Peyroux, Ecklund's folk-derived swing is expressed through a variety of different combos on these 15 cuts, eight written by the leader. Some feature dual acoustic guitarists Peyroux and Steve Cardenas, others mandolinist David Grisman and guitarist Frank Vignola, with Marty Grosz (guitar), Dan Block (woodwinds) and Keith Ingham (celeste), or Jay Ungar (violin) and Molly Mason (guitar). Cameos come from clarinetists Ken Peplowski and Bobby Gordon, Howard Johnson (tuba), and Warren Bernhardt (Fender Rhodes). The most focused, centralized group is the Grisman-Vignola band with bassist Murray Wall. They do the delicate, swaying "Winter Waltz," the more intense, off-the-cuff, cornet-driven "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives (Gave) to Me" (trading riffs at the coda), the Bix Beiderbecke-derived easy swing of "Blue Bix," and the hardest swinger "Russian Lullaby," where Grisman steps up and hits a triple. Cardenas and Peyroux softly strum while Peplowski leads in midtempo during "Django & Bix," and evoke strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" during "When You & I Were Young, Maggie." The celeste adds a quaint sound to Block's clarinet and Ecklund's old-timey horn on "Say It With a Kiss"; meanwhile, Block's big baritone sax bolsters "When You're Smiling," as does his alto during "Fuddy Duddy," with Grosz's ever-present swing nailing it down. Ungar and Gordon's strings tiptoe through tulips on Leroy Carr's "Midnight Hour Blues," go serene and plaintive for "At the Fair," and swing much harder on "Blackey's Song," replete with whistling and Guy Fischetti's pedal steel. Gordon's daunting and darting feature is "My Blue Heaven," the best individual solo on the date, while the best overall number is the quickly paced "At the Track," holding the Dixie pulse at fever pitch courtesy of Cynthia Sayer's hot banjo and Johnson's bawdy tuba oompahs. Ecklund has a thinnish sound, not bold and brash a la Louis Armstrong or Bix, but reserved and refined, and sublimates his role for an overall group sound. This CD represents a good concept and execution of bringing '20s & '30s jazz into the '90s with players who know how.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos