Bunk Johnson

In San Francisco

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

Were it not for the seven-song broadcast that opens the CD, this set would have received a much higher rating. The May 9, 1943 radio special should have been classic for it matched together trumpeter Bunk Johnson with trumpeter Mutt Carey, trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetist Wade Whaley, pianist Buster Wilson, guitarist Frank Pasley, bassist Ed Garland and drummer Everett Walsh. Unfortunately, Whaley is often way out of tune and he is overmiked, dominating the ensembles. Much of the time one can barely hear Bunk or Mutt although Johnson does have a nice solo on "Basin Street Blues." It is interesting to hear Ory a year before he started to officially make a comeback, although the best music is actually provided by pianist Bertha Gonsoulin who is featured on "Wolverine Blues" and "The Pearls." But the announcing is quite dated (too many pronouncements about this being "the real jazz") and Rudi Blesh's long definitions of what is and is not jazz is reactionary to say the least! Much better are six duets that Bunk had with Gonsoulin two days before, and one day after, the concert. His playing on "Sister Kate," "Franklin Street Blues" and "Bolden Medley" ranks with the best of his career. Also on this CD is an oddity, Bunk playing along (and fitting right in both stylistically and volume-wise) with George Lewis' record of "Pacific Street Blues." The program concludes with a hot ensemble, apiece, in two 50-second versions of "Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll," that find Bunk joining the wartime Yerba Buena Jazz Band. The liner notes say nothing about what those choruses were used for (possibly an advertisement). So, all in all, despite the broadcast (which is more important historically than musically), this CD should be acquired by Bunk Johnson fans for the duets.

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