Bunk Johnson

Jazz Nocturne, Vol. 1: Bunk, Bocage & Bechet in Boston

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In 1945, Sidney Bechet tried to realize his dream of putting together an old-style New Orleans jazz band with veteran trumpeter Bunk Johnson, and the group played a long engagement at the Savoy Café in Boston. Unfortunately, Johnson's drinking and attitude resulted in erratic music and his departure from the group. After 19-year-old Johnny Windhurst ably filled the trumpet spot for a few weeks, Peter Bocage arrived from New Orleans. Bocage also did not work out (his style was too gentle for Bechet) and Windhurst ended up finishing up the engagement before the band broke up. In the 1970s, the Fat Cat label came out with a dozen LPs that featured all of this group's radio broadcasts along with a few rehearsals. In the late '90s, the Jazz Crusade label reissued the music with Johnson and Bocage but unfortunately not the more rewarding performances with Windhurst. On the first of five CDs, there are nine songs of Bechet with Johnson at a rehearsal and seven by the Bechet-Bocage group from a radio broadcast; all have pianist Ray Parker, bassist Pops Foster, and drummer George Thompson as the rhythm section. Bechet plays quite well throughout these numbers, Johnson is OK and Bocage is a bit weak but sincere. The music overall is of interest, if not flawless or essential.

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