Betwixt and between his appearances at Virginia's Manassas Jazz Festival in 1968 and 1971, guitarist and traditional jazz bandleader Eddie Condon gigged only occasionally; playing the Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C., entertaining at Richard Nixon's inaugural ball, and performing at a concert in Meriden, CT on December 5, 1969. Newly discovered tapes have magnified the Meriden episode from a one-title footnote in the Condon discography to a full-length live album representing one of the man's final offerings in a recording career that extended from 1928 to 1972. It's also among the last recordings anyone ever made with drummer Gene Krupa. During the '40s, Condon had pioneered the presentation of jazz in a concert setting, mostly at what he wryly referred to as New York's "Town Hole". By late 1969, his was a decidedly old-fashioned act in a culture dominated by the Beach Boys, the Doors, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Sly Stone. Unperturbed and as comfortable as ever with a repertoire dating from the '20s and ‘30s, Condon co-led a staunchly traditional septet with his old friend, cornetist Jimmy McPartland. In addition to the leaders and Krupa, the Condon/McPartland Chicagoans, which seem to have materialized solely for this occasion, consisted of trombonist Eddie Hubble, clarinetist Johnny Mince, pianist Dill Jones, and bassist Bill Pemberton. One great aspect of late period Condon -- particularly in a live concert -- is the extended duration of the tracks. Given the fact that much of his career was spent squeezing freewheeling traditional jazz into three- and four-minute time constraints, the expanded breadth of each number, especially "Tin Roof Blues," "Royal Garden Blues," and "Basin Street Blues" allows the players to stretch out and express themselves at length. Two days later, on December 7, 1969, Condon led his Strolling Reunion Commodores (an entirely different band) for a return engagement at the Manassas Festival. While those performances, which were released on the Fat Cat Jazz label, are a wee bit difficult to locate, Live Concert Meriden 1969 is available from Jazzology, along with most of Condon's historic Town Hall recordings.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf