Narvin Kimball

Narvin Kimball & Friends

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On April 27, 1992, 83-year-old New Orleans banjoist Narvin Kimball led a perky little group in the realization of his first album, which was a belated milestone in a career that reached back to the dawn of recorded jazz. Proudly and definitively old-fashioned, Kimball made his intentions clear by announcing: "I want this old-timey because I'm old-timey…I want a boom-bap, boom-bap rhythm, 4/4 from the bass and some flowers from the piano." He was speaking to six musicians gathered inside of Frozen Sound, a recording studio in Morgantown, WV. The trumpeter, his old friend Percy Humphrey, was preparing to back Kimball with trombonist Frank Demond, clarinetist David Grillier, bassist James Prevost, pianist Lars Edegran, and drummer Joe Lastie. Kimball played his banjo left-handed, periodically executing the ferocious scrub runs and intricate single-string maneuvers of a master technician. "Alabama Jubilee," "A New Kind of Love," "Banjo Medley," and "Clarinet Marmalade" are excellent traditional jazz instrumentals made extra perky by the showcased banjo. The rest of the songs feature Kimball's chortling vibrato, and as these endearingly arcane vocals tap into a style that predates his birth in the year 1909, some may find them heavily mannered. "Georgia (On My Mind)" was Kimball's featured vocal for many years, and the version heard here is by far the best vocal track on this heartwarming album. It might even be the best Kimball vocal on record, for while singing "Georgia," he sang from the heart with plenty of soul and very little vibrato.

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