Released for the first time on this 1993 CD, this is an intriguing and quite erratic Town Hall concert that features a colorful cast of characters: trumpeter Bunk Johnson, both Omer Simeon and Edmond Hall on clarinets, trombonist Jimmy Archey, pianist Ralph Sutton, banjoist Danny Barker, Cyrus St. Clair on tuba and string bass, drummer Freddie Moore and (on three songs) the legendary folk singer/guitarist, Leadbelly. The wild card here is Bunk, who complains during the radio broadcast that he was tired and hungry. His playing ranges from moderately inspired to streaky, differing in quality from cut to cut. In some spots he takes full control and at other times his chops just are not up to the challenge. The recording balance, unfortunately, is not ideal with Freddie Moore's bass drum being too loud (and making the rhythm section sound inflexible). Cyrus St. Clair's tuba playing is overly wheezy but he is fine on bass. Ralph Sutton gets in a few good spots and Jimmy Archey is mostly on, but the two clarinetists are undermiked; it is odd to hear Edmond Hall in this type of setting. Leadbelly displays showmanship on "Good Morning Blues," "Yellow Gal" and "Bottle Up and Go." There are many odd moments, such as when the tempo of "Good Morning Blues" drastically slows down after Leadbelly's vocal (Bunk did not care for fast tempoes), some false endings and lots of missed cues. Even with its faults, this unusual concert does have its charm. But someone should have fed Bunk Johnson first!
New York Town Hall 1947 Review
by Scott Yanow