George Guesnon

Rare Cuts: Well Done, Vol. 4

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For Vol. 4 of his Rare Cuts: Well Done series, Big Bill Bissonnette has pulled together two blowing sessions and a spoken dedication to legendary banjo player Johnny St. Cyr on the occasion of his 73rd birthday. The first seven tracks capture banjoist/guitarist/vocalist Creole George Guesnon from two sittings in New York and an early (1936) set from New Orleans. Born in 1907 in the Crescent City and having performed with some of the greats of that city, one doesn't find many references to this performer in any of the standard works, including The New Groove Dictionary of Jazz, nor is there a mention of albums he might have made as a leader in Tom Lord's Jazz Discography. Here he is heard with such fellow classic jazz performers as Art Hodes and Pops Foster. The next five tracks belong to the ubiquitous Kid Thomas Band performing in Massachusetts and having a ball while they're at it. There's one of the more rousing, raucous versions of "Eh! La Bas" accompanied by groans and shouts and someone singing female falsetto (or maybe a member of the audience). Joining the band was clarinetist Paul "Polo" Barnes, who worked with Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver bands. One of the most attractive cuts on this CD is Barnes' chorus on a "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." The only music on the last track is Sweet Emmett Barrett singing "Happy Birthday" as more than 30 stars of traditional jazz offer their greeting to St. Cyr with several references to his recent eye operation. While this album is the stuff jazz sprung from, the only problem is the sound is not as consistently sharp as on the three earlier releases in this session. Small matter though. Recommended.

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