Gregg Stafford

That Man From New Orleans

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This double CD captures a live concert performance in Toronto by Gregg Stafford, some members of Big Bill Bissonnette's Easy Riders Jazz Band, and two local musicians. The audience was treated to over two hours of authentic New Orleans small-ensemble jazz, sponsored by Toronto's Classic Jazz Society. As is the case with groups from the Crescent City, the trumpet takes the lead, a function that used to be performed by the violin in the earliest of New Orleans jazz bands. Gregg Stafford performs that duty with enthusiastic aplomb as well as authenticity. His trumpet runs the gamut from smooth to rough, making good use of the clipped articulation characterizing trumpet playing of that time (the technique is fully employed on "Royal Garden Blues"). Stafford also contributes some vocals on such tunes as a Louis Armstrong/Cab Calloway-derived "St. James Infirmary." All the pieces of this early American musical form are present in full strength to support Stafford. Paul Boehmke's woody-sounding New Orleans clarinet is one of the mainstays of the album, and especially sparkles on such tunes as "Algiers Strut." Big Bill Bissonnette lays down those tailgate trombone glissades, making the music swing. Bissonnette does some down-in-the-throat vocalizing on such tunes as "Sheik of Araby" and "St. Louis Blues." Emil Mark is important in creating the New Orleans sound, while the large bass resonance of Dennis Elder's drums lays down a solid rhythmic foundation. The piano of Toronto denizen Roberta Hunt has a Jelly Roll Morton touch to it, while Colin Bray is steady with the beat and takes a few hard-plucked string solos. The play list is comprised mainly of familiar New Orleans material. There are a couple of lesser-known tunes and a couple of gospel tunes for good measure. While the band members stay with the tradition of this music laid down by the many who preceded them, they add several wrinkles of their own throughout, making it as fresh sounding as ever. Recommended.

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