Bent Persson never lets us down — as a trumpeter or a jazz scholar who teaches by his own example.
One of the high points of this year’s Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival this year was his two-hour presentation of the music of Henry “Red” Allen from 1929 to 1934. The concert emphasized the music Red made (often under his own name) as a member of the incredibly swinging Luis Russell Orchestra, with the wildly heated recording group the Rhythmakers, and a few of his early Vocalions.
Bent’s group had Michel Bastide, trumpet; Paul Munnery, trombone, a reed section of Michael McQuaid, Jean-Pierre Bonnel, Robert Fowler; Jeff Barnhart, piano / vocals; Jacob Ullberger, banjo / guitar; Henri Lamaire, bass; Josh Duffee, drums; Cecile Salvant, vocals.
Here’s Bent — one of my heroes — with a band full of splendid soloists and sight-readers (!) playing music that I have been admiring for a long time — hot, rhapsodic, always surprising. Although record companies looked to Red as “the answer” to Louis Armstrong, Red always went his own way, a sort of delightful sideways approach to familiar phrases and harmonies. And Bent and the band do him justice here, honoring the shades of J. C. Higginbotham, Albert Nicholas, Pops Foster, Paul Barbarin, and other giants.
The program began, most appropriately, with SWING OUT:
Feeling poorly? Consider the DOCTOR BLUES (although one never knows if the title refers to a healer or the need for one:
Bent called upon his impromptu vocal trio (Cecile, Jeff, and Michel) for the refrain in NEW CALL OF THE FREAKS. Who knew that New Orleans musicians were so deeply involved in recycling programs?
SUGAR HILL FUNCTION celebrates good times uptown:
And for the theologically-minded, Cecile offers ON REVIVAL DAY (with delightful echoes of Bessie Smith, too):
LOUISIANA SWING was the title of a fine Luis Russell collection, and it is apt here, considering that the Russell band was filled with New Orleans masters:
POOR LI’L ME again features the soulful Cecile:
SINGING PRETTY SONGS is, always surprisingly, exuberant rather than balladic:
Watch out for the law! Cecile offers an admonitory PATROL WAGON BLUES:
And a true romper from a King Oliver Victor session (its title in the spirit of an unsupervised terrier puppy) SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT:
Hot enough for anyone! And there’s more to come in Part Two – – –