A band that calls itself “the Blue 4 Trio” has a touch of surrealism about it — reminiscent of the Magritte painting of a pipe that is subtitled “This is not a pipe.” But don’t let the quartet-that’s-really-a-trio disconcert you.
Casey MacGill and his colleagues make delicious music — in the best old-fashioned ways without being a “repertory orchestra” devoted to copying vintage 78s.
Casey, Matt, and Mike all sing — in that infectious way that recalls the Mills Brothers, the Spirits of Rhythm, the early King Cole Trio, Duke Ellington’s 1937 vocal trio, Slim and Slam, the Cats and the Fiddle, with touches of Fats, Louis, and Bing added to the mix.
Instrumentally, Casey is a fine pianist, ukulele player, and a heartfelt middle-register cornet serenader. You’ve heard Mike Daughterty swing the First Thursday Jazz Band; here he gets many opportunities to show off his skill on the wirebrushes; bassist Matt Weiner who would make Milt Hinton proud.
I stress the inherent musicality of the B4T because many groups across the country market themselves as “swing bands” offer a rigid, by-the-numbers version of swing. Sartorially, they are perfect: the hats, two-tone shoes, suits, but their music is rigid and limited. Not this little band.
I listened to the Blue 4 Trio at length — two CDs worth — while driving back and forth to work. I would testify under oath in Jazz Court that they swung, that every track lifted my spirits.
There’s no postmodern irony here, no “distance” from the material: their readings of I FOUND A MILLION DOLLAR BABY or I AIN’T LAZY, I’M JUST DREAMIN’ (memories of Jack Teagarden in 1934) are deep inside the song. I now know the verse to CRAZY RHYTHM, which is no small boon.
Here’s a three-minute video portrait of these fellows and the band — created in Casey’s Seattle living room by filmmaker Keith Rivers:
Although the Trio’s repertoire is drawn from the Swing Era, they aren’t prisoners of 1936: their CDs and performances feature a few idiomatic originals and some more recent material: DAYDREAM (by John Sebastian) and the Leiber-Stoller THREE COOL CATS.
Visit here to hear music samples, keep up with the band’s gig schedule, and more.
And if you visit here and click at the top of the page, you can hear Casey and Orville Johnson play and sing ALOHA OE BLUES . . . a pleasure.
The two CDs I got so much pleasure from are THREE COOL CATS (which has guest appearances from guitarists Orville Johnson and Del Ray, as well as tenor sax and clarinet from Craig Flory). The songs are GANGBUSTERS / THREE COOL CATS / I FOUND A MILLION DOLLAR BABY / LULU’S BACK IN TOWN / SUNNY AFTERNOON / UP JUMPED YOU WITH LOVE / THE SPELL OF THE BLUES / EVERYTHING BUT YOU / IT’S MY LAZY DAY / LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER / CHICKEN DINNER / DAYDREAM.
and the newest one, BARRELHOUSE (a MacGill original with clever lyrics), features the Trio plus Orville Johnson, Hans Teuber on tenor sax and piccolo, and New York’s own guitar master Matt Munisteri. It begins with the title tune, and goes on to PALM SPRINGS JUMP / CHANGES / ME AND THE MOON / OUT OF NOWHERE / SMALL FRY / CRAZY RHYTHM / COW COW BOOGIE / I AIN’T LAZY, I’M JUST DREAMIN’ / I’VE GOT TO BE A RUG CUTTER / BLUE BECAUSE OF YOU / WARM IT UP TO ME.
They are the real thing. Accept no substitutes!