I wasn’t there. I wish I had been. But the good news is that two compact discs from this band’s German tour have been issued on the Echoes of Swing label (EOSP 4058 / 4059, available separately) and they come in the ear like honey. Hot honey, if you must know: a really delicious sensation.
The gracious swingsters on these discs are Duke Heitger, trumpet / vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone, head arrangements, vocal; Dan Block, clarinet, alto, tenor; Engelbert Wroebel, clarinet, soprano, tenor; Chris Hopkins, piano; Eddie Erickson, guitar, banjo, vocal; Nicki Parrott, string bass, vocal; Butch Miles, drums; Bernard Flegar, drums (on two tracks). The material comes from March 2010, and each CD has expansive notes by Dan Barrett. This tour was the idea of the very knowing and generous jazz fan / collector / scholar / promoter Manfred Selchow, who has written two splendid books on his heroes Edmond Hall and Vic Dickenson (PROFOUNDLY BLUE and DING DING! respectively) so you know he has good taste in musicians and bands.
Volume One begins with a string of “old favorites” played with snap and crackle — not to ignore pop: INDIANA and SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, followed by BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, with echoes of Louis and Eddie Condon and the Hampton Victors, then Eddie convinces he us he is behaving well on KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW. The reed players and rhythm make us forget that TEA FOR TWO is ninety years old, and Nicki purrs her way through LET’S DO IT (with some nifty new lyrics as well). A rhythm section feature, MONTEVIDEO, is both startling and supple, evoking a late Ellington trio — and then everyone evokes a compact powerful version of the Forties Basie band with THE KING. But wait! There’s more. A nice long blues, BOCHUM ELECTRICTY BLUES, and a sweet Duke vocal / trumpet performance of DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? (which he does).
Volume Two opens with the bright NEAL’S DEAL (a Neal Hefti line for the 1951 Count Basie Sextet), then moves back nearly thirty years for GEORGIA JUBILEE, a memory of a pre-King-of-Swing record date led by Benny, with Coleman Hawkins on the tenor, and the Sidney Bechet WASTE NO TEARS featuring Block and Wroebel. Dan Barrett sings and swings mightily on the Lionel Hampton classic WHOA BABE, and then Nicki asks the troubling question in swing, IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY. (We is, Nicki. We can’t help it nohow.) An extraordinary, jumping version of Earl Hines’ CAVERNISM follows, then Eddie woos the crowd, which he does so well, with ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, a sweet love song written by the unheralded member of the Great American Songbook fraternity, Jabbo Smith. WITH ‘EM, Dan Barrett’s clever, hot, boppish take on I GOT RHYTHM, keeps the imagined dancers hopping, leading into a sleekly intense ONE O’CLOCK JUMP. Another delightful version of MONTEVIDEO follows — remarkable improvisations on the theme — and a tender IF I HAD YOU, before the disc romps home with SWEET SUE and HINDUSTAN.
If you know the players and singers here, you won’t have to be convinced of the quality of the music on these discs. But these performances are sharply executed when the music calls for it (this band isn’t ashamed of rehearsing) and loose, fervent, courageous when it’s time for jamming. These are live performances, so you can hear the good humor and delight in the various rooms — and the sound is fine, too.
My only problem is that I file my CDs alphabetically according to the leader or the musician / singer I gravitate towards. I can’t be fair to anyone by putting these CDs under B for Barrett or H for Hopkins. It seems I have to buy multiple copies to satisfy my ethical self. You might not be burdened by such demands, but you will be delighted by every note on both discs.
May your happiness increase.