I know that every person’s taste in art is as singular as the viewer or hearer. But some music immediately feels good and makes us feel deeply comfortable.
This new CD made me feel right at home in its first minutes. The subtitle on the cover is a quotation from Steve Elmer, “Play the melody, improvise, tell a story and make it swing.” The Larry Scala Band does those things with style, as natural as breathing.
I didn’t ever find the session imitative, but it reminded me of a 1957 Verve recording — that same easy feel, with touches of Tal Farlow and Herb Ellis guiding a small band of individualists. The players are mature improvisers — not a comment on their age, but on their deep intuitive awareness.
The band is a New Orleans ensemble (hear the Second Line beat on DREAMBOAT and the rocking FUNGII MAMA) but there is no hackneyed tourist music here. And the very instrumentation is a defense against cliche and formula — a versatile quartet with Fischer’s bright, never shrill clarinet and Moore’s warm tenor forming a front line with Scala’s gleaming, twining single-note lines and pulsing chords. The two horns don’t fight for dominance, and there are no easy plagiarisms from the Goodman Sextets.
It has a very warm momentum: music too vivid to be “smooth jazz” or background murmurings. Although there are only five players pictured above, listeners get good value. Larry is not only a superb soloist but someone who understands the need for rhythm, so he has unobtrusively overdubbed a quiet rhythm guitar line. It’s welcome, not a trick, and it works. (The combined rhythmic pulse pushes TEA FOR TWO along from the first four bars.)
There are slight variations on RICHARD’S MOTEN SWING and FLAMINGO — the changes made me take notice when I was listening for the first time, the paper sleeve out of reach — but they only add spice and variety. As I write this, my favorites are a tender ISFAHAN, a rollicking TEA FOR TWO, a trotting MORNING GLORY — but I could easily list all eleven tracks.
Here’s the band’s Facebook page, where you can hear sound samples from the disc. And Larry has his own page as well. For online purchases, visit the Louisiana Music Factory page. Best yet: Larry will be a guest artist from October 23-26 at the Pismo, California Jubilee By The Sea, where you can hear him and buy CDs directly. I found a list of the bands and guest artists — including High Sierra, Gordon Au and his brothers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jeff and Anne Barnhart, and more here.
But don’t get distracted from SWING STORIES FROM NEW ORLEANS — accurately titled, satisfying music.
May your happiness increase!