A hot band is good to find, and the Rock Island Roustabouts answer to that description. I’ll leave it to Hal Smith to explain how this band, which debuted at a Davenport, Iowa tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, came to be named after a Chicago train line . . . because he knows about these things. Me, I come for the music.
And music there was. I’ve done the unusual thing of sending out a full plateful — nine videos at once, recorded in three sets at the Evergreen Jazz Festival (July 27, 28, 29) so that you can experience this band’s power and versatility. The Roustabouts are co-led by Jeff Barnhart, piano, and Hal Smith, drums, with — in this incarnation — Dave Kosmyna, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Bob Leary, banjo / guitar; Ryan Gould, string bass, and on the last three performances here, a guest appearance by Lauryn Gould, soprano sax.
The music goes deep and although there are some favorites, the Roustabouts like songs that don’t ordinarily get played. So there’s Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory, but also Frank Melrose, Jimmy Blythe, Johnny St. Cyr, and Tiny Parham.
Settle down in your seats. Make sure you know where the fire extinguisher is, and check that it’s charged.
Kid Ory’s SAVOY BLUES:
THE GIRLS GO CRAZY when this band plays, but the enthusiasm isn’t gender-specific:
Frank Melrose’s MARKET STREET STOMP, scored for Messrs. Smith and Barnhart:
One composition titled MESSIN’ AROUND, this one by pianist Jimmy Blythe:
And Johnny St. Cyr’s song of the same name — to mess around was serious yet delightful business, as you can tell:
Louis’ MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, at the nice 1929 tempo:
An incomplete but wonderful version of Tiny Parham’s WASHBOARD WIGGLES (blame the sun-blinded and exhausted man behind the camera) which adds Lauryn Gould, who plays that irascible saxophone beautifully:
A song that I’d never heard performed live, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS, which coalesces into a lovely rocking performance. I did some small research, expecting that its source was an obscure Wingy Manone record, but no — the later New Orleans bands, who picked up good tunes no matter their source, found this one, from 1948, by Floyd Tillman. I am not digressing when I offer the Patsy Cline version first (Ray Charles recorded it also):
Now, hear how the Roustabouts make it their own:
and William H. Tyers’ proven mood-enhancer, PANAMA:
May your happiness increase!