Official Jazz history, which tends to compress and simplify, has often portrayed Edward “Kid” Ory as both a limited trombonist and a man lodged in the earliest decades of the music. Both of these suppositions are wrong; as far as the first, ask any trombonist how easy it is to play what Ory played, and for the second, Ory’s later groups played for dancers in the Forties and Fifties and thus he was very much aware of the subtleties of the Swing Era-and-beyond four-four rhythmic pulse, as his later recordings show. Drummer / scholar Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND takes its name from a club Ory ran in California, and its musical inspiration from those later performances.
Unlike some quite respected traditional jazz bands, the OTL floats rather than pounds, and its horn soloists clearly enjoy the freedom of playing with and among such gliding pulsations. It’s their secret, one that perceptive listeners enjoy, even if they are not aware of the swinging feel of the group. At times, they remind me happily of the ad hoc groups of Swing Era veterans recruited to perform “Dixieland” tunes c. 1959-60: think of Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, and Buster Bailey over a grooving rhythm section — playing the opening ensembles correctly and respectfully but going for themselves in solos.
In addition to Hal, the band as it performed at the 39th San Diego jazz Fest featured Charlie Halloran, trombone, Ben Polcer, trumpet, Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano, Alex Belhaj, guitar, Josh Gouzy, string bass. These selections come from a set the band did on November 24, 2018.
AT A GEORGIA CAMP MEETING:
TISHOMINGO BLUES, with a vocal by Ben:
Joe Oliver’s SNAG IT:
SAN, named for a King:
DUSTY RAG, a feature for Kris, Josh, and Hal — reimagining classic ragtime in New Orleans — that means Morton — style:
SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:
HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:
HIGH SOCIETY / WITHOUT YOU FOR AN INSPIRATION:
What a pleasure this band is. And here is their website, as well as news of their debut CD here . And here is my review. I approve! And the band also has the Gretchen Haugen Seal of Approval, which is not an accolade easily won.
Catch them at a gig; buy the CD. Have a good time.
May your happiness increase!