We take our personalities with us wherever we go. In the case of creative musicians, this is always a good thing, and a new double-disc set showcasing the fine New Orleans trumpeter Alvin Alcorn in concert with a nifty Australian jazz band is a very rewarding example of how well hot music keeps its essential self no matter how many miles from “the source” it is. The set, from the Victorian Jazz Archive (VJAZZ 026), is subtitled “Rare Collectible Jazz From the Archive,” and that’s accurate. By itself, the VJA is a fascinating place: read more here.
The VJA has been quietly yet steadily releasing a series of compact discs of previously unheard or at least quite rare material — featuring Tom Baker, Fred Parkes, Ade Monsbourgh, Frank Traynor, Graeme and Roger Bell and other luminaries, as well as several CDs for “The Progressives”. Details — and sound samples — here.
The newest release in the series is a double-disc package spotlighting New Orleans trumpeter / singer Alvin Alcorn and the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band in concert in 1973. The selections are a comfortable mix of “good old good ones,” with several very fine impromptu vocals from Alvin and one from Kay Younger: THE SECOND LINE / I WANT A LITTLE GIRL / TIPI-TIPI- TIN / EENY MEENY MINEY MO / SAY “SI SI” / BUGLE BOY MARCH / BOURBON STREET PARADE / THAT’S A-PLENTY / BEALE STREET BLUES / INDIANA / TIN ROOF BLUES / JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE / MUSKRAT RAMBLE / I CAN’T GET STARTED / HINDUSTAN / SOME OF THESE DAYS / FIDGETY FEET / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / BILL BAILEY / ST. LOUIS BLUES / PANAMA / OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE – SAINTS. Each disc is nearly seventy-seven minutes of music, and the sound is better than one hears on other concert recordings of this vintage.
The Yarra Yarras (a band formed in 1960) had fine credentials and connections with musicians as diverse as Don Ewell and Ken Colyer, and they bring a fine springy bounce to the sessions. I did notice the rhythm section being slightly at sea on a few of the more unfamiliar songs, but this wasn’t enough to disturb my pleasure.
The real pleasure, for me, is in Alcorn. I came to jazz from a “later” perspective, musically: Forties and Fifties Louis, Bobby Hackett, Ruby Braff, Buck Clayton . . . so I often find “authentic” New Orleans trumpet playing — that I am expected to admire if not revere — a bit rough around the edges. But Alcorn was obviously someone with great subtleties, even when playing the most familiar repertoire. The band rocks and powers along around and below him, and he creates tidy filigree — sounding more like Jonah Jones or Doc Cheatham than Kid Thomas. Everyone seems happy, and Alvin’s vocals are delightful. I encourage you to investigate this set and its colleagues at the VJA site.
May your happiness increase!