Here’s the good news. I took as many opportunities as I could, without slighting other much-loved bands, to hear and video the Chicago Cellar Boys at the 2018 San Diego Jazz Fest. Although I had some technical difficulties with my camera, I came home with over forty performances captured on video. Here’s the second installment (the first offering is here).
There is no bad news.
LOVIN’ SAM FROM ALABAM’ (one of those songs particular to that decade that celebrates the amorous magic of a legendary figure — in some versions, Sam is also a Sheik, thus getting double credit):
THE THINGS THAT WERE MADE FOR LOVE:
WHO’S SIT? (originally recorded by the Hot Five, and some bright person suggested recently that the title we see here was missing a letter, but I propose that Mr. Fearn would not let that title be printed on an OKeh label):
APEX BLUES (for Messrs. Noone and Poston):
BLUE BLACK BOTTOM (homage to Fats, piano solo by Paul Asaro):
TIA JUANA (thinking of the Wolverines):
BEER GARDEN BLUES (a 1933 Clarence Williams song that I am sure celebrates the end of Prohibition, with a group vocal — later, Clarence, always industrious, gave it new lyrics as SWING, BROTHER, SWING, predating the Basie / Billie song of the same title, which had a different set of composers — one of them Walter Bishop Sr., whom my father worked with at Movietone News:
If you’ve listened closely to any of these performances, perhaps these words will be superfluous. Although the CCB is (are?) young in terms of the calendar — born in 2017 — they are a glorious working band: yes, their solos are magnificently realized, sweet or hot; they are masters of Tonation and Phrasing — but they are a band, with gratifying ensemble telepathy.
Add to that their love of unusual repertoire, from the deeply sentimental to the searing, from love songs to dark blues; add to that the orchestrally-wise arrangements where something beautiful is always going on, the instrumental doubling that makes this quintet seem like a whole host of bands . . . may they go on and prosper for a long long time. Each set was full of surprises, songs I’d never heard or heard of before, and songs I knew but heard for their first time — played with such conviction, intelligence, and joyous expertise. Yes, there are homages to Noone, the Wolverines, and the Hot Five, but nothing’s hackneyed: this band loves later Clarence Williams and obscure territory bands, as well as songs possibly never recorded but still full of melodic substance.
They bring me (and others, of course) so much joy.
You can, as they say, find the CCB here on Facebook. And two other bits of relevant information: the CCB is a smaller version of the delightful band, the Fat Babies, and the CCB has a steady Sunday-night gig here in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I’ve never been, but Charles has promised to take me. And I hear that a CD of the band is in the making.
For the historians among us — here is the Blessed Antecedent:
May your happiness increase!