If you’d never heard the Reynolds Brothers, you might not give them sufficient credit for being Gods of Hot Jazz.
After all — one fellow plays an amplified National steel guitar, sings, and whistles in the best Crosby manner (that’s John); his brother holds a washboard with a cymbal mounted on top, blows a referee’s whistle to signify when a musical foul has been committed, and has a fine walrus mustache (that’s Ralf).
Most times they are joined by the eternally cheerful and swinging Katie Cavera (smart hat, glowing smile, string bass, vocals) and Hot Man Supreme Marc Caparone (cornet, a wide assortment of mutes, the occasional vocal, and manifester-of-Louis).
It sounds like a truly mixed bag, and when they first appeared at the 2011 Dixieland Monterey weekend, they had the extra added attraction of clarinetist, satirist, and uninhibited man-about-town Bob Draga . . . sitting somewhere between Omer Simeon and Groucho Marx.
Here are eight hot tunes from the Golden Era, complete with odd and occasionally semi-illicit stage behavior: you’ll have to watch for it. But do they swing!
They started with something everyone knows — LADY BE GOOD. And it swung from the opening phrase and only got hotter:
Then, after some rodomontade, badinage, and commedia dell’arte, Bob called for HELLO, MA BABY — although from a different corner of the jazz universe, it was a success as well:
ROSETTA used to be a song that everyone played — now, it’s a rare treat. And to hear Marc swing out on it — a la Red Allen (cornet AND vocal) — is precious:
AT SUNDOWN speaks of pastoral pleasures, and it’s so fitting to have sweet unaffected Katie sing it — one of those Walter Donaldson compositions that works beautifully at many tempos. And the hilarious unscripted interplay is an extra bonus:
I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY celebrates Fats Waller and 1931 washboard ecstasy — John brings us in, an utterly convincing singer:
OUT OF NOWHERE was another 1931 hit for a fellow from Spokane named Crosby. Bob finds his way cautiously through the first chorus and is secure in time for what follows:
I love THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN, but have never been able to make up my mind about it. Is it an exultation of life without materialism, a life lived in Nature in the best Emerson / Thoreau way, or is is another Depression-era attempt to say “You lost your job and your house and your family: isn’t sleeping outdoors with nothing at all such fun?” Comments appreciated — but it’s a great song:
SWING THAT MUSIC begins with some fascinating dialogue, worth considering closely, and eventually goes into the most unusual clarinet / string bass duet in recorded history. Was it the “feather-nesting” Katie sang of before, or was it Bob’s locally sourced apple juice? One never knows. I think I did a good turn for surrealist drama by recording this for posterity:
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