This one’s a keeper.
Before you ask, “Who are they and if they’re any good, why haven’t I heard of them?” please listen to their version of BLUE GRASS BLUES:
Now, that’s seriously interesting to me because it sounds genuine — it’s not 1925 heard through the perspective of 2017 (no one inserts a favorite Real Book lick in where it doesn’t belong).
St. Louis jazz is not the subject of too much historical analysis: the attentive among us know about Charlie Creath and Clark Terry, Joe Thomas, Dewey Jackson, Trumbauer’s orchestra with Bix and Pee Wee, even the upstart son of Doctor Davis the affluent dentist. I knew the Mound City Blue Blowers, Gene Rodemich, the Arcadian Serenaders, and the Missourians, but I’d never heard of the Searcy Trio, Powell’s Jazz Monarchs, or Harry’s Happy Four.
Here’s a “live one,” wordplay intentional:
The players on this 2016 CD are TJ Miller, trumpet, comb, vocal; Chloe Feoranzo, clarinet, C-melody saxophone; Kellie Everett, bass saxophone, tenor saxophone, kazoo; Jacob Alspach, trombone, tenor banjo, vocal; Kyle Butz, trombone; Joe Park, plectrum banjo, guitar; Mary Ann Schulte, piano; Ryan Koenig, washboard, percussion, vocal; Matt Meyer, drums; Joey Glynn, upright bass. Our friend Mike Davis brings his cornet for A LITTLE BIT BAD.
Because the repertoire chosen by the SSS is often so obscure, it feels new. So it’s almost like discovering a new hot band playing authentic music that hasn’t had the shine rubbed off of it through overexposure. (JAZZ LIVES readers can compile their own — silent — list of famous although overplayed songs.) OZARK MOUNTAIN BLUES / THE DUCK’S YAS YAS YAS / SOAP SUDS / BLUE GRASS BLUES / RED HOT! / MARKET STREET STOMP / GO WON TO TOWN / SWINGING THE SWING / BLUE BLOOD BLUES / A LITTLE BIT BAD / AH! AH! ARCHIE / EAST ST. LOUIS STOMP / YOU AIN’T GOT NOTHIN’ I WANT / HOT STUFF / LAUGHING BLUES. (I consider myself knowledgeable about this period, but only a third of the titles immediately came to mind with connections to a particular band or recording.)
And it should be obvious that there’s beautiful energized hot music on this disc, the product of deep loving study to create artistic authenticity. This band has the Twenties in their bones, and no one — out of force of habit — brings a favorite Lee Morgan lick to a solo on a 1926 piece. Their playing feels real: no Dorothy Provine here, and the hot numbers romp and frolic, but without any over-respectful museum dustiness. I also note the total lack of condescension — some bands, when they go back before Basie or Bird, let a little hauteur be heard and felt in their work, as if saying, “Gee, these old guys were so primitive: no one would play with that vibrato today, but I will do it for this date” — not so the Shakers.
You can fly to St. Louis very easily, but you can’t always visit the Twenties on your own: the Shakers are excellent tour guides.
May your happiness increase!