Ah, a Wednesday night fifteen years ago is so far away but also right at hand, depending on which lens you use. The distant past that isn’t really that distant when we can hear it.
Here is a recording of a Wednesday night gig by Eddy Davis’ WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHM (or his NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND, I don’t know what name he was using that night): Eddy, banjo, vocals, leader; Debbie Kennedy, string bass; Conal Fowkes, piano; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone.
The recording medium was my cassette recorder placed on the table; the sound feels narrow at first but give it ninety seconds for your ears to adjust. They will.
The songs are STUMBLING / THAT OLD FEELING / STARDUST / IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD / AS LONG AS I LIVE / GOOD -BYE / AUTUMN LEAVES / MARGIE / SWEETHEART OF ALL MY DREAMS (Conal) / SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (Conal) //
Eddy Davis was the ringmaster of his own circus, both benevolent and imperious, and he allowed us to come in under the huge brightly-colored for regular visits. His imagination was hugely expansive, and in this performance you will hear how reverently his musical colleagues had chosen to follow him.
Within the first five or six minutes of this performance, you will hear the magical intuitive synchronicity that this working band had — they are having the time of their lives while expertly navigating the curves at any tempo. The solos are casually eloquent; the interplay is at the very highest level. And there are the hallmarks of an Eddy Davis performance: the idiosyncratic stream-of-consciousness chat to and with the audience, the surprising cadenza-false endings, Eddy’s vocals that initially might sound as if he was ordering breakfast at the diner but that soon reveal passion. I also cherish the unorthodox instrumentation. Somewhere that night, a quick walk away, a jazz group of trumpet, alto, piano, bass, drums was having their own good time, but the sounds these musicians got were special: their own sonic aquarium, with the most remarkable bounce at any tempo. And they could get up a ferocious momentum that makes me think of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four or the 1938 Basie band: hear the outchorus of SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL.
The Cajun was a scene in itself even when the music wasn’t playing — a vanished world where art and commerce looked warily at each other and settled in for the evening — and I miss it deeply.
So here’s an unedited visit to that world, an ordinary night in 2006 where the music was anything but ordinary:
What a privilege to have been there; I hope you feel it too, even if you were elsewhere that night.
Postscript: if you’re charmed by Barbara Rosene’s art (and she has a wide range) you can see more of it here.
May your happiness increase!