Jazz from the Soul of New Orleans

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Basin Street
ALBUM TITLE: Dr Michael White
PERFORMER: Gregory Stafford, Clyde Kerr (t), Lucien Barbarin (tb), Dr Michael White (cl), Steve Pistorius, Rickie Monie (p), Detroit Brooks (g, bj), Kerry Lewis (bvn, tuba), Herman Lebeaux (d), Juanita Brooks, Thais Clark (v)
CATALOGUE NO: BSR 0502-2 (distr. New Note)

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The birthplace of jazz has never figured all that strongly when it comes to making records – even King Oliver and Louis Armstrong had to leave town in order to cut some wax. But the occasional top record still makes its way out of the city. Michael White has been carefully tending the flame of New Orleans’s traditional music for many years, although he’s still at the younger end of the revivalist spectrum, and he’s in charge of an excellent ensemble here.

New Orleans jazz depends on group democracy to make it work properly, with horn and rhythm players subduing the soloist’s natural exuberance in favour of harmonious polyphony. When it comes out right, with the lilting, almost genteel feel which characterises even the roughest N’Awlins sound, there are few more captivating sounds in jazz. White and his team set to work on tunes which have been around almost as long as jazz itself, including ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Red Wing’ , but everything feels fresh and immediate.

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Two sacred pieces pass painlessly, a Caribbean-American groove slips in sweetly, and White’s own feature on ‘Summertime’ is properly in the spirit. Sealing the record’s success is the drumming of Herman Lebeaux, who works in the joyful tradition of Baby Dodds and Minor Hall. A lot of the recording done in New Orleans has had a shambolic side to it in production terms, but this one sounds as clear and full as any New York record. Richard Cook