Bert Thompson
New Black Eagles Jazz Band
A Midsummer Night's Dream
CD Review by Bert Thompson
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
EARLYJAS
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Bert's Bits
CD REVIEW
by Bert Thompson

NEW BLACK EAGLE JAZZ BAND—A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (OWN
LABEL: BE[LECD]4004).  Playing time: 63m. 32s.  

Tuning; Gatemouth; Scott Joplin’s New Rag; Down in Honky Tonky Town; Papa De Da
Da; Spreading Joy; Black Cat on the Fence; When I  Leave the World Behind; What Ya
Want Me to Do; Black Bottom Stomp; Working Man Blues; Coal Black Shine.
Recorded at Fontbonne College, St. Louis, Missouri, on July 9 and 10, 1975.

Sweethearts on Parade*; Sensation, a Rag; Shimme-Sha-Wobble.  Recorded at The
Playhouse, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, on June 26, 1981.
Personnel: Tony Pringle, cornet, leader; Stan McDonald, clarinet, soprano sax; Stan
Vincent, trombone, vocal*; Bob Pilsbury, piano; Peter Bullis, banjo, manager; C. H.
“Pam” Pameijer, drums; Eli Newberger, tuba.

This is the fourth in a series of fourteen limited edition CD’s, reissuing material by the
band that previously appeared on LP’s—mainly on their own label but also on a few
other small labels, such as Philo, Philips, and Dirty Shame—and on cassette tapes.  
Some of these cassettes were issued simultaneously with the LP’s but also contained
additional tracks.  Other cassettes with different material were issued in that format
only.  When the company that produced the cassettes went out of business, the digital
masters were returned to the band.  These form the basis of most of the material on this
CD set.

The first twelve tracks were recorded on two days when the band, appearing at the St.
Louis Ragtime Festival in the evenings, went to the college auditorium during the day
to lay them down.  (The name of the composer of the first track, the ephemeral Tuning (4
secs. long), will doubtlessly remain as elusive as the Bolden cylinder.) The last three
cuts, recorded by the same musicians some six years later and in a different acoustic
setting, were added to “fill out” the disc to a length more typically expected of a CD.  

As do most of the New Black Eagles recordings, this one demonstrates the breadth of the
band’s repertoire, from the tried-and-true to the seldom-encountered. On all of these
there is that “infinite variety” that rejuvenates tired warhorses and renders the
unfamiliar congenial.  For starters the band leans heavily toward ensemble work, the
lead constantly changing between instruments in successive choruses so that there is
great variety, as can be heard in Down in Honky Tonky Town (and it is nice to see that
title correctly given, the word being Tonky, not Tonk, the usual form given) or Working
Man Blues, for example.  

Then there are the lesser-known tunes, such as Black Cat on the Fence, What Ya Want
Me to Do, or Coal Black Shine.  Adding to the interest on the last tune, Bechet’s Coal
Black Shine, is the small stumble and rapid recovery where, moving along at a spanking
pace, the soprano sax and tuba are trading “two’s” and toward the end of their sequence
get slightly out of step with each other but as the tension builds do manage to get back
in sync just in time.  Speaking of tempos, there is a wonderful assortment of such in this
set, from cookers like this one to the very laid back Papa De Da Da.  

In addition, there are nuggets along the way in many of the renditions, such as the
beautiful “call and response” of the tuba and the cornet in What Ya Want Me to Do, and
the surprise endings of the delayed stop chord on Papa De Da Da and the unexpected
four-bar tag on Coal Black Shine after the tuba seemed to have sealed the ending.

Finally, a word or two about the two rags included in the tune list.  Many bands will not
attempt these as an ensemble, leaving them to a solo piano.  The New Black Eagles,
however, have some magnificent full band arrangements of these pieces, the two here
being New Rag by Scott Joplin and Sensation, a Rag by Joseph Lamb.  Most rags tend to
have an often delicate beauty to them, and the band attempts to bring that out, letting
the ensemble present the arrangement in each case.  However, some interesting piano
improvising can be heard going on above and behind the ensemble in Sensation, even
though usually one seldom hears any improvising going on in rags presentations.

In the original LP liner notes, Al Webber says: “I have heard no band—‘live’ or on
record—play New Orleans jazz with more emotional breadth, swing, dynamic variety,
and all-‘round musicianship than the New Black Eagles.”  This is a fair summing up of
the performance captured on this CD.  According to the band, ordering information is as
follows:

The 14 CD’s are a set only in that they represent 14 reissues of LPs and Cassettes from
the earlier days of the Black Eagles. We have not priced them as a set and have typically
sold them as individual items. You can find them by going to -
http://www.blackeagles.com/x.fullsite/cgi-bin/online-orderform.asp

To the right of the window you will see four lists - aisle 1, 2, 3 and 4. Click on aisle 2 and
you will have an order form listing all 14 of the CDs.