EARLYJAS
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Bert's Bits -- CD Review:  French Preservation New Orleans Band
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
EARLYJAS
CD Review      Bert reviews two CDs by this band.  Keep scrolling to see both.
by Bert Thompson

FRENCH PRESERVATION NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND WITH SAMMY
RIMINGTON AND FRED VIGORITO “MEMORIES OF KID THOMAS” (GHB
Records BCD-499).  Playing time: 66m. 40s.    Recorded at a concert in Irigny, France,
Dec. 16, 2005.

I Can’t Escape from You; Ice Cream*; Hindustan; Bill Bailey; I’m Confessin’; S’il
Vous Plaît; Algiers Strut; Move the Body Over*; Panama.

Personnel:  Fred Vigorito, cnt; Sammy Rimington, cl, as, voc*; Jean Pierre Alessi, ldr,
ts; Henry Lemaire, bjo; Dominic Molton, sbs; Vincent Hurel, drs.

As with so many of the GHB releases, no recording details are provided for this CD.  
(Only Mr. Buck knows why this is so often the case with GHB CD’s.)  However,
with a bit of digging I managed to come up with the above details, and in the
process discovered there were two other CD’s issued with (different) selections from
this concert, both on the band’s own label (FPCD10 and FPCD11, the latter
including material from another concert given the following day, Dec. 17th, at
Charnay les Macon).

Four of the musicians here are from the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz
Band, supplemented with two players, Sammy Rimington and Fred Vigorito, who
have often guested before with this band.  Born in London in the middle of WWII,
Rimington was something of a phenom on clarinet in the U.K., heavily influenced
by George Lewis and playing with Ken Colyer while still a teenager.  Then he came
to America to play with the Easy Riders Jazz Band in Connecticut for a spell before
going on to achieve world acclaim as a traditional jazz clarinetist, guesting with
many bands as well as leading several of his own.  Now a full-time musician,
Vigorito has been on the jazz scene in New England for several decades, the two
principal bands he has appeared with being the Easy Riders Jazz Band and the
Galvanized Jazz Band.  Both he and Rimington have recorded a number of times
before with the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band. His lead on cornet is
driving, his tone is fat, and his mute work is impressive.  He also has a fine ear for
dynamics, witness Panama on this disc.  When I first heard it, I thought that it was
being faded out, but no—it’s just Fred and the gang quieting down the piece for
several choruses preparatory to a rousing finish.  Rimington puts in his usual solid
performance, but I felt that on Ice Cream he overdid the display of technique a little
as he threw off great flurries of notes and runs, which certainly were crowd pleasers
but didn’t seem to me to add a great deal musically.

As for the four French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band members, I was
particularly struck by the tightness that Molton and Lemaire achieved on bass and
banjo respectively—they really drove the band without sacrificing anything in
tempos.  Drummer Hurel didn’t fare too well with the miking, I think, as he tended
to be a bit too dominant throughout.  I don’t know what the recording set-up was,
so perhaps there was no chance to achieve a better balance.  The absence of
trombone was partly remedied by Alessi’s tenor sax, but I would have preferred
both instruments.  However, judging by their other recordings, the band most often
does not use trombone, the tenor taking its place.  And mercifully there was no
squeaking from the two reeds, as so often seems to happen in live recordings.

The subtitle of this disc, “Memories of Kid Thomas,” is a bit odd.  The tune list
consists mainly of standards in the genre, almost all of the tunes having been
recorded by Kid Thomas Valentine at one time or another.  However, there is little
else here that can be associated with Kid Thomas.  There is no correspondence in
the instrumentation, Vigorito makes little attempt to emulate Thomas in his style or
include many of Thomas’s “trademarks,” and there is no resemblance in the sound
of this band with Thomas’s.  So I am left a little puzzled by the disc’s subtitle.  I
suppose one might say this group of musicians played in the spirit, if not the style,
of the Kid Thomas bands

To sum up, this CD provides a bit over an hour of decent traditional jazz.  Fans of
Rimington and Vigorito will want to have it, I’m sure.  It is available from GHB
Records, 1206 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116 (tel: 504-525-5000; website: www.
jazzology.com) and mail order sources such as World Records (tel: 415-898-1609)

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FRENCH PRESERVATION NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND FEATURING FRED
VIGORITO & KJELD BRANDT “LIVE AT SEASIDE JAZZKLUB” (SKJCCD02).  
Playing time: 74m. 06s.
Running Wild; Over the Waves; Uptown Bumps; Old Rugged Cross; Tiger Rag; I’m
Alone Because I Love You; Ice Cream*; Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler*; Algiers
Strut; In the Upper Garden; Panama.

Recorded at Seaside Jazzklub, Frederikssund, Denmark, May 18, 2008.
Personnel:  Fred Vigorito, cnt, voc*; Kjeld Brandt, cl; Jean-Pierre Alessi, ldr, ts, as;
Cyrille Ouanich, pno; Henry Lemaire, bjo; Dominic Molton, sbs; Vincent Hurel, drs.

Some time ago I reviewed another CD by this band, recorded in 2005, and I was not
particularly impressed with it.  Nothing much has changed in the meantime to cause
me to change my mind.  However, there are a couple of bright spots on this CD,
namely Fred Vigorito and Kjeld Brandt, and their inclusion in the line up prompted
me to decide to review the album as no doubt there are quite a few aficionados out
there who appreciate their work and would want to know of this recording.

As one can see, the tune list consists of well-worn warhorses (Uptown Bumps is
better known by its other title, The Bucket’s Got a Hole in It) with the exception,
perhaps, of I’m Alone Because I Love You, Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler, and In
the Upper Garden.  The first is a seldom-recorded ballad. The second is a cajun
song played by many cajun and zydeco bands but which works quite well as a jazz
tune.  (My first experience of a jazz rendition of it was by Kid Bastien’s Happy Pals
on the “Live at Grossman’s” CD, where it gets a more rollicking treatment.)  The last
is a beautiful hymn that I first heard on the classic Milneburg LP1 album by the
George Lewis trio so long ago.  All of the tunes’ renditions here, however, tend to be
a bit on the long side.

As to the performances, I have mixed feelings again.  The highlights are definitely
the playing of guests Kjeld Brandt and Fred Vigorito, especially the former.  He is
the main New Orleans element on the CD, which delivers less of a New Orleans
feeling than the name of the band would suggest.  I guess the “preservation” part is
to suggest a kinship to Preservation Hall, where performances in recent times have
had soloing come to take precedence over the more traditional ensemble playing.  
Certainly I don’t see it as “preserving” the traditional New Orleans style jazz as it
largely lacks for one thing the collective improvisation that is so essential to the
style.  There is too much soloing at the expense of ensemble work.  Also, the lack of
trombone is not, to my ear, made up for by the tenor sax playing of the leader.  That
is not to say that I object to the tenor or any other sax—I have in my collection most
of what alto player Captain John Handy recorded (and I think alto “fits” better in a
traditional jazz band).  But the uninspired solos of Alessi, such as that on Uptown
Bumps (followed as it is by the sensitive clarinet solo), coupled with the rather
gimmicky half-note runs he engages in on choruses of tunes such as Old Rugged
Cross and Panama, all leave me less than impressed.  (He appears to be taking a leaf
out of Handy’s book with these runs, and when Handy did it, I felt that it was also a
show of bravado, a demonstration of fast fingering technique—but not particularly
musical.)

The drummer, however, fares much better on this recording than he did on the last I
reviewed, and in fact he plays some nice, musical New Orleans snare drum solos on
Old Rugged Cross and Panama.  More use of dynamics by the group would also
have lent more musicality to this recording—they are largely absent except on rare
occasions such as the building of out-choruses on Panama.  So many choruses are
played raucously—loud and louder. By far the best track is In the Upper Garden,
featuring a fine backing of the sax solo by clarinet and cornet.  

Since many others sing the praises of this band, my view may well be a minority
one, so it should not necessarily be allowed to dissuade anyone from buying the
CD, especially if the reader is a fan of either Vigorito’s playing or Brandt’s.  They
are always worth hearing.  I suspect that there will not be a wide distribution of this
CD here in the U.S., so I am not sure where one may purchase it, if so inclined.  
Inquiries may be made to famorsen@tiscali.dk by e-mail or to Finn Amorsen,
Industrivej 8, 4050 Skibby, Denmark, by mail.