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CD Review:  Jelly Roll Jazz Band, MMRC CD 13 and 14
Bert Thompson
by Bert Thompson

Ted Shafer’s Jelly Roll Jazz Band—TOE-TAPPING DIXIELAND JAZZ & BLUES
(Merry Makers Record Company MMRC-CD-13).  Playing time:  77m. 25s.
Maple Leaf Rag; Over in the Glory Land; Tiger Rag; Wabash Blues; Sweet Baby
Doll; Mamie Desdoumes’ Blues*; Big Chief Battle Ax; Sweet Lovin’ Man; Terrible
Blues; A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You; Bugle Boy March; Jackass Blues; I’m
a Little Blackbird; Muddy Water; Once in a While; Savoy Blues; Melancholy Blues;  
Messin’ Around.  

Ted Shafer’s Jelly Roll Jazz Band—TOE-TAPPING DIXIELAND JAZZ & BLUES
Vol. Two (Merry Makers Record Company MMRC-CD-14).  Playing time:  72m. 47s.
Down Among the Sheltering Palms*†‡; Far Away Blues; Charleston; Burgundy
Street Blues; Sweet Sue; How Long Blues*; Blue Bells, Goodbye; At the Christmas
Ball; Maple Leaf Rag; Krooked Blues; Mabel’s Dream; Cakewalkin’ Babies from
Home*†; My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Dr. Jazz.

Collective Personnel: Ray Ronnei, cornet, vocal*; Bob Mielke, vocal†, Bill
Bissonnette, trombone; Bob Helm, Phil Howe, John Boland, vocal‡, clarinet; Walt
Sereth, alto sax; Ray Skjelbred, Bill Gould, Cyril Bennett, piano; Ted Shafer,
Charlie Tagawa, banjo; Jim Cumming, Squire Girsback, Walter Roberts, string bass;
Vince Hickey, Dennis Rasmussen, Walt Sereth, drums

Recorded live in the late 1960’s at various locations in San Francisco, Berkeley,
Oakland, and Santa Rosa, California.

After reviewing MMRC CD-36 (Salty Bubble) for Just Jazz, I was asked to review
these two CD’s, which also feature cornetist Ray Ronnei.  Now in his 90’s, he is no
longer performing, but his playing days are well worth documenting, as Merry
Makers Records has attempted.  Like MMRC CD-36, the two CD’s under
consideration here are well worth a place on in your collection.

Three of the selections on CD-13 are issued here for the first time: Terrible Blues; A
Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You; and Bugle Boy March. All of the others were
first issued on vinyl on the Merry Makers (MMRC-104) and GHB (GHB-165) labels.  

All of the selections on CD-14 are issued here for the first time, except Blue Bells,
Goodbye and At the Christmas Ball, which first appeared on vinyl on GHB-165.

Both CD’s have a generous playing time of well over an hour each.

The musicians who accompany Ronnei on these two discs are, with a couple of
exceptions, a virtual “who’s who” (or “who was who”) of traditional jazz in the San
Francisco Bay Area.  As far as I know about half are still with us and most of those
are still playing, albeit not as frequently as of yore, perhaps. But at the time of these
recordings, all were in their prime.  (Ted Shafer has always, it seems, had the happy
knack of getting some of the best musicians into his bands.  Elsewhere in this
month’s issue is a review of the current nine-piece Jelly Roll Jazz Band’s latest
recording, New Orleans Jazz, MMRC CD-38.)  

Ronnei provides his usual fiery lead with that unmistakable style and tone that
allows him to be so easily identified.  Since there is such a plethora of musicians
involved, it would take up too much space to try to comment on each. Suffice it to
say that although all play musical chairs, none is out of place.  The result is two
discs that will be highly satisfying to those who lean toward the New Orleans style

There is also a bit of lagniappe here and there.  Not only do we seldom hear
Charleston, but I can’t recall ever hearing the introduction, which is played here.  
Other tunes are certainly not done to death, such as A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich,
and You or Sweet Baby Doll or Jackass Blues, to name just three.  Only two tunes is
improvising and with different personnel on each tune.

Further variety is found in the bands with which so many of the tunes are
associated. Among others represented are the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band, the
King Oliver Dixie Syncopaters, the Clarence Williams Blue Five, Jelly Roll Morton’s
Red Hot Peppers, and Louis Armstrong and the Red Onion jazz Babies as well as
the Hot Seven.  But none of the various Jelly Roll Jazz Band configurations try in
the least to imitate any of these classic groups just mentioned.

The recordings were made live, often in that most ubiquitous jazz venue, the pizza
parlor, so on a few of the tunes you will hear in the background pizza orders being
called out by the number.  It all adds up to the ambience that so many of us
experienced in our salad days.  What could have gone together better than a hot
pizza, hot jazz, and a cool beer or two?  These discs could certainly be enjoyed as
accompaniment even now to such comestibles and libations, should one order some

Speaking of ordering, these CD’s are obtainable from Ted Shafer at his Jelly Roll
Jazz Band gigs or by writing him at Merry Makers Record Company, 926
Beechwood Circle, Suisun City, CA 94585 or by calling him toll-free at 1-866-563-
4433.  They should also be obtainable from mail order sources that carry Merry
Makers label CD’s.

Note: contrary to the usual practice of Merry Makers lately, these CD’s do not have
adhesive labels.  
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization