Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
Bert's Bits -- CD Review:  Mission Gold Jazz Band Smokin' Hot
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Playing time:  69m 58s
New Orleans Stomp; Ponchartrain Blues; Never Swat a Fly*; Riverside Blues; A Cup
of Coffee†; Papa Dip; Tishomingo Blues; My Lovin’ Imogeneº; Wild Man Blues;
Ory’s Creole Trombone; Home in Pasadena*; Annie Street Rock; Something for
Annie; I’m Goin’ Huntin’; Snag It; Some of These Days‡; Storyville Blues; Georgia

Recorded in Fremont, Calif., in Nov. 2009 and Jan. 2010.

Personnel: John Soulis, trombone, vocal†, leader; Earl Scheelar, clarinet, vocalº;
Rick Holzgrafe, cornet, vocal*; Dick Williams, cornet; Jack Wiecks, banjo; Bob
Sterling, tuba; Roz Temple, piano; Andy Parker, drums, vocal‡.

(Note: there are no liner notes with this CD.)

It seems hard to believe that we are some three decades away from what many
would consider the “golden age” of the traditional jazz revival in the San Francisco
Bay Area, and during that time a good number of bands have come and gone.  
Among the survivors, still going strong, is the Mission Gold Jazz Band, this CD
being issued to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this band’s founding in 1980.  Of
the original band members, only the leader, John Soulis, is still with them, but Bob
Sterling is also a long-time member, having joined the band in its second year.

As the tune list on this disc shows, the band’s book is wide ranging, from the jazz
“standards” like Riverside Blues or Snag It to the pop songs of the period like A
Cup of Coffee or Some of These Days.  Many composers are also represented, both
“modern” (e.g., Turk Murphy; Lu Watters; Dick Oxtot) and “classic” (e.g., King
Oliver; the Armstrongs,  Lil and Louis; Jelly Roll Morton;  Kid Ory), the result being
much variety.  And not all selections are “warhorses.”  We don’t often hear Never
Swat a Fly (a pleasant bit of nonsense), I’m Goin’ Huntin’, or Dick Oxtot’s My
Lovin’ Imogene.

This CD shows—as a visit to a gig will affirm—that the band is eminently suitable
for dancing to, tempos being just right for that and, equally important, maintained
throughout the tune.  The rhythm section is solid, Andy Parker firmly in the driver’s
seat with his cohorts in the section complementing him rather than giving him
trouble.  That is not to imply that the front line rushes.  No runaway trains here.  
Each tune is given a respectful treatment, with well-honed arrangements, clean
breaks, and competent solos.  Thus the band is “tight.”  

All of that said, however, I would have liked a bit more variety in a couple of areas.  
While the band does not fall into a monotonous pattern of “ensemble intro-solos
middle-ensemble out” as so many do, I would have liked to hear a few more
ensemble passages inserted into the body of the rendition at the expense of a solo or
two.  Where this is done, as in Papa Dip or Wild Man Blues, for instance, the
interest was greatly enhanced for me.  

There are also missed opportunities for variations in texture.  Almost all solos are
backed by the rhythm section, and a change here and there would have been
welcome.  Where one does come, as in Some of These Days with the trumpet-and-
banjo-only intro, followed by the addition of clarinet for a chorus, and then a piano-
solo-with-no-backing chorus, my interest level skyrocketed.  I found myself longing
for this kind of thing on Tishomingo Blues, for instance, the piano chorus crying
out for the total spotlight.  Elsewhere there were other opportunities for such
textural variations that were, unfortunately, passed up.

With some of such variety, what is a very good disc would have been an even better
one.   It is well worth having and is available from the band at gigs or from John
Soulis at 39594 Platero Place, Fremont, CA 94539 for $15.00, post paid.