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Bert's Bits -- CD Review:  South Bay Stompers
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
by Bert Thompson

69 mins. 0 secs.
Chattanooga Stomp; Sweet Baby Doll; Bill Bailey**; What You Want Me to Do?º; I
Want to Go Back to Michigan*; Gatemouth; Showboat Shuffle; Make Me a Pallet on
Your Floorº*†; Buddy’s Habit; Basin Street Blues**; Ostrich Walk; Tishomingo
Blues; Margie; Hard-Hearted Hannah*; Yerba Buena Strut.   

Recorded at R & J Studios, Los Gatos & Saratoga, Calif., 2006; Los Gatos United
Methodist Church, Los Gatos, Calif., 2007; Sunny View Manor, Cupertino, Calif.,

Personnel: Joe Doll, leader, trombone, vocal*; Don Abel, cornet; Ray Buhler,
clarinet; Jerry Johnson, piano; Bill Van Dorn, banjo; Paul Bostwick, tuba; Tom
Beckmann, drums; Florence Beckmann, vocal**.

Guests:  Sam Morocco, string bassº; Rich Owens, piano†.

The South Bay Stompers, a West Coast-style band, hail from the southern part of
the San Francisco Bay Area.  Formed in 1999, they have been playing regularly in
the San Francisco Bay Area since, including a monthly residence at the Cats
restaurant in Los Gatos until its demise in 2007.  They currently have a first Sunday
monthly residence at the Britannia Arms in Cupertino.  This is the band’s second
recording, the first having been a limited edition of a live performance at the Cats in
2002 distributed only to band members and some faithful followers.

As one can see from the play list for this CD, the band’s book includes many tunes
by or associated with King Oliver.  It is replete with numbers that are not tired
warhorses, and for this I applaud them.  Many of the tunes seldom get an airing
today, so it is good to hear again Chattanooga Stomp, Sweet Baby Doll, What You
Want Me to Do? Showboat Shuffle, Yerba Buena Strut, among others.  (I detect a
second cornet on Buddy’s Habit, but none is listed, so I must assume that it is an
overdubbing by Don Abel.)  Tunes such as these are difficult to execute well
without charts as guides, and the band obviously has such—and they are good
ones—and has them down pat.  It is a very well-rehearsed, tight group.  

That is a bit of a mixed blessing, however, since to my mind it can, and I think does
here, impinge on the band’s ability to swing.  The musicians are all very capable on
their instruments, but perhaps they are concentrating too hard on "following the
dots."  Also, while the rhythm section keeps excellent time, it tends to be a bit stiff.  
The band needs more drive.  (Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor, with a looser
rhythm, has more of that than the other selections.)  In addition, a few of the solos
seem a bit pedestrian.  So all in all, although the CD provides some good listening
from a proficient band, the music does not, as it should, grab the listener.  It is
sedate, rather than exciting, but would be very good for dancing, I’m sure.  One
would hope there is a dance floor at the Britannia Arms, where they are resident.

As for the vocals, both singers have pleasant voices and deliver the lyrics clearly and
almost politely.  However, songs such as Bill Bailey (unfortunately lacking the
verse) and Sister Kate need more lustiness in their delivery.  

The CD is well recorded, both the sessions in the studio and those on location. The
balance is generally good except for a slight under-miking of the trombone.  

Although I have yet to hear the band live, on the basis of this disc they seem both
listenable and danceable.  If you find them playing in your neighborhood, by all
means go out and hear them, or stop in at the Britannia Arms on their dates there.  
(For dates and directions, see the band’s web site.)  Until then, you can catch them
on this CD.  (One caveat, though—this disc has a paper label, which you might want
to consider before playing it in a car CD player.) You can get purchasing
information from Joe Doll by e-mail at info@southbaystompers.com or by phone at
408-512-1391.  You can play samples of their music on-line at http://www.
southbaystompers.com/samples.html and also order this CD there for $13.86 + $4.95