1. Bourbon Street Parade -- Paul Barbarin
The CD opens with the infectious rhythm of this popular New Orleans number. Jazz-march drum cadences set the stage for the traditional three-horn front line lead, followed by solos by Strand, Runyan, and Cooke. During the salsa-flavored muted cornet chorus, the rhythm section shifts into a driving zydeco beat. Cooke's gravel-throated vocal is followed by a full-press drum chorus and a driving free-for-all closing chorus reminiscent of a New Orleans jazz band marching up the street at the Mardi Gras.
2. Savoy Blues -- Edward "Kid" Ory
One of the band's favorites, this arrangement was inspired by Louis Armstrong's 1927 Hot Five with Kid Ory on the obligatory gut-bucket trombone parts. Check out the Ory-style trombone solo by Runyan, complete with the long slide into the "Dipsy Doodle" front line figure popular with jazz bands of the period. The plaintive moan of the train whistle at the end is a reminder of the long and colorful history of trains in jazz.
3. Struttin' With Some Barbecue -- Lil Hardin Armstrong
A tribute to Louis Armstrong, with echoes of his 1927 Hot Seven recording (note the stop-time introduction, cornet solo and ending coda). This popular standard is alive and well, with capable solos by Strand, Runyan, Stevens, Barnhart and Johnson rounding out the arrangement. By the way, in the slang of the period, "barbecue" meant a hot babe.
4. Tin Roof Blues -- George Brunis
A song that immortalizes a colorful New Orleans dance hall where George Brunis might have listened at the door before heading up the river to Chicago. Turner's opening vocal captures much of the feeling of the time. After a growling front-line statement come a string of solos (a cool soprano, a hot plunger-muted cornet, a Brunis-style trombone, a pounding 12-to-the-bar banjo chorus, and a reflective, Joplinesque piano), all paced by an exciting walking bass line and traditional press-rolls on the snare-drums. A short double-time chorus soon falls back to the original tempo to end with a cascading blues ritardando that puts the cap on the arrangement.
5. New Orleans Stomp -- Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong
This arrangement was originally done by Cooke when he played with the Queen City Jazz Band and was featured prominently by that group and later by his Platte River Jazz Band. Note the way the cornet and trombone pass the lead back and forth on third strain. The solos are grouped as two duets and a trio; first the soprano sax and tom-tom drums, then the cornet and piano, and finally the banjo, bass, and trombone play, building momentum up to the final out-chorus, complete with cymbal crashes.
6. San Francisco Bay Blues -- Jesse Fuller
This rollicking tale of the life and lost love of the blues guitarist and his subsequent travails (probably well-deserved) is convincingly recounted by Turner. This rendition also features some fine alternating four-bar solos between the bass and drums ("trading fours") and comes to a fitting end with Turner's woeful wail of mock despair.
7. Royal Garden Blues -- Clarence and Spencer Williams
In this number the band plays early swing with a Kansas City feel. Although this tune was closely associated with Bix Beiderbecke and the 1920s Chicago jazz scene and was named for a well-known night club on the south side, the last strain has a fine swing feel reflective of the crossover jazz of the late '20s and early '30s. The band takes advantage of this by having Stevens play alto, and the four-horn front line gets almost a big band feel. Cooke leads off on solos, Stevens answers, they do a two-horn shoot-out, then Strand cools things down, and finally Runyan restates the melody.
8. Georgia on My Mind -- Hoagy Carmichael
One of Hoagy's most famous ballads, done up very nicely by the rhythm section with Stevens at the helm. Strand plays simply, with a muted bridge by Cooke and the release by Runyan on trombone. This selection shows the band's ability to play a pretty tune gently with feeling and to let the melody shine through without a lot of elaboration.
9. Yellow Dog Blues -- W. C. Handy
Another train song, this one immortalizes the lover who has "hit the rails and run," fleeing to "where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog (the Yazoo River in Mississippi)." This unusual arrangement blends the Delta blues, boogie-woogie and Kansas City styles of the early part of this century and shows off the band's fine ensemble work. Note Cooke's hot plunger-muted cornet lead on a little-heard verse (sung by Louis Armstrong in his album "Louis Plays Handy").
10. Milenberg Joys -- Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton
This arrangement, which shows the band's affinity for Morton's distinctive 1920s New Orleans jazz, features a front line with lots of flash and dash. Strand and Stevens have some fun with their solos, ending with an improvisatory free-for-all duet that leaves no one standing. Runyan follows with a growl trombone solo that leads to Cooke's Memphis-style vocal, and the ensemble takes over for a driving two-chorus ride out.
11. Just a Closer Walk With Thee -- Traditional
The band always signs off with this old hymn, which has a wonderful serenity while retaining a basic jazz feeling. The emotional response it evokes in the audience shows the power and richness of early spirituals and black church music and their influence on traditional jazz.
And there you have it. This program presents many of the elements of the Poudre River Irregulars' colorful approach to traditional jazz. There are strong flavors here of New Orleans, Chicago and Dixieland styles of the '20s, with overtones of southern blues, Kansas City swing and a touch of boogie. But most important, the band plays with joy and verve, and never forgets that famous dictum: "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."
This CD was produced by Bob Cooke. The music was recorded during February, March, and April, 1998, at InSight Sound Studios in Masonville, Colorado. Dan Matthews did the engineering, mixing, and digital mastering. Ann Harbour did the graphics and layout, and Jeanne Peterson helped with the liner notes and discography.
Many thanks to our families and the Northern Colorado Traditional Jazz Society for all their support and encouragement.
-- Bob Cooke, Fort Collins, Colorado, 1998
© Poudre River Irregulars 1998, 2002. All rights reserved.