PEE WEE RUSSELL — Ask Me Now! (review)

PEE WEE RUSSELL — Ask Me Now! album cover Album · 1966 · Dixieland Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
We sure have come a long way to this date with Pee Wee Russell who has been around since the inception of Jazz. He was playing by 1922 and first recorded in 1924.He really is one of the pioneers. Clarinet was the instrument that Pee Wee played and he was good at it. If he had not been I am sure he would still not have been around for this date still in 1966. Quartet is what we have for the band, Pee Wee Russell clarinet, Marshall Brown,valve trombone,bass trumpet Russell George,bass and Ronnie Bedford on drums.If you expecting a real Dixie approach you will be disappointed as no trumpet ( we do get bass trumpet),cornet,piano or banjo is present but still one does get that feel. The album has more of a modern Hard Bop or just Bop approach at times and when Pee wee plays his clarinet it is difficult not to associate his music with Dixie and occasionally it still comes through even on this date so late in his career but Pee Wee always did things his way and change to him like any good musician is par for the course and not the exception.Pee Wee was plagued with drinking problems that interfered with his career as so many of the old musicians from this period had and this was not the specific domain of jazz either the other genres had some good boozers too

"Turnaround" is an Ornette Coleman composition and the tune has been changed to include some changes as Ornette did not use any in his version. Bass opens proceedings and trombone with Pee Wee joining in on clarinet which he uses to launch off to his solo. The tune is fairly low key at first listen but the solo is great and a great theme opens and closes the number. An Irving Berlin song "How About Me" follows but lets jump to the next "Ask Me Now" written by Thelonious Monk and without the piano present it gives the song a more relaxed feel which would be the best description for Pee Wees solo.John Coltrane with his composition "Some Other Blues" gets the treatment next and a nice sprightly version is the result with Pee Wee first, Marshall Brown puts down his trombone and some quick drum flashes from Ronnie Bedford and back to the theme.. Track 5 "I'll Climb the Highest Mountain which he has done many times before gets another revamp and is quite a beautifully played ballad and you hear Pee Wee play with some beautiful feel on his clarinet,fragile could be the best description and it is my favourite of the album simply because of this solo.. Licorice Stick is next but the one more I will mention is "Prelude to a Kiss" the Duke Ellington composition once again that fragile sound that a Clarinet seems to produce when played slow and simply gorgeous is his treatment of the tune. Calypso influence is the finisher and 'Calypso Walk" is the name of the tune and of course it is nice and sprightly.

Pee Wee Russell passed away 3 years after this session and do not think for 1 minute that what we have here is some burnt out old muso living on his name. Pee Wee still played great and he had feeling as this album will show you. The band that that was used on the album is a bit unconvential with the omission of a piano or if we went the other Dixie way, trumpet but there is an appeal with this set up. You get to hear Pee Wee play loud and clear.Great effort.
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