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Dixieland started as a continuation of the original New Orleans jazz tradition (see New Orleans Jazz genre), but in a different locale and under different circumstances. During the early 1920s, many New Orleans musicians drifted up to Chicago seeking work where they continued their musical traditions, but no longer as marching bands. The more stationary aspect of these bands led to the addition of the piano to the band, while the stand up bass replaced the tuba.

The music also began to evolve as the musicians began to play with a faster more aggressive feel, and the rhythm section began to accent the 2 and 4 of the beat which led to the driving accented rhythms of RnB and rock-n-roll. Dixieland has had many revivals over the years, sometimes authentic and sometimes corny and amateur. To this day you can still find bands all over the world that play this traditional form of jazz.

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PEE WEE RUSSELL Ask Me Now! Album Cover Ask Me Now!
3.98 | 3 ratings
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GEORGE LEWIS (CLARINET) The Singing Clarinet

Album · 1958 · Dixieland
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As a good example of what Dixieland is supposed to sound like this record works fairly well, but as an example of George Lewis‘ skills, this probably isn’t the best, or worse for that matter. The ensemble playing on here is good and true to the style, but poor George is out of tune on many of these songs. I’m sure proper tuning is not of the utmost importance in early jazz, but when its as easily noticeable as it is on ‘Jerusalem Blues’, then it does distract somewhat from the performances. Still, due to this band’s ability to properly interpret early 1900’s Dixieland in the year 1953 (released in 1958), this record makes for a great document on how this style is supposed to sound.

Other than funk and reggae, its hard to imagine a style that has suffered more at the hands of enthusiastic under-skilled amateurs than Dixieland. When played properly Dixieland is far more similar to original New Orleans jazz than all those awful noisy tacky Dixieland wannabes would lead you to believe. When George and his guys play, you don’t get those exaggerated swooping note climbs, the overly enthusiastic bursts in volume and the cacophonous ensemble improvisations where no one sounds like they are listening to each other. Instead, George Lewis and his New Orleans Ragtime Band play early jazz that is subtle, sophisticated, ironic and slyly humorous: which is what early jazz is supposed to sound like.

Listening to this record has given me a much greater interest in pursuing other true practitioners of the Dixieland style. If your main exposure to Dixieland is tacky guys in straw hats who play at your local town’s heritage festival, give this record a chance. Sure George is a little out of tune here and there, but this is still very charming music that reflects a time and culture that will never return.


Album · 1966 · Dixieland
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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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