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Bunk was an incredble musical force
Yves F. Smierciak | Chicago, Illinois United States | 08/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 2005, one can forget the wonders of a real traditional jazz band. I was just old enough to catch many of the great second and third generation musicians of traditional jazz (Jabbo Smith, Preston Jackson,Ikey Robinson,and the remarkable Franz Jackson, the latter very important to have helped me in my playing and recording this music called jazz), but I was too young (or not in the locale to have heard them)to have caught Kid Thomas, Kid Sheik, Emile Barnes or De De Pierce (though I did get to hear live the Humphrey brothers late in their lives with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band), much less the orginiators like Wooden Joe Nicholas, Kid Ory, Sidney Bechet (though my mother did hear Bechet in France), or the subject of this remarkable CD, Bunk Johnson. While I might not feel that Bunk is the "king of the blues" ( I would give a Mutt Carey, King Oliver or of a later generation, Armstrong or Hot Lips Page this distinction), one has to give Bunk, the ability to phrase the blues with a classist perfection rarely achived (his playing at his best, shows what Virgil Thompson was talking about his freedom, yet melodic sobriety in his improvisations). Bunk concept of where the trumpet's voice is to be in this style of music, and that's not to interfere with the clarinet's clarion register (and he would ,on occasion give George Lewis the lead on clarinet and rest,this being good for both a trumpeter to rest as well as the overall sonic performance to have variety) .We can hear in this CD, why such jazz enthusisatics like Bill Russell, Gene Williams as well as the immortal New Orleans musicians like Armstrong and Bechet were so wanting Bunk to get back into music (I have always felt that Bunk did influence Satchmo in that incredible tone as well as some melodic content and licks from Bunk, though King Oliver had a greater influence on the drive, swing and the variety of registers where Satchmo played). He was a teacher of music as well, and it shows in his classist approach to the music. He was also a link to the very start of jazz itself (along with Wooden Joe Nicholas we can hear something of what New Orleans sounded like circa 1900,in the days of Bolden et all, though one can NEVER recreate another times music), but what really gets to me is the total sonic picture this band reveals (George Lewis and Jim Robinson are simply at their best here, and Lawrence Marrero's banjo proves its the player not the instrument, he with Slow Drag on bass and the immortal Baby Dodds on the drums give a solid yet very supple backing for the horns). The standout track ,for me,is the 9 minite blues "Midnight Blues" (it does put you after hours in a New Orleans dance, and Bunk's lower register solo into the riffs ala "Snag It" puts us back to a mythos of "the good old days"), one of my all time favorite recordings (but then I am a sucker for any era of slow jazz blues, traditional, swing or modern jazz), but really most of the CD is that good. Don't worry that almost all songs are blues, with the same musicians, and recorded within a two week period, there is many different tempos and nuances (and songs like "Weary Blues" and "St Louis Blues" have multiple strains, this does give variety, we also encounter the 8 bar form in "How Long Blues" and "C C Rider"). All in all, a very enjoyable CD that belongs to all who remember early jazz or want to access the roots of today's musics, Yves Francois Smierciak"