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Another side of Bunk
B. D. Tutt | London, UK. | 03/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bunk Johnson was a highly trained musician, who as the 1940s progressed became increasingly contemptuous of George Lewis, Jim Robinson and the other "emergency musicians" he recorded with from 1942 - 1946. This band eventually broke up in acrimony. In his 1946 trio recordings with Don Ewell, Johnson had demonstrated an interest in a repertoire far wider than the New Orleans standards he was generally associated with. This CD, Johnson's final studio recordings from December 1947, take that process further. Bunk fan Harold Drob had arranged for him to resume his residency at the Stuyvesant Hotel in NYC, this time with a band which he chose himself. Although Danny Barker and Wellman Braud were both New Orleans musicians, the rest of the ensemble were long standing New York session musicans. After playing together for seven weeks, the band recorded the tracks that comprise this CD.The result is an album that sounds very different to Johnson's previous recordings. This is disciplined, arranged music, with more space for solos that usual, and includes a series of ragtime pieces from Stark's famous "Red Back Book" which Johnson greatly admired. It is less buoyantly swinging than the American Music recordings, but it has a slightly old - fashioned charm of its own. Perhaps more interestingly, it shows Bunk, often criticised as being over the hill, in total command of his instrument and playing inventive solos and providing a firm ensemble lead. "Some of these Days" and "Till We Meet Again" should dispel all doubts about his musicianship.Many of his fans were dismayed when these pieces were first released, and those weaned on the American Music, RCA and Decca tracks will still find them surprising listening. What they demonstrate is that Johnson was a more interesting musician than many critics gace him credit for at the time. Recommended."