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Album Review

Youngish lawyer/tuba player Ostwald assembled this multigenerational Gully Low Jazz Band to play early period swing of the '20s and '30s. Many of these tunes are associated with Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, or Mildred Bailey. This recording, expertly produced and annotated by George Avakian, has Ostwald playing primarily rhythm (no bassist is included) with the truly all-star cast of trumpeter Randy Sandke, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Mark Shane, guitarist Howard Alden, and drummer Herlin Riley, performing some of the best individual Tin Pan Alley to Lincoln Center swingers in current-day jazz, and going back to the 1919 Jelly Roll Morton tune "Someday Sweetheart," the less well-known, non-forced "Home," or the down-a-lazy-river two-beat ballad "When Day Is Done." In the latter, featuring Peplowski, an easily portrayed old-time, relaxed feeling is quite evident. Ostwald recognizes great swing vehicles for improvising, as on the contrapuntal "Lover Come Back to Me" with solid stride break from Shane; on the totally hot "New Orleans Stomp" with Alden's staccato-plucked banjo and Peplowski's wailing clarinet; and on the rollicking "Don't Forget to Mess Around" with oompah accents, a sprightly piano, and Gordon's vocal gyrations on what is the sole lyric sung in the set. Sandke is rather deeply into the blood fever of Bix on a dixieland take of "Thou Swell," with all horns trading fours, and during the well-swung "'Tain't So Honey" with ribald trombone contrasting the pungent trumpet. Pegging the fun quotient are two cuts: Duke Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp," with Peplowski on alto sax, which approaches Raymond Scott-like, helter-skelter, cartoonish proportions; and the delightful "Who'Sit" during which Gordon's goofy moaning mimics a slide whistle. Riley is the star throughout; his perfectly conceived rhythms — no matter their source material or derivation — are right on, from the Gene Krupa-ish, running-wild team swing of "Diga Diga Doo," the patient, NOLA funeral-dirge base under the title track, or the swelling, slow construct on "Panama" where Alden's banjo and Peplowski's clarinet start, adding musicians as Riley's swing becomes more infectious and overwhelming. All in all, this is a fine document of how jazz germinated, performed by musicians who don't so much remember it as they dedicate themselves to preserving it. Recommended. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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