King Chanticleer * Sleepy Head * Black Bottom Stomp * Firecrackers Explode in a Minor Mode * Viper Mad * That's A Plenty
Strut Miss Lissy * Happy Feet * Ahma Fonda Rhonda * Sweet Sue * Firecrackers Rule * Sweet Georgia Brown
Euphonian Records 2007 - www.firecrackerjazz.com - 302 Baird Cove Road, Asheville North Carolina, USA - Earl Sachais 828 628 9169
The Firecracker Jazz Band is new to me, and, I expect new to many in the traditional jazz world this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Whether it’s giving regards to Broadway or sailing down Deep-South to the Lee, the tune Chanticleer can - take your pick for the French or English one - is in my eyes a roost novel, as are some more tunes among the “Explodes” twelve songs.
Take Sleepy Head which is pure magic accompanied by a swell trio Barber-Shop sheet music song chant – most likely being Jerome Widenhouse, Reese Gray and Jason Krekel who are all noted accordingly in the line-up.
A popular number with many Traditional jazzbands today, it was in Chicago late 1926 that the Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers recorded Black Bottom Stomp. The professionalism of the Firecracker instrumentalists is of the highest order, the clarity and brilliance, technique and notations played at speed by the trumpeter is mind boggling. The sound variation in expression of the Stomp is tasteful. The beautiful tone of both the tuba and banjo created by the masters of them, together with their intricate handling of the melody lines, adds greatly in making this applied version of the tune, the album’s standard performance.
I have found that the modern jazz drummer at times is unable to keep the beat in accompaniment to their multi-notes improvisational speedy jazz instrumentalists by applying cymbals clanging that fails them badly – within, for example, the vivacity and presto of Sweet Georgia Brown where this can be distinguished - therefore such incessantly bang clang is best dropped, preferably resorting to wood-block, drumsticks rim shots, and other accessible, innovative melodic time keeping beat methods.
Carrying alternating on-off-beat perfect timing the 4th tune Firecrackers Explode in a Mode is with its call and response routines, its beautiful dancing tempi, for more than one reason, is an exponent of their kind of jazz music much to be desired.
The Firecracker Jazz Band is the type of band that the UK is in short supply of, of whom, I believe that the jazz folks there would like to hear more of them.
I go back to 1990 at my Croydon Jazz Festival when jazz hoofer Will Gaines who was caught in a traffic jam when I was surprised that the large crowd stayed for his appearance, as it ended, were not disappointed. On Happy Feet, tap dancer Joe “Bangles” Mohar added greatly to the fine playing of this tune. Although, the drummer undertook a very pleasant matching solo, his performance in no way put in the shade the nimble Mohar nifty tap dancing skills - strikingly talented.
The Noble Sissle’s Swingsters of New York 1937 in April Viper Mad recording with Billy Banks and Sidney Bechet, and, Sweet Sue (Just You) with the Jimmie Noone Apex Club Orchestra in 1928 Chicago, both Firecracker numbers for reeds are in – my heart – thus, wonder what they would have sounded like had guest soprano saxophonist Jeremy Saunders been included in those two recordings playing some breaks or solos on them.
Listen to the superb playing of That’s A Plenty taken at twice the speed of the late very fine trumpeter Bill Brunskill used to, shows that since 2003 when the Firecracker were formed, just how advanced they are in their command of the rich material of the early 20s King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton styled jazz greats, including those of tuba and banjo in the past, blending nicely in the Jerome Widenhouse cornet, the Reese Gray piano, the Henry Westmoreland tuba, the Jason Krekel banjo and of course, Earl Sachais on trombone whose speciality is the Ahma Fonda Rhonda number, and sets the compositions of the complete dozen tunes.
Recorded in 1930 New York by the Irving Mills Hotsy Totsy Gang, everyone listening to the Firecracker’s version will or I should say, aim to strut with Strut, Miss Lissie as it’s played beautifully at a nice jazz dance tempo with soprano sax and woodblocks sounds input to it to boot.
It could be most likely that the Firecracker Jazz Band become an inevitable contestant towards onwards classic jazz at its very best.