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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jazz Classic - this belongs in your collection, 13 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Jazz Funeral In New Orleans (Audio CD)
George Lewis first came to the public's attention in 1917, as clarinettist with Kid Ory. However, during the Depression, George returned to work as a docker to supplement his meagre income from musical engagements. A musician of his talent and originality was never going to disappear forever, though, and he returned to note in a 1942 session with Bunk Johnson. Alan Lomax, the folklorist, began to champion Lewis as a tradition-bearer of the early New Orleans jazz that had by then all but vanished from the public eye as fashions had changed: even the mainstream of commercial swing, which had replaced "Dixieland", was now itself being supplanted, in the minds of musicians at least, by the vanguard of bebop.

George Lewis became a darling of the "Trad" revival, although he was no dusty museum piece himself, despite the conservatism of his fan base. This album is a must for all jazz fans. (We are long past the time when jazz was polarised into Bebop versus Trad, and no fan of one was supposed to listen to the other). It is a real classic of the "New Orleans" style, and one of the best of the Trad revival. The ensemble sparkles together, and the solos fizz with energy. If you only have one "Trad" album, this should be it.

There is, of course, a debate to be had about how faithful this recording (and others of its ilk) might be to the early jazz Lomax thought it represented. We can't just compare it to early recordings, because quite apart from the huge variation in sound quality between 1917 and the 1950s (when this was recorded), it has been argued that early recording technology forced early jazz musicians to play quite differently in the studio to the way they would naturally play live. At very least this is certainly true for drummers and pianists recording in ensembles, which was bound to have a knock-on effect on the way others played in relation to them.

Furthermore, a musician like Lewis was never going to stand still. His playing was going to mature and progress, not languish in aspic.

So buy this for what it is - a classic of 50s New Orleans jazz, played by musicians rooted in the tradition, but who were vibrant, living exponents of their art, not dusty academics reproducing the past.

One final word: don't be put off by the title - these sides are not dreary; this is a jazz party.
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Location: Scotland

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