"Dixieland"

by Andrew J. Sammut

I'll admit that records like this one don't work for me either. Over the years I have purchased a lot of small group traditional jazz LPs made in the fifties and sixties and, on many of them, I hear an overly bright, brassy ensemble texture that doesn't have much variety of "color" to it. The rhythm is steady but never seems to pick up a groove, and the record companies sometimes seem to over-amplify very tinny banjos. Similar examples to my ears are Don Redman's Dixieland In High Society (which has some incredible players on it!) or some of Phil Napoleon's later albums such as Tenderloin Dixieland. It all just comes across to me as a stereotyped, brash approach to the music. Of course, there are also many examples of records from this period that show this does not need to be the case: Tony Parenti's albums on the Jazzology label and Jabbo Smith's "Hidden Treasure" sessions immediately come to my mind.

I try to give musicians the benefit of the doubt and ask what might have made them choose this style. For example, a versatile player like Billy Butterfield did not have to play this way. Was it a studio producer asking them to recreate or parody an earlier style? Were they just having fun? Or was there some aspect of this approach that I'm just not hearing?

Posted on Apr 4, 2017, 2:56 PM

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