At the very beginning of recorded Jazz, record companies took note that any song with "Blues" in the title or listed as a "blues" on the label, was a sure seller. Whether or not the tune could actually be classified as a member of the musical genre we now know as the "Blues" was of little importance - 12 bars, 14 bars, 32 bars, as long as there was a little phrase repetition and a flatted 3rd and 7th here and there, it could be readily sold as a "Blues" to a clamoring public.
This being said, Jim Cullum has put together a live album of Blues and "near" Blues that is great fun. Although the music is of the style erroneously labeled "Dixieland", is not performed by musicians wearing boaters and sleeve garters to entertain tourists, nor are they a reparatory band, recreating every historical nuance with the zealous exactitude of, well, reparatory bands. The music is performed, however, in the traditional style of collective improvisation by a fabulous group of musicians who truly enjoy playing these tunes each in his own inimitable style.
Ably supported by his working band, (a rarity these days!), Mr. Cullum ups the ante with a few select guests including cornetist Duke Heitger and guitarist Clint Black along with clarinetists Evan Christopher and the legendary Kenny Davern. Vocalist Topsy Chapman delivers I’ve Got the Blues for Home Sweet Home and Trouble in Mind with great panache, in a unique voice that seems to combine the best of Dinah Washington & Esther Phillips. As with all the musicians on this date, she doesn’t try to imitate the past, but performs with her own voice and style.
No slouch on cornet himself, Jim Cullum is the driving force behind www.riverwalk.com, which provides a weekly radio show (also webcast) along with learned discourse and reminiscences of that week’s featured artist. Stylistically, the music on "Riverwalk" runs the gamut from traditional through late swing and everything in between, featuring the finest Jazz artists both past and present. Its monthly newsletter provides great insight into this music called Jazz along with a flavor of the various personalities who shaped it.
All in all, this album is Big Fun - it’ll make you tap your toes and bring a smile to your heart. It also serves as a great introduction to Traditional Jazz for the casual listener; next thing you know they’ll be out looking for Eddie Condon discs!!!