The history of jazz has perhaps moved too quickly. Seemingly coming up with a different stylistic bent every decade or so, we have been forced too quickly to consider revisiting the music past as "nostalgia."
The current CD by Mike Walbridge’s Chicago Footwarmers, Crazy Rhythm, lends credence to this theorem. Though the style advanced on this album was considered "old-fashioned" as long as 70 years ago (yike!), Walbridge and Company put forth a strong declaration that this jazz is as young and frisky as ever. A further proof is the fact that half of this work was recorded 40 years ago and 1960s stereo sound aside, sounds of the same vintage as the 2007 version.
The two mainstays of all three sessions (one earlier session in 1966 and the other in ’67, as well as the 2007 session) are tuba player and leader Walbridge and reedman Kim Cusack. On both get-togethers, Walbridge leads the band from the bottom up, even besting the rest of the group for solo honors at times.
Cusack likes his clarinet in the chalumeau register, venturing up to the higher notes deftly, but conservatively. "On the Alamo," shows him best on the later session. Don Stiernberg (banjo and guitar) and Bob Cousins (drums) are a delightful rhythm team, tearing it up on the opening barnburner, "I Would Do Anything For You." Even with that fire, they never let the beat flag on the slower numbers, especially "Tin Roof Blues," which is taken at a tempo that could easily sag and drag, but marches boldly through its seven (!) minutes.
The 1967 session included Johnny Cooper on piano, and happily, he and banjoist Eddie Lynch stayed out of each other’s way. Drummer Glen Koch loads up the backbeats and delivers like a good pots-and-pans man can. The last three cuts lose the piano, but the rest of the rhythm team steps up to underpin some great Dixieland. Once again let this critic reiterate that this music, done in an almost century old style, is as new as the next political attack ad.