The latest issue from Jazz Crusade features some fine vintage New Orleans bands performing traditional music of the birthplace of jazz. This CD contains 19 tracks by a total of 4 venerable congregations.
George Lewis & his Ragtime Band lead off with Georgia Camp Meeting and Chimes Blues from a 1952 session. The band includes a number of revered players in the persons of Percy Humphrey, Big Jim Robinson, Alton Purnell, Slow Drag Pavageau, Laurence Marrero, Joe Watkins and the clarinetist leader George Lewis. Any fan of New Orleans Revival music is familiar with the work of Lewis, his style having been copied by bands around the world.
The next group is basically the same personnel under the lead of trumpeter Bunk Johnson. The drummer is none other than Baby Dodds whose work with Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton is legend. Bunk Johnson needs little introduction. Born in 1879, Bunk had played with Buddy Bolden, the Eagle Band and Frankie Dusen before leaving music until 1942 when he was rediscovered and made his first recordings. Johnson is known to have been an influence on the young Louis Armstrong. He passed on in 1949, three years after the session presented on this album. Sister Ernestine Washington joins the band as vocalist on the five tracks which include an alternate take of "Does Jesus Care?"
Pianist Richard M. Jones and his Jazz Wizards provide the next six tracks including two alternate takes. Jones is perhaps a lesser known but important figure having played with the original Eureka Brass Band on both horn and piano. His recordings with Satchmo and singer Chippie Hill are collector's pieces today. The group features fabulous drumming by Baby Dodds, the trombone of Preston Jackson, Bob Schoffner's trumpet and the clarinet of Chicagoan, Darnell Howard. The Jazz Wizards render New Orleans Hop Scop Blues, Canal Street Blues and Jazzin' Babies Blues.
The last band was recorded in Copenhagen during the late 1960s and is led by the husband and wife team of Billie & De De Pierce. Regarded as "primitives" by many, this band is "rough and ready", to say the least. Trumpeter De De echoes the style of early Armstrong and Billie Pierce pumps her piano with wild abandon. My introduction to Billie was on record and her version of "Love Songs of the Nile" is the definitive rendition of the tune. Long a favorite of mine, I booked tickets to the touring Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1974, just because Billie would be there. I arrived at "front row center" prepared for a great evening. A deeply burdened Alan Jaffe stepped to center stage and tearfully announced that Billie had passed away in New Orleans and would be replaced by Sing Miller. Miller played his heart out but it wasn't Billie.