A 47-minute tribute to a jazz legend (on DVD and CD) by the "Dukes" - new players but the same manager for over 40 yrs!
, March 6, 2015
This review is from: Celebrating Satchmo (Audio CD)
Mention the words "New Orleans Jazz" to anyone (well anyone over 40, I guess, and two groups come to mind: Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Dukes of Dixieland. (I'm talking jazz here, not brass bands like Treme, Dirty Dozen or Rebirth). These two bands still play nightly (well, never on Monday for the PHJB) unless they are on the road. Both are similar in some ways, but a lot different in other ways.
It was over 40 years ago - in 1974 - that John Shoup (who was managing rock and roll acts for the Chess label) decided the "Dukes" could succeed again under proper (his) management. He took over the band and registered the name and has owned and managed this New Orleans tradition ever since. He has certain rules: No one under 28 or over 65 is in the band and each member stays six years, so things are kept fresh. The "Dukes" can be a stepping stone for young players who want be in the jazz business. When not on the road - which is only a few times a year - the Dukes play nightly on the riverboat Natchez in NOLa's harbor. And they play the legendary Jazz Fest EVERY year. Oh, yes, they also make Cds and, now, this DVD/CD that was recorded in 2013 at the Old Mint (now the Louisiana Jazz Museum). The DVD and CD are the same - both running just over 47 minutes. This captures one of the four different "shows" that the band takes to performing arts venues. This one is titled "Celebrating Satchmo" and is - of course - a tribute to Louis (Lou- is; not Lou-ee) Armstrong. Many of the vocal "hits" that Armstrong recorded late in his career (" Hello Dolly", "Mack The Knife", and "Cabaret" are here, voiced by bass player Alan Broome in Satchmo's growl. Pianist Scott Obenmschain, gets vocals too but his are done straight. Leader/arranger wrote a new piece - "Jubilee" - in which he borrows the most famous trumpet intro in jazz history - the opening notes from Armstrong's recording of "West End Blues" , and moves on from there. Earlier Armstrong songs - "Sleepy Time Down South" and "Shine" (performed as an instrumental without the now-politically-incorrect lyrics) - are here too. Twelve songs in all.
The "Dukes" differ from PHJB in a few ways. All six members in the band currently appear to be in their 30s or early 40s. and - with the exception of the piano player and drummer - they stand while playing (the PHJB usually sit). The core of the "Dixieland sound" is the frequent use of the trombone and the repeating taps on the cymbals by the drummer.
The camera work is superb and so is the sound. This is a class act. Periodically we see photos of Armstrong but, there is no info about him provided. In fact the band never stops to do any introductions until the end, then it's just to thank the live audience for coming. The titles are displayed in txt at the bottom of the screen for each song. I'm sure there would have been an extra cost, but it would have been nice to have some sort of insert - or short narrative in the package providing info on Satchmo. When you realize that none of six musicians playing was probably not born when Shoup took over the "Dukes" operation, there's a whole generation - actually two generations - who have no idea who that black man holding a white handkerchief on the cover of the album is. And why he is so important. But, maybe that can happen in the Duke's next project. For now, this is a fine set for anyone who has either seen the Dukes or loves fine playing by guys who just may become stars of the future.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.