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Watering the Roots
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  • On one chilly morning in January 1995, a group of dedicated, experienced, and talented traditional New Orleans jazz players gathered in a studio to pay tribute to some of the giants of that jazz genre, namely clarinet player George Lewis, trombonist Big Jim Robinson, Lawrence Marrero (who played banjo for Lewis), bass player Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, and drum master Baby Dodds. These five, and those they performed with, make up a sizeable chunk of the history of jazz up to the beginning of the 1930s. And what a tribute this is. Sincerity and love just ooze from the speakers. Big Bill Bissonnette puts on the hat of mentor Robinson. Sammy Rimington's authentic Lorenzo Tio, Jr., New Orleans-influenced clarinet wails and plays counter-melodies against Bissonnette's trombone on such magnificent outpourings as "I'm Alone Because I Love You." Then he does a swinging solo on "My Wild Irish Rose" before falling back to counter the trombone. Eric Webster's plucked banjo keeps a propulsive beat on this track and on virtually every other cut. Colin Bowden's drums keep the time going, exploding now and then on such cuts as "Willie the Weeper." A Preservation Hall Jazz Band favorite, "Ice Cream," also favored by New Orleans icon Percy Humphrey, as always is a lot of fun to hear. This album is a reminder of why this jazz style was so popular and to this day continues to be enjoyed by many all over the world, especially in Europe. An album like this effectively pushes aside critics' claim that it's passe and one piece sounds just like any other. Recommended. ~ Dave Nathan
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