For decades, European musicians have followed a path similar to that taken by Germany-born Norbert Susemihl. They discover classic New Orleans jazz as teenagers, travel to the Crescent City in search of the “holy grail,” get absorbed by the scene and repeatedly make pilgrimages between this city and their homeland. (Actually, many of these artists just end up living here.) Buy on AmazonBuy on iTunes
Susemihl, 56, has been jumping across the
pond since he was just 22 years old. The trumpeter’s admiration and study of the tradition can be heard on his latest CD, Night on Frenchmen Street. It teams the leader with the essential, solid rhythm section of native sons, drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Kerry Lewis. These two exceptional artists offer the greatest amount of improvisation on tunes that are otherwise performed pretty much straight up. The other band members are New Orleans residents who have migrated here from other parts of the U.S. Gregory Agid complements on clarinet and saxophone with Shaye Cohn injecting some boogie-woogie piano and Erika Lewis providing a bit of grit on vocals. The latter two perform regularly and have recorded with Susemihl in a trio format.
Giving a nod to local trumpeter Shamarr Allen, the album opens with an enthusiastic rendition of his composition “Meet Me on Frenchmen Street.” It’s just Susemihl and Marsalis getting it going before the group kicks in and the leader adds vocals. Trumpeters that sing are also a New Orleans tradition.
Night on Frenchmen Street presents a whopping 16 three-to-four minute cuts, with the best being renditions of tunes from the pens of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. The quantity of selections and the speed at which they fly by give the album a sense of being rushed. Fewer tunes with more fine-tuning, particularly in instrumental and vocal tonal qualities, might have resulted in a more musically satisfying product from this obviously dedicated trumpeter.