Bassist Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, a New Orleans native born in 1888, was best known as a sideman and for his long association with clarinetist George Lewis. The first nine selections on Drag’s Half Fast Band, which were captured in 1965, represent the only time the bassist recorded under his own name. As pointed out in the very informative liner notes by pianist Butch Thompson and Paige Van Vorst, Pavageau never takes a solo on these cuts. Unfortunately, while the heartbeat of his bass can be realized in the solid rhythm of tunes such as “I Can’t Escape from You (Slowly),” and the wonderful “Creole Song,” his work is sometimes buried in the recording of the ensemble that notably includes trombonist Jim Robinson, clarinetist Albert Burbank and pianist Don Ewell.
The final three selections find Pavageau right at home and sounding great with the Kid Thomas and George Lewis Stompers. The tunes—“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Salty Dog” and “Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”—are never-before-released alternative takes that were recorded in 1961 at Cosimo Matassa’s Jazz City Studios. Lewis’ full tone on the clarinet and Pavageau’s rich bass notes reveal why they made such an enduring team. Banjo ace Emmanuel Sayles provides the vocals on the lively “Salty Dog” and encourages the guys to give it their all. Trumpeter Kid Thomas utilizes a mute, accenting the good-time grit of the tune. Understandably, these all-stars outshine Pavageau’s band, as does the recording quality of the final cuts, which allows his driving bass to stand tall in the mix.