With all the trad jazz talent in New Orleans these days, it was bound to happen: Someone decided to put together a “superstar” band. Not superstar in the sense of being well-known (this is trad jazz, after all) but in ability. Trumpeter Ben Polcer has picked such a cast, and the results are ferocious. Doro Wat (named after an Ethiopian stew) has a tasty repertoire (Moten, Prima, Satchmo, Jelly Roll, Fats Waller, Juan Tizol) and plays it with incredible drive. Its leader is Polcer, whose father, Ed, was the trumpeter in one of the last NYC Eddie Condon congregations. Thus, Ben was weaned in part on some of the hardest driving trad jazz ever played.
Joining Polcer on the front line are the trombonist-who’s-everywhere, Charlie Halloran; the divinely inspired reedman James Evans; and the always dependable and witty clary/saxophonist Tom Fischer. The back line is equally compelling with the take-no-prisoners attack of stride-master David Boeddinghaus, guitar-chomping John Rodli and bass-slapping hellion Twerk Thomson. These guys pull off the tricky feat of driving the music home without speeding up; to my ears they actually improve on the original versions of some of these tunes, by slowing down, for instance, “Jamaica Shout,” and beefing up the Latin rhythm on “Rhumba Negro.” It’s like a drummer-less version of the Eddie Condon bands, but with more New Orleans flavor. A-plus.