Similar to the methods of Tuba Skinny, string and brass band Frog and Henry draw inspiration from the dawn of early recorded music, breathing new life into long-forgotten songs. On their albums England 2019 and 2019 ii, they feature 12 musicians from five countries, chronicling half-year of playing in England, Switzerland, and New Orleans.
Their geographic influences are evident in their song choices. They’ve developed not only early New Orleans tunes from the likes of A. J. Piron and Jelly Roll Morton, as well as early mainstream American pop tunes from Guy Lombardo and Sophie Tucker, but also British dance band numbers from artists like Al Bowley and The Four Bright Sparks.
Trying to pin down the exact personnel of Frog and Henry is a frustrating task as so many players cycle through and many shuffle instruments. Consistently appearing on both albums are Ewan Bleach, reeds, vocals; Kermane Arken, violin; David Neigh, simultaneous foot-operated tuba machine and six-string banjo; F.H. Henry, guitar, vocals; Laurin Habert, clarinet; William Scott, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Colin Good, piano; and Maxwell Poulos, tenor banjo. Some New Orleans friends are featured on 2019ii including Shaye Cohn, Todd Burdick, Craig Flory and Robin Rapuzzi.
To dig into the nuances of these albums would require more space than I have here, but I’m sure some intrepid traditional jazz bloggers are making a feast out of them elsewhere. Bottom line is: these albums are lovingly made, creatively sourced, beautifully recorded and brilliantly played.