Jim Robinson with Kid Thomas, Ernie Cagnolatti & De De Pierce, Self-Titled (G.B.H. Records)

Jim Robinson, Kid Thomas, Ernie Cagnolatti, De De Pierce, album cover

This is a classic CD featuring two bands on two dates in New Orleans in the mid-‘60s.  The first session with Jim Robinson and His New Orleans Band has a stellar lineup featuring trumpeters Kid Thomas Valentine and Ernie Cagnoatti, clarinetist Albert Burbank, banjoist “Creole” George Guesnon, bassist Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, and drummer Cie Frazier. The song selection includes old gems such as “At a Georgia Camp Meeting” and “Don’t Go Away Nobody,” the seldom heard “I Will Be Somewhere Working for the Lord” and the perennial “Shake that Thing”.

The second session, featuring De De Pierce and His New Orleans Stompers, is cut of the same cloth as the first: a similar ensemble performing almost exclusively in a collective improvisation style.  Pierce plays trumpet and sings three cuts, Jim Robinson retains the trombone chair, and clarinetist George Lewis is captured very well in his late years backed by a rhythm section of pianist Lars Edegran (his first recording session in New Orleans), bassist Chester Zardis and drummer Alex Bigard. The tune selections are a welcome mixture of rarely heard songs including a spirited rendition of “Beer Barrel Polka,” lost gems such as “In the Good Old Summertime,” and such timeless favorites as the Hawaiian themed “On a Coconut Island”.

Though this music is interesting and enjoyable to listen to, it is first and foremost a functional music designed for dancers and, with that era’s onset of big-band jazz, be-bop and rock-n-roll, the style became more and more provincial as a New Orleans throwback. Yet, the collections of masterful musicians make this music timeless.  Highlights include Pierce’s inventive, exciting ensemble leadership, Zardis’ powerful bass presence lifting the ensemble into an infectious swing, Lewis’ gorgeous tone and hot phrasing, Burbank’s inventiveness, Guesnon’s unrelenting drive, and, of course “Big” Jim Robinson’s perfect lift on every melodic turn, chord change and cadence. Check it out!