Frenchmen Street’s trad jazz all stars are more like one big, incestuous family than a collection of separate bands, and the particular combination known as Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band (fronted by trombonist/vocalist Colin Myers) is one that hasn’t yet gotten the ink it deserves.
Their latest release, Louder Than Last Time, kicks off with the celebratory “South Rampart Street Parade”—an instrumental that shows off the group’s infectious energy and the seamless way their brass and reeds meld together—and ends with “Enjoy Yourself, it’s Later Than you Think,” a lively dance tune with a very New Orleans message set to the cheeky vocal stylings of guest singer Meschiya Lake.
The lineup of big band crooner classics and Big Easy favorites is consistently enjoyable and delivers what you’d expect of modern New Orleans–style trad jazz. The group is at their most ear-catching when they stray into more exotic territory: the galvanic Middle Eastern-sounding intro to “San,” a few impossibly nimble solos by gypsy jazz guitarist Russell Welch, the tresillo-heavy “Moon Over Cuba,” the way “I’m Crazy ’Bout My Baby” dips unexpectedly into a heavy-swinging island lilt for a brief moment and the jingly fiesta percussion of “Tijuana Taxi.” These moments tend to better highlight Paul Thibodeaux’s versatile drumming abilities and knack for using unconventional timbres. And as a side note, more frequent and more prolonged Thibodeaux solos probably couldn’t hurt any album.
Typical of this style of jazz, the recorded version is never quite the same as watching the fingers fly in real time (and the vocals in particular didn’t translate in the studio with quite the same force.) Anyone familiar with the individual musicians might wish for a few more really distinctive, drawn out solos to show off what each of them can do, but on the flip side, a real strength of the album is how it shows off the chemistry of the group as a whole. Louder Than Last Time is a lively, danceable, well-balanced, and overall solid recording, the perfect memory to take home after a boisterous live show.