Ken Colyer Trust Band with Joe Payton, “At Café Brasil” (504 Records)


If you bring up Café Brasil to certain folks, a reverent nostalgia will come over them and the sense of something far away and special can be felt in their tone. This album will be rewarding for those folks. Recorded April 15th, 1996, it is a piece of time and place that has long disappeared—Frenchmen before the Bourbon crowd came stumbling in. The history behind this recording should be enough to lure any traditional jazz fan. Ken Colyer was a Brit who jumped ship to New Orleans in the 1950s, played with George Lewis and the revivalists, and when he was deported back to Britain, took New Orleans music with him. After he died, his band continued on as the Ken Colyer Trust Band and made regular pilgrimages to New Orleans. On the night of this recording they were joined by New Orleans bassist Joe Payton, who played with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band.

The liner notes really set the scene on the night of the recording. Apparently, “the crowd was noisy, the dancers overly enthusiastic, and two members of the band were slightly intoxicated.” On top of this, the neck of Payton’s bass broke on the way to the show and had to be rigged together with duct tape. You can feel the rough and tumble atmosphere in the recording. They play pretty standard fare in a pretty standard manner. Brian Carrick stands out on clarinet. Payton’s vocals are strong and youthful, which is eerie given that he passed away only three months after the recording. In the end, the draw of the album isn’t so much the musicianship, it’s the sense of place it imparts.