These days, the softer side of New Orleans classic jazz often seems to take a backseat to more raucous stylings. New Orleans native Louis Ford reminds us of the elegance that lives within the tradition with his selection of tunes and approach to the music. Solid swinging is the ingredient that makes tunes such as Bix Beiderbecke’s “The Riverboat Shuffle” jump. Ford, a clarinetist and the son of one of city’s finest reedmen, the late Clarence Ford, boasts a beautiful, rounded tone that enhances each song, though none better than his version of Sidney Bechet’s “As-Tu-LeCafard.”
In an unusual twist for a traditional jazz recording, Just TRAD-itional occasionally utilizes overdubbing as on Ford’s original “It’s His Cake and He’s Eating It Too.” The classic jazz songbook has long relied on humorous storytelling and Ford offers this funny ditty—he’s singing—to the tradition.
The clarinetist gets solid rhythmic backing throughout the disc with pianist Steve Pistorius, bassman Tom Saunders, fretman Steve Blailock and drummer Julian Garcia. The full cast of horns is onboard for the old-timey starter, “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” with trumpeter Mark Braud, clarinetist Tom Fisher, cornetist Jamie Wight and the late trombonist Brian O’Neil. The leader calls on an array of vocalists including the late Olivia “Lady Charlotte” Cook, a Jazz Fest favorite, on what was to be her last recording.
Recorded before Hurricane Katrina, Just TRAD-itional survived the storm’s destruction and through the dedication of hugely talented musicians like Louis Ford, New Orleans traditional jazz lives on. As a second-generation New Orleans jazzman, Ford has learned from and played with many of this city’s masters. That experience is reflected on Just TRAD-itional by the respect he shows to the music and its traditions that, of course, include adding his own improvisational voice.