New Orleans locals are familiar with sousaphonist Matt Perrine playing any style in any situation. His virtuosity brings forth the inevitable “I’ve never heard a tuba played like that” comment; then you take it for granted until you hear another tuba player.
Less noticeable, but apparent to his bandmates, are Perrine’s arranging and composing chops. He writes music as ably as anyone living in New Orleans, and at his best can be lumped in with the most sophisticated of our city’s expat player/arrangers: Wynton, Harry Jr., and Nicholas Payton.
The core of the Sunflower City band featured here is a delicious mix: banjoist Alex McMurray, fiddler Matt Rhody, Perrine on sousaphone and Ben Schenck, who has never sounded better, on clarinet. Add percussion by Michael Skinkus or Carlo Nuccio, and you have a unique timbre on chamber jazz pieces like “Rooster,” or the Joplinesque “Nocturne.” Skinkus, in fact, must be accorded star sideman status for his additional work on “Sougouya,” where he adds some Cuban sabor to a West African feel, as well as his pandeiro and cuica playing on the Brazilian “I’m Not Choro.”
As Perrine’s debut album demonstrated, he has a flair for Trinidadian calypso, and “My Goat,” written and sung with panache by St. Louis Slim, may be the most loveable track here. This Latinate material is exceptional, but in fact, Bayou Road Suite is more trad-jazzish than his debut from 2007, Sunflower City. As Perrine explains, “I just started writing trad material and couldn’t stop.”
From Trinidad to West Africa to Brazil and back to New Orleans: it’s quite a ride. Perrine’s first album was exceptionally well-received and there’s no reason to think Bayou Road Suite won’t exceed these expectations. With his playing, arranging and composing, he continues to raise the bar for traditional music with a New Orleans flavor.