The Jazz Vipers helped to inaugurate the traditional jazz scene on Frenchmen Street, and their music embodies that scene’s attitude: Be respectful with your sources, but don’t forget to have a little fun. On their second live CD—probably recorded during their regular gigs at the Maison or the Spotted Cat, though the liner notes don’t say—they channel the spirit of the most raucous 1940s swing bands, maximizing the chances that any random tourists who stick their heads into the club might hear a good lick or a hot solo and come in for the full set.
The opening version of Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” would draw them right in—both because it’s familiar as big-band tunes get (thank you, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine), and because the band pretty much nails it, doing a clever job of transposing the orchestral arrangement for a six-piece (guitarist Molly Reeves covers for the horn-section flourishes with some hard-strummed chords). Fats Waller’s “The Joint is Jumpin’” lives up to its title, with lots of quick exchanges between the band’s three sax/clarinet players, but it’s the fast-thinking Joshua Gouzy whose upright bass keeps it all moving. All six band members take lead vocals (as does most of the audience on “S’Wonderful”) and maintain the right mix of respect and high spirits. Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues” (mistitled here as “Whinin’ Boy”—it’s about drinking wine, not griping) gets a suitably boozy treatment, and “Viper Mad” is as peppy as a reefer song is likely to get. The old Danny Barker number “Save the Bones for Henry Jones” is often played just for laughs, but here it’s treated as the surreal poetry that it is. Sources are respected and fun is had.