For a New Orleans jazz group, the Panorama Jazz Band has a very reliable lineup. Four years after the release of their last studio album, Come Out Swingin’, Charlie Halloran continues chugging away on the trombone. Walt McClements’ accordion, Aurora Nealand’s saxophone, and John Gross’ tuba are right where we remember them, while group leader Ben Schenck’s clarinet remains the melodic lynchpin of Panorama’s sound. Maybe that’s because there’s only so many places a musician can simultaneously indulge their predilections for the music of Brazil, Romania and Martinique within the chaotic, improvisatory milieu of a traditional jazz group.
Dance of the Hot Earth is a live record, the bulk of which was recorded in April of 2012 at the Old U.S. mint. The last three tracks were recorded at the Spotted Cat in November of 2011—these sound remarkably good considering the hurdles of recording in a cramped bar on Frenchmen Street—and it’s nice to have a document of the band in the venue that Schenck calls their “natural habitat.” Like most New Orleans groups, Panorama is all about the live show. The whole record does an admirable job maintaining sonic clarity without sacrificing the ambience of the venues.
Many of these tunes have made previous appearances on Panorama albums (like the title cut from Come Out Swingin’), while other are appearing on record for the first time. Panorama’s sound is most distinctive in high-energy numbers like “Trombone Hora;” with the clarinet and saxophone soaring in parallel over the throbbing rhythms of the tuba and accordion, the sound feels about ready to spill out of the record.