On New Orleans Banjo Vol. I: “Musieu Bainjo,” fretted instrument man Seva Venet pays tribute to the instrument not only by playing both the six-string and tenor banjo (as well as guitar and ukulele), but by choosing material composed by some of the great banjo masters.
The knowledgeable Venet takes it one step further by offering bits of historical information about each tune. For instance, the album opens with banjoist/guitarist Johnny St. Cyr’s lively “Oriental Strut,” which, Venet explains, was first recorded by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. Both instrumentally and vocally, Venet takes on Danny Barker’s humorous “Stick It Where You Stuck It Last Night,” offering that it hasn’t been recorded since Barker’s original version. Venet not only resurrects the song but the spirit of the man.
The right sidemen are particularly important to achieve the flavor of these gems. There is a mix and match of players like clarinetists Michael White and Orange Kellin; trumpeters Gregg Stafford and Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown,” who are also featured on vocals; trombonist Freddie Lonzo, drummer Shannon Powell and more.
Familiar tunes like “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” mingle comfortably with more obscure numbers such as the lilting “Musieu Bainjo,” on which Venet sings in Creole French.
The love poured into New Orleans Banjo Vol. I can be heard in every note.