The SJB is at the forefront of an exciting traditional jazz renaissance taking place in New Orleans, with most of the action on Frenchmen Street. The drumless rhythm section is stellar: rock-solid banjoist John Dixon, hard-thumping Twerk Thomson on bass and the driving but always fastidious David Boeddinghaus on piano. Leader Marla Dixon plays superbly punchy trumpet and sings with intense period flavor. James Evans plays about as modern as you can and still be trad, and is a crazy-good singer to boot. A freakish talent. Charlie Halloran, showing up in half of the hotter bands in town, rounds out the front line on trombone. As a bonus, for this disc they’re augmented by two of the city’s finest tradsters: clary/saxman Tom Fischer and trumpeter Ben Polcer.
The 18-tune lineup has unusual moments: archaic but rarely played numbers like “Moonlight Bay,” “Old Miss Rag” and Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home”; Randy Newman’s “Guilty” and the famous but seldom played spiritual “Deep River.” I’d never heard “Rose of Bombay” before this disc, nor ever heard a cover of Jelly Roll’s “I Hate a Man like You,” which Dixon and Boeddinghaus really nail.
As a final plus, the band was recorded by Earl Scioneaux, who has a splendid knack for bringing this music alive. Kudos as well to Bruce Barielle for the mastering. It’s refreshing to hear a New Orleans trad band pay this much attention to the recording side of things. These players deserve it.