Much like the whimsical pen-and-crayon creatures on its album cover (courtesy of bassist/bandleader John Joyce), Smoking Time Jazz Club’s tenth album, Contrapuntal Stomp, is all about fun. While their previous album, Take Your Time and Fly, was moody and sultry, this album is driven by joie de vivre.
Sarah Peterson has a real knack for infusing her vocals with a winking cheekiness that gives songs like “Snake Hip Dance,” “You Made Me Love You,” and “My Baby” the period-specific campiness they need. She can also be wonderfully sincere as she is on “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You”
There’s some tight musicianship on this album. The ensemble, skillfully led by Jack Pritchett on trumpet, is naturally cohesive. Russell Ramirez nails his slippery trombone feature on both “Trombone Slide” and its reprise. Joe Goldberg excels instrumentally and vocally on “Characteristic Blues,” as well a perfectly rendered “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere.” The rhythm section (John Joyce, Mike Voelker, and Brett Gardner) is solid and supportive: the true marker of a good band.
The song choices are an effective balance of familiar and unique, with several to burn up the dance floor and some to sway to. Contrapuntal Stomp is a heaping dose of what Frenchmen Street (for now) is all about.