If you’ve had your ears open for the better part of this decade in New Orleans, you’ve probably heard Smoking Time Jazz Club. This is their ninth album, but they’re still often regarded as up-and-comers. Hey, it’s a good thing to stay that fresh nine albums in!
Rather than a collection of rip-roaring stand-alone dance tunes, as on their previous albums, Take Your Time and Fly seems to build on itself. It begins with “Stingeree Blues”, which is the pacesetter for the dreamy, vampy first part of the album. Each song feels measured and highly arranged for effect, most evidently on “Dear Old Southland.” In true Smoking Time fashion, they’ve opted for “Weed Smoker’s Dream,” which is the obscure precursor of the more commonly heard “Why Don’t You Do Right?” Track six, “Birmingham Black Bottom Stomp,” is when the clouds seem to part and the album wakes up. From there they return to their more familiar style of Spotted Cat–ready numbers, like the perennial favorite “My Man,” rendered bittersweet by Sarah Peterson’s distinct vocals. They finish with “Temptation Rag,” “Crazy Blues” and “Weary Blues” just to show you they haven’t forgotten how to be old-school.
The horns and reeds on this album sound wonderful. Us jazz nerds would love a more detailed breakdown of who’s playing when, as there’s a lot of double duty going on here. The arrangements are tight and impressive and deserving of credit. It’d be nice to have more info on that as well. It’s great to hear Sarah again, as she was absent from the last album. She even did the surreal, Klimt-ish album art. All in all this is a must-listen for fans of Frenchmen trad.