Steve Pistorius, “Steamboat Days” (Independent)

reviews-stevepistoriusSteve Pistorius has been serving up great rag, Jelly Roll Morton, stride and New Orleans jazz for as long as one can remember, yet every time you hear him, you experience something new. Of his many bands over the years, the one here is among the best. Clarinetists Orange Kellin and James Evans are very skilled on their own, but their synergy is something special: They goad each other to higher heights. It’s a great thing to hear them floating and weaving like kites in a storm, only to end a tune landing side by side in a perfect dovetail.

There are always nicely unearthed rarities on a Pistorius production, but my favorites here are two semi-familiar tunes in disguise. It’s fun to hear the James P. Johnson piano solo “Crying for the Carolines” in a band arrangement, with the verse, sung by Evans with his usual (unusual) élan. “Quién Será,” a 1953 cumbia better known as “Sway” when it was given Anglo lyrics, is played convincingly as a Jelly Roll Morton–esque instrumental. Perhaps Benny Amón, the Colombian-American drummer on this session, suggested this one.

Sidney Bechet, Jabbo Smith, Eubie Blake, Clarence Williams, King Oliver and Fats Waller are covered as well. This CD is a delight.