Over a 25-year recording career, Tim Laughlin’s CDs have covered Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke with the Dukes of Dixieland, an album of originals, delicate duets with guitarist Hank Mackie, and, at the other end of the spectrum, brawny eight-piece extravaganzas. He’s settled for his last two albums on a clarinet-piano-drums format, and this might suit him best of all.
This may be due in part to Tim’s finding the perfect accompanist in David Boeddinghaus, a virtuoso who sparkles on classic New Orleans jazz, as well as the swing era repertoire that comprises much of Tim’s songbook. Hal Smith, an encyclopedia of pre-bop drumming—and a longtime Laughlin sideman—is his usual wonderful self here too.
It may also have to do with the sound: special kudos to the Music Shed for making Tim’s horn sound more luscious than ever. David’s attack cuts through well too, and the mix is perfect.
The album’s highlights are the Morton (an outstanding take on the well-known “Wolverine Blues” and a nice version of the much slighter “Pontchartrain Blues”) and Tim’s originals (“Gert Town Blues,” which is closer to Strayhorn than the Delta, and the multi-thematic romp “Roundabout”). “Cabin in the Sky,” with its gorgeous bridge, and the clever “Messin’ Around,” remind us how much fine but rarely played material is out there for the picking. Even the overplayed “Up a Lazy River” sounds swell, with its juicy verse—Boeddinghaus is a fiend for verses—and the perfect tempo. The overdubbed clarinet choir on “There’s Yes, Yes in Your Eyes” is a refreshing closer.
A fine disc by three artists dedicated to jazz history, swing, and playing pretty for the people.