The guys who turned me onto old-timey musics were Robert Crumb and Ian Whitcomb. Way back when, while a young, long-haired, troublemaking hippie digging on Crumb's outrageous underground comix and loving what little I'd heard of Whitcomb (esp. his sole hit You Turn Me On), I figured if these cats were into stuff which previously I'd classed with Lawrence Welk and Old Spice (and they were HEAVILY into it), then I had to be missing something. I was, and, since then, I've slowly beefed up on all the elder golden sounds, even to the extent of recently getting hip to Jimmy Sturr and polka. It's true!, and I have to now watch out for barrels of boiling tar and chicken feathers in venues I still chirographically haunt (the avant-garde, progrock, electronica, etc.) lest I wind up looking like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit…but…it's worth the risk, and discs like this Bob Wilber / Glenn Zottola twofer show why. This is hipness and then some, babbaloo.
Wilber wields a soprano sax and clarinet while Zottola plies trumpet, both in a seven-man little big band bringing back not only the inimitable Sidney Bechet but also Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Spike Jones, Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, and the regal klatsch of over-the-top chopsters and hep cats who used to flat-foot floozy every dance hall and turntable from the Adirondacks to Tierra del Fuego back in the day. The Bechet Legacy: Birch Hall Concerts Live is exactly what it says, a very generous helping of in-concert rhapsodizing over joyously Pleistocenic music for Boomer dinosaurs, their rest-home parents, and even Gen X'ers alight with adventurous spirits. Like the Jazzhaus label over in Germany, Classic Jazz re-presents some great hidden materials to the public at large, and this one from 1981 is as cool as the recently issued Paul Winter Count Me In: 1962-1963 (here) set, though much more mannered in the wont of the era while humorous, decorous, upbeat, and suh-wingin'.
Wilber in fact took lessons from Bechet himself and Zottola scored a trifecta playing trumpet on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour as a lad, then toured with not only Jack Teagarden and Buddy Hackett but also Lionel Hampton, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. Christ, I thought I was big time just 'cause I saw Hendrix in concert, but these gents played with cats of equal magnitude well before Jimi ever picked up a guitar! Both gents trot out as huge a treasure chest of chops and improv as would make any modernist jazzbo beam with undiluted pleasure, but the ensemble also, in the old Dixie tradition this work directly stems from and lived within, gets in a wealth of equally slaying shout-outs and squibs, no one neglected, everyone ante-ing up an already considerable kitty. There's a point at which all great musics meet and shake hands, and I have a lot of trouble convincing devotees of the Grateful Dead, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Carnatic musics that there's just as much to revel in with sounds of this ilk, but it's as true as the day is long, and the proof is right dang here, y'all. Of course, it's equally tough to convince grandparents of the reverse and that maybe they'd get off just as much on Stevie Ray Vaughn and King Crimson as Ellington and Getz, but, well, who gives a damn anyway? As long as you 'n me can grin like crazed little monkeys at these flipped-out jams, the sun could go cold for all I care……just so long as there's enough electricity to keep the CD player going. Listen just to China Boy, and then join me in the cave. Bring some martinis 'n moonshine.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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