But there was a third very good recording band in New Orleans at that time. This was The Halfway House Orchestra, which flourished from 1923 until 1928.
How did this jazz band get its name? It was derived from the fact that it played at The Halfway House Dance Hall, in City Park Avenue, two miles north of the New Orleans City Centre - half-way to the Lake (Pontchartrain). The dance hall was very popular in its day, because it was renowned for good food and employed fine bands. (Another of these bands was that of Armand Piron.) Albert 'Abbie' Brunies was director of the resident band for seven years.
|The Halfway House|
Led by 'Abbie' Brunies, The Halfway House Orchestra recorded 22 tunes between 1925 and 1928 - 18 of them for Columbia. A few of these were standards (Squeeze Me, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Maple Leaf Rag - the last one played perhaps too fast, though you can't normally say that of this band); but more than half the tunes were original compositions by members of the band - especially Brunies, Long and Eastwood.
A good place to start, if you wish to sample this band, is Baratari, composed by the band's Bill Eastwood and Leo Adde: Click here to listen. It is a very melodic and dance-able 32-bar [16 + 16] structure in Bb, with a simple chord sequence and what sounds like a Gb chord (for a bit of surprise colouring) on bars 25 and 26. It allows for breaks (on the chord of F7) in Bars 15 and 16; and there is a Verse which has echoes of the first theme of Wolverine Blues. The performance is altogether pleasant and there are no prima donnas among the musicians.
And their Pussy Cat Rag (composed by Brunies, Cordilla and Marcour) is a simple enough piece that really romps along, with some subtle syncopation.
This band played for dancers and it shows. They were really good at giving the dancers what they wanted. You can sense it in all these recordings.