23 February 2016


One of the most exciting bands playing traditional jazz anywhere in the world at the moment is The Shotgun Jazz Band, led in New Orleans by Marla Dixon, who moved to New Orleans from Toronto in Canada. Examples of their work on YouTube have been truly thrilling. The band has been in existence and evolving for about six years but I think with the house style and personnel it arrived at by 2015, it achieved new heights. As their own website says:
With an emphasis on ensemble playing, a stomping rhythm section, and a genuine love of the hot, bluesy, no-frills melodies that once poured forth from New Orleans’ dance halls, Shotgun Jazz Band makes music that is both immediate in its influences and timeless in its appeal.

One of the videos on YouTube shows them playing Over In The Gloryland, the 1920 song by Acuff and Dean.
You can watch it by clicking on here. Some musicians are not keen on this tune because they say it has a 'dreary' chord structure, with an over-dependence on the home chord of Ab. But Marla and her team show how thrilling it can be. In Marla's playing we experience 'raw' New Orleans jazz at its best.

One of the devices that helps create this 'rawness' is the use of flattened thirds above the chords. (By the way, a banjo-playing friend tells me it might be better to think of these flattened thirds as 'flattened 10ths', as this conveys the fact that they are played above the chord.)

Notice the wonderful effect these notes have at precisely 4 mins 49 seconds and at 6 minutes 56 seconds. In both cases, during an Eb7 chord, Marla plays (and bends) a high Gb. I guess she does this instinctively and does not have think 'I'll put in a flattened third here and see how it sounds.'

There's a 2016 video (of The Girls Go Crazy) in which Marla may be seen using the flattened third to thrilling effect. She plays Db dozens of times on top of a Bb chord. Note the moment at 1 minute 14 seconds where she lingers on it, and see how many times you can count it thereafter. Click on here to watch it.

And Marla uses many flattened thirds in this video - click on to view of Canal Street Blues (a special thrill, this one, because when she introduces the tune she dedicates it to ME!).

And, by the way, if you would like to see another exhilarating video of The Shotgun Jazz Band - one I personally filmed when I was in New Orleans in April, 2015, CLICK ON HERE.