Welcome, Visitor Number

10 September 2017


Once again, those of us who live thousands of miles from New Orleans are indebted to my friend Randy, who makes videos under the name RaoulDuke504. Despite his busy and hard-working life as a chef, he managed to get across the Lake to attend the performance by the all-ladies Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on 7 September 2017. 
And what a performance it was! This band - which was formed initially just to give a demonstration at a girls' summer camp in 2016 - has continued in existence, flourished and is now one of the most exciting and best traditional jazz bands in the world.

Watch Randy's video of them playing Margie in this recent concert: CLICK HERE.

Yes, I know it's a simple 'standard' that all bands play. But what musicianship!

The three rhythm players have established a kind of 'alternative' gently-pulsating New Orleans-style background that really drives the music and keeps your feet tapping. They are unusual in having no drum kit, no tuba, no banjo, no piano. It's all done in this video by Albanie's guitar, Molly's string bass and Dizzy's subtle work on the washboard (listen to the way she uses her 'cymbal' on the offbeats in the final chorus). I should explain that Julie was out of town so Albanie joined the band. In one half of the concert, she played guitar and Molly the string bass; in the other half, they switched rôles. What versatile and brilliant musicians they are!

After a neat final-eight intro from Haruka, Albanie provides a lovely clear vocal at the start.

Then excitement gradually builds, first with a super solo chorus from Haruka, and next with one of amazing fluency from Chloe on clarinet, while the three rhythm ladies keep that gentle, hypnotic pulse going. Just listen to those notes in Chloe's improvisation. Jazz doesn't get any better than that. Then we hear one of Marla's specials - a chorus brilliantly demonstrating what she can achieve with the plunger mute - hugely creative. After this we have a most exciting chorus, with all three front-line ladies collectively improvising around the melody. How well they listen to each other!

After Albanie sings the vocal again, there is a final ensemble chorus that leaves you desperate to hear more from this band.

And yet the whole performance is achieved with restraint. Everyone is relaxed, comfortable and totally in control. There is no over-blowing, no excessive noise. The notes are allowed to do the work. What we have here are great musicians with a common purpose, working brilliantly as a team and expressing the soul of the music.

I could go on about the other videos from this performance.... But seek them out for yourselves. 'Savoy Blues' and 'Shake 'Em Up' are played in ways that will also take your breath away.

By the way, the cavernous acoustics in the Museum are notoriously bad. So Randy did really well to get close to the band and capture the sound in such high quality.