Narvin Kimball: Ninety & Still Delivering
Recorded live at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California in 1999, Ninety & Still Delivering features the late Narvin Kimball passing on the torch of traditional jazz music to a group of young musicians to guarantee its continued enjoyment by future generations.
Ninety years old when he performed at Yoshi’s, banjoist Narvin Kimball, was also at that time the last surviving original member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band started in 1966 as a collection of 120 New Orleans old-time musicians playing in a French Quarter art gallery. When Narvin Kimball at age 57 joined the original Band, he was its youngest member at the nightly performances while delivering U.S. mail during the day.
As a mail carrier for thirty-five years, he never missed a single day without pay and was late only three times. The pride of his tenure with the Post Office and his professionalism with the PHJB showed as he was immaculately attired in his appropriate mail or musician uniform with shoes shined and shirts cleaned and pressed.
Playing professionally since the 1920’s and making his recording debut in 1928 on Columbia Records, he was told to “wait his turn” to be the PHJB leader, as senior band members preceded him in that role. These included Willie and Percy Humphrey, Dede and Billie Pierce, Jim Robinson, Cie Frasier, Kid Thomas and George Lewis.
Born in New Orleans in 1909 and the son of Henry Kimball, a well-respected New Orleans bass player who performed in the Crescent City at the turn of this century, Narvin quickly earned a reputation as a dynamic left-handed banjo player. During the 1920’s while playing with the highly regarded Fate Marable Band on Mississippi River boats, he established musical relationships with musicians he would perform with for decades. One was Willie Humphrey, another original member of the PHJB and with whom Narvin would play with for over 60 years before Willie's passing in 1996.
From 1935-1960, he played the string bass with popular swing groups including the Sidney Desvigne orchestra. In 1960, he returned to his banjo playing. Narvin’s playing and singing quickly became a favorite of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which started a few years later. With the PHJB he performed throughout the world and with the country’s major symphony orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony. His vocal rendition of Georgia, a crowd pleaser, is guaranteed to bring a tear to one’s eye.
Whatever Narvin did, he did eloquently. Whether it was his singing, banjo playing, or dressing – it was always impeccable. He was the consummate professional.
As a member of the original generation of traditional jazz players, Narvin felt an obligation to pass the traditional music torch to the younger musicians to carry on this American musical cultural art form into the next century.
The performance at Yoshi’s and other northern California engagements marked the first time Narvin played with a “youth” band where no musician was over 30 years old. Listen as these youngsters try to keep up with Narvin Kimball while he teaches a few tricks to these youth.
The youthful members of this band are some of the country’s best young musicians:
Clint Baker, 26, trombone. Multi-instrumentalist and leader of the Clint Baker New Orleans Jazz Band, performed numerous times at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Evan Christopher, 28, clarinet. Former member of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, appeared regularly on the syndicated NPR radio show, Live From The Landing, San Antonio, Texas.
Paul Cosentino, 30, piano. Leader of the Boilermaker Jazz Band, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, appeared numerous times at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Marc Caparone, 25, trumpet. Leader of the Southern California Elysian Fields Orchestra.
Tom Wilson, 26, bass. Member of the Clint Baker Jazz Band for five years.
Jason Hansen, 26, drums. Leader of the funk band, Verso, and member of the Clint Baker New Orleans Jazz Band since he was 14 years old.