The Original Wildcat Jass Band of Tucson, Arizona continues to explore the possibilities of classic jazz music and styles with their compact disc release "March of the Wildcats." The seventeen tracks showcase a gamut of material ranging from the old to the new to the ...really? All performed with the high standard of musicianship and creativity that has made the Wildcats the Southwest's premier classic jazz ensemble.
The band roster here includes the welcome addition of trumpeter Rick Peron and clarinetist Marco Rosano, each bringing a wealth of experience and fresh ideas to the mix. Trombonist / arranger Rob Boone completes the "front line." The solid rhythm is provided by banjoist / vocalist Rob Wright, tuba man Kelly Thomas and drummer / pianist Ray Templin.
What's the Old?
The album opens with the "Saints." There isn't a song more synonymous with Dixieland music than this. It was requested and played so often over the years that you don't hear it much any more. The same is true of "Jazz Me Blues," Milenberg Joys," "Memphis Blues," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee' and "Sweet Georgia Brown." I'm sure you'll enjoy these chestnuts once again all dressed up Wildcat-style.
A biggie in the Sixties for Kenny Ball was "Midnight in Moscow." It's here along with the lovely "Rose Room," Rob Boone shining on "Stars Fell on Alabama" and the perennial "After You've Gone."
Ray on piano tackles Jelly Roll Morton's "Grandpa's Spells" in a tug-o-war with the band that could make grandpa give up his voo-doo ways and Marco delivers a wonderfully poignant "Petit Fleur" over Rob's swinging guitar.
Of course there are dances: "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" with Rob on ukulele and Rick channeling Muggsy Spanier plus Jimmy P. Johnson's "Charleston."
Whats the New?
A couple tunes not normally found in the traditional jazz repertoire., that's what.
Marco and Ray get in the groove on "Something For Sidney" written in the 1980s by friend, saxophonist and composer Don Nelson (Ozzie's younger brother) as an homage to Sidney Bechet. Sadly, Don joined Sidney in the big band upstairs just as this recording was being finished.
At some point on a gig or at a festival the band is always asked for a "parasol" number so that the folks can strut their stuff around the room. You always hear the same handful of tunes for this purpose and I thought it was time for a new "parasol march" so I wrote one. It's a real rouser and like "Something For Sidney, you've never heard it before. "March of the Wildcats" has gone over so well we use it as our closing theme.
What's the ...Really?
"The Letter." It's given a real stomping Wildcat send off here and sounds very much like a natural part of traditional jazz literature. It may even sound vaguely familiar. Until you hear Rob's vocal, however, you might not realize that it was the big rock and roll hit in 1967 for the "Boxtops." We steal the Joe Cocker ending, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, just to refresh your memory.
Although written in 1916 by Uruguayan musician Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, the world's most famous tango, "La "Cumparsita," became a huge hit in 1920s America. Marco owns this one on the accordion, but Rick and Boonie sound like they're in the studio illegally.
I think you'll like what you hear and will hear something you like each time you play this CD. March on, Wildcats, march on!
Ray Templin, 2013 Tucson, Arizona.