Author: Clark, John
Date published: June 1, 2010
Journal code: IAJR
Bob Greene- St. Peter Street Strutters
Delmark DE 234
Ernie Carson (c), Bob Greene (p), Steve Larner (bjo), Shorty Johnson (tba)
St. Peter Street Strut / Winin' Boy Blues / The Pearls / Wolverine Blues / Snake Rag / Just a Closer Walk with Thee / Some of These Days / After You've Gone / Dr. Jazz / Kansas City Stomp / Mr. Jelly Lord / Angry / Sweet Substitute / Tiger Rag / Atlanta Blues TT: 57:23
To those diehard traditionalists who think that Dixieland (or whatever you choose to call it) can only be played with a full front line and rhythm section, this CD will be a disappointment. Most of the tracks herein are played by only a trio (Larner appears on only a few) and with only one horn the possibilities for counterpoint and ensemble niceties are limited, to say the least.
Nevertheless, this pared down group created some truly spontaneous and joyous music that day in Preservation Hall. According to the notes, Carson was in New Orleans playing piano with a banjo band that included Johnson and Greene was just visiting vacation. After hearing them all play together at an after hours session at the Red Garter, Allan Jaffé invited them to come to Preservation Hall the next afternoon to make a recording. Informality reigns - the sound of a ringing phone takes its place in the percussion section along with the drumstick apparently affixed to Greene's foot - and there are occasional mistakes, but the passion of the music made by three (and occasionally four) musicians who clearly knew what they were doing shines forth.
As might be expected of a project led by Greene, the music of Jelly Roll Morton is heavily featured. For me, the version of Tiger Rag is most redolent of the Morton magic - beginning in the style of an old fashioned music box, it then charges into a heavy two-beat, suggesting the tune's evolution from a quadrille to a foxtrot. The traditional St. Peter Street Strut is also a Morton-like concoction, opening with a Spanish tinge and maintaining a Latinate element throughout the track. The surprise here is the successful attempt at Snake Rag - perhaps the only trio version of this tune ever recorded!
Greene deals with the traditionally terrible piano at the hall and creates some wonderful textures and lines on The Pearls and Mr. Jelly Lord. His updating of the Jelly Roll style makes one forget that when this was recorded (1964), Morton had been gone for only twenty-three years - exactly half the span that has elapsed since this recording was made! Carson was apparently playing more piano at the time, but his cornet has no rust on it - his playing on Winin' Boy, Angry and Sweet Substitute is incisive and confident without being flashy. The absence of any other front line horns brings his unusual feel and timbre into welcome relief. Johnson and Larner are featured less, but the tuba gets some good innings on After You've Gone and the banjo comes across well on Just a Closer Walk and Some of These Days.
For me, listening to this recording calls to mind the story of how King Oliver, when playing at Abadie's Café in New Orleans in 1911 with a group of similar instrumentation, instructed Richard M. Jones to "get in B-flat" and moved out into the street playing a loud, hot blues that brought the people running, leaving rival Freddie Keppard alone at Pete Lala's. Bob Greene and Ernie Carson here have created the same sort of music - unpretentious, professional and very hot.