MELBOURNE is doing its best to depress this afternoon, but I’ve been cocooned from the chill by the music of one of my favourite bands – The Louisiana Shakers – and their most recent CD Shake It, One More Time….
Recorded in March 2011 and released without fanfare in 2012, the album contains 12 tracks reflecting the musical mix which makes up the New Orleans repertoire – marches, rags, blues, spirituals, pop songs and borrowed melodies and riffs.
The personnel on this disc are the regulars of the last few years: Nick Polites on clarinet, Derek Reynolds on trumpet, Ashley Keating (leader) on banjo, Nathaniel Garbutt on string bass, and Kevin Bolton on drums. But what makes this CD so very special is that the “charismatic and endearing” Charlie Powell (Ashley Keating’s words with which I agree) plays trombone and sings for the last time on a Shakers recording. Charlie died in August 2012 at the age of 86.
Marches are represented by Salutation March composed by Roland Seitz (the “Parade Music Prince”), and Moose March (1910). The Shakers’ version of the latter is reminiscent of the Bunk Johnson /George Lewis 1942 recording with Nick Polites weaving around the trumpet and the trombone in true Lewis style.
There are a number of popular songs, (several with a western flavour), which suit the band’s more lyrical mood :
Carolina Moon, (a 1928 favourite of American crooner Gene Austin)
Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day. (Bing Crosby crooned this in 1931)
Roll Along Prairie Moon (Roy Rogers). Charlie Powell sings on this track.
Moonlight and Roses (composed in 1888 by Edwin Lemare as Andantino in D Flat. With words added without permission in 1921 it became the popular song we know today)
Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider (1903).
It wouldn’t be a Shakers’ recording without some blues, and here we have three:
La Harpe Street Blues which is one of those “borrowed” tunes : it clearly doubles as the gospel song If We Ever Needed the Lord Before (We Sure Do Need Him Now).
Franklin Street Blues which is sometimes attributed to Bunk Johnson but a descendant of the real composers states “it was written jointly by Louis Dumaine and Eddie Jackson, my grandfather… They recorded it in 1927, 20 years or so before Johnson recorded his version.” This track has some lovely low register work by NickPolites on clarinet and a bass interlude by Nat Garbutt where he plucks a string and lets it slap back onto the fingerboard making a very percussive sound.
Yellow Dog Blues, composed by W. C. Handy in 1914 is a response to I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone (Shelton Brooks 1913). Yellow Dog being the Mississippi railroad, the Yazoo Delta. Words and melody from both songs show up during the 1920s and 30s in such songs as E. Z. Rider See See Rider, C. C. Rider, and Easy Rider Blues.
Joe Avery’s Piece, is clearly the popular Mardi Gras tune Second Line, but is also a dead ringer for Rock Around the Clock. Click on the title above to hear this rollicking track from the CD with Charlie Powell doing the vocals in his immediately recognisable style.
And finally a full blooded version of Just a Little While to Stay Here again with Charlie on vocals.
This is a CD which I know I will replay over and over for many reasons – for the clarity and balance of the recording which allows you to hear each individual instrument whilst enjoying the complexity of the ensemble, Charlie’s gruff, growly trombone and inimitable vocals, Nick’s floating and stylish clarinet which improves with the years, Derek Reynold’s melodic trumpet, and a rhythm section which provides the perfect accompaniment with the occasional solo to shake their tail feathers.
A reviewer of one of the band’s earlier CD’s called it “Great jazz with mud on its boots, bruises on its knuckles and a flair for capturing the feel of the real thing”. I’m not sure that this album is as gritty as all that, but it’s one to savour and enjoy if you like New Orleans style jazz – and if you’re not a fan already, prepare to be converted.
The CD is available from Ashley Keating by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Nick Polites by phone: (03) 9499 2594. Or better still, come and join the Louisiana Shakers at their regular Sunday afternoon gig at the Clyde Hotel, corner Cardigan and Elgin Streets, Carlton. Doors open at 12 noon, music is from 2pm – 5pm. There’s no cover charge, and booking isn’t necessary – just wander along, have a meal or a drink, listen to some great jazz, and buy a lovely CD or two.
Here the Shakers play one of the numbers from the CD a few Sundays ago- Les Fithall is filling the trombone chair on this occasion.