With music as venerable as this it's approach that's the key, and with these men the approach is nigh on perfect. Neither the dead hand of reverence or the corn that's often the undoing of traditional jazz performed decades after the event has a place here. Instead the music harks back to a simpler, more spontaneous time in a way that's anything but the product of dewy-eyed nostalgia. The thing that makes the difference could just be love. Recorded over three different sessions approximately four decades apart, the results have that quality in common.
Only those with a heart hard enough to constitute a health risk could fail to be won over by Kim Cusack's clarinet on "On The Alamo," whilst on the following "I Never Knew" Dan Stiernberg's rhythm work on banjo is more flexible than that instrument has a right to be and Walbridge's tuba is enough to put aside any thoughts of the unwieldy.
Throughout "Tin Roof Blues," as per the rest of the program, the lack of harmonic underpinning lends the music a quality both airy and intimate, and Cusack on clarinet again shows how he's copped some of Johnny Dodds' down-home sensibility.
When piano does crop up on the likes of "Nagasaki" its presence is welcome and not least because Johnny Cooper had the idiom down like nothing on earth back in July of 1967. His intro to "Angry" sets up three minutes and twenty one seconds that's anything but a reflection of the title and his soloing brings Jelly Roll Morton to mind, albeit with a dose of politeness, which is anything but reflective of that seminal figure.
If a criticism can be made it lies in a certain lack of variation in tempo. Even "Down Here Where The Sun Goes Down" is deprived of any melancholy implicit in the title, although again the band's effort is likely to raise a smile and have the feet beating for all the right reasons.
The love these musicians show is a quality they share with Bob Koester, who's shown his in his willingness to put this music out. The effort hasn't been wasted on anyone in need of something to melt away the stresses of everyday life.
Personnel: Mike Walbridge: tuba and leader (tracks 1-17); Kim Cusack: clarinet, alto sax (tracks 1-17); Don Stiernberg: banjo, guitar (tracks 1-8); Eddie Lynch: banjo (tracks 9-17); Johnny Cooper: piano (tracks 9-14); Bob Cousins: drums (tracks 1-8); Glen Koch: drums (tracks 9-17)