Dukes of Dixieland – Timeless

Dukes of Dixieland
(Leisure Jazz- 2006)
DL Media

The swing and glad feelings that come with the music of New Orleans’ Own DUKES of Dixieland make celebrating easy. They make your cares flow down the river and out to sea, never to return. Since 1974, The DUKES have carried on the timeless tradition of New Orleans’ Dixieland Jazz spirit with a small cadre of personnel that began with leader Conrad Jones on cornet and continues today under the leadership of drummer Richard Taylor.

The adventure began in the summer of ’74 when the DUKES opened with the Grant Park Symphony in Chicago on July 3, 4, and 5, followed by the Miller Summer Jazz Fest in Milwaukee. In August, they performed the National Anthem in Busch Stadium prior to the St. _Louis Cardinal game and then up to Springfield, Illinois for their State Fair. On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1974, manager John Shoup opened Dukes’ Place atop the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, a nightclub that featured the DUKES as house band for almost ten years. TIMELESS, the new 4-CD compilation from Leisure Jazz, hits the streets on September 5. Disc One starts off with “At Dukes’ Place,” recorded in ’75 and reflecting the social atmosphere that surrounded the band night after night.

Timeless refers not only to the kind of jazz that this band plays for its New Orleans audiences, but also to the longevity of the ensemble. After Dukes’ Place, they opened Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall, where they stayed for another ten years. Recalling the energy that carried The DUKES during that transition, Shoup remembers, “For a full year, we were working both clubs. The World’s Fair brought a lot of people to the city, and we’ve always enjoyed sharing our music.”

Since the early 1990s, they’ve called the Steamboat Natchez home, as the band travels with its audience up and down the Mississippi River. Shoup says they usually see 300-400 happy passengers for dinner. When Hurricane Katrina struck, the Natchez was sent to Baton Rouge to ride out the storm, and the members of New Orleans’ Own DUKES of Dixieland were forced to seek shelter elsewhere.

After the storm cleared, the Natchez and the DUKES led fund-raising efforts for the city, and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund honored the band for its dedication. They sailed from Cincinnati to their home base in New Orleans and were met with personal congratulations by former Presidents Clinton and Bush. The DUKES showed their resilience by helping to open this year’s Jazz & Heritage Festival in April. The music continues to bring hope and comfort today.

Selections from sixteen of the band’s albums provide plenty of New Orleans reflections from a century of great music. From 1975, Dukes ‘ Place brings us several traditional favorites, including “Darktown Strutter’s Ball,” which includes hot solo work from trombonist Bob O’Rourke, clarinetist Otis Bazoon and bassist Phil Darois. Also from 1975, Sternwheeler Steamboat brings us three traditional favorites that showcase the clarion cornet artistry of leader Connie Jones.

From 1976’s, Creole Gumbo, “Petite Fleur” features clarinetist Otis Bazoon in a heartfelt display. “Jambalaya,” from 1978’s Gourmet Jazz, features bassist George French with a vocal interpretation of this classic New Orleans tune. From 1979’s New Orleans Jazz, we have five selections, including “When the Saints Go Marching In” with vocal interpretation by pianist Phamous Lambert. The thrills continue as if from dusk `til dawn.

From 1984’s Digital Dixieland, “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” features a gorgeous sound that’s highlighted by Danny Rubio’s hearty tuba solo. Live at Mahogany Hall, from 1985, brings us six selections, including the ever-popular “Tiger Rag,” interpreted here at an ultra-fast clip with Booby Floyd’s tailgate trombone placing the emphasis where it belongs.

From a 1984 recording, Frank Trapani captures Louis Armstrong’s phrasing, while tuba player Danny Rubio and tenor saxophonist Mike Sizer capture the historical significance of the DUKES’ performances. They remind us once again of the timeless nature of their music. For nearly a century, Dixieland Jazz has thrilled audiences all over the world.

From 1990’s Hearing is Believing!, trumpeter J.B. Scott takes the Louis Armstrong favorite “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” for an up-tempo romp that features leader Richard Taylor on drums with a highly propulsive drive. It’s this kind of overdrive that has championed Dixieland through the years. “Black Bottom Stomp,” from 1991’s Salute to Jelly Roll Morton, features pianist Tom McDermott in a lively two-step syncopation that recalls jazz’s earliest traditional elements.

Featuring clarinetist Jack Maheu, who had worked with the Assunto Family’s Dukes of Dixieland band in the mid-1950s, “Smoky Mary” takes the band on an up-tempo romp. It’s from 1995’s Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats Remembered, which pays homage to another great band and its distinguished leader.

The stomp “Borneo Bay” comes from 1996’s Sound of Bix, which reunited Connie Jones with the DUKES in a passionate portrayal of Bix Beiderbecke’s influential music. Also from the band’s Bix tribute comes “Goose Pimples,” which features deep bass saxophone reflections from guest artist Tom Fischer.

1997’s Riverboat Dixieland, which was recorded aboard the Steamboat Natchez, provides several gems, including “Royal Garden Blues” and “Bourbon Street Parade.” With these traditional favorites, the DUKES put it all together, as everyone solos and everyone has fun. The band sings, swings, and rings true with its ability to communicate in a natural sense.

From 1999, Gloryland is so special that it was nominated for a Grammy® Award. Feelings run deep with traditional anthems such as “Amazing Grace” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” both of which settle in comfortably during their communion with the world around us. The album’s “Over in the Gloryland” features Moses Hogan and The New Orleans Gospel Choir in a reverential testament to the kind of faith that has propelled Dixieland Jazz in the Crescent City and all over the world.

From 2002’s Barnburners, “Sweet Georgia Brown” features pianist Jamie Wight, trumpeter Kevin Clark, trombonist Ben Smith and clarinetist Earl Bonie along with bassist Everett Link and drummer Richard Taylor in a romp that brings a heat wave to the Big Easy. Louisiana Legends, from 2003, features guest vocalist Luther Kent who interprets “What a Wonderful World” with passion.

From 2006’s New Orleans Mardi Gras, Luther returns to sing “Go to the Mardi Gras” with a shuffle and plenty of party action.

Through good times and bad, the music has always been there as a comfort to all of us. As John Shoup admits candidly, “We’re having fun. We get along well, enjoy our tours all over the world, and feel pride in the new music that we continue to create every year.