Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hot Jazz Jumpers, The Very Next Thing

Jazz can be fun? Sure. It is usually mostly serious these days, as an art form, and that can be fun of course if you dig it, but there are not so many groups today that are designed to come across with high-times humor, though serious about it in the end. The Hot Jazz Jumpers take an approach to old-time jazz and roots music that most certainly has the sort of zany approach to the tradition that jug bands did back in the day and later in the hands of Jim Kweskin. In a way this band is a more musically involved, a serious but ultimately fun equivalent.

The Hot Jazz Jumpers have a CD/DVD set out called The Very Next Thing (OTBR 0002) and that's what I've been getting into. It's headed by guitarist and tenor banjoist Nick Russo. He alone is worth the price of admission, a real player who covers a gamut of jazz and blues styles effortlessly--which means he has worked hard to get to this point.

There are two vocalists in the band. Betina Hershey has a vivacious old-timey style and goes for the melody lines as well as playing a credible rhythm guitar. Miles Griffith is over-the-top in a very music way, scatting and playing with the lines improvisationally in a scat style that sounds like Louis A on into space! He is fabulous. David Pleasant plays a tiny drum set with sticks and with hands, as well as a small tambourine he slaps and uses as a stick on the drums. He's really on it here and makes the rhythm take off in ways I don't think I've ever heard.

Essiet Essiet plays bass for most of this, spelled for a few tunes by Mamadou Ba. They are very much a presence. The trumpet of Gordon Au is great, both old-timey and modern at the same time.

And as you listen to the CD and the 11-cut live DVD you get "Caravan," "In A Mellow Tone," "Got My Mojo Working," "Sweet Georgia Brown" and other classics plus some jams. It's all about recreating the old-timey music in a special way, special to this band, which is both "authentic" but not afraid to take it their own way, modern, even pretty outside for a moment here and there.

The musicianship is very high, the songs good to hear this way, the singing tops and, yes, this really is a fun band!! I do very much recommend this one if you dig revisiting the roots in an original, zany sort of style. Oh, yes!

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