New Recordings: Bob French
Publication: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Author: Karl Stark
(Marsalis Music ***)
The generations conjoin on this stacked Dixieland recording. The tribute goes to longtime New Orleans drummer Bob French, who runs the city’s longest continuing band, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, nearing a full century of performance. (The band was run for many years by his banjo-playing father, Albert “Papa” French.)
Bob French is a righteous player even the hurricane couldn’t wash away. The supporting cast tips you to his importance: Pianist Harry Connick plays the whole set; so does saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
This traditional occasion celebrates the city’s storied past and its evolving rebirth with a straight-ahead session of gutbucket sass. The setting is familiar Dixieland with some pleasant touches.
One is Marsalis’ elegant intro to “Burgundy Street Blues.” Connick shades the openings of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South” and “Do You Know What It Means (to Miss New Orleans).” The two combine on a highly reverent duet of the traditional “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”
French’s salty vocal on “You Are My Sunshine” is followed by the whole band singing along.
It all makes for a down-home coda to the holidays.
- Karl Stark