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Blue Bone Express — The Early Years: 2004-2007
I got this CD in the mail about a month ago and there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t listened to it all the way through at least once. I love this recording.
Blue Bone Express is a band made up of youngish players from the San Francisco area who play an amalgamation of Traditional Jazz and Brass Band music. They sound like no other band mining this territory. First of all, they actually sound like a band. There’s a gamboling cohesiveness to their sound that you almost never hear on Traditional Jazz recordings (at least not on most revival sides). It’s a loud and loose sound entirely lacking in the sense of stagnation that comes wafting from most Trad Jazz releases. There’s genuine excitement here. Especially when Kevin Brunetti is leading on sax. At times he has an unhinged quality to his playing that goes so well with this kind of music. He reminds me of both Fred Anderson and Pee Wee Russell.Brunetti sounds like neither of them (well, maybe a little bit like Anderson), but he has that same willingness to take the music absolutely anywhere.
However, this isn’t the kind of record your going to listen to for inspired solo playing. This isn’t that kind of band. They don’t make that kind of music. These guys can definitely play their instruments, but if your idea of small-band jazz is a collection of virtuosos taking solo turns, go somewhere else. This is jazz of a more elemental nature. It’s music to move to. It’s body music. I like that. I’m so sick of the quasi-intellectual trappings of jazz. What a dull burden. This band blows that tired pretense out of the water and makes you want to move.
The more I’ve been listening to this disc the more I’m tending to hear this band as a world unto themselves. They just don’t fit with anything that’s out there. I can’t imagine them being embraced by the Trad jazz festival scene (where the last thing anybody seems to want is the unexpected). And they definitely don’t have the corny slickness that appears to be a prerequisite for making it with the Lindy hoppers. These guys are like the Captain Beefheart of Trad Jazz.
There’s just one aspect of this record I can’t totally get with. It’s the trotting out of warhorses like That’s A Plenty and Just a Closer Walk With Thee. There isn’t too much of that shtick on this disc, but when you hear those songs along side the bands originals (all by piano and trumpet player Jara Queeto) you can’t help but notice how much more fresh Queeto’s tunes sound. Those old songs probably come across well in their live set, but I don’t see any need for them on this disc. I would have been happy to see a full set of the bands own music. However, I have to say their version of Midnight in Moscow is the best I’ve ever heard.
This isn’t Be-bop or Swing or the New Thing. This is the Real Thing. This is living, breathing, spitting Jazz music. It’s not revival music. It’s not museum music. It’s music inspired by a tradition and informed by it’s own time. It’s rough and inviting and convivial. It’s the best new jazz record I’ve heard in a long time.