Friday, February 15, 2013

Alligator Gumbo

Leeds based Alligator Gumbo have, it could be argued, come to the attention of Jazz Goes To Leeds at the zeitgeist in interest in music of the 1920’s and 1930’s with the popularity on BBC 1 of the Stephen Poliakoff television drama “Dancing on the Edge”. They play a rabid mixture of New Orleans Creole that utilises popular instrumentation of that era. Their Soundcloud page features a number of pieces from their repertoire showcasing that familiar technique of improvisation and melody woven together to produce a sound that is at once sophisticated yet raw and exhilarating, as a collection of tunes under the umbrella "Alligator Gumbo". “Everybody Loves My Baby”, “Canal Street Blues” and “Sheik of Araby” should be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in the history of this music whilst “Blue Drag” soars along on that giddy combination of clarinet and violin, intertwining and glancing briefly at the melody, before veering away into another glorious ad-lib.

Featuring Jon Sculley on trumpet, Greg Surmacz on clarinet, Matthew Tiffany on violin, Chris Lloyd on accordion, James Paylor on bass and Mike Simpson on guitar, Alligator Gumbo take the music of almost a century ago and bring it wailing and stomping into 2013. Looking at the biographies of each band member there is a palpable sense that a disparate number of influences have been added to this traditional mixture from hip hop, comedy, big band, blues, classical and improvisation. “St Louis Blues” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” are distinctive standards that help give some idea as to where the band is drawing their influences from, whilst their repertoire also features such tongue in cheek classics as “All That Meat and No Potatoes” and “When I Get Low I Get High”.

In times of austerity, music as vibrant and joyous as this should be required listening to evoke a sense of enchantment.

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