Some bands, sadly most bands, will peak in their first few albums, but certain groups just keep getting better. We are blessed that New Orleans currently harbors several of the later, including the irrepressible Smoking Time Jazz Club. In our five years this is the third of their albums I’ve had the good fortune to review.
If I’m counting correctly Mean Tones And High Notes is their 12th album in just over 10 years together. That’s a lot of time in studio, complemented by the hectic live schedule of a working New Orleans band. Even after all that time they exude joy and respect for each other’s musicality.
The notes to the album, available right on the Bandcamp page, include a guide to “the recording we adore” for each of the classic titles on the album. The list sources a lot blues material, Bessie and Trixie Smith, Monette Moore, the rougher New Orleans stylings of Billie and DeDe Pierce, and Bunk Johnson, and more obscure groups like Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra and Clifford Hayes’ Louisville Stompers. For good measure there are more expected names like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Willie “the Lion” Smith. I certainly appreciate this list as often I wonder which recording of