Jack Willis - trumpet; Waldren "Frog" Joseph - trombone; Joseph "Cornbread" Thomas - clarinet, vocals; Albert "Papa" French - banjo; Jeanette Kimball - piano; Frank Field - bass; Louis Barbarin - drums
A New Orleans institution, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band was formed in 1910 by the Creole trumpeter-cornetist Oscar "Papa" Celestin, who led the band for 44 years. After Celestin's death in 1954, trombonist Eddie Pierson took over the leadership until his death in 1958. By the time of this 1968 Hampton Jazz Festival performance, the traditional New Orleans jazz band was under the leadership of banjoist Albert "Papa" French, who had taken the reigns in 1958 and remained the leader up until his death in 1977.
To inaugurate the Hampton Jazz Festival, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band joined a number of prominent jazz artists on the bill, including Cannonball Adderley, Count Basie, Gary Burton, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Archie Shepp, Nina Simone and Muddy Waters. At this concert, promoted by Newport Jazz Festival impresario George Wein, the septet performed with the same lineup that appeared on its 1965 release, A Night At Dixieland Hall, which was recorded live that year at a club on Bourbon Street. They open on an upbeat note with the traditional New Orleans favorite, "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," with exuberant vocals by clarinetist Joseph "Cornbread" Thomas, who also turns in a spirited solo here. Frank Field is given a lengthy bass break here before the energetic Louis Barbarin lets loose with an explosive drum solo at the tag. Shifting gears, the OTJB next settles into a soulful, slowed down rendition of "Basin Street Blues" featuring the frontline horns engaging in collective improvisation in a highly conversational manner.
Clarinetist Thomas and trumpeter Jack Willis both turn in spirited solos on Joseph Lamb's sprightly "Sensation Rag," then they let the good times roll on a spirited rendition of the second line fueled Dixieland classic, "Bourbon Street Parade," a tune covered by everyone from Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt and the Dukes of Dixieland to Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. They follow with a mellow rendition of "The Savoy Blues" from their A Night At Dixieland Hall album. And for their finale, they launch into the rousing New Orleans jazz classic "Tiger Rag," a tune first recorded in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band and one that best exemplifies the spirit of collective improvisation. Pianist Jeanette Kimball gets in some two-fisted playing on this jam before Louis Barbarin explodes for another drum solo at the tag.
This ebullient outfit is still carrying on under the leadership of Papa French's son, drummer Bob French, making it one of the oldest continuously operating jazz bands in the world. They appear regularly at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival. (Milkowski)