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Cresent City

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Play 1.  Crescent City
  2.  Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
  3.  Latin Lover
Play 4.  Bayou Blues

5.  One O'Clock Jump

6.  Shake

7.  Goodbye Mr T

8.  Calypso Carnaval

9.  Just A Closer Walk With Thee

10.  The Court Of Two Sisters


Nat Simpkins-Tenor Sax, Kermit Ruffins-Trumpet, Vocals, Jason Marsalis-Vibraphone, Tuba Fats-Tuba, Peter Martin-Piano, Roland Guerin-Bass, Cecil Brooks III-Drums

Tenor saxophonist Nat Simpkins brings his Bluejay Records machine down to New Orleans for his latest offering, "Crescent City". Simpkins has that big Texas Tenor sound tempered by a touch of Southern hospitality. Add in the relaxed atmosphere of the Big Easy, and guest appearances by some of the hottest modern day New Orleans players around, and the recipe produces a spicy stew that lives up to the otherwise cliche of jazz as a rich New Orleans gumbo.

Nat Simpkins always brings a wide-ranging bill of fare to the table. Nat is one of that dying breed "the deep, tough tenor" but he is so much more. Nat spent his formative years in Bermuda, and his music is informed by that island beat, and the loose flutter of the leeward tinge is a satisfying contrast to his rough hewn sound. Simpkins also has assimilated the wide scope of the modern jazz idiom, and his gigs always include the blues, Latin, R&B, shuffle, ballads, and Calypso as well as the refined hard bop groove. His previous albums on Bluejay likewise have varied from the organ-tenor beat to the mellow Cape Ann Escape. Now, a trip to New Orleans solidifies the continuum of this melting pot mixture.

Nat has been visiting New Orleans for a few years now, and he always has felt right at home. The southern culture fits with his Bermuda roots, and in the Crescent City the music is in the air, on the streets, and anywhere you look. On this latest visit, he went in to the recording studio for sessions that the vocalist Henri Smith helped arrange with local musicians. (Henri's album, "New Orleans Friends and Flavours" from these sessions is also being released on Bluejay.) The rhythm section is the basis of all fine recordings, and the section here cooks. Nat's Bluejay cohort Cecil Brooks III is along for the ride, and with his drums he brings a colorful palette of polyphony into the mix. Local musicians Peter Martin on piano and Roland Guerin on bass (from Nicholas Payton's band among other New Orleans credits) join Brooks. While it is the first time that they played together, they immediately jelled with a power and sophistication that match Cecil's New York collaborations. Some of the tunes feature Simpkins alone in front of this rhythm section, but the album doesn't stop right there. The date also includes New Orleans stalwarts Anthony Tuba Fats Lacen, Kermit Ruffins, and Jason Marsalis.

Tuba Fats is a New Orleans legend and he's played in traditional bands for well over thirty years, from all the Brass Bands like the Olympia to organ groups, and he spends his afternoons outdoors in Jackson Square. Kermit Ruffins is the hot young trumpeter and growling vocalist who's founded the Rebirth Brass Band and many other re-births of the traditional New Orleans style. Jason Marsalis is a young member of the storied musical family, and he's made his name on the drums. Jason is also searching for a new sound on the vibes, and this is his first record featured on that instrument.

The record was made in one sitting, with no rehearsal, no overdubs, and minimal editing. The program includes both Simpkins originals written especially for the date and standards arranged with a twist, but the easy rapport makes it seem like the output of a working band.

By Sid Gribetz

Bluejay Records
Phone: 978-314-5854
InterJazz Member Web Site