Traditional jazz band, Smoking Time Jazz Club, are back with something to get you off your seat and stomping your feet with their newest album Ain’t We Fortunate! Released on February 8, Ain’t We Fortunate serves as another example of Smoking Time’s commitment to “revive and refresh the music of the 1920s and 30s for today’s listeners.” This 13-track record features recordings of compositions from some of the traditional jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.
Smoking Time Jazz Club is comprised of Russell Ramirez (trombone), Joe Goldenberg (clarinet and alto saxophone), Jack Pritchett (trumpet), John Joyce (upright bass), Simon Lott (drums), and Joseph Faison (banjo). Sarah Peterson (vocals) is absent from this recording due to schedule conflicts, but her band mates take the reins and give these timeless tunes a fresh perspective and recognition.
The record opens up in “smoking fashion” with an upbeat and energetic track originally by Tiny Parham called ‘Downtown Doin’s,’ featuring each member taking solos throughout the track, highlighting their individual skills and setting the expectations for a refreshing interpretation of these traditional standards.
Ain’t We Fortunate! and its song choice is carefully arranged; generally alternating between more energetic, upbeat songs and laidback, swinging songs it provides balance and keep the listener engaged the whole time. For example, the boisterous rendition of Sidney Bechet’s ‘Taint A Fit Night Out For Man Nor Beast’ features excellent interplay between the trombone and trumpet complemented by John Joyce’s driving upright bass and howling vocals to set an eerie, but playfully upbeat tone.
While some of the tracks invite the listener to get off their feet and dance, Smoking Time Jazz Club is still able to successfully achieve a more restrained and delicate sound in order to maintain balance within the album. ‘Blues of the Vagabond,’ a Duke Ellington composition, is a prime example of one of these tracks. Beginning with the banjo swiftly cascading up the neck leads to a low-tempo beat in which the clarinet saunters around the melody. It’s not until the horns come in later to bring up the energy that the listeners feels this transformation in dynamics and is pulled deeper into the song, but is not left feeling overwhelmed by the music.
Overall, Smoking Time Jazz Club’s Ain’t It Fortunate! is a refreshingly creative take on some classic traditional compositions. The band is successful in presenting a collection of traditional jazz compositions in a way that still feels genuine, but also allows for these songs to live in a newer context for a new generation of traditional artists and listeners alike.
Ain’t It Fortunate! is available on CD and mp3 from Louisiana Music Factory and Bandcamp. Smoking Time Jazz Club also plays regularly around the city on Tuesdays at the Spotted Cat Music Club, Saturdays at the Maison, and Fridays at Fritzel’s Jazz Pub. Check out part of their appearance at the 2015 Louisiana Buskers Festival in Abita Springs below. For more information, check out their website here.