Classical Jazz 2005: Home

Reviewed by Marcel Joly The Jazz Gazette, Belgium

Goin' Bananas

John PettersJohn Petters is English (born in London, 1953) and internationally known as one of the best drummers around in the classic Jazz styles. Actually it was George Buck who introduced me in New Orleans to a recording by this tasteful musician.

John taught himself to play drums, starting in 1971, playing along with classic Jazz and swing records.

Together with bass player Keith Donald he first gained experience at jam sessions.

In 1979 he joined Ken Sims' band.

In 1983 he put together his own band.

He opened in 1985 the Square Jazz Club in Harlow, where several American Jazz greats (like Slim Gaillard, Al Casey, Wild Bill Davison, Kenny Davern and Art Hodes) performed.

John not only plays Jazz, but writes about it as well, like, for instance, his three part history of Jazz drumming (New Orleans to Be-Bop) for Jazz Journal International.

He is also the designer of several theatre Jazz shows with great success.

In addition to numerous records under his own name, he also recorded with a.o. Art Hodes, Wild Bill Davison, Kenny Davern, Al Casey and Yank Lawson. John Petters IS a busy man! Ted des Plantes (in the Mississippi Rag) called him England's best Traditional Jazz drummer and Art Hodes said about him: "He's carrying the torch we lit".

"Goin' Bananas" is a CD full of what we'd call (for lack of a better term) classic Jazz. The music is played in the great tradition of early Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Mutt Carey, Clarence Williams, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller etc., but never any attempt is made to imitate.

Having a drummer as leader of a band holds the real risk of having drum solos that go on forever. This is certainly not the case here. First of all there are very few of them, and the ones we have here are short and interesting.

All the musicians involved know their job and play with a lot of feeling and enthusiasm. The choice of repertoire is excellent and features some seldom played tunes. How many times do we hear "Forty & Tight", "Church St. Sobbing Blues" or "Memphis Shake"? Exactly, almost never!

John Petters is also a more than adequate singer. First of all he doesn't try to sound like an old black musician from New Orleans or Chicago. Most of the time this leads to disaster, especially when the name of the imitated singer is Louis Armstrong! His vocal on "I'm Coming Virginia" has the perfect period charm, while the one on "Mamies

Blues" has retained - but in his own way - the plaintive quality Jelly put into it.

Bailey and Sims too sound more than adequate vocally, instrumentally they are real professionals!

A pleasant surprise was the guitar work of John Cherry, sometimes reminding of Eddie Lang, sometimes of Lonnie Johnson. His solo rendition of "Church St. Sobbing Blues" is a beautiful piece of work. The intros to "Snag It" and "Mamies Blues" create immediately a mood which is retained until the end. These guys know how a slow blues should sound!

In addition to the three ones already mentioned, there is also the great Morton composition "Big Lip Blues", another number we don't hear very often. Except for Jelly's own 1939 recording and Louis Cottrell's moving rendition on the soundtrack of "Pretty Baby", I can't recall another version of it right away.

"Louisiana" is not the song often played by New Orleans revival bands (which, by the way, is spelled "Lou-easy-an-i-a") but the one made immortal by Bix Beiderbecke. Another great vocal by John Petters here. Conclusion: this is an excellent CD which, despite it's 74 minutes playing time, never lets your attention wander away. The sound quality is first class."

 

Marcel Joly


 

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