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December 2000

Byron Stripling and Friends
If I Could Be With You
Nagel-Heyer

In much of his Armstrong tribute, If I Could Be With You, Byron Stripling, a trumpet player and singer whose stock in trade is strength, unleashes all of it and goes over the top. To shout rather than sing the lyrics of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" is something Armstrong would never have done. Repeating Armstrong's mistakes with the lyrics is a question of judgment. Stripling's hold-nothing-back trumpet work is a matter of taste. His moments of relative restraint, as in four-bar exchanges with Sandke in "St. Louis Blues" and their duet on "The Faithful Hussar," come as welcome relief. High points of the album are clarinetist Davern's lacy first chorus of "If I Could Be With You," trombonist Joel Helleny's "Big Butter and Egg Man" feature, the late Bob Haggart's bass solo on "West End Blues" and, to his credit, Stripling's use of dynamics on "Thanks a Million." Listeners familiar with Stripling's and Sandke's styles may be able to distinguish between them. Others get no help from the CD notes or package.

Originally published in December 2000
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