Much more than a collection of sounds here. The liner notes, by Dr. Bruce Boyd Raeburn (yes, Boyd’s son), a jazz curator at Tulane Uni-versity, contain a virtual history of the clarinet in its relation to the music of New Orleans, which is worked into an analysis of the dozen tracks. Those tracks are filled with high-level rapport usually displayed by chamber ensembles. Each member is a highly responsive expert: clarinetist Christopher, pianist Hyman, bassist Bill Huntington and drummer Shannon Powell. Their program is demanding: Only attention to detail would allow them to switch moods, idioms and ethnicity to accommodate the change from quadrilles to Creole, ragtime to choro, traditional to straightahead. If you fail to read Dr. Raeburn’s notes, be assured you can still enjoy the beauty and the swing created by the quartet.
The beauty is typified by Christopher’s original, “Out of There,” with the introspective melody played on a C Albert clarinet while Hyman has a ball with the clever, non-stop changes. The swing can be heard on “While We Danced at the Mardi Grass.” The counterpoint between Christopher and Hyman evokes memories of Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson. Again using the C Albert, Christopher makes love to his horn on a lilting samba, “Creole Belles.” More counterpoint between Christopher and Hyman can be heard in the laid-back swinger, “Kiss Me Sweet,” as Evan focuses on the low, mellow range. “Desire,” by Raymond Scott, alternates between a romantic tango and smooth, straightahead swing. “New Orleans,” by Hoagy Carmichael, is in 3/4, but because of its gospel flavor it can hardly be considered a mere jazz waltz. Regarding another Christopher original titled “Sunday Mornings,” it’s not surprising that his lovely melody is so reverential. Nor is it unexpected that the title tune, a no-nonsense blues, finds all four instrumentalists in a hard-swinging mode.