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Franz Jackson: It’s No Good Tune If It Doesn’t Have a Story

With a sound as big as a redwood and roots just as deep, legendary Chicago tenorman Franz Jackson was 85 at the time of the two 1998 concerts that open this disc, yet he plays with all the vigor and assurance of a man half his age. On the first nine of ten instrumental tracks, Franz is featured with banjoist/guitarist Hugh Leal’s Motown Classic Jazz Band, a dixielandish jam combo highlighted by Paul Klinger’s cornet and the trombone of Chuck Moss. Supported by the kicking rhythm team of pianist Chuck Shermetaro, Leal, bassist Dan Piskow, and drummer Peter Siers, Franz and the other hornmen play loose-limbed, spirited versions of “Undecided,” “Mecca Flat Blues,” “Bourbon Street Parade,” “Sunday,” “Darktown Strutters Ball,” “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” and “Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None o’ This Jelly Roll.” Klinger and Moss are excellent in their own right, but Franz steals the show with his full-bodied, swinging “Texas”-styled tenor and his infectious vocals on “Mecca Flat,” “Darktown,” “Sister Kate,” and “Jelly Roll.”

These selections from the Ford Montreux/Detroit Jazz Festival and the University of Windsor are joined, on track 10, by a single number from 1995, “C Jam Blues,” which finds Franz playing with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, Shermetaro, bassist Don Mayberry, and drummer Frank Isola, in a slightly more modern vein. Just as rewarding as these performances are the final six tracks, which constitute a seamless 25:40-minute interview with Franz discussing his early years in Chicago and his gigs with the near-mythic pianist Cassino Simpson, Jimmie Noone, Roy Eldridge, and Earl Hines.

Originally Published