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Norrie Cox and His New Orleans Stompers: Move The Body Over

If these performances had been recorded 50 years ago, during the apex of the New Orleans Revival, then all would have been well for British trad clarinetist Norrie Cox and his American sidemen, for they would have gone down in history as standard-bearers in the vanguard of a new movement. However, the bustling interim period has robbed Cox and his men of this distinction by having produced thousands of similarly inclined bands, and these, by having drunk of the same cup overly much through the decades have long since drained it dry. What once bore a healthy blush of freshness in its youth, then, has, through long years of satiety, become transmuted into a mere semblance of its formerly vital self. Not to denigrate Cox, though, who handles his instrument in a manner respectful of both Johnny Dodds and George Lewis, nor even his fellows, especially cornetist Charlie DeVore and trombonist Jim Klippert, who respectively honor Bunk Johnson and Jim Robinson, but haven’t we already heard enough third-hand reiterations of the same old simplistic melodies and hymnal harmonies?

Admittedly, it is important to preserve this tradition in live performance, but the question remains as to the ultimate value of imitations when placed side by side with original utterances. To the band’s credit, besides including King Oliver’s “Working Man Blues” and Raymond Burke’s lovely “City Of A Million Dreams,” they do play the Bunk and Lewis songbook quite effectively, but what we would welcome even more is an application of the same principles of collective improvisation directed toward a more variegated repertoire.

Originally Published