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The New Orleans Legacy Ensemble: Spirits of Congo Square

The first recording by the New Orleans Legacy Ensemble is aptly titled Spirits of Congo Square-unfortunately, not in remembrance of the city’s lively past as the birthplace of jazz, but for their wan, ghostlike performance. Despite the notable cast of musicians-Harrison Jr. on alto saxophone, Nicholas Payton on lead trumpet and a cast of other homegrown New Orleans boys including trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and tenor saxophonist Victor Goines-this studio session comes off clean but sterile, polished but not spirited. The band, which should hit with the power of a tank, or at least swing hard, just blows smoke.

The disc opens with “And How That Rhythm,” a John O’Neal tune imitating the second line for which he provides a campy, introductory vocal: “Hey, where you at, lil’ mama? I like the sound people make down here, huh yeah!” Yeah, right.

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