“If you can feel your pancreas dancing, the music is swinging.” The quote comes from Bob Leary, banjoist/guitarist on this session. The visceral aspect is hard to prove, but his musical assessment is quite accurate. Cornetist Lew Green and clarinetist Joe Muranyi, who have individually accumulated many decades of touring and recording world-wide, even working as sidemen in the same bands, finally pool their Traditional talents as co-leaders, and the result is often authentic, vintage Dixieland. What gives it authenticity right at the outset, “Oriental Man,” is the bouncy sound of Vince Giordano’s bass sax, plus the firm stride backing of pianist Jeff Barnhart. Guitarist Leary, who approaches his instrument with the same percussiveness as the banjo, also contributes a fine solo. The track has a joyous retro feel to it.
For more of that authentic sound, visit “Piggly Wiggly” and feel the buoyancy of Giordano’s tuba; “Four or Five Times,” spiced, in Barnhart’s words, by “a late night whorehouse feel,” and containing Giordano’s most lyrical bass sax solo; “Storyville Swing,” a Green original; and “Mississippi Rag,” purportedly the first-ever rag. For more contemporary Dixieland, try “Together,” originally a waltz, but here given a straightahead 4/4 treatment, with Green and Muranyi trading fours: Green plays with the fervor of Ruby Braff; Muranyi has very creative ideas, but at times his reach exceeds his grasp. In “I Know That You Know,” Barnhart strides into the intro after the first chorus, then takes an outstanding solo. Giordano’s string bass and Danny Coots’ brushes lead the ensemble into an exciting out chorus.
So typical of Dixieland combos, the vocals are generally weak, but I must admit, the singing on “Rockin’ Chair” is hilarious, mainly because of the ad libbing by Green and Muranyi paying homage to Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden. They knew it was futile to emulate them; humor was their only alternative. The most delicious moment of the album is the last chorus of the last track, “San,” which along with “Oriental Man,” create exciting, authentic bookends. With the ensemble building momentum, they change key, begin to get airborne — and that’s when the pancreas starts dancing.