By Michele L. Simms-Burton | Published March 2019
What happened when musicians gathered in a New Orleans jazz club on May 5, 2017, to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Basin Street Records? Two stages, an all-star roster of musicians and a live recording distilled in nine gems.
Opening with back-to-back tunes by vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, the band swings while drummer Gerald Watkins and bassist Jasen Weaver hold time. The energy gets downright party-like and rambunctious on a rendition of Rhodesian musician’s August Musarurwa’s “Skokiaan,” a tune helmed here by trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield as they quote bars from the Flintstones theme, “Joy To The World” and “Jingle Bells.” Dr. Michael White’s clarinet playing offers a full-on honky-tonk vibe on “Summertime,” transforming Charleston, where the tragedy of Porgy and Bess is played out, into New Orleans.
The vivacity of the music, musicians and audience feels more than electric across Live At Little Gem Saloon, until pianist Davell Crawford brings it all the way down with the album’s concluding cut, “Don’t Ever Be Blue/Ode To Louisiana.” The Basin Street celebration—its closer specifically—should remind listeners that Louisiana remains the home to many blues and jazz musicians, salt-of-the-earth people, plying tradition and making peoples’ hearts sing.
Live At Little Gem Saloon: Basin Street Records Celebrates 20 Years: Bourbon Street Ain’t Mardi Gras; At The House, In Da Pocket; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Skokiaan; Autumn Leaves; Summertime; Give It Up (Gypsy Second Line); Big Boss Man; Don’t Ever Be Blue/Ode To Louisiana (63:34)
Personnel: Jason Marsalis, vibraphone, drums; Kermit Ruffins, trumpet, vocals; Irvin Mayfield, Gregory Stafford, trumpet; Bill Summers, percussion; Dr. Michael White, clarinet; Seva Venet, banjo; Devone Allison, keyboard; Jameison Ledonio, guitar; Davell Crawford, Ronald Markham, Oscar Rossignoli, Yoshitaka “Z2” Tsuji, piano; Shelley Spruill II, Kevin Morris, Jasen Weaver, Mark Brooks, bass; Gerald Watkins, LeShawn Lee, Jerry Barbarin Anderson, drums.