If eras have soundtracks, then the 1920’s belong to Jazz. Not the big-band sounds that would dominate the 1930’s, but a more intimate and eclectic sound that developed in a variety of ways all across the United States. Featuring smaller horn sections, not to mention less standardized rhythm sections these units, often modeled on Fletcher Henderson in New York and Bennie Moten in Kansas City, had colorful and eccentric sounds. Just ask a vampire, or human, that was around at the time.
Or you could give a listen to Hothouse Stomp, the debut release from Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra.
Ghost Train Orchestra performs new arrangements of music for four of the seminal bands from Chicago and Harlem in the 1920s: Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra and Tiny Parham and His Musicians.
The Ghost Train Orchestra was formed in 2006, after Carpenter was selected as the musical director for Voltaic Vaudeville, an event marking the 90th anniversary of the historic Regent Theater in Arlington, MA. Members of the Ghost Train Orchestra include: Brian Carpenter (trumpet, leader, arranger), Denis Lictman (clarinet), Andy Laster (alto sax), Matt Bauder (tenor sax), Curtis Hasselbring (Trombone), Mazz Swift (violin, vocals), Jordan Voelker (violin, saw player), Brandon Seabrook (banjo), Ron Caswell (tuba) and Ron Garcia (drummer). All members save Carpenter live in the NYC area where the band has performed regularly since their inception. Hothouse Stomp was recorded at Avatar Studios in Manhattan and produced by Grammy award winner Danny Blume.
Hothouse Stomp transports listeners into the past and uses the past to transform the future. Combining a loving attention to period detail (right down to Molly Crabapple’s sketches of the bandleaders in the graphic style of the 1920s featured in the CD booklet), with utterly contemporary energy and attitude, Hothouse Stomp is as enjoyable to young audiences exploring beyond today’s mainstream pop, rock and jazz cultures as it is to purists of early jazz.
Jazz, of course, is best experienced live. New York audiences will have the opportunity to do just that on 29 June, 2011 when the Ghost Train Orchestra performs at the HighLine Ballroom (431 W. 16th St. in NYC).
“Playing this music live with this incredible cast of musicians is a continuing revelation to me,” says Carpenter. “This music is as visceral and full of life now as it was 80 years ago.”