While there are no surviving recordings of New Orleans cornetist Buddy Bolden, a leading figure in the early development of what would come to be known as jazz music, Grammy award-winning trumpeter Derrick Shezbie attempts to recreate Bolden’s band and music in his most recent release, The Ghost of Buddy Bolden. Shezbie is one of the primary trumpet players on the national scene performing original New Orleans jazz music; his sound and style have often been compared by critics to Louis Armstrong. As well as having full command of earlier styles, Shezbie also masterfully blends a range of different genres which are exemplified in his performances with the funky Rebirth Brass Band, and on his debut album Spodie’s Back (1994), which mixes New Orleans styles with more modern jazz bop influences. For this most recent record, Shezbie teamed up with historian Charles Tolman to recreate the atmosphere and conditions under which Bolden would have produced a recording. Shezbie even went on the streets of New Orleans, in the same manner as Bolden, to recruit other African American musicians for his group, ultimately joining forces with clarinetist Louis Ford, guitarist Carl Leblanc, bassist Chris Severin, trombonist Revert Andrews, and drummer Jerry Anderson.
Featuring tunes that would have been typically played on a Buddy Bolden concert in the early 20th century, the album opens with exciting up tempo renditions of “Makin Runs,” “Didn’t He Ramble,” “Ride on King Jesus,” Down by the Riverside,” and “Hot Time.” The tracks are imbued with an energetic dancing spirit, and feature room for all the soloists to improvise. On “Hot Time,” Shezbie shines with a high-energy trumpet solo that uses variations of one note with different rhythms over multiple choruses. The second half of the album settles into slower grooves, beginning with the bluesy “Pallet on Your Floor.” Following are traditional songs that that were associated with the earliest performances of Bolden’s band, including “Careless Love” and “Bucket’s Got a Hole in It.” The final tune, “Funky Butt,” is one of Bolden’s most popular songs, and would have been played to a crowded floor of people dancing close together.
Derrick Shezbie gives a fitting tribute to the spirit and music of one of the most legendary and enigmatic figures in New Orleans jazz on The Ghost of Buddy Bolden, while bringing new life and vigor to the music.
Reviewed by Ana M. Nelson