Now, this is jazz the way Louis Armstrong meant it to be. There are also bits of Charlie Christian, Cab Calloway, Django, and many of the people who, directly or otherwise, influenced Dan Hicks and his infamous Licks, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel, the Manhattan Transfer, and all the best swing moderns. The Jazz Vipers caught the historic vibe far more squarely than the rock and E-Z jazz estimables did, and their repertoire is smoky, seductive, languid, friendly, and jump. We Baby Boomers may have had some righteously hot licks and pounding rhythms from rocking and rolling songsmiths, but our parents and their forebears weren't exactly unhip to the groove either, not with music like this. In case ya didn't know it, "revivalist" ventures on this order are way the hell cool.
Saxist-singer-writer Joe Braun appears to nominally front this band, but the septet knows how to get down and squall, trading licks, counterposing, harmonizing, and setting up polyrhythms far more intricately than a cursory listen reveals. Their cover of Getting Some Fun Out of Life contains several layers and especially impressive are the background melodies and bedrock strata. A multitude of frontground licks steal attention but educated ears will find intriguingly three-dimensional fields lurking in plenitude.
More than a few chestnuts make their way onto the disc: Love is Just Around the Corner, Night and Day, How Deep is the Ocean, and so on. The cover of Indian Summer illustrates how this pre-period music tended to produce the later hybrid ensembles blending jazz, rock, and proto-soul, even echoing forward in Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Esquivel, and lounge jazz. It also illustrates why the sound was so favored of early cartoons, setting misty moods, bouncing action, or crazy surreal pastiches.
A small semi-jazz wave swelled up in the 80s, with such negligible horn players as George Howard, but the Vipers amply trot out why that nonsense had to disappear. It was twee, effete, spineless, and unfortunately caused brain rot. Braun shows the treacle-meisters what the damn sax was meant for. Grover Washington and Hank Crawford—I liked those cats, but they needed more fire in the veins—coulda stood to glom what this guy vends. The Vipers get the blood juiced, tweak the frontal lobes, and cause a sweet surrender to foot-tappin', head-bobbin', and booty-twitchin'. It might even make you reach for that second glass of bourbon, pasting a big Cheshire Cat grin onto a happy mug. Spin Hope You're Coming Back and you'll find yourself starting an evening that'll include Dr, John, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and…well, Gawd only knows how be-bop crazy things will get.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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