CD album title: ‘The New Wireless’
Band: Andrew Nolte and His Orchestra
Recorded: Live at the Spotted Mallard, Brunswick in 2014 (CD released 2016).
Length: 10 tracks totaling 34 mins 13 seconds
Review by Tim Harding
If I had to sum up this album in one word, it would be ‘authenticity’. It looks and sounds like Andrew Nolte as leader and CD producer is trying to recreate an authentic 1920s dance band, and to that extent he succeeds admirably.
Almost everything about this album is authentic– the mono recording (possibly using a single microphone), the arrangements, the playing style, the danceable tempos, the band photos in tuxedos with wing-collar shirts – even down to Andrew Nolte’s 1920s haircut and moustache!
If it wasn’t for the audible bass drum, one could even be forgiven for thinking that this album was recorded in the 1920s. But don’t get me wrong – the bass drum helps to provide a driving two-beat rhythm that I’m sure would be great for dancing. In fact, Benjamin Braithwaite’s drumming is rock solid, yet light-touched and stylistically…um, authentic. Not a high-hat or ride cymbal in sight.
Based in Melbourne, the band regularly performs at various music venues and events, including the Victorian Jazz Club. According to the band’s web site: ‘The Orchestra was formed as a result of a lifelong interest in early 20th Century history, and thus the inspiration for an ensemble arose out of Andrew Nolte’s vast collection of old records, orchestrations, piano music, film, magazines and newspapers.’
The Orchestra is the standard 1920s dance band line-up – three brass, 3 reeds and 4 rhythm including a banjo and sousaphone. (The saxes occasionally switch to clarinets in the Fletcher Henderson style). This line-up is ideal for playing what I understand to be the original stock charts from the 1920s, as no in-house arranger credits are given on the liner notes.
Some of the arrangements are very similar to those in the early recordings. For instance, ‘Clementine from New Orleans’ is similar to the 1927 California Ramblers version; and ‘Glad Rag Doll’ is similar to the 1928 version by the Golden Gate Orchestra (which according to Brian Rust was a pseudonym for the California Ramblers). ‘Alone at Last’ is based on the 1925 arrangement written by Don Redman for Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra, and popularized by the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks.
I think that the band interprets these old arrangements very well, in terms of phrasing and articulation. There are not many ad lib solos, although Andrew Nolte on lead alto sax and Rob Moffat on trombone play occasional 8 or 16 bar solo melodies. An exception is the pianist Buck Evans (from the USA) who ably ad-libs on the right hand throughout, and plus full ad-lib choruses on some tunes, such as ‘Alone At Last’ and ‘I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston’. Rob Moffat also does a nice 16-bar ad-lib trombone solo using a plunger mute on ‘Stockholm Stomp’. One of the trumpets (Robert Rizzo or Sean Nihill) sometimes ‘lets loose’ and ad-libs in a quite jazzy style during the last chorus of some tracks.
According to the cover notes, Michael McQuaid plays tenor sax on three tracks, where Russell Oxley plays lead alto sax and Andrew Nolte plays banjo instead of Campbell Shaw. (If I was the leader, I would have re-arranged the charts to give Michael some ad lib solos).
Andrew Nolte sings on some tracks and imitates Ted Lewis’ spoken singing style on ‘When My Baby Smiles At Me’. I don’t know if the band has a girl singer, but that would usually be a popular addition, notwithstanding that most 1920s vocal charts were written for tenor voices.
If you like listening to the early larger bands, or even dancing at home, and you would like to encourage Melbourne’s younger jazz musicians, then this album is one for you. No record label or price is shown on the cover; so presumably this album is ‘self-published’ and obtainable via the band’s web site http://www.andrewnolteandhisorchestra.com/
(This review was published in Jazzline magazine, Vol. 50 No. 1, Autumn/Winter 2017).