James Danderfer Trio's Swingin' at the Patricia evokes the feel of early jazz


Swingin’ at the Patricia (Reigning Parade)

If you’re looking for the future of jazz you won’t find it here—but clarinetist James Danderfer’s latest is a fascinating tip of the fedora to the music’s past.

More specifically, it’s an exuberant acknowledgment that one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century spent a significant amount of time in our fair city. Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe, aka Jelly Roll Morton, was a relative unknown when he wandered from his native New Orleans to the West Coast at the end of the First World War; fame wouldn’t come until he hit Chicago in 1923. But he believed he’d already invented his very own art form, jazz, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that. At the very least, the pianist was the stylistic link between ragtime and swing, a prodigious soloist, and a wildly innovative composer.

Morton was also a habitual gambler, and it was only after losing everything in Tacoma, Washington, that he found salvation in Vancouver. Given a room in the Downtown Eastside’s Patricia Hotel, he worked as the house pianist—and, reputedly, the house pimp—from 1919 to 1921.

Those years are celebrated in this easygoing but accomplished live recording. Setting up in what is now Pat’s Pub, Danderfer, pianist Miles Black, and drummer Joe Poole cut an array of Morton tunes and period-flavoured originals—a nice way of evoking the feel of early jazz, without any hint of archival dust. Mr. Jelly Lord would approve.

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