This came out of the blue. I still haven’t figured this guy out, but he hooked me good. Not unlike his labelmate, Rev. Neil Down, Buck Evans is a rather mythical figure and he’s thickly shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
The liner notes indicate that this CD is supposedly comprised of cuts culled from old wax masters of the souvenir records sold at The Jazz-O-Dance Gardens back in the 1920s. Supposedly these masters were found in an old steamer trunk while dredging and were amazingly preserved in the crystal-clear waters of the Whangpoo River in Shanghai.
Is this likely? No. A bold move? Yes. Had the music not backed it up, this could’ve easily been a bad joke. As it is, the legend serves to create a point-of-reference for what’s to follow.
This recording creates an atmosphere unlike any I’ve experienced while listening to a record. It’s great Tin Pan Alley jazz played in the spare ’20s style, but it’s thick and it’s chock-full of very well-developed characters. It’s populated by Hard-Boiled Babies who have Sophomores for lunch, No-Good Floozies, and a narrator who longs for the romance of Albania and the real — or imagined — pleasures of his past. Some memories just get sweeter with time, don’t they?
This recording is very much like a play. Perhaps therein lies the real charm of the whole project. It’s hard to find a concept like this that works as well as this one does. It’s a must for any REALLY old-school jazz fan or a good primer for those who want to explore this genre.
Sometimes we might think we are different from the generations that came before, and in most cases we probably don’t even know that some of our grandparents or great-grandparents really partied-down back in the day. But they did. Heck, some of them made us look like real wimps by comparison. Buck knows.
Burnbarrel Records: http://www.burnbarrelrecords.com