Thursday, July 6, 2017

The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra on Vanguard

The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra was the late-1960s brainchild of pianist Lars Edegran, a native of Sweden who found his way to New Orleans earlier in the decade. Except for fellow Swede Orange Kellin on clarinet, the band was composed of New Orleans veterans: trumpeter Lionel Ferbos (who was still playing shortly before his death at 103 in 2014), Paul Crawford on trombone, William Russell on violin, bassist Walter Payton, and drummer John Robichaux. The band played classic ragtime, including arrangements from the famed "Red Back Book" of ragtime orchestrations for just such a small band. But they quickly expanded beyond that. The NORO basically played the music that a New Orleans society dance orchestra would have played in the first two decades of the 20th century - rags, jazz, pop songs, and novelties.

The presence of Lionel Ferbos and William Russell is particularly interesting. Ferbos typified the Creole trumpet style - elegant, controlled, and beautiful. Russell was best known as a scholar, writer, and record producer involved with traditional New Orleans jazz, but before that he was a classically trained violinist and composer.

The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra recorded for several labels in their heyday; this double album on Vanguard was originally produced for the Swedish Sonet label by Sam Charters. Here's their version of "Bugle Boy March," an adaptation of a march called "American Soldier" that was much loved in New Orleans."

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