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Mr. Hall's retinue served a musical bill of fare Monday night the like of which hasn't been heard in the Savoy for many years. The stage, used to creaking under the weight of whole sections of braying saxophones, had to support only a trumpet, a trombone, and a clarinet beside the rhythm section, and this unique instrumentation, reminiscent of the old time marching bands of Edmond's younger days, evoked a warm, informal flavor which no amount of script arranging by pianist Charlie Bateman, seemed able to eradicate.
It soon developed that the drummer, Jimmy Crawford, is a comedian on the side. Though he had to peer over one of the most enormous cymbals ever affixed to a set of traps, and was situated somewhat obscurely at the very back center of the stage, the pained contortionings of his thin, mobile face and the adept drumstick twirling of his educated fingers got a great deal of attention from the audience. The drummer, the pianist, and the bass player, when they were functioning behind the clarinet, managed to build up a charged rhythmic setting which did fully as much for Edmond Hall as the tom toms used to do for Emperor Jones.
On a special Mary Lou Williams composition, "Lovely Lummox," the bespectacled Mr. Hall stood behind the microphone between the piano and the trumpet, his pate and fingernails vying for prominence in the brilliance of the spot light, and while the drummer's arms wildly flailed a quivering tropical tom tom, delivered himself of chorus after chorus of crying, impassioned music. He hits the notes on the edge, punching them out hoarsely and exuberantly, soaring up and down in a rapid shuffle rhythm; but the old majestic grandeur, characteristic of those of his profession who were trained where the Mississippi spills into the Gulf, is never lost. He can provide piquant spicing for an ensemble chorus, but when he takes off on his own over the rhythm, the suddent emotional pickup is enough to send chills down susceptible spines.
A few weeks ago this space was filled with woeful meanings about the state of jazz in the hub of the universe. Rather than eat those words it was decided to dedicate two columns to this wonderful new band, and certainly this decision was not over generous. When Edmond puts down his black stick after a set and steps down off the stage with one of his tight, nervous little smiles as if to say "well, top that if you can," he can be sure that no one can.
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