Notwithstanding the double-breasted straightjacket of following the 1923 recordings chorus for chorus and taping the concert for later release, the tuxedo-clad Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble under the direction of clarinetist Bob Wilber often got into a relaxed groove in their re-creation of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band last night in Baird Auditorium.
Echoing across the decades were the pain-filled cries as well as the off-color smears of the great King Oliver's muted coronet (Bob Zottola), the clarion call of Armstrong's horn (Glenn Zottola), and the infectious clickety-clack of Baby Dodd's wood block (Chuck Riggs). To really loosen up they should set up in a smoke-filled gin mill and play every night til 4 a.m.
After intermission we were whisked up to 1940 with the music of Benny Goodman's Sextet, and now the cats were swinging. "Benny's Bugle" blew your hat off and "Air Mail Special" got there with time to spare. Wilber, as B.G., was hot on the heels of Charlie Christian disciple Chris Flory, one of the hottest guitarists around today. Tad Shull got a truck-sized sound from his tenor and Riggs' updated traps were the heat that kept the pot boiling. This contingent should go on the road for several months of one-nighters to properly maintain that nervous edge.