Percy Humphrey - trumpet, vocals; Albert Burbank - clarinet, vocals; James "Sing" Miller - piano; Narvin Kimball - banjo, vocals; Frank Demond - trombone; Chester Zardis - bass; Dave Osterlay - drums
A New Orleans jazz institution, trumpeter Percy Humphrey (born on Jan. 13, 1905) had been a regular at Preservation Hall since its opening in 1961. Along with his older brother, clarinetist Willie Humphrey, Percy had a regular residency at the intimate, air conditioner-less venue in the heart of the French Quarter at 726 St. Peter Street. The two brothers also toured around the country in separate lineups of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. For this 4th of July bash at New York's Philharmonic Hall as part of the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival, trumpeter Humphrey was joined by fellow New Orleans veterans Albert Burbank (born March 25, 1902) on clarinet, pianist James "Sing" Miller (born June 17, 1914), trombonist Frank Demond (born April 3, 1933), bassist Chester Zardis (born May 27, 1900) and drummer Dave Osterlay (unknown birthdate).
They open their set with the lively trad jazz number "Shake It and Break It" (also known as "Weary Blues"), a 1929 blues guitar rag by Charley Patton that was subsequently 'jazzed up' by the likes of King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, George Lewis and Bunk Johnson. Clarinetist Burbank turns in an inspired wailing solo and trombonist Demond also contributes a raucous solo that elevates the proceedings. Humphrey offers some gruff-voiced vocals and Kimball follows with an energetic bit of rhythmic playing on the banjo before pianist Miller enters with a flowing solo that carries the energy of the tune. Bassist Zardis also turns in a nifty slap bass solo that comes out of the Pops Foster school of New Orleans bass playing. And they all finish with a simultaneous flurry the characterizes early New Orleans jazz. "Ice Cream" is a traditional number ("You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream") sung by Humphrey and given a spirited New Orleans jazz treatment by the copacetic crew from Preservation Hall. Demon and Burbank again turn in outstanding while Zardis shines on another slap bass showcase, and Humphrey brings it home in flag-waving fashion with a bold trumpeter solo.
"I'm Alone Because I Love You" is a ballad feature for banjoist-singer Kimball, who delivers the sad lament in a sweet tenor voice. This Tin Pan Alley tune was covered by everyone from country stars Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves to rock and pop stars Eddie Cochran and The Everly Brothers and jazz star Nat King Cole. Pianist-singer Sweet Emma Barrett recorded a more raucous, driving rendition of the tune with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, but Kimball's tender version here is a heartfelt gem. "Milenburg Joys," a tune composed by Jelly Roll Morton and first recorded with Morton and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1923, is described by Humphreys as a tune he recalls from his childhood, one played by bands on. As he tells the Philharmonic audience, it was a popular tune played by bands on Lake Pontchatrain during joyous occasions like 4th of July weekend in New Orleans. Everyone in the band gets a solo taste on this spirited romp. Clarinetist Burbank is featured in a vocal role on a lazy, soulful rendition of "Basin Street Blues," singing one verse of the traditional New Orleans tune in his Creole patois. Kimball and Miller also turn in beautiful solos here that perfectly fit the mood of that laid back anthem. They close out their set in lively fashion with letter-perfect readings of Kid Ory's "Original Dixieland One-Step" and the New Orleans trad jazz staple, "When the Saints Go Marching In," which feature scintillating solos by all the members of this syncopated crew.
Humphrey, who also fronted his Crescent City Joymakers, remained a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band until 1995. His last gig was at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April of that year, three months before his death at age 90 on July 22, 1995. (Bill Milkowski)