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Recorded at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan on December 20 and 21, 2003, the same night as Tom Saunders' Midwest All Stars Volume 1, this CD contains 72 minutes of exhilarating dixieland from a suberb band of traditional jazz experts. Detroit cornetist Tom Saunders leads his septet through this rousing set of oldies. They sport the talents and experience of Milwaukee clarinetist Chuck Hedges, Toronto soprano saxophonist Jim Galloway, Chicago trombonist Russ Phillips, Cape Cod pianist Eddie Higgins, Ypsilanti, MI bassist Paul Keller and Orlando drummer Ed Metz, Jr.
Tom Saunders' Midwest All Stars: Live At The Firefly Vol. 1 was released in May of 2004. Tom Saunders' Midwest All Stars: Live At The Firefly Vol. 2 was released exactly one year later in May of 2005.
Tom Saunders is the protege of the famous cornetist Wild Bill Davison. Davision, who died in November of 1989, affectionately referred to Saunders as his "illegitimate, adopted son". They traveled the world together performing concerts with the Wild Bill Davison Legacy Band which included Chuck Hedges and Bill Allred. Saunders is the world's foremost authority on all things Wild Bill and Davison's influence permeates Tom's music.
Throughout this CD you can hear the jubilant response from the audience as the Midwest All Stars perform familiar tunes from the standard dixieland repertoire as well as other popular songs. The band is excited to play and their enthusiasm is evident on every track of this CD.
The album begins with a free-wheeling version of China Boy. This was the first tune of the second set. Now it's the first tune on Volume 2. Great opener!
J. Russel Robinson's Singin' The Blues is next (a favorite of Bix Beiderbeck and a favorite of Saunders).
The third track is Limehouse Blues, complete with the rarely heard verse at the beginning. Full speed ahead. This one chugs along like a down-hill locomotive.
Jim Galloway is one of the world's great masters of the soprano saxophone. Here, he has chosen as his feature, the melancholy Too Late Now. Very tenderly played!
Hoagy Carmichael's Jubilee is a subtle tip of the hat to the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, a California jazz festival that the Midwest All Stars play at every Memorial Day weekend.
There'll Be Some Changes Made is played at top speed and intensity. Watch out for the surprise last chorus. YOWZA!
Pianist Eddie Higgins is featured on If Dreams Come True, an Edgar Sampson tune associated with Benny Goodman. This rhythm section of Eddie Higgins, Paul Keller and Ed Metz, Jr. returned to the Firefly Club in September of 2004 to record a jazz trio CD. Check out their new PKO CD entitled Higgins/Keller/Metz: Live At The Firefly Club.
Next up is W.C. Handy's Beale Street Blues. This is a good example of the four man front line working together. Saunders is the band's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback leading his team downfield.
Tom Saunders sings a heartfelt version of Willard Robison's poignant Old Folks. "Children's voices at play will be still for a day, the day they take Old Folks away."
You don't get any more dixieland than the next tune: How Come You Do Me Like You Do Do Do?
Paul Keller joyfully belts outs Sunday, a song that he sings often with the Midwest All Stars.
The closer is You're Lucky to Me by Andy Razaf and Eubie Blake. Tom Saunders' cornet mentor and friend Wild Bill Davison used to close his shows with this up-beat flag waver.
If you liked Tom Saunders' Midwest All Stars: Live At The Firefly Vol. 1, you'll love this companion CD. An excellent offering from seven masters of traditional jazz.