Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Brian Carpenter is a multi-faceted artist, musician, composer, arranger, film director, radio producer and more. In short, he's a guy who follows his muse. In this case, that muse is jazz of the 1920s and I'm mighty thankful he took this detour. Hothouse Stomp is a loving tip of the cap to some of the unsung greats of Harlem and Chicago's South Side, bands and composers who helped set the stage for the Swing Era - McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra, "Fess" Williams' Royal Flush Orchestra and Hartzell "Tiny" Parham, to name a few. On Hothouse Stomp, Carpenter and his little big band don't just recreate musical museum pieces; they breathe fire and life into this amazing music. Parham's "Mojo Strut" bounces with abandon. Charlie Johnson's "Hot Bones And Rice" eases along with a gutbucket groove and piercing solos by clarinetist Dennis Litchman, trombonist Curtis Hasslebring and Carpenter on trumpet. Fess Williams' "Slide Mr. Jelly Slide" is an uptempo power romp. Throughout the record, fans will be reminded of how great the tuba, banjo and drums sound in the rhythm section, what a fine jazz instrument the violin can be and what a cool effect the musical saw can deliver. The band will be playing at New York's Highline Ballroom on June 29. The only thing better than hearing this recording would be seeing the band live." -DownBeat
Down Beat (p.54) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he sharp arrangements retain the contrapuntal flash, sweet voicings and fiery rhythms of the original era..."
JazzTimes (p.68) - "Brian Carpenter's Brooklyn renegades reinvestigates the potency of music from the 1920s..."
Personnel: Brandon Seabrook (banjo); Mazz Swift (violin); Jordan Voelker (viola); Dennis Lichtman (clarinet); Brian Carpenter (trumpet); Curtis Hasselbring (trombone); Ron Caswell (tuba); Rob Garcia (drums).
Audio Mixer: Danny Blume.
Liner Note Author: Brian Carpenter.
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY (11/2009); Scotty Hard Studios, New York, NY (11/2009); Avatar Studios, New York, NY (12/2009); Scotty Hard Studios, New York, NY (12/2009).
Illustrator: Molly Crabapple.
Photographers: Frank Driggs; Carl Van Vechten.
Arranger: Brian Carpenter.
The music gathered and interpreted on this thoroughly winning disc all comes from a period before the emergence of the big-band jazz sound, a time when horn sections were smaller, rhythm sections less strictly codified, and the jazz sound itself much less regimented and refined. In fact, the word "jazz" hardly seems to apply here; this is romping, stomping, whinnying, exuberant dance music that sounds like it's more interested in promoting a sort of low-grade dancehall mayhem than in doing anything as decorous and refined as swinging. Bandleader Brian Carpenter put together the Ghost Train Orchestra when he was commissioned to provide music for the 90th birthday of a movie theater in Arlington, Massachusetts; the band then honed its chops playing this repertoire at a string of monthly concerts in Manhattan before going into the studio. The music is by a roster of composers whose names will be unfamiliar to all but hot music fanatics: Fess Williams, Tiny Parham, John Nesbitt, Charlie Johnson. There are times when it strongly evokes second-line New Orleans (especially on the wailing "Hot Bones and Rice") and others when elements like an expertly wielded musical saw bring in an equally strong flavor of vaudeville theatrics ("Voodoo"). Violinist Mazz Swift provides lovely vocals on the one track that will likely be familiar to many listeners, a slinky rendition of "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You?" Just about every track is full of those kinds of musical treats and surprises, and it all adds up to a relentlessly rollicking good time. ~ Rick Anderson