Ghost Train Orchestra – Book of Rhapsodies – Accurate Records Ghost Train Orchestra – Hothouse Stomp (Music of the 1920s – Chicago and Harlem) – Accurate Records

by | Nov 7, 2013 | Jazz CD Reviews

Ghost Train Orchestra – Book of Rhapsodies [TrackList follows] – Accurate Records AC-5064 [Distr. by Allegro] *****:

(Brian Carpenter: vocals, trumpet, slide trumpet; Andy Laster: flute, alto saxophone; Dennis Lichtman: clarinet; Petr Cancura: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Ron Caswell: tuba; Mazz Swift: violin; Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola; Avi Bortnick: guitar; Michael Bates: double bass; Rob Garcia: drums; Brandon Seabrook: banjo (8); Matt Samolis: flute (9, 10); Book Of Rhapsodies Choir: Brian Carpneter: soprano; Yolanda Scott: soprano; Katie Seiler: mezzo soprano; Tomás Cruz: tenor; Mazz Swift : alto; Joe Chappell: bass)

Ghost Train Orchestra – Hothouse Stomp (Music of the 1920s – Chicago and Harlem) [TrackList follows] – Accurate Records AC-5062 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

What a nice surprise the first of these two CDs was: a band specializing in the music of three of my favorite jazz/classical composer-performers of the 1930s and 1940s: Alec Wilder, Raymond Scott and John Kirby. The only one I wasn’t totally aware of was the fourth of the re-arrangements in this collection: Reginald Foresythe, who was a mixed-race bandleader of the ‘30s whose unique chamber jazz recordings Alec Wilder said influenced him in composing his Octets.

The leader of the Ghost Train Orchestra, Brian Carpenter, said he started to research jazz history from working with the drummer son of Gunther Schuller. In the literature he found a footnote about the music of Alec Wilder (one of my personal favorite composers) and thought that anything in the footnotes of a jazz history book would be worth more investigation. He ended up with these four unique musical figures, who all worked on the boundary between classical and jazz far in advance of the Third Stream movement. I’ve mentioned the amazing Wilder Octets and Concertos on a Columbia CD reissue conducted by Frank Sinatra, here’s a solo CD of his music for piano.

The unique four are represented by three or four tracks each on this CD. Carpenter highlighted the lyrical qualities of Wilder’s tunes by adding six voices and expanding the pieces for improvisation. He replaced Wilder’s original harpsichord with guitar. Raymond Scott is known for his leading the orchestra on early TV’s Your Hit Parade, and for being the husband of singer Dorothy Collins. His most famous piece is “The Toy Trumpet,” but “At an Arabian House Party,” and “Celebration on the Planet Mars” here show his predilection for odd titles which Alec Wilder picked up. Forsesythe is represented by  “Volcanic Eruption for Orchestra,” and “Revolt of the Yes Men.”

This album was created with a KickStarter online promotion, so I’m not the only weird one into this sort of thing. Altogether great fun; let’s have more!

TrackList: Charlie’s Prelude; Beethoven Riffs On; Volcanic (Eruption for Orchestra); Dance Man Buys A Farm; At an Arabian House Party; It’s Silk. Feel it!; Dawn on the Desert; Happy Farmer; Revolt of the Yes Men; Children Met the Train; Her Old Man Was (at Times) Suspicious; Celebration on the Planet Mars


The earlier Ghost Train Orchestra comes from before Carpenter’s discovery of the above four musical figures and dates from 2011. It came out of a job Carpenter had as musical director for a tribute to historic vaudeville. He began to look into some of the overlooked bandleaders of the late 1920s and found that a major transition in jazz was happening in New Orleans and Harlem around this time, with sophisticated arrangements which became a template for the big swing bands of the mid-‘30s. His arrangements of this mostly forgotten music expanded it with strings, musical saw, and some other goodies. Some of the bands covered were McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, Tiny Parham and his Musicians, and Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra.

There are descriptions of each of the bands and their scenes in the album booklet. Bootleg alcohol and the Depression of 1929 were also important factors in the this story.   The Ghost Train Orchestra numbered ten players for this album. The Jazz Age may be long over, but as Carpenter says, the music is clearly full of life and fun to hear today.

1 Ghost Train (Orchestra) ((B. Carpenter, B. Seabrook))
2 Mojo Strut (T. Parham)
3 Stop Kidding (J. Nesbitt)
4 Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You? (D. Redman, A. Razaf)
5 Voodoo (T. Parham)
6 Blues Sure Have Got Me (D. Redman)
7 Hot Bones And Rice (C. Johnson)
8 Dixie Stomp (B. Tremain, F. Williams)
9 Lucky 3-6-9 (T. Parham)
10 The Boy In The Boat (C. Johnson)
11 Slide, Mr. Jelly Slide (F. Williams)
12 Hot Tempered Blues (C. Johnson)

—John Sunier

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