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Traditional jazz has become associated with corny trappings like straw hats—-which meant that the yachting caps worn Tuesday night by four of the six members of Yamomanem was a bad sign indeed. But it was a ruse: traditional New Orleans jazz is the band’s foundation, but they gleefully subvert it.
Lord knows Jelly Roll Morton never had an electric guitar, let alone the kind that Steven Walker used to let loose the funky licks of the band’s (unnamed) second tune; nor did anyone in jazz of any genre (okay, maybe Anthony Braxton) play the sousaphone, the big-ass tuba that wraps around the player’s body. But Monty Montgomery does, and he uses it to lead the band through Dixieland melodies (instrumental and vocal), Caribbean dance tunes, and swing-era standards like “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.”
But the band did always return to that foundation of New Orleans polyphony, with joyful interplay between clarinet (Henning Hoehne), tenor saxophone (Megan Nortrup), and trombone (Brian Priebe). And novel though they were, the sousaphone and guitar did often play the usual roles of the tuba and banjo, respectively, in the trad style. And most importantly, it was fun. That may be why the band stuck almost exclusively (save once) to fast numbers. For their finale, they actually put slow vs. fast to an audience vote, but when applause was evenly divided (“This country cannot agree on ANYTHING!” Montgomery teased), a fast one it was—-the legendary “Tiger Rag,” no less, and at a blinding velocity that made it that much better—-before marching off the stage, through the aisles, and out the door in a classic Mardi Gras parade formation.
So it wasn’t strictly authentic New Orleans trad … but it wasn’t corny New Orleans trad, either. And really, that’s a lot better—-in this case, a blast.