Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra

Hot House Stomp

In today’s super-modern world with its daily deluge of digital delights, it’s sometimes refreshing to look back at an earlier era if only to ascertain just how far we’ve come and whether, indeed, the trip has been worth it. Here we have trumpeter Brian Carpenter at the helm of his Ghost Train Orchestra, a spirited 10-piece exploring—as the disc’s subtitle explains—“the music of he 1920s Chicago and Harlem.” Except for a freakishly weird sub-two-minute original, the group performs 11 new arrangements of music by four seminal bands such as Harlem’s McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (a marvelously relaxed “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?”) and Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, which had dancers at Small’s Paradise Club swaying in time to relaxed items like his “Hot Tempered Blues.” In Chicago, Tiny Parham and His Musicians were keeping crowds entertained with strutting numbers like “Voodoo”—which could easily have served as the soundtrack to a Betty Boop cartoon—while at the Regal Theater clarinetist Fess Williams and His Joy Boys animated audiences with frenetic tunes like “Slide, Mr. Jelly, Slide.” Carpenter et al. knock out each number with tremendous skill and enthusiasm. He adds that “this music is as … full of life now as it was some 80 years ago.” I couldn’t agree more!