Mike Walbridge's Chicago Footwarmers
featuring Kim Cusack
"Crazy Rhythm"

Crazy Rhythm

Review by Brad Walseth

Fans of "Old School" traditional Jazz will rejoice at this release from Delmark Records. A hybrid of sorts, the latter half is a re-release of a recording of the Footwarmers from 1966 & 67. Two members, leader and tuba player Mike Walbridge and clarinet/alto saxophonist Kim Cusack are still with the group, with Cusack perhaps the reigning king of local New Orleans style musicians (he can often be seen with the Salty Dogs - another long time local Dixieland band of which Walbridge was also a member). When Bob Koester wanted to re-release the old recording, he thought some new recordings would be a nice addition and eight new tracks were recorded in 2007. With banjo/guitarist Don Stiernberg and veteran drummer Bob Cousins rounding out this foursome, the listener is transported to an earlier era.

All of the musicians here shine, with Cusack's clarinet as sweet as ever. His wonderful, alto sax work, as on the opener "I Would Do Anything for You" may surprise some who know him only as a clarinetist. Walbridge and Cousins keep everything together, while Stiernberg admirably resurrects the dying art of playing banjo rhythms. Cusack charms throughout and Walbridge's "walking" tuba on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" is a great example of how this instrument can please when in the right hands.

The newer recordings show a maturity and mastery, while the older ones burn a bit more, with Eddie Lynch on banjo, Glen Koch on drums and pianist Johnny Cooper on piano. This younger version understandably has a bit more bite and vinegar; Lynch's banjo is more up front and muscular, while Cooper is a delight on the piano. Tunes like "Nagasaki" and "Angry" are played with high-stepping energy and youthful ferocity. The core of Cusack and Wallbridge intact, these two recordings bridge over four decades of keeping alive the New Orleans/Chicago sound from the early days of Jazz.

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