This group from Germany has been playing the music of Louis Armstrong and his contemporaries since 1966, and aside from acting as means of preserving and honouring the music and the people, they also bring new life into some old tunes. Watching them in the DVD made of this 2005 tour, Sunset Café Stomp is not hearing the music played with the intent of preserving it for display in a museum. Each song might have been written only yesterday, they play them with such freshness and verve.
While there is an obvious love and respect for the original recordings, and they do their best to recreate as an authentic a sound as possible, they haven't forgotten that for Jazz to be effective it has to sound alive. They are very careful in their selection of material so they don't play the same old chestnuts that other groups of this type favour; no "Swanee River" or "When The Saints Go Marching In" for these guys.
Of the fourteen tracks on this DVD I only recognized one of the songs by name, "Willy The Weeper" and maybe one or two others sounded familiar as they were being played. Most of the tracks have been culled from less well-known Armstrong recordings from his days with the Hot Five and Hot Seven combo's. One that stuck out in my mind for its subject matter was Sweet Mumtaz, which was a 1920' tribute by Luis Russell to Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of an Indian Nobleman. As the liner notes say it's regrettably far less well known than the other tribute to the lady, the Taj Mahal.
Like the original bands, The Jazz O'Maniacs are a small ensemble, only eight players, but I'm not sure if the composition of the band is the same as those from earlier days. Instead of a drummer with kit, The Jazz O'Maniacs feature the amazing talents of Gunther Andernach on washboard and small percussion. Instead of your standard washboard he has custom built an ebony framed steel instrument with attached cowbells and woodblocks that he plays with the same finger picks that he uses for strumming and "tapping" his board.
Coupled with a banjo, played by Owe Hansen, and the tuba played by Dietrich Kleine-Horst, Andernach's washboard forms the rhythmic spine that holds the group together. While the leads are passed back and forth between saxophone (Cristoph Ditting), cornet (Roland Pitz who founded the group), trombone (Ullo Bella), piano (Andreas Clement) and clarinet(Claus Jurgen Moller, who was a last minute replacement when their regular player backed out) those three maintain the steady pulse that is so essential for this type of music to succeed.