Back That Jass Up


Two new records here by folks who could look through your entire collection and find absolutely nothing to listen to. Especially this Craig Ventresco fellow: Unless you happen to collect Edison cylinders or acoustically recorded 78s (you know, before they invented microphones?—that old), he don’t wanna hear it. He is, you see, a ragtime fiend. Claims to have never owned an LP player and to have never heard Led Zeppelin. He’s 32.

But he sure can play the guitar—acoustic, of course (he probably doesn’t even know there is another kind; I won’t tell him if you won’t). It was him you heard fingerpicking so beautifully on the Crumb soundtrack, and here he gives you 18 more shots of the same: rags and very old blues (arranged by him off of ancient records and song sheets), played with a nice, delicate funk and plenty of stomp when he needs it.

For being such prehistoric music (average age of composition: 91 years), the funny thing about The Past Is Yet to Come is how, I dunno, normal it sounds. I guess all the picking we’ve heard over the years from the likes of Jorma Kaukonen and Ry Cooder and even Jimmy Page has set us up to hear this sort of thing as plain old guitar music.

The Roof Garden Jass Band sounds much stranger—ironic, since the average date of composition here is 10 years later. But we’re not as accustomed to clarinet-wailers, trumpet-drivers, and trombone-sliders these days as we are to guitar-ticklers—especially not when they’re as unmellow as this. These guys, who specialize in meticulous re-creations of jazz so early that its name was spelled without z’s, play the stuff as if it were still driving squares to lock up daughters. No lazy Southern lope here. Hard-edged, aggressive, virtuosic—this is New York music. But still beautiful: Back in its day, after all, they liked to carve flowers on skyscrapers.

Origin Jazz Library,;

Stomp Off,