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  • Jonathan Widran


In these dark and divisive sociopolitical times that seem to have us collectively on the edge of our anxious seats at all times, we can thank the folks at the incredible retro-jazz label Turtle Bay Music for providing historical perspective. Because when we listen to brightly and whimsically arranged albums Steppin’ Out by The New Wonders – a three-cornet ensemble led by cornetist, vocalist and arranger Mike Davis – we hear more than simply a celebration of old- time music from the so called “jazz age” of 1920s.

We imagine folks back then, enjoying the same music by its original practitioners (Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, et al), either live or on tinny recordings, feeling nervous about whatever was making people feel that way a century ago. And we realize, like that generation and its worries have long passed, so will ours.

In the meantime, Steppin’ Out offers a grand aural coping mechanism, taking us from the snazzy, toe-tapping and ultra-charming swing of the Gershwins’ “Do Do Do” through Fatsnd Waller’s tender lovelorn “My Fate Is In Your Hands,” the jaunty wonders of “My Melancholy Baby” and beyond.

The cornerstone of the project is the whimsical, jangling Armstrong jam “Cornet Chop Suey” featuring Davis’ unique emulation of Red Nichols’ sound, fellow cornetists Andy Schumm and Colin Hancock (who handle other essential instruments throughout) and the plucky harmony lines of Jared Engel’s irrepressible banjo. Whether or not the historical perspective of this contemporary twist on timeless music helps listeners in their day to day lives, they’re going to have a blast listening and that’s pretty much providing the same nostalgic service.       


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