Currently taking a variety of San Diego’s hipper nightspots by storm with
their delightfully unique arrangements of traditional jazz, blues and folk songs, the Dingbats are comprised of savvy and decidedly versatile guitarist David Bandrowski, the groups’ leader and producer of their debut CD, along with particularly dexterous acoustic bassist Doug Walker, and nimble, old timey and bluegrass oreinted mandolin virtuoso Chris Clarke, plus marvelously moody harmonica stylist Dane Terry, who also leads his own Cadillac Wreckers outfit on off days.
The quartet’s off-the-cuff, improvisational approach to material ranging from Jelly Roll Morton’s bawdy “Buddy Bolden’s Blues”, the Tin Pan Alley classic “My Window Faces the South” (I never thought anyone could top Commander Cody’s version, but the Dingbats come close) and their hauntingly distorted interpretation of the traditional Gospel hymn “Blood of the Lamb” to a quick tempoed, festive rendition of Charlie McCoy’s heralded instrumental “Jackson Stomp” and a Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys-like take on Wynonie Harris’ ”Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well?” will have you thinking variously of Dawg music, gypsy jazz, Mardi Gras, juke joints and whatever music Robert Crumb is up to lately.
Other covers of public domain material that hit that sweet spot encompass a properly pedaling, instrumental reading of “South” (with great solo spots by all four), an ultra-mellow reshaping of “I want to Die Easy”, rendered in black string-band style a la The Mississippi Sheiks, along with a happy-go-lucky recall of that old dance-hall favorite, the foolhardily flirting “Bogalusa Strut”. If you appreciate the atmospheric music that bands like the Hot Club of Cowtown or the aforementioned Commander used to come up with, you should check these guys out. - GvonT, Sing Out Magazine, Winter 2011
There are a lot of groups picking up on string jazz these days and there are a lot of groups with really weird names. This group combines the best of both worlds. With a bunch of hot acoustic pickers combined with a little computer experience with fonts (them’s words, folks), it all adds up to the Zapf Dingbats. With David Bandrowski’s guitar and vocals, Chris Clarke’s mandolin and vocals, Dane Terry’s harmonica and vocals, and Doug Walker on the string bass, the group is complete.
Now to the songs. The album kicks off with Bob Wills “My Window Faces the South” and goes right into all-day preachin’ and dinner on the ground with “Blood of the Lamb,” staying “South” with the great Benny Moten signature tune, and down to New Orleans with Jelly Roll Morton’s “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say.” Next up is another old gospel tune “I Want to Die Easy,” followed by Charlie McCoy and Sam Chatmon’s version of the “Cow Cow Blues,” which they called “Jackson Stomp” (some good hot mandolin here).
I remember “Soldier Soldier” by the New Lost City Ramblers but it was originally recorded by Bradley Kincaid. I know “Utah Moon” goes back a ways (it was recorded by someone in the 1920s but it was revived in the ’60s sometime and I I don’t know where these guys got it, but it’s worth a revival). Now, ”Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well” was originally done by Doc Wheeler’s Sunset Orchestra in 1942 and Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra revived it in 1945. “Bogalusa Strut” is a New Orleans jazz piece first recorded by Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band in 1927 and the CD winds up with “At the Jazz Band Ball,” originally recorded by the Original Dixie Land Jazz Band although it’s older than that and lots of folks did it later too.
And that winds up the program. Lots of good picking here. Some unusual arrangements of some not-often-heard songs. I wish there were more info about the songs and where they came from (you’ll just have to tear out this review or at least the part about the songs and tape it to your jewel box). I recommend that you buy this CD. In the first place there is lots of good music; in the second place, these are hard working local musicians trying real hard to keep neat old songs alive and they do need the money, I’m Sure.
For further info, visit the Zapf Dingbats’ website: www.zapfdingbat.com or c/o any of Chris Clarke’s websites. Or go see them at one of their local gigs and buy this CD. You won’t be sorry.
- Lou Curtis, San Diego Troubadour, July 2010