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Henry Butler is a standout pianist who adds contemporary bite to the rolling jangle and off-kilter vamps of his New Orleans heritage.

Here, he teams up with Brooklyn-based trumpeter/bandleader Steven Bernstein for a knowing dip into a classic repertoire. Butler’s playing lights up every track and the clarinet-led polyphony and fusion flourishes both work well.

Fats Waller’s title track sets high standards, “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” has authentic dirge rhythms and “Wolverine Blues” switches from funk to barrelhouse blues. Elsewhere, though, the beefy backbeats lack finesse.

Butler, Bernstein & the Hot Nine

Viper’s Drag

(Impulse)

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