There are some spiritual places on this planet. Yours may be deep in the redwood forest, or on your yoga mat. Mine is a wondrous record store in El Cerrito, California. DOWN HOME MUSIC is at — or perhaps floats above –
10431 San Pablo Avenue. The phone number is (510) 525-2129; the website is http://www.downhomemusic.com. My good friend, trumpet player Tally Baker, took me there last week. I spent seventy-five dollars and four cents, had the time of my record-collecting life, have no regrets, and want to go back again. Here’s what I bought: some of it sentimental gap-filling (records to replace those lost in natural disasters), some of it “Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen a copy of that!,” some of it “Can you believe they have a copy of this record?” And — to quote King Oliver — I MUST HAVE IT. I found out that Down Home Music has live sessions, and is the beloved brainchild of Chris Strachwitz, who founded Arhoolie Records. Long may he and the store and the music flourish.
The results of the pilgrimage, in no particular order.
MEL POWELL SEPTET (Vanguard): Powell, Buck Clayton, Henderson Chambers, Ed Hall, Steve Jordan, Walter Page, Jimmy Crawford. Some of the music on this 10″ lp has been reissued on that hodgepodge series of Vanguard CDs — I fear they are now out of print — but they left out an extended I MUST HAVE THAT MAN that is as lovely and sad and groovy as anything I can think of.
WOLVERINE JAZZ (Decca): Bud Freeman, Brad Gowans, Pee Wee Russell, Max Kaminsky, Dave Bowman, Eddie Condon, Pete Peterson, Morey Feld. This session doesn’t have Dave Tough, but it does have SUSIE (OF THE ISLANDS). And I started laughing when I remembered that Eddie advanced the idea that the album should be called SONS OF BIXES.
DON EWELL (Windin’ Ball): Ewell, solo. Through this blog, I have met Birch Smith, who is responsible for this session. Blessings on Ewell’s head and on Birch’s, too. And on his DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, Don mutters (at the appropriate juncture), “Oh, crawl that thing!” Indeed.
PETE KELLY AT HOME (RCA Victor): Dick Cathcart, Abe Lincoln, Matty Matlock, Jack Chaney, Ray Sherman, Jud DeNaut, George Van Eps, Nick Fatool. Who knew? This has (among other surprises) LA CUCARACHA, and it features Mister Lincoln, one of my heroes.
THE FABULOUS FINNS: SYLVESTER AHOLA (Qaulity): Ahola with the Rhythm Maniacs, Night Club Kings, Ambrose, The Rhythmic Eight, Plihip Lewis, Arcadians, Ray Starita, Georgians, Piccadilly Players. Plus an interview done with Ahola at his home — in Finnish. Could you resist? I couldn’t.
BOB MIELKE’S BEARCATS (Arhoolie): Mielke, P.T. Stanton, Bill Napier, Dick Oxtot, Pete Allen, Don Merchant, Bill Erickson, Burt Bales. Tally had played me some of this music. It rocked then; it rocks now.
DICK OXTOT’S GOLDEN AGE JAZZ BAND (Arhoolie): Jim Goodwin, Meilke, Bob Helm, Ray Skjelbred, Bill Bardin, Napier. Goodwin and Skjelbred. Who could pass this up?
CHICAGO HIGH LIFE (Euphonic): Ray Skjelbred, Clarence Jackson. Ditto.
ON THE WATERFRONT WITH BURT BALES (Cavalier): Bales, solo. Yeah, man.
PUTNEY DANDRIDGE (Rarities): Volumes 1 and 2, with Roy, Chu, Teddy, Red, Buster, Ben, Bobby Stark, Cozy Cole, John Kirby, Slick Jones. Mr. Dandridge is an acquired taste, but the bands swing gently and ferociously.
Blessings all around!
P.S. Jazz 78s and 45s too, and a turntable to play them on — so that I could assure myself that the never-seen Peg LaCentra with Jerry Sears on Bluebird was, in fact, dull. Invaluable experience — like the old days — to be able to check out a disc before plunging two or three dollars on it.