A JAZZ VALENTINE, 1931

Yes, I know it’s about five weeks early.  But Emrah has provided us with a double delight — a great romantic ballad in swingtime, beautifully sung by Quentin Jackson, with solos by Doc Cheatham, Rex Stewart, and Benny Carter . . . as well as a Carter reed-section passage and rollicking piano accompaniment from Todd Rhodes.

The whole band — McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in their last sides for Victor, although the band went on for a few more years — is Benny Carter, clarinet, alto saxophone, director; Rex Stewart, cornet; Buddy Lee, Doc Cheatham, trumpet; Ed Cuffee, trombone; Quentin Jackson, trombone, vocal; Joe Moxley, Hilton Jefferson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Todd Rhodes, piano, celeste; Dave Wilborn, banjo, guitar; Billy Taylor, brass bass; Cuba Austin, drums. Recorded in Camden, New Jersey, September 8, 1931:

The delights of this performance are many, and they grow with repeated listenings.  The supple, fluid sweetness of Doc Cheatham’s melody statement; the vigorous “I will play a note or two to every beat” solo chorus, so flavorful and personal, by Rex Stewart; the lusciously slippery Carter reeds; the dashing vocal chorus by Quentin Jackson (play this for everyone who insists that before Crosby, all male singers sounded insufficiently masculine), and the rocking motion of this ensemble, thanks to Wilborn, Taylor, and Austin, refuting another canard, that jazz musicians were waiting to get rid of banjo and brass bass so that Modernity could burst forth.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovers. Start your romantic engines early.  Work on becoming just as swoony and loving as the men and women portrayed on Emrah’s photographs and postcards.

May your happiness increase!

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11 responses to “A JAZZ VALENTINE, 1931

  1. I’ve always loved this recording (originaly on a B&W French Victor LP). I may be wrong, but I believe that when Doc again played and sang it on his 1997 Verve CD with Nicholas Payton, it was the first time it had been recorded since the 1931 Cotton Pickers rendition. Both are wonderful!

  2. Sounds like guitar rather than banjo. Hmmm.

  3. I won’t disagree. It’s the principle of the thing! Wishing you many period-correct dips and spins, as always . . .

  4. There is another take of this in which Rex Stewarts solo is even more satisfying than this-love to hear it Michael !
    Roger Offord
    London (and Whitley Bay)

  5. Perhaps Emrah will hear your plea and respond with generosity — he is just that kind of fellow.

  6. This was very definitely arranged by Benny Carter – the sax soli is a dead give-away. And yes, guitar rather than banjo. I heard this when I was a teenager and was knocked out by Rex’s marvelous solo – the plunger mute held tightly against the bell of his horn.

  7. Thank you for the nice words, Michael! I’m honored!

    The other take was issued on LP only, which means that I can’t post it. I never use sound material from LPs or CDs.

    It’s definitely a guitar. Thank you very much!

  8. Perhaps this masterpiece, and all that can be heard in and said about it, could be spun off as its own website, a la’ Rhoda or Maude.

    1. Did Wilborn tune his guitar like his banjo?
    2. Who is the unidentified exuberator at 0:55?
    3. The other take has Rex playing wonderful obbligato behind Jackson’s vocal.
    4. Jackson, so I’ve read, took on the vocal role previously played by George Thomas, and was encouraged to affect his predecessor’s style.
    5. In 1962, Rex was reported in Record Research to have said that this (or maybe it was the other take? nobody thought to ask!) and “Kissin’ My Baby Goodnight” with Ellington as his favorite recorded performances. The discographies have always listed two takes of “Kissin’,” but I’ve never been able to locate anyone that has heard take -1.

    On with the arcane!

  9. You are The Prince of Close Listening! And that is a compliment from the heart. “Exuberator,” I love and will steal. Thank you, TP (or PM).

  10. In response to other respondents, surely the more than adequate tenor sax solo near the end is by the largely forgotten Prince Robinson, and there are no actual solos by Benny Carter ?

  11. MIchael, thanks for posting this! It’s not on any of my McKinny’s CDs. That’s the best Rex Stewart solo I’ve ever heard. And Carter’s charts for the ensemble are so amazing, so precise (what other arranger ever got a reed section to play trills like that?). And Prince Robinson’s hot sax solo shows how completely he had mastered Hawkins’ sound and style. A treat!

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