Although I have very little patience for detective fiction and mystery novels (except for the witty ones by Josef Skvorecky), I savor the mysteries that jazz is full of.  Why didn’t Frank Newton record for a major label after 1939?  What happened to James P. Johnson’s recording career after the Twenties?  And there are mysteries of influence: what Bing Crosby recordings did Louis know when he entered his “crooning” period?  And how did Irving Kaufman feel about singing — with the utmost sincerity — a song called “My Wedding Gown”?  Where are the kinescopes of the Eddie Condon Floor Show?  Ernie Anderson told a story of a private recording session featuring the remarkable trio of Bobby Hackett, Harry “the Hipster” Gibson, and Sidney Catlett: where did the records go?  And more . . . .    

But today’s mystery is called WHO ARE THEY?  All of this came about when I learned that jazz film scholar Mark Cantor had located a photographs from a short film made for television in 1948 featuring the Adrian Rollini Trio.  Rollini, a heroic multi-instrumentalist, had given up the bass saxophone, on which he had no equals.  He then concentrated on the vibraphone, forming a trio with a guitarist and bassist. 

Mark says that he originally thought the guitarist in this picture might be Frank Victor, the bassist Sandy Block, but no longer thinks this.  He would like to know if anyone recognizes the guitarist and bassist below.  As they say in Britain and Ireland, I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue, but I thought some of my very hip readers might.  All I can say about these three musicians is that I admire their sharp suits and neatly folded handkerchiefs.  Here they are:


Of course, not all fine jazz musicians or studio musicians are famous, their faces instantly recognizable.  The mysterious picture evokes a departed past where every town and metropolis had a host of players who could read the charts, swing, and improvise.  It’s still true in New York City — one of the delights of going to clubs is hearing someone wonderful whose name I don’t know — and I get to say, politely, “Damn, but you can play.  Why haven’t you got a raft of CDs?”  But I digress.

If anyone thinks they know the identity of the bassist or the guitarist, please let me know and I will pass the information along to Mark.  And if, perchance, you’re listening to one of the Rollini CD reissues still available while you read this (on Jazz Oracle and Retrieval), our collective pleasure will be doubled and redoubled.

5 responses to “WHO ARE THEY? A JAZZ MYSTERY

  1. For compare:

    Dizzy & Bird with Sandy Block (HOT HOUSE):

    Frank Victor picture:

    Keep swinging
    Uwe Zänisch

  2. The worst of it is that I, later a dedicated and rather good bass szxophone player, had never heard of such a thing in ca 1938 and saw and heard the Adrian Rollini trio in this format (except piano instead of guitar) about then. They settled down in the Elliot Lounge in Boston, in a hotel on Mass. Ave., corner of Commonweath Ave. and had a 6:00 PM fifteen minute nightly radio show. Missing here is the full set of Deagan chimes Rollini had behind him in the club. I took to getting on the trolley and truckin’ on down to the Elliot Lounge to press my nose (more likely ear) against the plate glass window and hear pretty well the sounds live. Can’t help you with personnel.

    A bit of inside stuff about Rollini: In the 50s on Cape Cod I had a long term summer gig in a huge hotel – our jazz/dance band in a barnish back room; former (way former) prominent New York studio violinist Frank Cornwell doing formal dinner music in the front dining room. (diligent scouring of discographies uncovers Frank). Frank was the first and most important radio conductor in the late twenties when it all started (Alcohol assured his anonimity later). He told of hiring the Dorsey brothers, Bunny Berigan, Glenn Miller – and Adrian Rollini, then the king of the bass saxophone. “Rollini was by far the best musician in New York. He could hear anything and get it the first time. You put a new piece of music in front of him and he already knew it…”.

  3. There used to be an Adrian Rollini Trio radio show every Sunday afternoon (at least in the New York City area). All I could say is that it was on one of the 4 major stations (WEAF… WOR…WJZ…WABC). My guess would be around 1944. So, just maybe, you could check a good radio resource for a clue to the other two musicians.

  4. I already emailed my stab in the dark to Cantor, but in case it sheds any light with readers here, Rollini played on the radio (there are recordings of this) with Fred Sharp on guitar and George Nida on bass in 1947. I’ve not been able to locate old pictures of either Sharp or Nida. Sharp, however, used to be Jim Hall’s teacher. A recent picture of him can be seen here (http://www.cleveland.oh.us/wmv_news/jazz104.htm)

  5. Re Who Are They- Rollini trio pictured included George Hnida bass and Allen Hanlon guitar.

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