A gathering of individualists, playing the blues in two moods.

PeeWee Russell, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Wild Bill Davison, Eddie Condon, Morey Feld.  The film, made for Canadian television, purports to capture what it was like after hours at Condon’s club (the midtown version) in December 1963.  How close it is to reality is anyone’s guess.  Did Helen Ward, looking so pretty here, drop by to sing when there was no camera crew in attendance, and was there usually someone sitting at a table, sketching?

But the music that initially feels tenuous, ready to fall off the edge into disunity, comes together surprisingly.  The sounds are genuine, and so are the smiles on everyone’s face at the close.  “All the Olympians,” to quote Yeats.

Thanks to Bob Erwig for posting this on Dailymotion, and to David Weiner for reminding me about it.


  1. Pee Wee shows once again how far ahead he was of most everyone else of his generation. Would rather play a “wrong” note than a cliche.

    A few years later he would be making records with a piano-less quartet playing Coltrane tunes.

  2. Of course! And the classification of some artist as “innovative” or “predictable” has little to do with the material chosen. PeeWee doesn’t acknowledge that some notes are wronger than others, hence his solos on the 1927 FEELIN’ NO PAIN and IDA — he simply has his own song and is stubbornly, joyously singing it his own way. In that sense, playing a Coltrane blues or a Coleman blues with Marshall Brown might be less rigorous than making something new out of the blues here when everyone else around him seems wedded to his own familiar thing. (Although the Lion’s accompaniment surprises me every time!) PeeWee closes his eyes, focuses his thoughts and emotions, and plunges straight ahead even when the path disappears into the dark forest.

  3. Fanatastic! Just goes to show that real jazz can’t be catagorised. Pee Wee is, of course, wonderful…but so are the rest of them.

  4. Great video! There are a few more on DailyMotion from that film.

    If this was actually filmed in late 1963, the Marshall Brown-Pee Wee Russell Quartet discs had already been recorded. The Blank limited-pressing disc is from the summer of 1962, the “New Groove” Columbia disc from November 1962 and the “Ask Me Now!” Impulse album from April 1963. And even also his Newport ’63 feature with Thelonious Monk, devised by George Wein.

    Best regards,

  5. Thanks for the correction, Augustin.

    Should have checked the recording dates before posting.

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