I have a special fondness for those musicians who never get their share of the limelight — not only Joe Thomas but also Frank Chace, Mike Burgevin, Cliff Leeman, Benny Morton, Shorty Baker, Rod Cless come to mind.
It would be impossible to say who is most underrated or under-recognized, but trombonist Abe Lincoln is certainly a contender for Jazz’s Forgotten Man. Although his astonishing playing enlivens many recordings — the late Thirties West Coast sessions that Bing Crosby and Hoagy Carmichael made with small jamming bands (often including Andy Secrest on cornet) and later sessions with the Rampart Street Paraders and Matty Matlock’s Paducah Patrol, he’s not well known. I first heard him out in the open on a wondrous Bobby Hackett Capitol session, COAST CONCERT or COAST TO COAST, where Abe and Jack Teagarden stood side by side. It wasn’t a cutting contest, but Abe’s joyous exuberance was more than a match for Big T.
There are exceptions — cornetist Bob Barnard is a heroic one — but many jazz brassmen start their solos low and quiet, and work up to their higher registers for drama. Abe Lincoln reminds me of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., leaping from a balcony, sword drawn. There’s no shilly-shallying; Abe starts his solos with a whoop in his highest register and STAYS THERE. He’s dazzling.
I’m currently writing the liner notes for a forthcoming CD on the JUMP label (Joe Boughton’s cherished enterprise) which will feature a “Rampart Street Paraders” group in performance. The venue was called “Storyville,” apparently located in San Francisco in the Sixties. The band? How about Billy Butterfield, Matty Matlock, Stan Wrightsman, Ray Leatherwood, Nick Fatool, and Abe Lincoln. Looking for information in my discographies, I found sketches of Lincoln’s associations: the California Ramblers, Ozzie Nelson, Paul Whiteman, Roger Wolfe Kahn, West Coast radio and film work, soundtrack work for Walter Lanz Woody Woodpecker cartoons, even!
Then I did what has become common practice for researchers: I Googled “Abe Lincoln” “jazz” “trombone” — to separate him from that other Abe who split rails and ended the Civil War.
And THIS came up — a whole website devoted to Abe: thorough, accurate, with photographs, articles, a discography, a video clip (!) and a biography:
It doesn’t make Abram Lincoln (not “Abraham,” by the way) a great deal more famous, but I applaud the site and bless the person who created it. Check it out and enjoy Mister Lincoln.