WHO’S THAT MAN?

Much earlier in 2009, a number of jazz photographs came up for sale on eBay.  They were taken at Stuyvesant Casino in 1950, and the musicians depicted were heroic figures to me.  As always on eBay, two things happened: the bidding skyrocketed at the last minute, and (in the calming grip of Prudence) I refused to plunge into three-digit prices . . . so I ended up the proud purchaser of two of a lot of five or six.  (The photograph that isn’t the subject of this blogpost showed Wild Bill Davison and Benny Morton.)  The other mild disappointment was the size of the originals, approximately two by four.  Inches. 

Our subject for today is a little band of deities.  Hot Lips Page, Sidney Catlett, Pee Wee Russell, Ralph Sutton.  It’s a poignant photograph, because both Lips and Big Sid wouldn’t live much longer.  Pee Wee was months away from his hospitalization and looks gaunt; Sidney, who had suffered a heart attack, looks sadly small behind his drums.  Perhaps some of this is the camera angle and that the horns are sitting down, which isn’t the way we usually see them in photographs.

The title of this post, however, refers to the gentleman on the far right, busily playing the baritone saxophone.  He isn’t the man you would expect — Ernie Caceres — and even the photographer didn’t know who he was.  I showed a copy of this photograph around at Whitley Bay to a number of jazz scholars who happen to be splendid players: Bent Persson, frans Sjostrom, the erudite Norman Field, and Matthias Seuffert — and no one recognized the saxophonist.  Of course, it could have been someone sitting in, some alto / baritone player from a big band — but I don’t know if mere mortals ascended the stage at the Stuyvesant Casino to play alongside such deities.

Olympus, 1950

Olympus, 1950

I ask my readers: who’s that man?  And while they’re at it, I ask them to consider — in their mind’s ear, if there is such a thing — what this little band might have sounded like.  “Celestial” is an understatement as far as I’m concerned.

057

Final afterthoughts: does anyone recognize the photographer — by style or by handwriting?  Somehow I don’t think this is an amateur’s snapshot, not least because of the pencil notation “1432” we see above.  And did the Stuyvesant Casino have a bandstand like this one?  The upholstered wall (leather or naugahyde) resembles the backdrop I’ve seen in photographs of the Three Deuces.  Research!

17 responses to “WHO’S THAT MAN?

  1. Pingback: WHO’S THAT MAN?

  2. Perhaps it is Bill Miles, the baritone sax player on some of the Wild Bill Davison Commodore recordings? I’ve never seen a photo of him, but our Mr X keeps relatively similar company.

  3. I dunno the guy but the photo is definitely professional — the framing, the angle, the close proximity, yes. This wasn’t an I’m-sitting-in-the-front-row-gee-wouldn’t-it-be-nice-to-take-a-pic photo. Even the lens is likely a fisheye one (not easy to fit that many peeps into a 35 mm shot), which was not common to the layman and was somewhat popular back then, thanks likely to Weegee.

  4. Our Amy knows photographs and photography, so I agree. But one clarification: the fisheye effect in the photograph is entirely unintentional and is the result of my photographing it rather than scanning it for the blogpost. The original has no distorting orange glare at top, nor does it seem to bend away from the viewer. Catch Amy’s blog — noted on my blogroll!

  5. Michael Palmer

    Looks like Ernie Carceres to me.

  6. I know all of this is subjective . . . but the pictures I’ve seen of Caceres (early and late, he shows up on Google Images) show a handsome man of Mexican descent, with dark wavy hair, a slightly darker complection, a broader nose . . . unlike this fellow. I also thought it wasn’t EC because he was as famous as the other players in this photo, and the photographer left a blank space on the back of the photo where he was able to identify everyone else. Circumstantial, of course, but I’ve shown this photo to a half-dozen professional sax players and they were all stumped. Keep thinking on it, though!

  7. Mitchell Seidel

    No clue on the Bari, but the photographer was a pro or advanced amateur. For one, the framing is perfect for that era and type of shot– Ralph Sutton’s left hand being in the shot. Being in the front row with a good camera is not something that happened by chance. The lighting also is well-placed, coming in from above the camera. That’s not something a fan with a camera would even think about back then.

  8. Peter Vacher (who knows things!) agrees! More to come on this subject.

  9. Michael Palmer

    Looking at the picture a few more times and realizing that my first stab at Ernie Carceres was wrong as the hair is not luxuriant enough (!), I think it could very well be Jimmy Dorsey. While JD was a well know big band leader at the time he still played with the Condon pick up groups occasionally. It looks like him going by pictures taken in that period. How’s that? Any comments?

    Michael Palmer

    The Tribute Sites
    Johnny Hodges http://tinyurl.com/zcv67
    Jack Teagarden http://tinyurl.com/7af2c

  10. john c graham

    It does look like Jimmy Dorsey, especially the hair. The baritone could very well have been borrowed from Ernie Carceres. The photo’s great, made me wish there was a “play” button to go along with it.

  11. Dear friends,
    Regarding identifying (just) the place where these founding fathers are playing their arses off- I don’t think it was Lou Terassi’s (just off Times Square.) I went there in 1953 with 2 high school pals who loved jazz. We drove down from Red Hook, NY– and back the same night- in class next day as well. Off course the bandstand could have been rearranged- but I sat in on George W. drums, and they were up high in the back- very high- and the piano was on the same level as the front line, which would be to Lips’ right- not where Ralph is in the photo. Walter Page was to George’s left. The tufted back wall should be thee ID factor. I don’t remember it. Cliff Jackson played the intermission and he was gracious enough to let this 17 yr. old HS boy sit in with him. The regular band was Jimmy McPartland’s– Gene Sedric, Ed Hubble, Joe Sullivan, Walter Page and George were with him– long gone accept Hub who lives in the Fort Plain, NY. area up along The Mohawk. As to who the bari-player is? Not a clue. But he sure must have enjoyed that night! What a great shot! Gives me chills- good ones. I’d agree with whoever said the drummer might be “Traps” rather than Sidney, but then again the photgrapher is the authority- he was there!

  12. And so, in your own way, were you! So thanks for adding so much to our knowledge of those scenes gone by. And talk about getting chills — a rhythm section of Sutton, Page, and Wettling could have moved mountains. That trio is audible on Condon’s TREASURY OF JAZZ, thanks be! Cheers and more thanks, MB — for much!

  13. MS- I had a nice phone chat with Eddie Hubble today and described your photograph to him- musicians and wall decor. He remembered the wall behind the bandstand as being “unusual” and believes it may very well have been decorated that way.
    I plan to drive up and see him soon and we’ll look at the pic together. Jimmy McP. replaced Pee Wee Erwin. He thinks Erwin cut out because of Gene Sedric and his garlic. According to Hub the bandstand reeked of garlic as Gene would drink a quart of garlic water each night. He kept 3 jars on hand bringing in a fresh one each evening and sipping from the #3 jar.
    Perhaps Ed will recognize the bari player giving you a second confirmation on Billy Miles (?) Terrasi’s was on 47th St. Later- mb

  14. Dear MB, a wonderful story about Sedric; I’ll never be able to hear Fats and his Rhythm without sniffing the air. Please send my blog-regards to Eddie Hubble, one of the most astonishing trombonists in jazz. You might also mention that I did a piece on his old playing companion, Johnny Windhurst. And be well yourself! MS

  15. Two points make me vow that the photo was not taken at Stuyvesant Casino:
    1. The backdrop. Stuyvesant did not have padding behind the bandstand. I believe there was a large mirror.
    2. Except for piano and drums, the musicians were not seated; they played standing.
    (Just a point of information. Or two. Stuyvesant Casino was terrific, despite being noisy, and the music often ragged. I miss it.)

  16. Dear Jay Kay,

    Thanks for adding first-hand experience to this controversy of sorts. This photo fascinates me — to have Lips, Pee Wee, and Ralph playing together is a great constellation. And the discussion the photo evoked (some of it not contained in the comments above) was another lesson in how boldly we hold to things we believe, whether or not there is tangible evidence to support them. The “Stuyvesant Casino” designation came from the eBay seller, someone I guess at a distance from the photographer. Perhaps there was an envelope in which Uncle Phil’s (I am inventing) photos were stored with the designation “STUYVESANT CASINO” on it? Anyway, this long prelude is to encourage you to share happy memories of the S.C. on this blog, should you care to! We who love the music but were not attending jazz clubs in 1950 need all the memories we can get! Thanks, Michael Steinman

  17. I met Ed Hubble in the 1970’s
    I’d like to send a greeting out to him here and hoping he gets it.
    Thanks for helping me begin on the trumpet!
    God Bless
    Jeff

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