Brought to you through the good offices of Rae Ann Berry, another brief trip to San Diego (November 27, 2009) to visit with the Yerba Buena Stompers.

Make yourself to home.  Coffee?  Campari?  Seltzer? 

A great deal of music strikes me as pleasant and competent, but I need to hear it only once.  “That’s nice,” the mind says, “and now we can move on!”  But some performances, whether subversively quiet or shouting, make me think, “I have to hear that again,” my reason for posting the three clips below. 

This edition of the Yerba Buena Stompers is led by John Gill, banjo and vocal; Marty Eggers, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Hal Smith, drums; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger, trumpets.  This band is my imagined version of what the Oliver band must have sounded like at the Lincoln Gardens: it has the same steady rock at medium tempos.  And the sweet interplay between Leon and Duke is a visual metaphor for Papa Joe and Little Louis.

Oddly, two of these performances have to do with melancholy; the first, BROKEN PROMISES, comes from the Lu Watters book, and is a simple song — almost a country-and-western lament, but it sticks in the mind.  Leon’s half-chorus (backed by Hal on the cymbal) is a delight.  Unfortunately, we can’t see John singing, but he still comes through:

The other bit of sadness is MAMA’S GONE, GOODBYE, which starts with the verse, new to me. 

When SFRaeAnn first posted this on YouTube, I started the clip and went some fifteen feet away to the kitchen.  But the second instrumental chorus — a duet between Duke, part-muted, and Marty’s incisive piano, made me abandon the caffeine and come back to the monitor, delighted.  No pyrotechnics but great skill!

The two performances made me think, not for the first time, about jazz musicians and singers who take the edge off of sad music (and lyrics) by raising the tempo, pushing the rhythm.  When you’re thinking about your Hot Mama, who’s gone, or those Broken Promises, you can’t be quite so despairing if you’re tapping your foot.  Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson get credit for this — consider Billie’s acidly swinging TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE — but it was happening before either of them was born.

And there’s MY LITTLE BIMBO (Down On A Bamboo Isle), a Walter Donaldson song whose subject is cross-cultural adultery.  Could I ignore a song that describes the sultry Love Object as having a “shape like a ukulele”?  Joy abounds. 

6 responses to “PLAY IT AGAIN, BOYS!

  1. Pingback: PLAY IT AGAIN, BOYS!

  2. What a treat to find this web site, especially since I am given reference by an unknown author who wrote a column about the late guitarist Wayne Wright, who I knew from several sit-in sessions way back when in Manhattan.
    Reading the latest Play It Again Boys, also reminds me of how my mom and dad, Dick, and Clarice Madden hung out with the swingers of the 20 and 30s. Muggsy Spanier was my godfather, and dad was a best man for one of Louis Prima’s weddings. They hung out with Wingy Manone, too. One of my sons, Sean, had Illinois Jacquet as a godfather.
    As for the mention in the Wayne Wright article, there is a picture of what the writer describes when I sat in with Bob Wilbur’s group while filming a news report for UPI Television. The writer says 1973, though I thought it was 1974. In any case, anyone who’s interested can see the photo (showing Milt Hinton and Dill Jones behind me) on my web site. Wayne was a marvelous player.
    As Bob Hope used to sing: Thanks for the Memories.

  3. Dear Mr. Madden,

    It’s possible I could be wrong about the date — and since I am not close to my boxes of cassettes as I write this, it will stay, poised, somewhere between 1973 and 4. But it was the Seagram Building, there were rushing fountains, and you did play a fine couple of choruses (on tenor) on CRAZY RHYTHM. I knew of you in other contexts, because I used to listen to WCBS-AM (880) regularly. How nice to hear from you! And please feel free to share some of those stories: any man who has Muggsy as godfather has a free pass to the kitchen, as far as I’m concerned.

    Cheers, Michael Steinman (

  4. It’s so nice to see so many people playing in the old style. I have nothing against bebop and such of course (that’s as what I play much of the time), but I enjoy the older sound as well. I just don’t here it live usually.

  5. Hello,

    Just a quick word to let you know that you are featured in our blogroll on Radio.Video.Jazz

    Please check our site. If you like our work, do link back to us.

    If you feel like contributing, let us know.

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    The Radio.Video.Jazz Team

    PS : you can also check our other website Radio.Video.Trad

  6. To Langston:

    It was 1973, for sure.

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