Daily Archives: July 31, 2010

RED NORVO’S SPOTLIGHT BAND on FILM

The distinguished jazz film scholar Mark Cantor offers another cinematic mystery:

“In Back Beats and Rim Shots, Warren Vache and Johnny Blowers discuss a band put together by Red Norvo, under the sponsorship of Coca Cola, for an overseas tour during World War II.  The tour never happened, but before the band broke up a film  — called THE VICTORY PARADE OF SPOTLIGHT BANDS — was made of (in Johnny’s words) “the show.”  At least one performance from this film is known to me, and I have pulled a small set of pictures of the band from this film.  Coverage is not great, and the guys are somewhat disguised by the costume hats they are wearing.  I do see Eddie Condon on rhythm guitar, and Flip Phillips is one of the saxophonists. From what Johnny said, both in an interview and in his book, Dale Pearce and Dick Taylor should be in the brass section, but you don’t get close enough to really see most of these players clearly. There are five reeds in the band, and I am almost certain that Flip Phillips is to the far right.  Hymie Schertzer and Aaron Sachs are supposedly in the section, but I am not sure where.  The rhythm section is quite possibly Ralph Burns, Eddie Condon (for certain), probably Clyde Lombardi and Johnny Blowers (again, a certainty).

Please let me know what your readers think.”

The hats, oh, those hats.  Eddie Condon looks as if he is beginning a long prison term.  

I would love to hear the soundtrack.  

I’d also like to know whatever possessed the film director to dress everyone up — although it is indeed possible that they wore period clothing as part of their “show.”

A postscript.  Eddie Condon loathed big bands and was not shy about saying so.  Phyllis Smith Condon, his wife, was a copywriter for the D’Arcy agency — and she was in charge of the Coca-Cola account.  During the war, she, Eddie, and Ernie Anderson tried to market jazz to the servicemen and women under the beverage’s sponsorship — one project that never quite materialized resulted in a late-1942 recoding session for Condonites and famous friends.  But Eddie still looks miserable under his hat.

SIDNEY’S SECRET

I was chatting with the wonderful drummer Josh Duffee at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival while we were in the pub.  Because he was waiting for his dessert, the talk turned to dinner, to cuisine, to matters dear to both of us. 

Then Josh gave me the great gift of an anecdote I’d never heard before.

“Louie Bellson told me that Big Sid always carried a bottle of catsup in his back pocket.  Put it on everything, Louie said.”

(The image comes from http://oldadvertising.blogspot.com/2010/06/snider-catsup-1915_19.html).

I have continued to speculate about this revelation.  The simplest conclusion I can draw is that Sidney liked the taste of catsup.  But perhaps it was because the food he often encountered on the road was of such variable quality that it often needed something to enhance its taste or perhaps to mask it altogether.  I will be delighted to consider other possibilities as well.

And perhaps we now have to amend Sidney’s famous declaration to read, “I can swing seventeen men with one wire brush, a telephone book, and a bottle of catsup.”