“UNIDENTIFIED NEGRO JAZZ MUSICIANS” on eBay

Call me oversensitive if you will, but I found the title above more than a bit puzzling and demeaning when it was attached to a number of photographs on sale on eBay.  Hasn’t “Negro” been replaced by more accurate, less weighted language?  And to call the musicians below “unidentified” seems a failure of basic research skills. 

If Benny Carter is an “unidentified Negro,” we need to embark on a more effective national program of cultural education.   

Without further lecturing, the photographs (all of them sold to the highest bidders by now):

Benny Carter and his Orchestra, 1939 — including Jimmy Archey, Bobby Woodlen, Vic Dickenson, Chick Morrison, Lincoln Mills, Tyree Glenn, and Joe Thomas (from left to right).  It’s a rather unorthodox arrangement of this stellar brass section, for photographic purposes only.

I’ve never seen a photograph of this man looking downcast or mournful: that’s Zutty Singleton!

Two extraordinary percussionists for the price of one: on top, grinning even more broadly, Sonny Greer at his personalized Leedy set; below him, Cozy Cole, having a wonderful time as well.

In fairness, I must write that this handsome trumpet player is, for the moment, “unidentified” to me — he looks terribly familiar but his name is elusive.  Can anyone help?  (Although I must point out that John C. Brown or someone else had identified the subject on the reverse of the one photograph from this collection I bought . . . )

As a postscript: Steve Provizer thinks it’s Jonah Jones.  Mike Burgevin, who enjoyed a long friendship / playing partnership with Joe Thomas, thinks it’s Joe. 

The photographs above are famous — the Blessed Herschel Evans (possibly by Timme Rosenkrantz) and Irving “Mouse” Randolph.  I wonder how Irving got that nickname: he hardly resembles any rodent I ever saw, on the floor or in cartoons.  The Randolph portrait, by the way, was reproduced in one of the mid-Seventies Billie Holiday box sets on Columbia, which is where I saw it first.

His Honor, The Judge, Milton John Hinton (in the Seventies, I believe).

Mugging for the camera — by himself, without the Tympany Five — Louis Jordan.

Sonny Greer, resplendent at work (with the backs of the Ellington brass section to his right) during that band’s Victor Records contract — little Nipper’s on the bass drum head.

The two musicians at bottom are identified (although not by the seller); at top, I think the pianist is Patti Bown, the trumpeter Charlie Shavers, and I couldn’t mistake Milt Hinton and Jo Jones.

I won’t even guess at the trio on the right, but the handsome fellow on the left is intriguing.  If I can’t find out who he is, at least I’d like that suit jacket for myself, if it would fit.

The fellow in the center should be recognizable — but who could miss Lionel Hampton and Jimmy Crawford (the latter under his own stylized palm tree)?

Equal time for unidentified Caucasians!  The drummer at top left obviously loves his Rogers set, but might need a motorized throne to cover it all.  Behind the swinging woodpecker, none other than Ray Bauduc.  And at bottom — characteristically thin and somber — Dave Tough. 

Anonymous no more, I hope.

P.S.  And since I’d like to end this post in celebration rather than rancor, here’s a lovely (and fully identified) portrait of the saxophonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Edgar Sampson, sharp in his band jacket and ready for action in front of the Savoy Ballroom, or at least the Savoy Billiards.  Everything suggests this was taken in the mid-Thirties, and it has the general affect of a Timme Rosenkrantz shot, but I can’t prove it: the clothing of the passers-by suggests mild weather, but only students of historical fashion could tell us more. 

10 responses to ““UNIDENTIFIED NEGRO JAZZ MUSICIANS” on eBay

  1. I think the trumpet player is Jonah Jones.

  2. I am reminded of something a friend of mine, a black film maker, experienced at either the LofC or Smithsonian (I can’t recall which). He was looking for film clips for a documentary when he spotted a cardboard box in a corner. On it, someone armed with a magic marker had crudely written: “Assorted Negroes”.

    It turned out to be quite a collection of film whose subjects nobody had been able to identify. Bill immediately spotted Marcus Garvey, as well as other prominent Harlem figures from the ’20s and ’30s.

  3. Fabulous! Thank you so much for this – I must admit that I didn’t recognise all of them – but I will from now on.

  4. Hi Michael,
    I think the unknown “handsome” trumpet player is Benny Carter, although I’ve not seen him playing that particular model of trumpet – a Selmer made in the US by E.K. Blessing. He usually played a Conn.

    The mystery drummer nattily attired is Paul Barbarin. Can’t help with the trio.

    Thanks for posting such nice photos!

    Cheers,
    Chris Tyle

  5. Stop the press! The “mystery” drummer with all the bass drums is Louis Bellson.

  6. I think Steve may be right about Jonah. Upon closer examination I see the gent is playing an Olds trumpet – not a Selmer. Jonah played Olds almost exclusively (and was an endorser) for years. And he also held the trumpet the way this fellow is.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  7. Loved your article here.
    It is Jonah Jones, and the “handsome” manis drummer Paul Barbarin, the photo part of a series on the Luis Russell band.

    Nest,

    Loren

  8. The palm tree above Jimmy Crawford belongs to the wall at the Fiesta Danceteria. Taken when JC was with Lunceford.

  9. The trumpet player is Louisville native Jonah Jones. The trio is Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers – Oscar’s brother on guitar, Eddie Williams on bass, and Charles Brown on piano and vocals.

  10. Unidentified drummer with the sharp suit with satin lapels is Paul Barbarin. Photo is from 1934 Luis Russell Orchestra promos. Paul was a native New Orleanian and played with Russell and King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopaters during 1920’s and 30’s.

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