Daily Archives: February 23, 2011

“THE MEMORY OF THINGS”

“The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician,” Louis Armstrong said. “Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the backyard on a hot night, or something said long ago.”

You don’t have to be Louis to draw pleasure from remembering . . . . perhaps by recalling these things, they are no longer gone from us.

But he provides the soundtrack to our thoughts — from 1956, with George Barnes, Ed Hall, Trummy Young, Lucky Thompson, Billy Kyle . . .

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“DING DING!” VIC DICKENSON RINGS THE BELL

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 Although the irreplaceable trombonist and singer Vic Dickenson recorded frequently for almost fifty years (his discography stretches from the sweet plaintive vocal on the Luis Russell HONEY, THAT REMINDS ME in 1931 to his last recorded performances in 1983), it never seems like too much.  Or even enough. 

I speak as someone who followed Vic around in New York City with a variety of tape recorders and once, a camera — between 1969 and 1981.  Occasionally he could offer a well-polished solo on BASIN STREET BLUES or IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD, but he always gave us surprises — whether he was being hilariously non-verbally seductive or slyly making tears come to my our with a ballad. 

Here — as a treat, because it is still probably an exceedingly rare record, is a gift from “danishjazz” on YouTube — Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys, recorded in Chicago, 1934, on a song whose lyrics come right out and say it.  (Did Blanche decide to imitate Mae West at the end because Mae was an internationally-known figure, or had Mae gotten her tricks from black vaudeville first?  Research!)  And the vehement, swiftly-moving solo by Vic is a high point of this record:

 

But all this serves as prelude to announce a wonderful new CD by Vic with Jim Galloway, music recorded live in Toronto in 1973.  I bought my copy as soon as I heard about the disc: I needed to hear Vic play ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART — and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Here’s the information from Jim’s website (http://www.jimgalloway.com):

Perhaps it belongs on television’s Antiques Roadshow. It’s a valuable slice of Canadian jazz history – a treasure trove in fact. Thirty-seven years ago saxophonist Jim Galloway played with American trombonist Vic Dickenson at a long-gone Toronto venue, Daniels. The show was recorded by Hogtown’s voice of jazz Ted O’Reilly, who stored the tapes – and now they’ve been transcribed. The result is Vic Dickenson Jim Galloway – Live In Toronto (Castor Records 11 001 http://www.jimgalloway.ca), which is pure delight, Galloway on his straight soprano for once (and occasionally baritone sax) matching wits with the king of growls, smears and all-around soft-toned, fluent wit. Backed by warhorses Ron Sorley (piano), Danny Mastri (bass) and George Reed (drums), the session is relaxed, yet swinging, from the first notes of Sonny Boy to the last of Just You, Just Me. It’s fabulous mainstream jazz, with journalist-drummer Paul Rimstead in for three of the dozen tracks. Happily Galloway sounds today much like he did then but everyone who heard Dickenson live misses his earthy playing with its immediately recognizable sound. The leaders both understand the blue notes and tasteful lyricism, and each gets his own stylish feature, Dickenson singing with his horn on Manha de Carnaval and Zing went the Strings of my Heart and Galloway, wry and charming as ever on baritone with Solitude. This great record shows how the wisdom of age trumps the pretentious audacity of much jazz youth. Geoff Chapman, WholeNote Magazine, December 2010

 To purchase a copy: Email buymusic@jimgalloway.ca.  Canada – $20 plus $3 shipping ($23 CAD).  Europe/International – $5 shipping ($25 CAD) (approx 18 euros).  

Sonny Boy /Basin Street Blues / Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart / Creole Love Call /Indiana /Just A Closer Walk With Thee / Manha De Carnaval / Struttin’ With Some Barbecue / Solitude / My Gal Sal / Tin Roof Blues / Just You, Just Me // 

HOT MUSIC from LUD GLUSKIN (1929, 1933)

Lud Gluskin (1898-1989) was originally a drummer, then a bandleader — his orchestras recorded prolifically in Europe in the late Twenties — and he was later prominent in radio and television.  Early and late he was associated with Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante, Orson Welles, and Burns and Allen.  Still, he’s not well known as an orchestra leader with any singularity and even less so as someone fully involved in Hot Music.  Perhaps these two videos will help change that?  (A two-CD Jazz Oracle set with many unknown and rare hot recordings has done some of the work here, too.  See  http://www.jazzoracle.com/catalogue/BDW_8045.asp   for details.)

More evidence?  A recording of MILENBERG JOYS — with solo work by Spencer Clark (bass sax) and Emile Christian (trombone) as well as other notables:

And a magical film (newsreel?) clip from 1933 of DINAH with vocals by the “Kentucky Singers”:

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O RARE JAMES P. JOHNSON!

The world still hasn’t quite caught up to James Price Johnson, ambitious composer, eminent pianist, generous mentor and teacher. 

How about CHARLESTON or ONE HOUR, MULE WALK  or YAMEKRAW? 

He  lifted up every band he played in, and as a stride progenitor, he lived up to his announcement that he could create “a trick a minute” at the keyboard.  And through his loving paternal care of one Thomas Waller, we have generations of pianists who thank him and sing his praises. 

James P. doesn’t get the attention his works or his playing merit.  But eBay has a few more exhibits for sale and for delighted contemplation.  Printed music, not records — harking back to a time when every household had a piano and someone reasonably competent to make it sing and shout.

Early in his career, James P. (who studied the classical repertoire and took many of his “tricks” from it) had ambitions — always frustrated — to write and perform longer works.  Many have been unearthed and recorded after his death, but EBONY DREAMS (1928) is new to me.  I’d love to hear what a real pianist could do with this music: if I bought it, it would simply reproach me, unplayed, from the piano:

And here’s something more popular and less intimidating — a song from a 1932 musical.  I’ve heard Marty Grosz sing it (as THERE GOES MY HEADACHE) and it’s entertaining although not hugely memorable.  But I’d never seen the sheet music for this show before:

And just to keep this post from being too dry a trip into the world of paper ephemera, here’s something for the ears.  Here’s James P. with Sidney DeParis, Vic Dickenson, Ben Webster, Jimmy Arthur Shirley, John Simmons, and Sidney Catlett, performing AFTER YOU’VE GONE for Blue Note.  Listen to his ringing solo chorus and the fine, spare comping he gives the soloists:

You see I don’t mean my title to be taken lightly!

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THE SPIRITS OF RHYTHM SIGN IN on eBay

I admire the Mills Brothers; I revere the Boswell Sisters. 

But I have a special place in my heart for a group that has received far less attention — the aptly-named Spirits of Rhythm, featuring Douglas Daniels and his brother Wilbur on tipple (a twelve-string instrument), Teddy Bunn on guitar, and Leo Watson on vocal, occasionally drums. 

Their recording career was brief: their records can fit on one compact disc (it’s worth searching for — on the Timeless / Retrieval label) and they flourished, intermittently, between the early Thirties and the mid-Forties.  Electrified, Bunn went on to record into the Fifties; Watson drifted into obscurity and died in 1950.  What happened to the Daniels brothers I do not know (although I just sent an email to Wilbur’s granddaughter, found on YouTube — the internet makes such deliciously odd things possible!). 

I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog the two clips of the Spirits — or variant combinations — on film, and they can be found on YouTube.  One is an exceedingly out-of-synch TOM TOM THE ELEVATOR BOY, from a 1941 musical SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS.  The other features Eddie Cantor impersonatory Jackie Greene in ALABAMY BOUND. 

But here’s some music.  First, I GOT RHYTHM from 1933:

And DR. WATSON AND MR. HOLMES (lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1937):

What else would anyone need?

How about some calligraphic evidence?  Here’s a contract offered to the highest bidder on eBay: dating from 1942, it offers the signatures of Ramon La Rae (a singer?  a bassist?), Teddy Bunn, Leo Watson, and the Daniels brothers.  I never thought I’d see something like this:

Here’s a closeup:

My only question now is whether I want the image below on a sweatshirt or will content myself with the wall hanging. 

Design suggestions, anyone?

The bidding ended — someone offered over $325 for this rare piece of paper.

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