Monthly Archives: July 2011

THANKSGIVING with HAL SMITH’S RHYTHMAKERS, NOVEMBER 1988 (Hal Smith, Chris Tyle, Ray Skjelbred, Bobby Gordon, Frank Powers, Mike Duffy, Jack Meilahn)

I have nothing against Thanksgiving as a holiday, and I have plenty to be thankful for.  But I wish I’d been in San Diego over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1988 to hear this hot band . . . although they were captured on local television in a wonderfully varied half-hour.  The band?  Drummer Hal Smith’s Rhythmakers (named in honor of the 1932-33 sessions with Red Allen and Pee Wee Russell) featured the engaging hot cornetist and singer Chris Tyle, the tenor man Frank Powers, the wondrously brave clarinetist and singer Bobby Gordon, our hero Ray Skjelbred at the piano, solid bassist and guitarist Mike Duffy and Jack Meilahn.  I believe that all but Frank Powers are still with us.  And I’ve had the good fortune to hear Hal and Bobby in person, and look forward to hearing Chris, Ray, Mike, and Jack someday soon . . .

Here’s ONE HOUR — and you don’t have to wish for it in plaintive James P. Johnson style!

JELLY ROLL / HOME / MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (vocal Mike Duffy):

MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (concluded) / THIRTY-FIFTH AND SHIELDS / BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN / THAT’S A PLENTY (in tribute to Joe Sullivan, by the rhythm section):

THAT’S A PLENTY (concluded) / MAHOGANY HALL STOMP / YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME (vocal by Bobby Gordon) / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES:

TWO DEUCES / I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU:

The miracles of YouTube, not to be taken lightly.

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I CAN HEAR THIS NOW

An extraordinary trio — captured on a still photograph but not (alas) at a recording session.  I think the stage was at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., before 1941 — at one of the concerts staged by the Ertegun brothers, Ahmet and Nesuhi.

And the players?  Joe Marsala, Zutty Singleton, Teddy Wilson.  What an answer to the Goodman Trio and the Shaw Gramercy Five . . . !

UP IN THE CLOUDS with BILL COLEMAN

No other trumpeter sounded quite like graceful Bill Coleman, who should have put his profession as “aerialist” on his passport.

It wasn’t a matter of playing high notes, for other trumpeters have gone higher, but the ease with which Coleman accomplished his arcs in the sky.  Most astonishingly, he made the whole thing sound so easy, which even non-trumpeters will know is a great feat of magic. And his sound!  Not brass and valves and air pressure and force, but “gold to airy thinness beat.”

Here he is in glossy form in late 1935 in Paris:

The band was billed as “Garnet Clark and his Hot Club’s Four,” with Bill on trumpet and vocal; George Johnson, clarinet and tenor; Clark, piano; Django Reinhardt, guitar; June Cole, bass.

Here’s Bill in 1972 — playing fluegelhorn, his sound heavier, and darker, but still masterfully light.

We have this clip from a French television program, “Jazz Harmonie,” thanks to trumpeter and film scholar Bob Erwig.  Bill is joined by Marc Hemmeler, piano; Jimmy Gourley, guitar; Pierre Sim, bass; Michel Silva, drums.

And — thanks to eBay — Bill signs in, too:

Postscripts: I realized, perhaps too late, that this blogpost was seriously indebted to that of my friend Michael McQuaid, hot musician from Australia, who had recently paid homage to Bill with THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION.  The evidence of the borrowing is here, but the theft was purely imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.  And — also from Oz — the trumpet player who most reminds me of Mr. Coleman is the equally dazzling Bob Barnard.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JAKE

An update from Jake Hanna’s niece, Maria Judge:

As you know, I’ve been compiling material for more than a year, and it is shaping up nicely into If It Didn’t Swing It Wasn’t Jake: The Rhythm and Wit of Drummer Jake Hanna.  So far I have reached out to 111 people, 65 of whom have sent me something, 38 of whom have promised something, and 8 of whom I’m still waiting to hear from. I hope to connect with and hear from those 46 outstanding contributors within the next few weeks.  I have so enjoyed speaking with all of you and hearing your great Jake stories, most of which I hadn’t heard before. So please don’t worry if you think someone else has already told me what you were planning to share. And please don’t feel like you have to tell me something funny. I welcome your stories of how he inspired you and mentored you, how you enjoyed working together, and what an all-around great guy he was.

Here’s a quick description of the way the book is taking shape: Jake’s life doesn’t lend itself to a standard `story of his life’ format so this book is not structured along typical biographical lines. Instead, stories and tributes from fellow musicians, friends and family are woven throughout the chronology of his career as he progressed from big band drummer of the 1950’s and 60’s, through his role in the last era of studio orchestras, to working independently with singers,  instrumentalists and small groups, including several of his own.

My plan is to finish the manuscript by the end of October and then prepare for publication. I’ve sent out proposals to several publishers and am waiting to hear back. If I don’t get someone else to publish it I’ll do it myself – that was my original plan, anyway – and aim to have it in print by this winter. I hope that timeline works for those who would like to send me something.

I’ve set up a blog where I will post occasional information about the progress of the book.  You can subscribe to it to receive periodic updates, and please don’t worry about being overloaded with them. I won’t be doing too many updates for now.

 http://jakehannablog.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for being a part of this, and I look forward to hearing back from you with more additions to the collection.

THRIFT as a VIRTUE

The record collectors used to call it “junking,” but it’s more elevated (cleaner, brighter lighting, safer environs) these days.  Goodwill and the Salvation Army are usually well-stocked with Andy Williams and Donna Summer vinyl, although oddities still pop up — SONGS OF THE RED ARMY, for one.

But the Beloved and I like thrift stores — for wardrobe choices that go beyond the Ralph Lauren racks at Macy’s, for odds and ends (a salad spinner, an unusual coffee mug, intriguing books).  And their supply of records is usually more interesting.

Here are the rewards from a tour of thrift shops in the Mill Valley – Larkspur – Fairfax – San Rafael area in California, the records ranging from the common to the unusual, one dollar or less each:

As Marc Myers would say (he loves the subtexts of odd Fifties record covers), we hope she is enjoying the music — another bachelor pad fantasy, but the woman who liked Clyde Hurley playing a ballad would be a real keeper.

A very different approach to female pulchritude and the male gaze, no?  I might have this music on CD, but felt it would be terribly disloyal to be in the SF area and pass this record by.  Madam here likes jazz piano!

With this one, we’re clearly into the unusual — even though it seems to be a supermarket label and I’ve never heard Billy Franklin play.  (Is it possible that it was a pseudonym?)  But the accompanying band is first-class: Mousey Alexander, drums; Hank D’Amico, clarinet; Hary DiVito, trombone; Whitey Mitchell, bass, and a very young Johnny Varro, piano.  I don’t think I’ll be sufficiently organized to bring this disc to the Sweet and Hot festival to show Johnny, but perhaps.  And the songs are hopeful, too: I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU / INDIANA / SOUTH OF THE BORDER / THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER / SHINE / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / MEMORIES OF YOU / SWEET SUE.

In many thrift and second-hand stores, the 78 rpm records there are often ancient classical, overpriced Edisons, Teach Your Canary To Sing, 4 Top Hits, or the like.  One of the stores had three paper albums and a number of loose records — the usual Sinatra and Gene Autry, but someone’s favorites from 1930-1, which I bought indiscriminately.  Who knows which Columbia or Victor dance band record is hiding a yet-undiscovered Jack Purvis bridge?

Oscar Grogan?  But the other side is Richard Whiting’s HONEY, which is usually performed at a medium tempo, so it’s hopeful.

Now, there’s a prize!  The reverse is MY MAN.

Probably quite sweet rather than hot, but for a dollar, everyone might take a risk.  The other side is INDIAN LOVE CALL, and I hope it’s a precursor of Louis with Gordon Jenkins, Tony Pastor with Artie Shaw.

One other photographed poorly, so the titles will have to suffice:  ME AND MY SHADOW (Johnny Marvin: “The Ukulele Ace,” with Clarinet Accompaniment) / MY SUNDAY GIRL (Charles Kaley, with Violin, Saxophone, and Piano): Columbia 1021-D.  The heart imagines Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti or Matty Malneck, Arthur Schutt . . .

And two ringers — in that I paid more than a dollar for each one in an actual used record store.  But you’ll understand the reason for this sudden profligacy immediately:

I had this a long time ago, and it disappeared under unhappy circumstances: although Willie “the Lion” Smith and Jo Jones should have recorded in every decade prior to this, it’s a blessing that Hughes and Louis Panassie got them into a studio for this and another session as well.

I have heard the music from this two-band-spectacular, but it’s nice to have it on disc — with George Wettling, Nappy Trottier, Jack Maheu, Georg Brunis, Pee Wee Russell, Johnny Frigo, and Vic “Dickinson.”  The photograph of Jimmy and Art giving each other some skin is a good one, even if it’s a tossup whether the pretty model at rear left or the “redcap” looks less convincing.  Maybe Method acting hadn’t hit the Chicago studios yet?

I can’t wait until I encounter a three-speed turntable!

THE HARLEM UPROAR HOUSE, 1937-8

Last week, the Beloved and I were in a highly-recommended multi-dealer antique store in Sebastopol, California, picking up this, commenting on that.  Happily we don’t “need” to buy everything, so we aren’t faced with housefuls of antiques.

A dull brown folder about the size of a ten-disc 78 record album caught my eye.  It contained more than a hundred matchbook covers glued to black scrapbook pages.

Its owner, I am guessing, had been a traveling salesman or the like in the late Thirties and early Forties — a cosmopolitan fellow, eating fried chicken in Utah, having drinks in Buffalo.  Some of the matchbooks were clearly early World War Two, urging the holder to do something that would take a whack at Hitler.

Many of the covers featured mildly naughty illustrations: the one at top wasn’t the most enticing, but it did stop me in my survey.  It wasn’t just the scantily clad young woman or the pun on Roosevelt’s New Deal, but I remembered the “Harlem Uproar House,” paradoxically located seventy-five blocks south in midtown, as a place with serious jazz connections.

Late in 1937, Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a man with large dreams, rehearsed and led a mixed jazz band — Caucasian and African-American players, which he modestly called the DISCIPLES OF SWING.  I don’t  have my copy of REALLY THE BLUES nearby, but I recall the band had Frank Newton, Sidney deParis, Zutty Singleton, Gene Sedric, George Lugg, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Elmer James, and perhaps Happy Caldwell in its ranks.  But the world — even the sophisticated Broadway audience — was unwilling to countenance black and white playing together, and swastikas painted on the club ended the engagement in a week.  (It’s painful to recall, but New York was full of such sentiment: the potato farms on Long Island made room for meetings of the German-American Bund, and “America First” was part of the current dialogue.)

I wanted to offer JAZZ LIVES readers their own “nude deal,” and some online research was enlightening.  When you went to the Harlem Uproar House, there was a minimum charge of $1.00 after 10:00 PM; the drink menu started at fifty cents and went up to ten dollars for a quart of champagne.  A shrimp cocktail was fifty cents; broiled Maine lobster $1.50.

This wooden postcard obviously dates from the same time as the matchbook:

I found two other images at the blog of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (101 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta GA 30303-2503,
404.730.4001.  Archives Division – ext. 200.  http://www.afpls.org/aarl)

http://aarlarchives.blogspot.com/2010/10/treasures-from-vertical-files-harlem.html

I note that the blue image suggests that the club offers A NEW DEAL IN NIGHT LIFE, a more well-behaved advertisement suggesting that you and your girl could go there and swing out — especially if she is so beautifully dressed.  Did NEW DEAL replace NUDE DEAL, or the reverse?  My fashion-conscious readers can tell me the name of her outfit; the dance historians among my readers can no doubt identify the swing dance they are doing.

Aside from imagining how Mezz’s band sounded and wishing for a menu with 1937 prices, this is where my research came to an end.  More information, anyone?  and if anyone has any airchecks of the Disciples of Swing, those wouldn’t do us any harm, would they?  Although I have dark imaginings that Mezz took most of the solo space or at least he played along with the other improvisers, as was his habit.  Oh well.  Anyone who even envisioned a band with Frank Newton and Zutty Singleton in it can be forgiven a great deal.

JAZZ FOR FREE: 2011 SAVANNAH JAZZ FESTIVAL (Sept. 18-24, 2011)

I’m not a big fan of “free jazz,” but “jazz for free” is entirely a different matter.  And it’s happening this September in Savannah, Georgia.  The festival has been going on since 1983, built by local talent (Teddy Adams and Ben Tucker) and has featured international jazz stars as well, from Carmen McRae and Lionel Hampton to Jimmy Knepper and Art Blakey . . .

All events are free and open to the public.  Here’s the schedule:

Sept. 18 — 5-8 p.m. – Jam Session led by Teddy Adams  

Sept. 19 — 7-9 p.m. – “Ninety Miles” — a movie on Cuban Jazz (cosponsored by Psychotronic Film Society)

Sept. 20 — 7-10 p.m. – Howard Paul Quartet w/Scott Giddens & Jody Espina

Sept. 21 — 7-10 p.m. – George Petit 4 & Bob Masteller & Jazz Corner Quintet

Sept. 22 — 7-11 p.m. – Forsyth Park BLUES NITE

Bottles and Cans, Eric Culberson and Super Chikan

Sept. 23 – 7-11 p.m. Forsyth Park

Huxie Scott & Friends (Hall of Fame Members), Stan Killian Quartet and UNF Band w/Allan Harris

Sept. 24 – 4-11 p.m. Jazz Composers Sextet

Robert Lewis, Sax; Randall Reese, Sax AASU; Bill Schmid, Trumpet GSU; Dave Springfield, Piano VSU CofC; Frank Duvall, Bass CofC; Steve Primatic. Drums AASU; JB Scott/Lisa Kelly Quintet and Deborah Brown Quartet

Savannah Jazz Orchestra Featuring Wycliffe Gordon & Ron Wilkins, Pat Martino Trio w/Pat Bianchi (B3) and Shawn Hill (Drums)

For more information, visit http://www.savannahjazzfestival.org/main.html