I was browsing online in search of new images or information about one of my favorite musicians, trumpeter Frank Newton, who has been gone since 1954 — and I came across this treasure, taken at the long-gone Greenwich Village jazz club the Pied Piper — on 15 Barrow Street, later reincarnated as Cafe Bohemia.
The bassist looks like Jack Lesberg; the drummer is invisible but might be Mack McGrath; I invite speculation about the young pianist. The band also had valve trombonist Frank Orchard, and pianists James P. Johnson and Willie “the Lion” Smith alternating between solo and band piano — letting a young Dick Hyman sit in now and again. A version of this band — woefully without Newton — recorded for Black and White (under the Lion’s name) and for Decca / Commodore / World Transcriptions, thanks to Milt Gabler (under Max’s name).
But that front line of Newton, Max Kaminsky, and Rod Cless is precious. I’d bet a 1944 ten-dollar bill, which meant much more than it does today, that this band was playing a slow blues. Can’t you hear it?
Thanks to photographer H. Kratovil, of course — and to the AFRICAN-AMERICAN website for publishing this photograph. I don’t know anything about this site — http://www.africanafrican.com/negroartist/JAZZ%20IMAGES4/index6.html — except that they offer eight pages of assorted “jazz images,” of which this one is most gratifying.
And, in case you’re wondering, Keats was right — even though he never made it to the Pied Piper in 1944.