One of the best things about being deeply immersed in Hot Music for a long time is that there are always surprises.
No one with a full-time job, no one who wants to see the sunshine, can listen to everything — although some of my friends try.
And one forgets! So even though I know I heard these records perhaps twenty years ago (from a Tax lp called AMERICANS IN EUROPE), when I revisited them today they were delightful and new. There’s the romping piano of Freddy Johnson, the soaring trumpet of Arthur Briggs, the clarinet of Peter DuConge, the tenor saxophone of Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, and the singing of Louis Cole, midway between theatrical and unbuttoned. And the rest of the band is swinging along mightily, apparently without any effort.
This was a “mixed band” of Americans and Europeans, recording in France on July 8, 1933. The recordings are good blindfold tests for your listening friends who believe that Europeans didn’t learn how to swing until . . . just recently?
The band personnel is Bobby Jones, Theodore Brock, Arthur Briggs, trumpet; Billy Burns, trombone; Peter Duconge, clarinet / alto; Alcide Castellanos, alto; Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, tenor; Freddy Johnson, piano / arranger; Sterling Conaway, guitar; Juan Fernandez, string bass; Billy Taylor, drums; Louis Cole, vocal.
I am impressed by the vivid, fluent soloing by players who seem to have absorbed all the influences and synthesized them into cohesive, personal styles: Louis pops up here, but so does Jabbo Smith; I hear Bigard and Hawkins and Hines in equal measure. And the arrangements! Again they sound seamless, with touches of Ellington, Calloway, and Moten . . . imitating no one conspicuously.
Here’s SWEET GEORGIA BROWN:
And the side I like even better (did this song ever have lyrics or was it always a scat extravaganza . . . a French version of IKEY AND MIKEY?) — a performance that gives new meaning to Aesop, FOXY AND GRAPESY:
I couldn’t play either side just once: I hope you find them equally intoxicating, including the stomping string bass playing of Juan Fernandez.
And we have someone who goes by the sobriquet “danishjazz” on YouTube to thank for all this: he’s been collecting 78s for 25 years, and has shared even more of his treasures on YT — including Milton Brown and his Brownies and Washboard Sam — singing WHO PUMPED THE WIND IN MY DOUGHNUT, which might be one of those questions to avoid in polite society. But his collection leans towards the Hot and the Obscure . . . so do take a look and a listen. He also maintains a website, LITTLE BEAT RECORDS, full of intriguing items for sale: littlebeatrecords.dk.