I don’t make resolutions, but if I did perhaps one of them would be to pay attention to the late Alex Hill (pianist, composer, arranger, singer, bandleader) who died of tuberculosis at 30. What better place to begin than his early-Thirties romp — part invitation to a wingding, part sermon, part exultation with hopes to send the Depression flying out of the window — LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE?
First, by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, instrumentally, in what may be the first recorded version of the song:
Wardell Jones, Shelton Hemphill, Henry “Red” Allen (tp) George Washington (tb,arr) prob. Henry Hicks (tb) Gene Mikell (sop,as,bar,cl) Crawford Wethington (as,bar,cl) Joe Garland (ts,bar,cl,arr) Edgar Hayes (p) Benny James (g) or Lawrence “Larry” Lucie (g) Hayes Alvis (b) O’Neil Spencer (d) Chuck Richards (vcl) Alex Hill, Benny Carter (arr) Lucky Millinder (dir)
Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang, all satirically identified, in two takes:
Louis Prima (tp,vcl) George Brunies (tb) Sidney Arodin (cl) Claude Thornhill (p) George Van Eps (g) Benny Pottle (b) Stan King (d). The routines are very similar, but in one version Prima refers to drummer King as “Stan Green,” the other by his correct surname.
Alex himself “and his Hollywood Sepians”:
What a charming singer he was! (I thought of the slightly cloudy voice of John W. Bubbles.)
Joe Thomas, Benny Carter (tp) Clyde Bernhardt, Claude Jones (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl) George James (as) Gene Sedric (ts) Garnet Clark (p) Alex Hill (voc, arr) Eddie Gibbs (g) Billy Taylor, Sr. (b) Harry Dial (d)
And the Ellington version (the first recording of the tune I ever heard) with the glorious Ivie Anderson:
Rex Stewart (cnt) Arthur Whetsol, Cootie Williams (tp) Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol (tb) Barney Bigard (cl,ts) Johnny Hodges (as,sop) Otto Hardwick (cl,as,bassax) Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl) Duke Ellington (p) Fred Guy (g) Wellman Braud (b) Billy Taylor, Sr. (tu) Sonny Greer (d) Ivie Anderson (vcl)
It’s unfair to Harry Roy to play his recording after Duke’s, but it represents the way a listener might have encountered the song as a new pop hit in early 1935:
Bringing us almost in to this century, here’s the delicious 1999 version by Hal Smith and his Rhythmakers featuring Rebecca Kilgore:
Marc Caparone (cnt) Alan Adams (tb) Bobby Gordon (cl) John Otto (as,cl) Chris Dawson (p) Rebecca Kilgore (g,vcl) Clint Baker (b) Hal Smith (d)
(I just saw that a 2012 CD by the wonderful hot band KUSTBANDET has this song as its title . . . must search out that disc.)
If you’re not even mildly jubilant at this point, there isn’t much more JAZZ LIVES can offer. I hope it works!
May your happiness increase!