One of John Hammond’s many good ideas was this two-part (1937/8) small group session under trumpeter Harry James’ leadership, using almost all members of the Count Basie band. Harry was already a star, he had a deep rapport with the Basie band, and I think this session may have been part of a prelude to Harry leaving Benny Goodman and forming his own orchestra. Or, more simply, making records equaled fun, money, perhaps fame.
This wonderful session has not received the attention it deserves because of the star system in jazz. Lester Young is one of my most luminous stars in the musical night sky, but he is not the only one. This session gives space to musicians less heralded: tenor saxophonist Herschel Evans, who died so very young, and trombonist Vernon Brown. On other sides, a young Helen Humes sings — beautifully. I can hear her I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I? in my mental jukebox: how touching she was!
But today our focus is the blues, swung.
The Basie blues-plus-riffs, ONE O’CLOCK JUMP, had been a head arrangement by Eddie Durham and Buster Smith some years before, perhaps 1935. I have read that the unofficial name for this JUMP was BLUE BALLS, something that was not suitable for the radio audience, although some male listeners would recognize the ailment.
Basie had officially recorded it for Decca in July 1937; Goodman began using it on broadcasts not long after, so it was a piece of common language quickly.
And here is ONE O’CLOCK JUMP, twice.
January 5, 1938, under the supervision of John Hammond. Harry James And His Orchestra : Harry James, trumpet, arranger; Buck Clayton, trumpet; Vernon Brown, trombone; Earle Warren, alto saxophone; Herschel Evans, tenor saxophone; Jack Washington, alto and baritone saxophone; Jess Stacy, piano; Walter Page, string bass; Jo Jones, drums.
The 78 take:
The “microgroove” take:
I think the tempo is a hair quicker on the second version, although the general outlines of solos and the overall plan of this recording are similar. But I delight in the intensity and ease of these two discs, and some details stand out immediately: Jo Jones’ accents behind Harry’s solo on each take, for one. The breadth and passion of Herschel Evans’ sound. The deep, rich, guttiness of Vernon Brown. Jess Stacy, for goodness’ sake.
Thank heavens for the recording machine, and for the idea that you could preserve music, reproduce it, sell it, and have it for posterity. Brunswick Records is as much a wonder to me as is moveable type. I regret the three minute limit, but these fellows could write an memorable opus in twenty-four bars.
Incidentally, this blogpost is because YouTube gave me an opportunity to present both takes of this recording in sequence, something rarely encountered otherwise.
A postscript: I feel a Vernon Brown blog in gestation — both to celebrate him and to wonder about him. Until that time, here he is with Goodman, Dave Tough, Harry, Bud Freeman, Dave Matthews, in 1938, live:
May your happiness increase!