First, it’s not Dudgeon and Dragons.  “High dudgeon” is annoyance, anger, resentment.  “She left the meeting in high dudgeon.”  A witty piece on the etymology by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman can be found here.

And it’s also the title of a wonderful Joe Sullivan record.  I present the four sides he recorded in Los Angeles on April 1, 1945, for Sunset Records.  Sunset was the creation of Eddie Laguna, also a concert promoter, who’s proven elusive.  But the music isn’t.  Encouraged by his friend Zutty Singleton, Joe had moved west in 1943, and the first two sides recorded for Sunset were piano solos.

But these records are by a quintet and a trio: Joe, piano; Archie Rosati, clarinet; Ulysses Livingston, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Zutty Singleton, drums: NIGHT AND DAY / HIGH DUDGEON / BRUSHIN’ OFF THE BOOGIE / HEAVY LADEN (Joe, Archie, Zutty).

Joe is typecast as a “barrelhouse” “Chicago” pianist, and that he could be, but he loved the great lyrical songs — Coward and Porter as well as the blues.  Perhaps this choice was also inspired by another clarinetist named Shaw?

And the very thing:

Hear the crystalline sound of Zutty’s brushes:

and finally a trio performance (the cover of the Nagel-Heyer assemblage is odd at first — although Joe and Bird would have played together without scrapes):

A few small mysteries, without which no blogpost can be said to be complete.  One: I have not found a photograph or biography of Eddie Laguna, although he is references endlessly in articles about Nat King Cole  (Will Friedwald, inexplicably, even makes fun of his name) Wardell Gray, and others of that time and place.

Two: I am assuming that HIGH DUDGEON is Joe’s title, not Eddie’s, because it is credited to Joe.  He went to parochial school in Chicago, although he may have stopped in his teens.  I envision a nun saying, “Do that one more time, Joseph,  and you will see me in high dudgeon!’  Just as possible is that Joe picked it up from Bing Crosby, who loved elaborate flourishes of language.  Joe himself was articulate in speech and prose: see him on JAZZ CASUAL with Ralph J. Gleason; I’ve also seen several of his sophisticated letters to Jeff Atterton, which will turn up on another post.

All I know is that Joe’s music never leaves me annoyed, angry, resentful.  Is the opposite of HIGH DUDGEON something like FLOATING JOY?  Consider this, but listen to Joe as you do.

If you wanted to visit Joe in his San Francisco period — more or less from 1945 to his death in 1971, here’s where you would find him:

. . . . on the fifth floor:

A nifty postscript.  More than one skeptical reader wrote in to dispute the existence of Eddie Laguna, because that name was used as a pseudonym for Nat Cole on a record label.  The fine scholar-professor-guitarist Nick Rossi rode to the rescue with Ray Whitten’s photographs of the December 4, 1947 Dial Records date, led by Dexter Gordon at Radio Recorders, supervised by Eddie Laguna. Personnel as follows: Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards, tenor saxes; Jimmy Rowles, piano; Red Callender, bass; Roy Porter, drums.

Feast your eyes, friends!  Laguna, should you need a clue, holds no instrument.


and Mister Rowles in his Sweater, too:

and BILLBOARD, March 20, 1948:

May your happiness increase!

8 responses to “HOW’S YOUR DUDGEON?

  1. Jeff Atterton. There is a name out of the past. I remember him from his J & R days, when I was a med student / intern. I wish had taken the time to get to know him. Back then, c 1981 – 86, he just seemed like a record store employee, with a well above average knowledge of jazz and its history. I believe that he produced one of the Max Morath albums on Vanguard. Possibly more.

  2. Michael lovely post. Plus that extra etymology side barb that softly bludgeoned this curmudgeon holding a gudgeon. Have a safe and healthy new year. cheers, Henry

  3. Looks as if I already commented on Jeff about 3 years ago. My apologies for being repetitive. A picture of Jeff may be found, here.

  4. Dan Morgenstern

    Joe Sullivan is one of the greatest jazz pianists ever; Laguna was a DJ, his best was the session under the underrated Herbie Haymer’s name that featured Charlie Shavers, in top form, an inspired Buddy Rich, and Nat Cole for once featured as the brilliant jazz pianist he was. “Laguna Leap” is a sure cure for the blues and my choice for hottest Jazz captured on a 78! Rest of session also wonderful and all on cd “Young Shavers” on Topaz, a British product. Unfortunately omits alternates of two of the numbers.


  5. High praise indeed for “Laguna Leap” Dan and I cannot find any fault with your selection in the slightest! It’s a favorite record of mine as well. Every single player on the side is in excellent form. And it’s very nice to hear Haymer’s name called out, as I agree that he is very much underrated. For whatever it is worth, the entire Eddie Laguna supervised record date is available in fine fidelity on a Black Lion CD release from years back, but readily available, titled “Anatomy of a Jam Session” credited to Nat King Cole-Buddy Rich. My copy is Japanese of origin, but I believe it was produced domestically as well. Thanks as always for the wonderful posts Michael.

  6. These are great sides – reminds me of the joints I used to play a hundred years ago. We weren’t this good, but this kind of instrumentation and these kind of grooves could get a little dump jumping and heat up a cold February Saturday night.

  7. Yes, and let’s hear it for Ulysses Livingston!

  8. Ida Melrose Shoufler

    I agree with Mr Morgenstern, and you. of course. I think Sullivan was one of the greatest jazz pianists ever! I thought I had heard all of his music, I hadn’t. Thanks to you, my dear Michael. I was able to hear this and it is great!

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