“A MUSICIANS’ PARADISE”: BOBBY HACKETT, MARTY MARSALA, PEE WEE RUSSELL, BUD FREEMAN, JOE BUSHKIN, EDDIE CONDON, ARTIE SHAPIRO, DAVE TOUGH (November 5, 1938)

Young Bobby Hackett

This performance is both rare and familiar, famous and infamous, and you’ll hear why. It comes from a jam session organized by Joe Marsala from the St. Regis Hotel in New York City which was broadcast to the BBC — unheard at home. The eager announcer, jazz fan Alistair Cooke, is so eager to explain the new phenomenon of swing to the uninitiated that he explains — to some, insufferably — through most of the track.

But if you have the kind of first-rate mind F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke of, and you can listen around the well-intentioned Mr. Cooke, you will hear some astonishing music from Bobby Hackett, cornet; Marty Marsala, trumpet; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Dave Tough, drums. Source material from a Jazz Unlimited CD, GREAT SWING JAM SESSIONS.

I used to expend energy complaining about our Alistair, but as I’ve aged I hear him out of the corner of my consciousness while I prize the splash and drive of Dave Tough’s cymbal work and tom-toms, the ferocious joy of the soloists and ensemble. No Alistair, no jam session, even though his timing is off: he is like a little boy with short legs chasing the parade. Rather than complain, KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE. It’s a bubble, you know:

Hot in November for sure. And as Mr. Cooke wisely says, “This is no concert for people who don’t like swing.” Imagine this blazing out of your radio. And if you are so inclined to comment on Mr. Cooke’s loquacity, remember that he is an anthropologist introducing people to a new culture, and thank him: no Cooke, no music.

May your happiness increase!

5 responses to ““A MUSICIANS’ PARADISE”: BOBBY HACKETT, MARTY MARSALA, PEE WEE RUSSELL, BUD FREEMAN, JOE BUSHKIN, EDDIE CONDON, ARTIE SHAPIRO, DAVE TOUGH (November 5, 1938)

  1. Alastair Cooke might sound over eager and and not exactly hip to today’s listener but this was the first BBC Jam Session from the USA and to us on this side of the pond it must have been like manna from heaven in 1938. Don’t knock it – you were lucky to be surrounded by all that wonderful music then.

  2. I’m completely with you, Robin: it still is manna from heaven in 2021, otherwise I wouldn’t have done this post.

  3. Beautiful. Well worth the wait for that Bud Freeman solo near the end. Very tasty.

  4. Beautiful. Well worth the wait for that Bud Freeman solo near the end. Very tasty.

  5. Alistair Cooke gets somewhat of a pass from me for his story about H. L. Mencken at a political convention where he was accosted by a gang of early proto-feminists.

    Mencken turned to Cooke and growled, “Makes you want to burn every bed in town.”

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