A recent meander through eBay turned up two stunning autographed photographs — photographs taken by the much-missed Duncan Schiedt. I am short on wall space, so I contented myself with watching the bidding race (Lips beat Red, which would have pleased Lips). The Lips photograph sold for over $150; Red brought much less. It’s not the way I would choose to celebrate Red’s birthday, today.
However, they are beautiful photographs from the late 1940s or very early 1950s, when Duncan was a regular at Stuyvesant Casino and Central Plaza on the weekends.
and the signature, which says it all:
Among the great unsolved mysteries of my adulthood: when did Lips begin signing his name this way?
Henry Red, standing in front of the recognizable venetian blinds of Central Plaza:
and a closer look:
If Duncan Schiedt had never held a camera, he would still have a very warm spot in my heart as a sterling person and an accomplished old-fashioned melodic pianist. He moved on in 2014 — with the most splendid easy grace, which I describe here. I urge you to read his farewell letter: it moves me still.
But we can move from grief to more exultant matters.
Red, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Sullivan, Eddie Condon, Jack Bland, Al Morgan, Gene Krupa, 1932:
and more of the same, with Red, Pee Wee, Happy Caldwell, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Froeba, Condon, Bland, Pops Foster, Zutty Singleton:
and Lips, Pee Wee, Lou McGarity, Sullivan, George Wettling, 1952:
Lips, Peanuts Hucko, Cutty Cutshall, Ralph Sutton, Charlie Treager, Eddie Phyfe, 1950:
Red and Lips are two of my most serious heroes. Delve into their music: joy will greet you. And Duncan: a superb person and wonderful artist.
The saxophonist, teacher, and majestic figure Joel Press has left us. Joel wasn’t tall (neither am I) but he carried himself powerfully. My nickname for him — which I never told him, fearing he might be offended — was THE LITTLE LION. (Joel might have disliked being characterized as little in anything.)
Not aggressive, not arrogant, but a man who knew himself and was proud of what he knew.
I met Joel in sound before I met him in person. In 2004, I was reviewing CDs for CADENCE, the wide-ranging and deeply ethical magazine devoted to “creative improvised music,” The editor, Robert D. Rusch, a wonderful man, knew of my more traditional bent and often tossed me recordings slightly outside my known Paradise — “to make me stretch,” he said. I had not heard of Joel or his fellows, but the CD above convinced me that I had passed by a master. Here is some of what I wrote.
He is one of those musicians—and they are rarer than you might think—who has digested the history of the music and the instrumental tradition that has come before him without parading an assortment of favorite phrases from his five tenor idols. Yes, he has a purring, mellow approach reminiscent of Harold Ashby, but he is no easy-listening recreator: he knows Rollins and Lacy as well as Hawkins and Young. But Press sounds so much like himself that you cannot predict what his next phrase will be – and he is worth championing just because he does not think in four or eight-bar modules. To add to this, his melodic lines are logical, they are rhythmically intriguing, and he has a wonderful respect for songs, savoring their emotions. His version of “Lover Man,” for one example, will make it hard for me to listen to anyone else’s. And he is not harnessed by “Swing” conventions: the repertoire moves easily from classic Bebop to the much more abstract “Is What Is” (based on “What Is This Thing Called Love”). Even better—he plays soprano with fervor, accuracy, and beautiful intonation, no sourness, no intentional harshness. Although the repertoire is primarily standard material, the performances are original—not in some self-consciously radical way, but they encourage listeners to forget how well-worn they might have thought “Groovin’ High,” for instance.
Joel was pleased by the review and we began a correspondence. I no longer have my emails from 2004, but I know his were warm and gracious. And because he had “been there,” he sent me snippets of first-hand jazz history that delighted me. He had seen Sidney Catlett at Town Hall. He could tell me that the hamburgers at Julius’ in Greenwich Village were exceptional. he had seen Charlie Parker live; he had glimpsed obscure worthies: “One of my favorite musicians during the 60s was the alto saxophonist Dave Schildkraut, who played there in a small group led by Buddy Rich. Dave was the hero of all of the young New York saxophone players. Arnie Lawrence, with whom I often jammed after our gigs in the Catskill Mountains, probably switched from tenor to alto because of Dave. Schildkraut’s pianist and close friend, Bill Triglia was a mentor to Lawrence.” Joel had heard Steve Lacy sitting in at Arthur’s Tavern with Loumell Morgan at Arthur’s Tavern; he had played with Peter Ind.
He was a first-class hilarious memoirist: here is his portrait of Jo Jones.
In 1979 I played the Sunday brunch at “Lulu White’s” in Boston’s South End. The club was run by a young Ivy League fellow. Jo Jones had played there and discovered that said owner had an apartment across the street from the club. Jo made himself “guest in residence,” despite the lack of a formal invitation. On Sunday Jo would appear at lunchtime, handsome, elegant and charming. Despite our efforts to get him to sit in, he declined. Although he appeared to enjoy the group’s overall playing, we suspected that our mediocre bassist was not up to his standard.
During my residence in New York during the 60s, several of us were in the Colony Record Shop on Broadway, opposite Birdland when Jo entered. He was elated and told us with a big smile on his face that he had, to his great delight, added a tenor saxophonist to his group who sounded like Prez. It was Paul Quinichette.
On the dark side, Jo played at Sandy’s in Beverly, Massachusetts in the 80s. The band members , including Budd Johnson, altered the band’s name from “Jo Jones and Friends” to “Jo Jones and Enemies,” each member attempting to stay as distant from the drummer as the bandstand would allow.
When Warne Marsh played at Lulu white’s on a Sunday night, Jo, without being invited, sat down at the drums and started to play, angering the equally temperamental Sal Mosca. The confrontation was thankfully verbal, but no music ensued and Jo left the stand after a few hits on the snare drum.
And here he is on Coleman Hawkins:
Those Coleman Hawkins sides on Asch have always knocked me out. He is still the King. He was our Picasso, constantly changing and showing us the way over many decades. I am so happy to have heard him in many settings…first at The Apollo, when I absented myself from afternoon high school classes to dig a matinee. The band included both Monk and Dizzy…in the 6o’s at MOMA, in the sculpture court, with Roy….at Birdland with Milt Jackson, and alongside Fats Navarro at a JATP concert in Denver. In the 60s I attended a memorable concert at The Little Theater between Broadway and 8th Avenue, with Ben Webster, the pianist Paul Neves, Major Holley, and Eddie Locke. Hawk was on fire. Ben, smiled, obviously enraptured by Coleman, and played well, but didn’t even attempt to match Hawk’s passion. As is so often the case, the best music played goes out the window, unless, of course there is a happy man present with a video camera.
We met in person when Joel moved to New York in 2010 to play: the scene was so much more lively than the one outside of Boston. By then, I had both this blog and a video camera — and I was able to see and capture the magical rapport between Joel and his friend and student, the splendid pianist Michael Kanan.
Here is a splendidly touching example of Joel and Michael, at Smalls, on October 20, 2011:
Listeners with good ears will hear the jaunty approach that comes from Jimmie Rowles. Others, even if the Rowles current is not evident, will note the mix of tenderness and playfulness, the mutual respect for melody and its possibilities. Joel was fascinated with the purr of the tenor, its ability to glide between notes and phrases: songs were his friends, his ideals.
Joel was pleased to have me in evidence, “a happy man with a video camera,” and so, between 2010 and 2016, I captured him at a goodly number of New York City gigs — with Michael, Neal Miner, Spike Wilner, Tardo Hammer, Joe Hunt, Fukushi Tainaka, and others. Were you to look Joel up on YouTube, some eighty-plus videos there are my attempts to honor him and his music in perpetuity. And they are lovely, satisfying, multi-dimensional. I hope you visit and enjoy them.
Michael Kanan speaks beautifully of Joel:
Joel used to play with my first piano teacher, Harvey Diamond: they played a lot together. When I first heard Joel play I was probably a teenager, and I went to many gigs before I played with him. I don’t remember my first introduction to him but everyone in Boston at some point was at Joel’s sessions in his house in Newton. He had six or seven sessions a week, where people got together and played tunes. More experienced players were going there every week, young Berklee students – I don’t know how he would find them — young to old, sometimes his contemporaries. It would be one group, usually a quartet.
At some point I started going there to play. I was very young: looking back on it now, I enjoyed it but I really didn’t deeply understand what was so great about his playing. After I moved to New York in 1991 I lost touch with him. When my mother was in her declining years, I was spending more time in Boston – sometimes a week at a time. Then I went to Joel’s every day to play, and I really started understanding musically what he was doing. The most basic things: what does it mean to have a good rhythm, what does it mean to have a swing feel – the things the older generation knew naturally. Going to Joel’s that second time I was really stunned. Here was someone who was a great example of everything I was trying to do myself.
He had a real appreciation for Lennie Tristano and his whole approach to music. Initially, that’s what bonded me to Joel, because that way of playing was what I was interested in. But there was a lot more to him than that. He had heard Konitz and Marsh but there was also Ben and Hawk and Lester and everyone else, so when I was interested in things other than the Tristano tradition, it was a experience to talk and play with Joel, who had been at their gigs.
It wasn’t about building a huge repertoire, it was about getting deeper with the tunes you were playing. I appreciated that – I could play the tunes I loved over and over. You can get in deeper if you know the terrain.
Joel was a master of melody, he had a beautiful sound, and he also played with real fire and passion. He always taught by example – sometimes I would ask him questions. I asked him once how he developed his kind of rhythmic feel, and he told me when he was doing gigs as a young guy, it would be a horn, piano, and drums, and he figured out he had to play with real command because there was no bass player.
We had a mutual feeling. He told me once that he loved how I comped, that it must be because I had played with singers for so many years that I knew how to lay in a chord at the right moment.
Joel loved all the masters, Pres, Hawk, Ben, Warne, all the great players. He talked about getting to hear them in person. He knew how to get a big sound without it being a loud harsh sound. He had a huge sound but it wasn’t overwhelming – it was more of an inviting sound.
I had something to do with Joel’s moving to New York in 2010. I knew there would be players here who would get out of him what I got out of him, so I set up sessions with people just as he had done for me. It was a homecoming. He was so thrilled and energized by it that he moved here in his eighties – dragging that tenor saxophone on the subway to go to people’s sessions and gigs.
He lived the way he wanted to live. It was great to witness that. Once we were both here he talked a lot about the history of the city and places – the gigs he had attended and ones he had played. Joel was so enamored of the city. He and Steve Little had done sessions in the Sixties, so I arranged a jam session for the two of them, and they looked at each other and said, “Is that YOU? Is that YOU?” Getting to play with the two of them it was just amazing. And there was an excitement in the clubs when Joel played, you could feel that crackling electric atmosphere. I’m glad he got to experience that.
A life beautifully lived. I want to celebrate Joel.
The string bassist and jazz scholar Stu Zimny also learned from and played with Joel:
I was very surprised and and saddened to hear of the passing of Joel Press at age 92.Partly because I did not think he was much older than I. He was always youthful in demeanor, appearance and attitude.
I have not seen him for a long time but our association goes back to the 1980’s in the Boston area. I was an aspiring bassist and Joel would hold regular weekly sessions at his home in Newton, which was almost next door to where I lived.His was a rambling old house with many rooms. Downstairs was a spacious living room hosting a nice piano and, if I recall correctly, a drum set and amps.
Most of the attendees were skilled players so there was not the customary 27 choruses of “Donna Lee” by players who could barely carry off a single chorus with interest. Joel was also aware of “musical life outside the Berklee Real Book”. The home also served as a landing area for various touring jazz and classical players so one could be pleasantly surprised by unexpected guests.We would play for a while, retire to the kitchen for some high-octane Java, then return to playing. I suspect Joel kept going even after we left! Joel had a gig as a musical contractor I believe, among other pursuits. He introduced me to a great classical bassist (a laid-back Midwesterner, on the BSO sub-list, with a plethora of talent) with whom I studied intermittently for a few years.
Joel himself, judging by his style and and vinyl records being spun on his coveted stereo gear, preferred the older styles. One was more likely to hear Ben Webster than Hank Mobley. That was rare in those days and I appreciated it since it aligned with my own archeological musical interests. I suspect that he also appreciated that about me.Joel’s style placed an emphasis on tone and swing rather than proffering strings of eighth and sixteenth notes. He had “chops” but governed by a great deal of discernment and seemed more interested in hearing what others might be putting out there.We also shared an interest in high-end audio and, in particular, McIntosh electronics. There was a local Mac dealership which became an audiophile watering hole of sorts for both of us.
He was a sweetheart. His passing leaves a gap in the musical firmament.
Happy travels, my friend.
Let us honor this man, both durable and playful — a model of how to live a long creative life.
Thank you, Joel. In your honor, I forego the usual closing words and pictures.
I admit that my title may seem over-detailed. But take those details with some whimsy, and I will explain. Of course, impatient or eager readers may skip right to the video and return or not. Having retired from what was called “college teaching,” I no longer take attendance. But here are the principal players.
Menno Daams (cornet, trumpet, compositions, arrangements) is a brilliant friend and musical hero, someone balancing taste, wit, bravura, and subtlety in all his musical endeavors. When last seen, he was playing brilliantly at this year’s Ascona Jazz Festival.
Pianist, composer, arranger, singer Alexander Hill, alas, lived a truly intense and truncated life — one of those driven geniuses who didn’t seem to sleep and whose bright spark flickered out at 30. Tuberculosis was the culprit or perhaps he was one of those people meant to cram several lifetimes of art and work into one short span.
I attended the Whitley Bay Jazz Party (now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party) from 2009 to 2016, as a jazz enthusiast, blogger, and videographer . . . and in that last capacity I posted almost 450 videos of bands large and small, formal and informal, and a variety of singers. Exhausting but joyous work and you can see the results of my “swingyoucats” YouTube channel.
Certain managerial decisions made it first difficult, then impossible for me to continue, and I haven’t been back. Others have taken on my role, and I now have the perhaps odd luxury of watching their videos from my computer. But that is another novella entirely.
One of the delights of the weekend was the opportunity to watch and record bands rehearsing in the morning and afternoon — large combinations of musicians who didn’t play together, reading manuscripts — reading charts for the first time, stopping and starting. No one told me to leave (bless you, heroes) and once in a great while the rehearsals, unbuttoned and playful, surpassed the evening’s “concert” performance. An example you can find on YouTube is my capture of the rehearsal by a Bent Persson group of CAFE CAPERS. And this: Menno Daams’ International Serenaders paying tribute to Alex Hill by performing his spiritual, KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL.
Menno had granted me permission to post the video, which I did in 2019. Recently, as a delightful surprise, he reposted it with the musical information rolling along above the image. You can call it the “director’s cut” or the “DVD version with special enhanced features.” Call it what you will, but it’s lovely.
I confess to a didactic-emotional-spiritual purpose of mine. The band sounds so good, and the enhanced version is such a work of art, that it bothers me how few people have seen this: fewer than 200 took in the first posting (three years ago) and fewer than 70 have seen this version. People! This will make you sit up straight in your chairs: it will spark joy for free. (Take that, Marie Kondo.)
I bow to Menno, to Alex, and to this great band. Thank you for letting me visit, thank you for certain.
I learned on August 31 that the trumpeter / guitarist / pianist Ted Butterman, much loved in the Chicago area, had died after a long illness. I am not happy when JAZZ LIVES threatens to turn into the obituary pages, but as Linda Loman says, “Attention must be paid.”
I never met Ted, but I have a network of friends who adored and admired him, so the connection, although indirect, is there. It’s also there because an early memorable record that I love is Jim Kweskin’s JUMP FOR JOY, which features him — and it is the way I met him, sonically, perhaps fifty years ago (in the company of Marty Grosz, Kim Cusack, John Frigo, Frank Chace, and Wayne Jones):
I should write first that this post would have irritated Ted immeasurably, because, as his friend Harriet Choice told me, he could not accept compliments; praise annoyed him. So I apologize to his shade, and, rather, embark in the spirit of Ted’s friends, who played YOU RASCAL YOU at his funeral . . . followed eventually by SAINTS, which would have irked him even more — bringing wry levity to a sad time.
And here’s Ted before he came to Chicago, playing hot in San Francisco in 1958:
NASA tells me that the overall temperature of the galaxy drops whenever a hot player moves on: it’s no accident that I had to put on a jacket this morning before sitting down at the computer. (That pale joke is in Ted’s honor: Bess Wade told me he was comical by nature, with a big laugh.)
Some tales, then more music.
Tom Bartlett: He was quite a character and, of course, an excellent musician. Kim Cusack has often said that Ted was the best real musician he ever played with.
My story to share: While playing with the Cubs Band at Wrigley Field, whenever Ted spotted a TV cameraman sneaking up on the band to get a sound bite and often shoving the camera up to Ted’s trumpet bell, Ted always yelled “Rapscallian”. We immediately launched into I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You. That means that every sound bite on all TV stations in Chicago had the same piece of this tune. That was just one of Ted’s private little jokes, Our little trio HAD to play that tune at his gravesite yesterday in his memory.
Rapscallian? Ted enjoyed a play on words.
Although Ted never lost the innate heat of his playing, later in life he could be so mellow, remembering the Teddy Wilson – Billie Holiday classics of the Thirties. Here’s MISS BROWN TO YOU from a 1980 gig:
That middle-register ease makes me think of Buck Clayton, one of Ted’s heroes, and a story about fashion that Harriet Choice told me: One night Ted was playing at the Gate of Horn, and Buck Clayton walked in, horn in hand, and sat in. Ted noticed that Buck, always an elegant dresser, had a particularly lovely shirt with an unusual collar. After the gig, they went back to Ted’s apartment to swap stories, and Ted complimented Buck on the shirt, and asked him where it had come from. Buck simply removed the shirt, gave it to Ted as a token of esteem, and when the evening was over, Buck walked back to his hotel in his undershirt. Hearing this story some time later, Harriet asked Ted to put the shirt on so she could see it, and Ted flatly refused. “Oh no,” he said, “It’s sacred.”
Russ Phillips simply told me, Ted was so unlike anyone I’ve ever known and played with.
And Kim Cusack reiterated, Ted always played and sounded great, no matter the situation and/or band. I was awed by his playing the first I got a chance to play with him in the late ’50s and he kept me awed in all the variety of bands I got a chance to play in with him. Everything he played was exactly what it should have been.
Here is a long interlude of Ted at work — with Kim, Frank Chace, Bob Sundstrom, Wayne Jones, John Deffauw, Ransom Knowling, Art Gronwall, and others — a 1961 gig tape, nearly two hours’ of on-the-job easy heat, given to me by Wayne. (Full disclosure: Kim told me that he didn’t think this was an outstanding example of Ted, but my feeling is that it is quite spectacular, and I can only imagine the music Kim heard that put this in the shade.)
A quirky energy ran through Ted’s playing — he was deep in the idiom but a listener can’t predict the next phrase — and that same quirky energy seems to have animated his approach to life. Harriet told me that once Ted said, “I think I’ll call Hoagy,” found our hero’s phone number in some way, called him, and they spent an hour talking about music. (Although music wasn’t his sole passion: he was an expert builder of model airplanes and loved electric trains.)
His hero was Louis, she said, which you can hear. Ted led the Cubs band at Wrigley Field for more than thirty-five years, and his was the first “five o’clock band” at Andy’s jazz club. He loved good ballads, and Harriet remembers his rendition of CABIN IN THE PINES with tears. They exchanged emails about records to take to that imagined desert island.
More music, if you please. Ted doesn’t come in until the second half, but his beautiful melodic lead and coda are precious:
I am aware that this is quite an inadequate survey of a singular person and musician. For more music, there is Ted’s own YouTube channel, quietly waiting to be marveled at, and Dave Radlauer’s treasure trove of rare live recordings, here.
For the totality, I think we’d have to gather Ted’s friends and let them share their own tales, “Remember the time when Ted . . . ?” or “Ted always used to . . . . ” I know I have provided only the most meager sample. Readers who knew him or have stories are invited to chime in.
And I’ll close with this recording. “Lucky” is not the way I feel writing another jazz obituary, but we are lucky that Ted shone his light so beautifully for us in so many ways:
I started writing this post about ten days ago and wrote several mournful paragraphs to begin, then thought, “I should put this aside for a bit,” as one does. I came back to it, reread it, and thought, “If Murray read this, he would perhaps say, with a gentle tilt of his eyebrow, ‘Really, Michael,’ and then pause for more than four bars, so that I would know I had been excessive. So since he created joy, I will cut to the music, which is joyous.
But first, as they say, here is the most detailed obituary for Murray:
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, August 27, 2022
Played bass for some of the great jazz musicians
(JAMES) MURRAY WALL September 28, 1945-July 18, 2022
Murray Wall, one of Australia’s most highly regarded jazz musicians, has died in New York City after a short illness. Originally from Melbourne, yet largely unknown in this country, Wall lived and worked for almost 50 years in New York. Over his lifetime, he played and toured with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians including Benny Goodman, Barry Harris, Jon Hendricks, Eartha Kitt, Clark Terry, Anita O’Day, Billy Eckstine and Mel Torme.
Wall was born in Melbourne and grew up in the bayside suburb of Sandringham. In 1955, at the age of 10, his sister Sheila took him to a Nat King Cole concert at Festival Hall, a performance he would later credit as having inspired in him a life-long love of music. He was largely self-taught and learned jazz by playing along to records by Oscar Pettiford, Ray Bryant, and Lester Young. He also studied classical double-bass with Marion Brajsa, the principal bassist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Wall began playing professionally in 1962, working in dance bands with his brother Richard before progressing to performing and recording music in the Melbourne jazz scene. In 1969, he moved to Sydney to play bass in the first Australian production of Hair at the Metro Theatre in Kings Cross. Having established himself as a professional musician, he soon became an in-demand bass player for visiting American musicians such as Clark Terry, Billy Eckstine, and Mel Torme.
In 1979, Wall moved to New York and began studying improvisation with the jazz pianist, Lennie Tristano. In the early 1980s, he was invited by the legendary swing band leader Benny Goodman to join his group and continued performing with him until Goodman’s final gig the night before his death in 1986.
Wall was based in New York for his most of his working life and played with some of the most respected musicians including Ken Peplowski, Marty Grosz, Keith Ingham, Frank Vignola, Chuck Wilson, Buck Clayton, Eddie Locke, Claude Williams, Richard Wyands, Grover Mitchell, Kenny Davern, Warne Marsh, Dave Van Ronk, and Spanky Davis. He was also a regular player at Barry Harris’ renowned weekly jazz masterclasses.
Wall was hugely respected for his peerless musicianship and melodic playing as well as his friendship and camaraderie that made him widely liked and sought after by band leaders. He was generous with his time in helping younger players and Australian jazz musicians on pilgrimages to New York would seek him out for his anecdotes and advice. He was a working musician until the end and kept a regular gig at the 11th St. Bar until shortly before his death.
Wall is survived by his wife Diana, daughter Gabrielle and stepson Alexis, grandchildren Raphael and Olga, brother Richard and sister Sheila and their extended families in Australia.
Written by Guy Freer and his wife, Gabrielle, Wall’s daughter.
That’s one way to sum up Murray, beautifully. Here are four more: portraits in sound, where he is joined by Joe Cohn, Scott Robinson, and Jon-Erik Kellso on January 30, 2020.
For Hoagy, Louis, Jack, Mildred, and others, ROCKIN’ CHAIR:
THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:
I FOUND A NEW BABY:
CREOLE LOVE CALL:
Thank you, Murray, and resonant gentlemen. Your sounds will vibrate forever.
Imagine an improvising musician, a dazzling stylist, whose recorded works add up to perhaps forty minutes. Dead of tuberculosis at 42. Admired by Les Paul and Frank Trumbauer, Danny Barker, Peck Kelley, Paul Whiteman, and Leo Kottke. “Slightly deformed at birth,” blind in one eye. Kept the best NOLA company.
and Fancy, both from 1931:
and here’s some aural evidence:
and two ballads, rich and pensive:
Edwin “Snoozer” Quinn recorded in his prime but none of his solo recordings were ever issued. (He is audible, here and there, but never out front.) Those solos and duets we possess, a dozen sides, were informally done by cornetist Johnny Wiggs, in Snoozer’s hospital room, some months before his death.
We have a brief film of Snoozer playing solo in 1932, his hands graceful and fluid, but it is silent (as a footnote, the film was made by photographer-guitarist Charles Peterson, who gave us so much of the jazz world in still photographs):
Snoozer Quinn might have remained one of the most shadowy figures in jazz, an art form that has its share. And until recently, although the dozen recordings he made in 1948 were available on lp and CD, knowledge of him was scant.
Both he and his music deserved careful, deep, serious documentation. They have it now, splendidly, in this large-format book, 104 pages without filler or bloat:
Here is a comprehensive overview of this book. And, if you’re like me, whose immediate instinct was “How can I buy a copy?” visit here: you can purchase a paperback ($22.00) or an e-book ($14.99).
This book is extraordinarily satisfying: I am a severe reader and I stumbled over no flaws. Many jazz books of late are dense with theory and theorizing (we watch the author’s speculations about matters only tangentially related to music or biography overwhelm the presumed subject). Many are recyclings of others’ speculations or reminiscences. Ground well-and-thoroughly covered, leftovers presented as dinner, pick your metaphor. Given that, first-hand narrative about a figure who has been mysterious is precious, as is new information.
Perhaps you never thought your bookshelf needed a book all about Snoozer Quinn, but this one is entrancing, not only as his detailed portrait, but as a model of humane scholarship. It is candid and plain-spoken, full of surprises and anecdotes, stories from people who were there.
Here’s a quick tour. Katy Hobgood Ray, musician and deep researcher, is Snoozer Quinn’s great-great niece, which means that she knew of him in different contexts than even the most devoted jazz researcher would have. It also means that she has access to wonderful photos of Snoozer from the beginning to the end of his life, as well as the bands he played with. Those photographs, even without substantive text, would be an unequalled story of a life.
The book is divided into three sections. The first, after an introduction by guitarist Steve Howell, is a biography of Snoozer, the writing clear and evocative, followed by those photographs. The second is eight Snoozer solos, transcribed for guitarists to work at — thankfully, they can hear the recordings as stars to shoot for. The last, to me the most valuable, is a collection of recollections by Snoozer’s friends and colleagues.
Snoozer’s life, from one angle, is tragedy: tuberculosis and alcoholism, missed chances and benevolences that turned out all wrong. Paul Whiteman’s misguided fascination with the guitarist is a sad, almost unbelievable story. Genius, almost undocumented. But from another angle, he remains a marvel on the basis of the scant evidence, and those who heard him were astonished and remained so. The tale of his life is told through sharply realized evidence: oral histories from people who knew him and played alongside him, from members of the Quinn family to jazz musicians famous and less well-known.
For guitarists, the center of this book will be the eight carefully-created transcriptions of Snoozer’s solos on the sides he did solo and with Johnny Wiggs. I’m not a guitarist, but Dan Sumner’s description of Snoozer’s tuning and the way the transcriptions were imagined, honed, and polished is very convincing.
The recollections and reminiscences that conclude the book are arresting in their intimacy. Musicians Godfrey Hirsch, Monk Hazel, Benjie white, Armand Hug, and of course Johnny Wiggs, speak with tenderness, awe, and humor of Snoozer and his place in the universe. A detailed discography (with biographical information and documentation) is the final flourish to a splendidly realized enterprise.
No stone is left unturned: on page 11 of this book you will learn, almost offhandedly, the source of “Snoozer” as a nickname. It was a compliment.
It’s a reviewer’s cliche-encomium to state that a book like this is so definitive that there never need be another on the subject. I agree. But I also hope that new discoveries will be made so that there will be a second edition. Snoozer, obscure, often admired but not treated kindly, deserves every celebration possible. As do Katy Hobgood Ray, Dan Sumner, and Steve Howell. Their collaboration is so very rewarding. This book is thrilling in so many ways.
On another note, a comic-linguistic postscript. I first encountered Snoozer around 1971 when I purchased the Fat Cat’s Jazz lp THE LEGENDARY SNOOZER QUINN, which contained a dozen tracks Wiggs (bless him forevermore) had recorded. I had never heard Snoozer or Johnny Wiggs, but was fascinated by the air of mystery that surrounded the music, enough to spend money on a mysterious offering.
Al Rose’s liner note to that record offers a memorable crumb of awkward prose that I have never forgotten. Noting that cornetist Wiggs had not played in some time, Rose wrote, Wiggs, for the occasion, took his lip out of a quarter-century of mothballs, more to put Snoozer at his ease than anything else, and blew on some of these cuts. Little rust had gathered in the superb cornet.
Yes, mothballs and rust. But I digress.
Don’t linger here: buy this book. And while you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, visit https://snoozerquinn.com/ — a fine preface to the book.
Deep. Spiritually deep. Sonically deep. Melodic, lyrical, playful, emotive yet compact. Those are the sounds Murray Wall made on the string bass. Here he is surrounded by friends, colleagues, admirers, peers: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds; Joe Cohn, guitar. All of this took place on a pre-pandemic Thursday night at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City.
And the song Louis chose to keep it rolling:
Murray, you remain in our ears and our hearts. I forego the usual closing flourishes.
Butch Thompson, pianist, clarinetist, scholar, bandleader, and superbly gracious human being, just left us on August 14. I had refrained from posting this excellent video because of people crossing in front of the camera, but now it seems precious, and the other members of the trio, Jeff Hamilton, drums, and Clint Baker, string bass, encouraged me to share it with you.
A small irony. NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW is an anthem of the hot jazz Butch created with such ease and energy at the keyboard, but its title is a paradox, for he was the very soul of kindness, making friends out of strangers (even hero-worshiping strangers with video cameras) instantly. I cannot separate the delight of his sounds from the sweetness of the person. Thank you, Butch, for what you did and who you are: they both linger in the mind and heart.
Before we start, on Monday, August 22, 2022, there will be a celebration of Murray Wall’s life and music at the 11th Street Bar in New York City (510 East 11th Street, between Avenues A and B, where Murray and Richard Clements co-led a band for a long memorable time. The website says 7:00 to midnight; the bar does not take reservations, and I won’t be in New York, so any video documentation will be by someone else. (Will someone take that unadorned hint?)
But the best way to love Murray is not in memory but in actuality; I want to do that here.
Let’s go back to January 12, 2011, for the momentous occasion of tenor saxophonist Ted Brown’s first gig as a leader in forty years. It happened at the Kitano Hotel, and Ted was joined by Murray, string bass; Michael Kanan, piano; Taro Okamoto, drums.
FEATHER BED (Ted’s line on YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO):
and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? — those loving questions answered in sound and feeling:
GONE WITH THE WIND:
and finally, a performance that Murray doesn’t play on — a duet between Ted and Michael on PRISONER OF LOVE — but you’ll permit me to imagine him at a table near the band, listening and admiring, as we all were:
And something lovely that only a few people who weren’t at 15 Barrow Street, New York, on January 30, 2020, have experienced — I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME, performed by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Joe Cohn, guitar, and Murray:
Murray Wall improved the spiritual landscape for anyone who knew him, even casually, and his art continues to do so today. I will have more to share with you.
Murray Wall, irreplaceable musician and man, moved to another neighborhood last month.
Here is my first posting in his honor. There will be more.
When dear and memorable people leave the planet, we don’t stop missing them in a few weeks, a few years, ever. Their absence is palpable, as was their singular presence. Murray was sweetly modest and utterly swinging; he created a beautiful foundation no matter what the context.
Here he is with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds; Joe Cohn, guitar, on a Thursday night set (January 30, 2020) at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York:
He sent love to us; I hope he knows that love was and is sent in return, in profusion.
“Live your life so that when you are gone you are missed for a long time,” someone once said, and the wonderful string bassist and enlivening human being Murray Wall, who left us a day ago, is a sterling example. I refuse to use the past tense: as long as we can hear Murray, he IS.
I didn’t play in a rhythm section with Murray, and I only knew him for slightly more than a dozen years. Others have better stories. We spoke occasionally when I showed up at a gig with a camera, and he was kind and friendly always. (Only once, when he performed his comic vocal variations on IT HAD TO BE YOU, did he ask me to keep the video private. And I honor this.)
But I got a sense of his looking-at-the-world stance: more than a little amused but keeping the punchline to himself for the most part. Even when his head wasn’t cocked slightly to one side or an eyebrow raised, it was easy to imagine their presence.
In another culture, he would have been the Sage-Storyteller-Jester-Advisor, and I feel that he was all those things, although he sent his axioms and giggles to us through gut strings on an acoustic bass rather than sermons or pronouncements.
His gentle slyness came through in every note: he didn’t take himself seriously, but he held melody and swing sacred. He loved the music — that’s not a cliche here — and love came from him to us.
HIs ensemble playing was “rock-solid” in the best way; he was someone you could lean on and never fear that the band would fall down. That giant woody sound, never too loud: a plush pillow with clearly defined edges. His tone. His note choices. His speaking way of constructing phrases. His solos were not ego-driven: no twanging notes to start off, to say LOOK AT ME, no scampering up and down the fretboard. Melodies new, rhythms strong, sometimes surprising harmonies, all sending joy.
and Murray’s chosen feature:
I wanted to close with a blues, because I feel grief writing this post. But this is what I came up with: Lester Young’s POUND CAKE, which is whimsical and slightly at a tilt: joy to cut through the sorrow even though the sorrow remains like a stain.
Thank you, Murray. You bless us. I forego my usual closing in his honor, even though Murray always increased our happiness.
I could write a long introduction about the music and scene that follows, but I will say only that it was thrilling in the moment and it is even more thrilling now. This was a Saturday afternoon session at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, during the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend created by Joe Boughton for his own pleasure and ours.
It seems a blessing to have been there and even more of one to have been allowed to video-record the music, especially since in June 2022, some of the participants have moved to other neighborhoods and others seem to have chosen more relaxing ways of passing the time. I will only say that a few nights ago I was speaking to a person I’d not met before — she and her husband live in Ann Arbor — of how much I miss Jim Dapogny and I had to turn away to control myself.
The heroes are Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; James Dapogny, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums, and the song is the venerable BEALE STREET BLUES, with Marty’s three vocal choruses deeply rooted in Jack Teagarden, which is a lovely thing.
Chris Smith calls this “a joyous and soulful happy blues.” I hope you delight in it as I do:
Yes, these moments of collective ecstasy — and I don’t exaggerate — happen now. I’ve been there and witnessed them. But this assemblage of dear intent artists is not coming our way again, so these minutes are precious. And I would think so even if someone else had held the camera. Bless these fellows all.
These are truly entertaining jazz records — and woe to the commenter who calls them simply Goodman-imitations — created by Peanuts Hucko, clarinet; Lou Stein, piano; Mundell Lowe, guitar; Jack Lesberg, string bass; Dave Tough, drums. Admire at your leisure their splendid swing, their subtle mixture of relaxation and leaning-forward, their ensemble unity and solo brilliance.
But what I’d ask you to do today is to listen to the sounds Dave Tough gets out of his drum kit, his unexpected shifts of rhythm, the intricate and often shifting songs he creates — from one object striking or moving across another! Pure magic, never duplicated.
Thanks to Hot Jazz 78rpms — a rewarding YouTube channel created by the man some of us know as the gracious Tohru Seya — for making these discs available to us.
“STOLEN PEANUTS” (really STEALIN’ APPLES):
I MUST HAVE THAT MAN:
Bless Dave Tough, who gave so much to us in his short life that we still marvel at his ingenuities today.
These video performances (thanks to Simon Stribling, a brilliant trumpeter and alto saxophonist) have been on YouTube for perhaps fifteen years, but even I didn’t know of all of them, so I urge you to watch, enjoy, and marvel.
The band alongside Bob, cornet, is Neville Stribling, alto saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Ade Monsbourgh, tenor saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Graham Coyle, piano; Conrad Joyce, string bass; Peter Cleaver, guitar / banjo; Allan Browne, drums, washboard. Jazz royalty. And the repertoire has a distinct Louis flavor with one bow to the Rhythmakers and another to Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter: what could be wrong with that?
Astonishing lyrical hot playing, offered to us with the greatest casualness: the work of masters.
WHEN YOU’RE SMILING:
IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT (vocal, Neville):
OH, PETER (YOU’RE SO NICE)!:
MY BUDDY (for Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter):
I’M A DING DONG DADDY (FROM DUMAS):
I rarely make such claims, but if you can listen to this music without being uplifted, I would think we have little in common.
I am, for the moment, concluding my little series of loving homages to Bob Barnard. But he and his sound are never far from my ears and heart. And I — a retired academic — offer JAZZ LIVES’ readers the most pleasing homework: go and find more of his music, to start and end your days in joy.
Thanks also to John Scurry for his consistent support and his help with this post.
Thinking of mid-period blue-label Decca Louis for I’M SHOOTING HIGH, with John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2007, surreptitious audio only):
On a visit to New York in 2010, Bob sat in with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks (personnel given in the description) for a few songs:
SOMEBODY LOVES ME:
More Louis, appropriately, with SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:
and that hymn to staying at home, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:
I could go on praising, celebrating, and mourning Bob Barnard for quite some time, especially as wondrous new evidence comes up on YouTube, such as this informal delicious eruption by an international band of heroes. Thanks to Willem van Geest for capturing and sharing it; thanks to Bob, Joep Peeters, vibraphone; John Smith, soprano saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone; Robert Veen, clarinet; Mike Goetz, piano; John Rijnen, string bass; Onno de Bruin, drums; Sara Koolen, vocal. Good old-new-fashioned Swing-Mainstream, expert loving capers from all.
NAGASAKI / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE (Sara) / I FOUND A NEW BABY / Closing:
The music lives on, as do those who create it and share it from their generous souls.
In yesterday’s post celebrating the extraordinary person and musician Bob Barnard, I referred to his delightful penchant for songs no one else was playing or improvising on. I suggested it was a love of melodies, but I think also it was a way of avoiding routine, sweetly challenging himself and the others on the stand, so the musical special for this evening wouldn’t be ROYAL GARDEN BLUES or SATIN DOLL, although he played them with ingenuity and fervor.
I wish I had had my recording equipment at Jazz at Chautauqua when Bob played A BROWN SLOUCH HAT, the patriotic Australian song from 1942 that I suspect few, if any in the audience had heard or heard of. But I was properly equipped in 2007 (although secretly) when he called this tune, from PINOCCHIO, by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, sung by Cliff Edwards as “Jiminy Cricket”:
So to celebrate Bob properly, as a bright beacon of joy, I offer this audio-only performance from the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. The other soloists are Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Performed on Friday, September 14, 2007 and recorded surreptitiously, of course:
Wikipedia, where almost-cooked facts are arranged for our pleasure, tells me today that Bob Barnard, “an Australian trumpet and cornet player,” born November 24, 1933, died yesterday, May 7, 2022. I heard the news yesterday from the very fine friend of the music John Trudinger. My first reaction was double: I felt as if I’d been pierced right through my chest, but at the same time I heard a great golden sound, that of Bob’s glowing horn. And I thought of what Bobby Hackett had said of Louis Armstrong’s “death,” that Louis was alive as long as we could hear him.
I was fortunate to see and hear and even chat with Bob on his visits to New York and to Jazz at Chautauqua, which is why I start with his rare character. He had his own center, a sweet equanimity. He was ready to find the world both welcoming and amusing, and although I never heard him tell a joke (or be mean at someone’s expense), he always looked as if he was ready to start laughing — of course, not when the horn was at his lips, when he was completely serious. I think of him with a gentle amiability, head slightly cocked at the latest absurdity but ready to make everything right through music.
Along with that ease in the world, and perhaps its foundation, was a lovely mature courage. When he led groups at Chautauqua and elsewhere — musicians who didn’t usually play together or who (let me whisper this) always know more obscure repertoire, he was beautifully unflappable. He called tunes that he knew everyone would enjoy, but when he announced BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS or GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE I could see the faintest looks of “What the hell is this? How does the bridge go?” among the very experienced musicians on the stand. Bob called a medium tempo and started playing the melody . . . wordlessly teaching by example, “THIS is how it goes. Follow me and I won’t let you get lost.” And no one did.
I hope that my readers know what an unforgiving instrument the trumpet (or cornet) is, how demanding . . . and if they don’t know, they pick one up sometime and attempt a clear tone, held notes, the barest semblance of agility.
Bob is — not was — an absolutely spectacular brass virtuoso. But one with deep-seated taste and grace. He came out of Louis and Bix, but with a keen sense of their songful lyricism: the only one who approached his mastery in this is Connie Jones. He was also fearlessly agile all over the range of the horn. I think of Bob’s limber, audaciously sweet playing as skywriting or acrobatics on the highest diving board.
Here’s a sample from Bob’s visit to The Ear Inn, September 26, 2010, with Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass:
and also in sweetly Louis-inspired mode, performances with John Sheridan, piano; Arnie Kinsella, drums, at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 16, 2010.
I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (from High Society):
LYIN’ TO MYSELF (from the glorious Deccas):
and, finally, THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET. Originally I thought that bringing this performance forward to mark Bob’s moving on would seem a failure of taste, but I think he would laugh at the juxtaposition, never one to take himself too seriously:
And a beautiful interlude from Bob’s last recording session, JUST MY LUCK, with guitarist Ian Date in March 2016:
Bob made his first recordings in 1949, and readers who know him will have their own favorites. But you can hear his style, his joy, his lyrical exuberance in these performances. And if you knew him, even glancingly, as I did, you hear the friendly singular man, in love with melodies, in every note.
I feel motivated to write these words because of a sudden influx — rather like a termite swarm — of unsolicited negative criticism directed at performances I post on YouTube. Yes, I might seem “thin-skinned,” “grouchy,” “over-sensitive,” but I gotta right to sing these blues also. There will also be many instances of the first-person pronoun in what follows. Caveat lector.
I — yes, me — make arrangements to go to a certain club or venue, which involves travel and carrying video equipment. I’ve already asked permission of the musicians and the clubowner, wherever possible. I get there early, test the camera, and spend the time recording the music. When I get home, I process the videos, edit them, annotate them, and carefully present them, again, after sending them to the musicians for their approval.
A video hits YouTube, and perhaps two minutes later some anonymous John Simon has clicked the “dislike” icon. “The _______ player has a bad sound.” Or, “I like _______’s version better.” Sometimes the poster simply puts up his own version of the song as if to say, “See? This is how you do it.” Or, more personally, “It’s a pity that there was an echo in the room,” or “I wish the cameraman had been able to do close-ups and move around. We can’t see ___________ well.”
Yes, I think that unexplained anonymous public dislike is rude and needless.
Of course it’s too easy in cyberspace. And I want to say to these people, “How well do you sing MORE THAN YOU KNOW”? “How well do you play all the strains of PANAMA”? Or, “Would you have done a better job with a video camera under those circumstances? Do you understand the difference between television’s multi-camera possibilities and what is possible by one human being with one camera?”
I want to say other things, but when those impulses descend, I make another cup of tea and put some laundry away. I stopped reviewing CDs for a famous jazz publication because I realized that my visceral reaction to someone’s creation was just that — a visceral reaction — and it didn’t necessarily have validity beyond the personal. I’m not fond of mushrooms to excess in a dish, but that shouldn’t stop people from harvesting and enjoying them.
Everyone, of course, has an opinion, to which they are all entitled. Everyone has their own taste. And not everything is equally worthy of praise. But I wonder about the basis of some expressions of distaste. If the only rendition of PANAMA you like is by Wild Bill on Commodore in 1943, I can understand your enthusiasm. But does your enthusiasm give you the right to implicitly or explicitly insult artists by suggesting their work is inferior to your ideal? I would have the audience remember that the artists I record and present are offering their art for free, as am I. So sometimes the negative reaction seems ungracious, as if you’d come to my house for lunch, I’d taken trouble over the meal, and you told me you disliked the silverware.
I understand that cyberspace has made possible and encouraged the free expression of anonymous opinion. And that is usually preferable to censorship. But I cannot figure out why the quickest response is negative. Is it that the world of 2022 is so full of free-floating hostility that people have to let it out, rather like other expressions best confined to the lavatory? Or is it a deep-seated and unacknowledged jealousy: “Why should X be singing on YouTube when I can’t?” “What about ME?” I hope not, but those possibilities do come up.
Yes, there is a precedent for accurate negative “reviewing.” When a gentle unmalicious saxophonist says to me, “I can’t listen to Y: he’s never in tune,” I have to take that seriously. And if I were to write a Google review of a new car whose engine burst into flames, I might be saving someone’s life. On a less extreme note, if I write a sharp Yelp review of a restaurant where the chicken is cold and red in the middle, I might be saving someone from a painful evening. But . . . if a YouTube disliker turns thumbs-down on someone’s work, is he saving us from injury, pain, vomiting? Is he performing a public service? Or is he merely saying, “Look at me. I know what good music is and this ain’t it.”
I watch many videos of performers, and some of them do not please me. But I do not reach for the mechanical icon of castigation. Why should I?
That’s all for the moment. But there are real people on your lit screen, singing and playing and making videos for you. Don’t be so quick to shit on them. It’s not nice. It’s not necessary. You’re not serving a purpose.
I usually close a post with May your happiness increase, and I still wish that for any and every one reading. But I say that the contrary is true: Don’t decrease others’ happiness. Please.
There are millions of things I don’t know and don’t recognize. But this example of ignorance did seem worth noting. Please consider the photograph below, on sale at eBay:
and a magnified version of the autograph in the lower right corner:
Drummer Bobby Donaldson (a fine player whose fame hasn’t lasted) and pianist Hank Jones (much better-known) are identifiable in the photograph. It took me a minute to recognize Patti Page, who was indeed famous in her day, but her face was indeed recognizable. There’s a fourth figure in the photograph, his expression mildly quizzical, a cigarette in one hand, a clarinet over the other arm. More about him shortly.
The eBay seller, not known to me, lives in New Hampshire (so the assumption of ignorance of North American popular culture would be unwarranted). And (s)he advertised the photograph in this way: “1940’s signed photo jazz Bobby Donaldson Hank Jones drummer to clarinetist.” and then continued,
“10 x 8 inches, glossy, 2 tiny creases to corner. o/w very good. Legendary jazz drummer Bobby Donaldson posing with jazz great Hank Jones, receiving some recognition from? some steve allen looking guy and a woman. Original pen inscription by Donaldson to a fellow musician: “To Joe a fine clarinetist and musician Bobby Donaldson”. guaranteed. Not signed by Jones.“
From this I deduce that the seller is somewhat aware of venerable popular culture to be able to identify — or guess at — Steve Allen, even in this haphazard way. I am trying to find it amusing that Allen, who starred in a film biography of the clarinet player, should have been more tenacious in the seller’s memory than the clarinet player himself.
You in JAZZ LIVES readership know who the clarinet player is. And some will know that this photograph documents Patti Page’s 1957-58 television show, THE BIG RECORD, from which this shot seems to be taken. Some others, possessing a discography of the “some steve allen looking guy” (mine is temporarily inaccessible) can no doubt quote the date and the music played. I will simply continue to shake my head sadly at the evanescence of fame, the shallowness of the popular memory, and more. The clarinet player died in 1986; Steve Allen in 2000. Make of that what you will.
The photograph, by the way, has a minimum bid of $49.99. It is also remarkable to me because I’ve never seen a Donaldson signature before, and he was a superb drummer, recording with Louis Armstrong, Hot Lips Page, Buster Bailey, Zoot Sims, Benny Carter, Mel Powell, Ruby Braff, Buck Clayton, Sarah Vaughan, Clifford Brown, Ray Bryant, Kenny Burrell, Frank Wess, Johnny Hodges, Buddy Tate, and many others. Like Osie Johnson, he was a first-call New York studio drummer who could be mistaken for Jo Jones, and that is no small compliment. He also recorded regularly with the clarinet player in 1954-55 and a few times more a decade later.
Is the moral SIC TEMPORA GLORIA MUNDI or O TEMPORA! O MORES! or some other Latin tag? Don’t know; can’t say. And should anyone mistake my own sense of whimsy for puzzlement, there’s no need to write in to tell me who the clarinet player is. I’m somewhat familiar with his work. But thanks anyway.
And here’s Bobby Donaldson (in a Latin mood) on Jimmy Rushing’s 1952 WHERE WERE YOU? — a performance I immediately fell in love with:
Where we were, when we were. Years gone by. “Feels like another universe,” says Evan. Glorious music in another time: December 26, 2019, at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City. Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone; Eddy Davis, now gone, banjo, vocal, electricity; Conal Fowkes, string bass.
The tune? CANDY, a Forties ballad, swung as hard as a band can swing. And watch the band fall into line and become a magical Basie small group right on the stage (with Jon-Erik’s nod to THAT’S MY HOME — don’t miss it).
That universe is slowly coming back, although Eddy took his leave of us not long after this session — in April 2020. But he lives on in his joys so generously spread. And the other luminaries: Conal, Jon-Erik, and Evan — continue to illuminate our world. So sweetly.
This post — and the musical surprise it contains — are inspired by my friend Nick Rossi’s celebration of Sidney Catlett’s birthday on Facebook. Nick posted the cosmically glorious STEAMIN’ AND BEAMIN’ by an Edmond Hall group on Blue Note — including Bennie Morton and Harry Carney, so you know it’s remarkable.
There are two or three sessions that Sidney graced, late in his recording career, that have eluded me: one is by “Gloria Mac,” which I suspect might be a mis-typing of “Gloria Mae”:
Gloria Mac (vcl) acc by Dick Vance (tp) Sandy Williams (tb) Hilton Jefferson (as) George “Big Nick” Nicholas (ts) Bill McRae (p) Thomas Barney (b) Sidney Catlett (d) New York, May 5, 1949 G657 The one in your memory Abbey 75 G658 What is this thing called love ? –
I dream of hearing Sandy Williams backed by Sidney . . .
I thought the other session would be equally elusive, but I found two of the four sides on the Internet Archive, the treasure chest of unimagined joys:
Kirby Walker Orchestra : Dick Vance (tp) Benny Morton (tb) Hilton Jefferson (as) Sam “The Man” Taylor (ts) Kirby Walker (p,vcl) Al Hall (b) Sidney Catlett (d) New York, June 28, 1949
CO40919 Oh I’m evil Col 30178 CO40920 High brow blues 30170 CO40921 Juke box time 30178 CO40922 Shut up 30170
Before I proceed to the music — that delightful reward — I will note that Kirby Walker doesn’t impress me greatly as lyricist or singer, but he is middle-competent. Both sides are well-arranged, with a written duet for Taylor and Jefferson: I would guess that the charts are by Dick Vance, and they are reminiscent of Hot Lips Page and Wynonie Harris’ contemporaneous efforts: good-time music, no demands made on it to be innovative. And while you’re listening closely, pay attention to the beautiful sound and reliable drive of Al Hall — someone I had the good fortune to see in person circa 1974-5 (Bennie Morton as well).
But the reason to shine a light on these brief interludes is the magisterial presence of Sidney, whose powerful accents, rimshots, and direction are strong but never obtrusive. HE is leading the band, propelling, orchestrating, and shaping the performances. Masterfully.
Hereis OH I’M EVIL. (You can find another version of Kirby Walker performing this song on the air, for the 1947 THIS IS JAZZ series, on YouTube.)
And hereis JUKE BOX TIME (when did the juke box get the name “piccolo”?) with Sidney in especially wonderful form in the second half of the record — kicking Taylor into action and then driving the band exuberantly.
He was such a phenomenon: a percussion orchestra who could be so very gentle when the music required it. Gone in 1951, his loss a tragedy that still reverberates. The only compensation for his abrupt death, his short life, is that he was very well-represented in recordings from 1928 (Al Wynn) to 1950 (Muggsy Spanier): everyone wanted the Catlett magic in their band, from Bechet to Byas to Bird. They knew full well what having Sidney behind the drums meant.