When Louis Armstrong was going to play ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS with his All-Stars, he might say, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to take you down to my home town, to jump a good old good one . . . ” and after Billy Kyle or Marty Napoleon had played a piano introduction, the band would play it at a fairly fast tempo. But it wasn’t always so: the 1922 recording by the “Dixie Daisies” is quite moderate, and the 1927 Bix-and-Tram excursion even more so, although bands took the song faster as the decades went by.
Here, for context, lyrics, verse, and more — and it’s a delightful recording! — is the first recording of the song:
I find that version perfectly charming. Perhaps fifteen years later, Lester Young (who remembered NOLA fondly) performed the song at a faster tempo, but Lester being Lester, there was a good deal of elasticity in his approach to the song as it rollicked by, stretching out over the beat like a cat waking from a nap.
The EarRegulars, that phenomenal jazz-repertory-company of lower Manhattan and environs, took up ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS at their holy gathering of August 29, 2021. Taking it very easy, but with a purpose, they glide through the “good old good one,” a hymn in praise of the Crescent City, in a very Lester-Buck-Durham-Page-and-then-Rollini mood (you could look it up).
They are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor and bass saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, at The Ear Out — that’s on the sidewalk outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York:
Transformative and lovely. The EarRegulars, since Halloween, have gone indoors — Sunday nights from 8-11 (approximately) and I hope to bring myself and my camera there and money for our friend Phillup the Bucket. Maybe we’ll get to say HELLO! (in our Fats-voices or not).
This joyous session sneaked in so quietly that I neglected to review it: my apologies to the Gentlemen of the Ensemble. Don’t be like me and let these joys pass you by. It’s truly a WOW.
Let me explain. The Musketeers are Félix Hunot, guitar, banjo, vocal; Malo Mazurie, cornet, trumpet; David Lukacs, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Attila Korb, bass saxophone, vocals. Those of you with the barest awareness of the superb international hot jazz scene — or attentive readers of this blog — will recognize those names.
And now, A Metaphor. Those of you who wish to get an iced drink may do so. The great chefs rely on “reduction,” which in my case means cooking a good deal of chicken or vegetables to produce a smaller amount of highly-flavored liquid, a “stock,” that will flavor other dishes. I don’t know how nimble the Musketeers are in the kitchen, but this CD is a wonderful series of such reductions: great jazz repertoire and performances stripped of inessentials to arrive at powerfully savory dishes for the ear and the heart. Imagine, for instance, a rendition of the Goldkette MY PRETTY GIRL reimagined — oh so convincingly — for quartet, and you get the idea. The propulsive joy not only remains but seems even more present.
The compositions on which they work their magic are OSTRICH WALK, MY PRETTY GIRL, LAZY BONES, FROGGIE MOORE, MABEL’S DREAM, MISSISSIPPI MUD, I’M WALKIN’ (yes!), CRYIN’ ALL DAY, JAPANESE SANDMAN, THANKS FOR THE MEMORY, MAMANITA, and TIGER RAG. Felix plays MEMORIES OF YOU as a banjo solo — so very touching — and creates a ballad medley of three strains from Richard Wagner, for guitar, equally moving, and Attila Korb has written ADRIAN’S DREAM for his hero and ours, Adrian Rollini. Delicious repertoire, no?
But you don’t have to imagine. Just listen:
It’s wonderful, and consistently so — a series of happy reverent homages to the Hot Jazz tradition, electrified by the personalities of the four gifted musicians. Welcome, you Jazz Musketeers!
Once I was a hero-worshipping autograph-seeker (“hound” is so dismissive). Beginning in 1967, I asked Louis, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, Sonny Greer, Buck Clayton, Bobby Hackett, Zoot Sims, and others, for theirs. Oddly, only Jo, who had a reputation for being irascible and unpredictable, asked my name and inscribed my record “To Micheal.” Other musicians I would have liked to ask but either found them intimidating, or — since I was a criminal with a poorly concealed cassette recorder — thought it best to stay hidden.
Autograph-seeking presumes reverential distance. I am a Fan, you are The Star. The Fan approaches the Star, timidly, politely, holds out a piece of paper or some other object, and asks for a signature or an inscription. In that ten-second interchange, the Fan feels seen, and the Star may feel exhausted or be gratified by the appearance of a Fan or a line of them. (In my literary life, I asked Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Richard Ford, and Julian Barnes to sign books. And Whitney Balliett.)
But I no longer chase Stars. Were I to have asked Jim Dapogny, Connie Jones, Jake Hanna, or Joe Wilder for “an autograph,” they would have found the request strange, because I had been talking or eating with them as a presumed equal. I am sure the anthropologists have a name for this kind of cultural transgression, as if your mother made special waffles for your birthday and you left her a tip, even 25%. In my world, at least, many of the Stars have become Friends: whether formality is a thing of the past or my stature has changed, I have no need to investigate.
I will say that, a few years ago, when a musician-friend of mine, thinking to praise me, said I was “the best fan” he knew, I snapped, “I’m not a Fan!” and then explained what I associated with the term. He changed his designation, to what I don’t remember, and it felt better.
Yet I think autographs are sacred — here is a photograph that Sidney Catlett held and wrote on. The Deity comes to Earth for thirty seconds and touches down. I have bought or copied pieces of paper signed by Pete Brown, Rod Cless, Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell (who wrote his first name as two separate words, should you wonder), Adrian Rollini, Claude Hopkins, and more.
I continue to keep track of such holy relics on eBay, as people who follow JAZZ LIVES know. In that spirit, here are manifestations of the autograph dance.
Someone came to Cab Calloway — anywhere between 1942 (when the record was issued) and his death in 1994, and asked him to sign this lovely purple OKeh 78, which he did, with his signature phrase, in the white ink used for record labels:
I have seen enough Cab-signatures to think this one authentic.
And here he is — in his best passionate mode, with a very early reading of Alec Wilder’s classic:
This autograph’s closer to home for me:
Again, completely authentic. But from what I know — from my own experience of Ruby (and this could have been signed any time between 1954 and 2002) I am reasonably sure that when the admiring Fan approached him, Ruby would have said something dismissive, because he disdained his early work vehemently. I recall when I first met him in 1971, praising his MY MELANCHOLY BABY on a new Atlantic recording by George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, and Ruby’s response was terse, curt, and precise, “THAT shit?” Difficult to find shades of ambiguity in that response.
Here’s Ruby’s ELLIE (one of his few compositions) from that date, with Johnny Guarnieri, Walter Page, Bobby Donaldson:
Some artists, remarkably, used the occasion to impart a message — in this case, a moral lesson. Saxophonist Don Lanphere, later in life, was born again and changed his life completely . . . so much so that an inscription became a chance to spread the Gospel:
It feels as if Don had more than a momentary acquaintance with Debbie, Ron, and Bob, but I may be assuming too much.
Here’s his beautiful DEAR OLD STOCKHOLM from the 1983 sessions, a duet with pianist Don Friedman:
Those three examples suggest face-to-face contact, and certainly a few words being exchanged. The closing artifact, here, comes from another dance entirely. For instance, I have a photograph signed by Connee Boswell, in her distinctive hand, and then personalized by her secretary, and I presume this all was done by mail, that the Fan wrote to Miss Boswell asking for an autographed picture — and that Connee, sometime, somewhere, sat down with a pile of them and signed her name a hundred or five hundred times in a sitting, and the photos could then be sent off. (Better, mind you, than Benny Goodman requiring people who worked for him to copy his signature onto photographs.)
I had to do some quick research to find out (to remind myself) that the 8-track tape was popular between 1965 and the late Seventies . . . it was replaced by the smaller, more flexible cassette tape, which could also be recorded on. I saw these tapes and players in action, but neither my parents nor I had an 8-track deck in our respective cars.
But some people did. Thus . . .
I note with amusement the ages of the attractive couple on the cover: would you think that in 1970 they would be close-dancing to Harry rather than the Stones? I doubt it. And inside:
This was on sale on eBay for a very low price: $10 plus 3.99 shipping, and I asked a dear friend who admires Harry if he wanted it as a gift, and he snorted and said, “Please,” in the way that people do when they really mean, “I’ll kill you.” I amused myself by imagining the scene of the person or couple coming across the dance floor to Harry at the set break and asking him to sign their new treasure, which he did quickly and without fanfare. But I was wrong, because a return to eBay showed two other signed sets, which suggests to me that Harry spent some tedious hours at home or in a hotel room, signing set after set, box after box. Hence:
At least those purchasers got a “Sincerely.” I remember sets packaged by the Longines Symphonette Society, but can’t recall whether they were offered on television after 11 PM, and whether the autographed sets cost more.
Here’s a favorite recording by Harry, the October 1939 SLEEPY TIME GAL, in three tempos, with just the rhythm section — Jack Gardner, piano; Brian “Red” Kent, guitar; Thurman Teague, string bass; Ralph Hawkins, drums:
I hope you noticed the profound Louis-influence there, starting with the opening references to SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH. It’s the perfect segue to this delightful photograph — place, date, and photographer unknown (thanks to Loren Schoenberg for the Facebook “Rare Jazz Photos” group) of two men beaming love at each other. Feel free to invent appropriate dialogue:
Jack Purvis: trumpeter, trombonist, composer, arranger, incidental singer, adventurer, chef, imposter, con man, vandal, sociopath, thief, fabulist, inmate, and more. There are few photographs of Purvis, appropriate to his slippery self. I offer the cover of the superb Jazz Oracle three-CD set, which is a consistent delight, both in the rare music and the stories:
Here is a well-researched chronicle of his parents, his birth, and his early life as (if we are to be charitable) a Scamp, a Rogue, and A Rascal, written by George A. and Eric B. Borgman.
Now, to my particular views of Purvis. First, some music, WHAT’S THE USE OF CRYIN’, BABY (May 1, 1930) with J.C. Higginbotham, trombone; Greeley Walton, tenor saxophone; Adrian Rollini, bass saxophone; Frank Froeba, piano; Dick McDonough, guitar; Charles Kegley, drums:
Then, three famous sides from April 4, 1930, whose personnel has been in dispute for decades, but there’s Purvis, Higginbotham, Rollini, Froeba, Kegley, and Will Johnson, guitar. Some sources listed Coleman Hawkins on tenor, but Bob Stephens, recording director for OKeh Records said no, it was Castor McCord, as quoted by Jan Evensmo: “Bob Stephens, studio manager at Okeh and responsible for organizing virtually all the Okeh race sessions, stated in connection with the Purvis sides : ‘Hawk wasn’t on those. We used another guy who played like him – Castor McCord. I was organizing the Blue Rhythm at the time, and I hired him because we wanted a rival attraction to get business away from Henderson.'”
We’ll settle that shortly.
First, DISMAL DAN (an odd title for this cheerful original):
DOWN GEORGIA WAY:
When I visited Dan Morgenstern at his Manhattan apartment last year, I did not expect him to bring up Purvis. But I was delighted when he did:
Yesterday, I asked Dan to clarify something I thought was part of our off-camera conversation, and he wrote, “The issue of the tenor on the Poor Richard date was settled for me when Hawk’s response to my bringing up Purvis was instant,
as he recalled, without prompting, that very session and that he was
astonished at what he considered a most peculiar manner of paying
tribute to his recently deceased brother. He added some positive comments about his playing and amusing eccentricity. So I consider that my greatest contribution to discography.”
And the Facebook page notes that Richard Purvis lived on until 2014.
My friend Connor Cole suggested, some months ago, that I might find Charlie Barnet’s autobiography, THOSE SWINGING YEARS, worth reading — warning me in advance that it was often more a chronicle of sex and drink than music, which did not scare me away. Barnet knew Purvis, who, “after all, could charm you to death while he picked your pocket,” and had some remarkable stories. He refers to Purvis as “one of the wildest men I have ever met in my life” and praises him as a trumpeter far ahead of his peers, both in jazz and in symphonic music. Quickly, though, Purvis became a burden: “By this time [circa 1930] I had had my fill of Jack. There was enough trouble to get into without his help, but he was a mad genius and a wonderful trumpet player. You couldn’t be a close friend, because you couldn’t trust him. You never knew what he was going to do.”
Barnet hires him in 1933: “Jack started to write some charts for us, but even in this area he had to indulge his diabolical whims. He would figure out the weaknesses of each member of the band–low notes, high notes, strange key signatures, whatever–and that would be central to each individual’s part. And Jack chuckled to himself at the struggle.”
Certainly “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
But on this 1935 recording, from his last session — where he speaks and sings — you hear his swinging ease alongside Slats Long, clarinet; Herbie Haymer, tenor saxophone; Frank Froeba, piano and leader; Clayton “Sunshine” Duerr, guitar; Carroll Waldron, string bass; as well as some powerful drumming from the elusive Eddie Dougherty:
A sad footnote. Dan and I had wondered about the writer / researcher / archivist Michael Brooks, whose idiosyncratic liner notes still stick in my head — he took great chances and usually got away with them. I learned today that Michael had died (he was born in 1935) on November 20, 2020: details here.
In the darkness, there are gratifying rays of light. You can define that sentence in your own ways, but I have the pleasure of introducing you to a new band, the Forest Hill Owls.
I assume that the avian part of the name is homage both to the swinging New Orleans band who decided that would be a good animal to model themselves on, and the owls’ reputation for wisdom, inscrutability, and nocturnal energies. (I could be completely wrong, and one of the Owls I know will write in to correct me: it could simply be that there are owls in Forest Hill.)
Chris Lowe, trombonist and leader, tells me that Forest Hill is a part of London where several members of the band live. Nothing elusive about that. They are, from the back, Nicholas D. Ball on drums, David Horniblow on bass saxophone, Martin Wheatley on guitar and banjo, Michael McQuaid on alto saxophone and clarinet, and Tom Dennis on trumpet. I feel very fraternal about this band, since I have met, chatted with, and admired in person Messrs. Nick, Martin, and Michael; I know and admire David from recordings. Chris and Tom are new to me, but I salute them also.
Here’s what they look like:
and here’s what they sound like. Prepare yourself for exuberance that clearly knows the way.
First, ALICE BLUE GOWN:
and POOR PAPA, one of those Twenties sagas of marriage imbalance, at least in financial terms, sung by Chris:
Subscribe to their YouTube channel here: I did, not wanting to miss a note.
The virtues of the band are immediately and joyously evident: their merging of respect for past traditions (as manifested by Miff Mole and his Molers and the Goofus Five in these two videos) but their delight in going for themselves. They are not afraid to swing; their solo voices are so distinctive, as is the synergy of the band.
I look forward to more video-performances and I hope, when life returns to some semblance of what we know and love, live gigs, audiences, prosperity. Until then, I’ll keep watching these two videos: better than coffee for reminding the nervous system about the joys of being fully awake — which is what the Forest Hill Owls truly are.
Those who have visited my apartment would agree that it resembles as a homemade record store-yard sale. Or a spousal nightmare. Over there, a George Barnes lp, on that table an Eddie Miller cassette; on top of some papers, a Jimmie Rowles CD, and then there are the 78s — which, I say proudly, are in alphabetical order. So I don’t need any more music right away.
Sorry, I was proven wrong this morning when I had a chance to hear and purchase the Oxblood Melodians’ debut CD on Bandcamp. Listen to the first track here while you read.
I had heard of the band — rather like one of those listings in Brian Rust that you know were once recorded (Adrian Rollini, Teddy Bunn, and Frank Froeba, 1930) but you have never heard — I knew some of the musicians, but did not know that they would appear, fully-feathered, to me, this Friday, August 7. More about that date shortly.
For now, some enticing data. Or you can read it all for yourself hereif you are a proud independent cuss who don’t take help from nobody.
We are excited to present The Oxblood Melodians. This self-titled album is the collaboration of Jonathan Doyle & David Jellema, and features many of our favorite Austinites and honorary Austinites. Our goal was to create an ensemble that evokes the New York and Chicago small groups of the mid-late 1920s, with bass saxophone in the bass role and embracing both jazz and blues traditions. The Oxblood Melodians are named in part after the oxblood lilies that grace Austin and central Texas yards in the fall (including our own). Recorded at the legendary “Dandyville” by Alex Hall in 2014, these sides have been simmering and gestating, waiting for just the right moment to be released into the world. That time is finally upon us!
Day 1 :: 4,5,6,7,10,12,14
Alice Spencer—vocals 6 & 14
David Jellema—cornet &/or clarinet
Lyon Graulty—clarinet &/or tenor saxophone
Mark Gonzales—trombone (except 7)
Westen Borghesi—tenor banjo (+vocal on 12)
Jonathan Doyle—bass saxophone
Hal Smith—drum set 4,6,12,14
Day 2 :: 1,2,3,8,9,11,13
Alice Spencer—vocals 1,2,9
David Jellema—cornet &/or clarinet
Lyon Graulty—clarinet &/or tenor saxophone
J.D. Pendley—guitar & tenor banjo
Jonathan Doyle—bass saxophone (+contra-alto clarinet 3 only)
1. Louis-I-An-Ia (Day 2) / (Joe Darensbourg) dir. D.Jellema
2. Oh Daddy Blues / (William Russell / Ed Herbert) arr. D.Jellema, J.D.Pendley
3. Dardanella / (Fred Fisher / Felix Bernard / Johnny S. Black) arr. D.Jellema
5. New Orleans Shuffle / (Bill Whitmore) dir. D.Jellema
6. Of All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me / (Lew Payton / Chris Smith / Edgar Dowell) dir. D.Jellema
7. Farewell Blues / (Paul Mares / Leon Roppolo / Elmer Schoebel) dir. D.Jellema
8. Cryin’ All Day / (Frank Trumbauer / Chauncey Morehouse) arr. D.Jellema
9. Don’t Give All the Lard Away / (Lockwood Lewis / Henry Clifford) adpt. J.Doyle
10. Feel the River Move / (David Jellema / Rod Jellema) dir. D.Jellema
11. Old Stack O’Lee Blues / (Sidney Bechet) dir. D.Jellema
12. Love Affairs / (Al Dubin / J. Russel Robinson) adpt. J.Doyle
13. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams / (Ted Koehler / Billy Moll / Harry Barris) dir. D.Jellema
14. Louis-I-An-Ia (Day 1) / (Joe Darensbourg) dir. D.Jellema
Some of the repertoire will point us to “the dear boy” from Davenport, but this is both a humble tribute to him and an understanding that our heroes prize individuality the most. So this isn’t a bunch of kids dressing up for Halloween: “I want be Bessie this year! How come you always get to be Bessie?” “Your brother gets to be Larry Binyon this year. I promised him.” “Let us be. Mom and I are going as Fats Waller.”
Rather, what you will hear is a group of dear musical friends, exuberant and precise, who know the history and have their own songs to sing. Too many delights to elucidate here: I’d rather you head over to Bandcamp directly. Why the rush? Because today Bandcamp gives all the proceeds to the artists and takes no fees. So if you haven’t been able to hear some live jazz, hear this lively version: it will make you glad.
“Believe me,” as Alice tells us at the end of OH DADDY BLUES.
Of course, the Legends are Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Adrian Rollini, and their majestic colleagues. But from this distance — can it be a little more than forty years ago? — Messrs. Pletcher, Ingle, Harker, Gibson, Whitman, Miller, and Koch are legendary as well.
I asked someone who is too young to be a legend but certainly plays like one, David Jellema, to write an appreciation of this band, this video, and Tom Pletcher, and I am delighted to present it to you. David, whom I’ve known for more than a few years, is a world-class cornet and clarinet hero, hot and lyrical, his work intelligent and passionate, his style all his own even when he is paying tribute to the Masters who have inspired him. At the end of this presentation, I’ll share a few videos where David shines and list a few sessions that delightfully showcase his work.
But now, to the Sons, through David’s affectionate and perceptive lens.
In the 1970s and 80s, many of the founding fathers of jazz and swing, although in their twilight years, were fortunately yet with us. It was also a great time for the second generation of jazzmen not only to be personally influenced by the ancestors, but to be mingling and collaborating to make their own unique sweet preserves of musical fruits. Bands featured at many of the revival traditional jazz festivals tapped specific, living veins of American jazz heritage.
There were a few bands on the scene that dedicated themselves to the memorialization of the legend of Bix Beiderbecke, some featured over the years at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society jazz festival in Davenport, Iowa where Bix was born. One such specialty band, western Michigan’s “The Jackpine Savages,” formed in 1971, had the expected repertoire of traditional jazz standards and many tunes that Beiderbecke had recorded, but had the honored distinction of including leader Don Ingle (Baldwin, Michigan) on valve trombone and vocals, and Tom Pletcher (Montague, Michigan) on cornet.
Ingle’s father, Ernest ‘Red’ Ingle, played tenor sax and violin,and over his career had recorded with Ted Weems, Spike Jones Orchestra, and his own group,the Natural Seven. For an engagement in Cincinnati in May and June 1927, Red appeared on tenor sax with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra. So Don Ingle (1931-2012, who, as an infant, had been held in Bix’s own arms), inheriting his father’s music, humor, and artistic talents, was tutored on cornet by Red Nichols, on arranging by Matty Matlock, and played at Chicago’s Jazz Limited in the mid ‘60s. When he formed The Jackpine Savages in the early 1970s to play at the Lost Valley Lodge on Lake Michigan’s shore near Montague (also for various appearances locally and at aforementioned festivals), he switched to the valve trombone and hired local business-man Pletcher to play the cornet.It was just a few years later that Ingle collaborated with Chicago-based bandleader and piano player Don Gibson (Al Capone Memorial Jazz Band) in forming the Bix-style repertory band heard here, the “Sons of Bix,” whose repertoire and arrangements were primarily informed by Bix’s recordings and as well by period tunes Bix may have played.
This cornet player, Tom Pletcher (1936-2019), was fortunate to have been born to a sterling jazz trumpet player who had played in a few of the earliest jazz groups in collegiate circles. Stewart (“Stu” or “Stew”) Pletcher had friends and associates among the likes of Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett, and Roy Eldridge (who had once exclaimed to young Tom sweet profanities of praise about his dad), and played professionally for Ben Pollack, Smith Ballew, Red Norvo. Young Tom had the nurturing environment of the earliest of the jazz pioneers even in his home growing up; and at 15, hearing his first Bix record, decided to take up the cornet. After formative youth years on the West Coast, adult Pletcher ended up taking over his grandfather’s decorative metal business in the White Lake, Michigan area (something his jazz musician father was not in position nor disposition to do) throughout a good deal of his life. This metal fabricator shop was a little more than 7 miles from where Ingle’s band would play at that lone restaurant overlooking Lake Michigan shores.
Pletcher’s fascination with Beiderbecke’s music led him into remarkable musical circumstances and personal associations that fueled and lent credence to his knowledge of Bix’s life and music. He corresponded with and visited the homes of the guys who had known and played with Bix. As a layman, he was diligent in seeking, and lucky in finding, not only information, facts, and stories about Bix, but even unseen pictures and a previously unheard recording, thereby to a small degree aiding in the research of Phil Evans toward two different exhaustive books about Bix. In that respect alone he deserves some credit toward the shaping of a factual account of Bix’s life beyond romantic and apocryphal mythologies and fantasies, something the dreamy jazz icon was victim to even before his tragic early death.
Pletcher’s acute intimacy with Bix’s music found its real recognition, however, in how he played a Getzen Eterna cornet(–one from 1965 that Ingle sold to him when Tom joined the Jackpines, and another large bore Eterna he bought in 1987). Certainly Pletcher had been influenced by his own father, Stu, and the musicians Stu associated with (especially Armstrong and Teagarden). Pletcher was an avid fan of Bobby Hackett, and often could deliver a solo sounding convincingly like the gentle man from Providence. He loved the recordings of Bunny Berigan, listening til the end of his life. Tom had acquired and absorbed all the lp records of Chet Baker. (Pletcher was also a keen listener, with Bix, to the music of the French Impressionist composers, Debussy, Ravel, and Delius, beautiful sounds that also influenced how he felt the music.) So a broad base of jazz (and classical) sounds made for a rich depth and diversity of the ideas that he expressed on the horn: he didn’t just play Bix’s licks or try to copy Bix. (The note-for-note tribute solo features like “Singin’ the Blues” mark the rare exception).
It was the extent to which Pletcher had absorbed and internalized technical aspects of Bix’s playing (attack and articulation, tone, vibrato, dynamics, effects and idiosyncrasies, and often, humor) without slavishly or consciously copying Beiderbecke that allowed him the acclaim among fans and musicians, contemporaneous to his generation and that of Beiderbecke’s, that he had come closest to Bix’s sound and spirit of anyone to date. All the other influences that had seasoned his playing allowed him freedom to express his own modern feel of the Bixian sound, keeping those sounds fresh.
Among musicians in the 1980s and early 1990s, he would be the first call to sit in “Bix’s chair” for a host of projects that recreated that period in repertory bands. While yet still alive, Bill Challis, the Bix-friendly arranger for the famous Jean Goldkette Orchestra and Paul Whiteman Orchestra (and the man who transcribed and published Bix’s piano compositions), joined with protégé Vince Giordano to do some newer, expanded renditions of songs from the Goldkette years, including tunes Bix had recorded and some he hadn’t. Legendary piano demi-god and musical powerhouse Dick Hyman had Pletcher featured in a 92nd Street Y concert in New York City (and subsequent CD for Arbors Records) called “If Bix Played Gershwin,” a delicious pallet of all Gershwin tunes rendered as if they had been played in some of the formats that Bix had been grouped in. (Actually, only one Gershwin song from the concert was one that Bix had recorded, “Sunny Disposish.”) An Italian film producer had Pletcher playing the Bixian lead and solos for the stellar soundtrack of a not-so-stellar film loosely based on Bix’s life called “Bix: An Interpretation of a Legend.” John Otto’s “Hotel Edison Roof Orchestra” made in two recordings the perfect setting for Pletcher’s sound: hot jazz arrangements from Jean Goldkette, California Ramblers, Ted Weems, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Sam Lanin, Frank Skinner, and more.
A word must be said about one of Pletcher’s longest standing gigs of fairly consistent personnel. Pletcher played yearly among a group of musicians who gathered to play at Princeton 50th class reunions (months of June, 1975-1981), partly to entertain alumni, but mostly to enjoy their own private ongoing reunions of musicians who were fond of Bix’s music and some who were there when Bix played at Princeton near the end of his life. Squirrel Ashcraft, Bill Priestley, Jack Howe, and other Princeton grads had continued playing music under Bix’s spell at jam sessions in the 40s, 50s, and 60s; they were joined by later Princeton grads like Ron Hockett and Doug James, and collegiate and commercial band alumni like Spencer Clark, Bud Wilson, and Bob Haggart. The music had Eddie Condon-like small group spirit and freedom, and a relaxed approach. Live recordings from these were privately issued on vinyl for the musicians, friends, and alumni. They too called themselves “Sons of Bix.” They later went into Jazzology studios to record formal lps under Haggart’s name, with arrangements on “Clementine” and “In a Mist” by Hockett. They also did a number of private parties on the east coast that carried the reunion flames forth, one among many in Vero Beach which produced a nice album of cassettes with a complete 8-page history of the various “Sons of Bix” configurations over the decades, written by Jack Howe.
The Sons of Bix that you hear in this video (originally calling themselves, tongue in cheek, “The Sons of Bix’s”) only have Pletcher in common with the Princeton Reunion Sons of Bix, although their personnel may have had associations in the Evanston, Illinois jam sessions at Squirrel’s. These SOBs had three lp albums that were released (“A Legend Revisited” on Fairmont Records;“Ostrich Walk,” “Copenhagen”both on Jazzology). One was recorded but not issued on vinyl, and only in part much later online, called “San.” They played at the popular traditional jazz festivals like San Diego, Central City, and Sacramento. They toured Europe in 1979, playing in numerous countries and at the Breda Jazz Festival. (That is no small feat for loads of luggage, many horn and drum cases, a bass sax, train schedules and coaches, plane rides, small alleys, streets, and bars, wives and my own tagging aunt and uncle..)
In their “first East Coast appearance,” introduced here by the director of the DC-area Manassas Jazz Festival, Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee, the personnel consists of Glenn Koch, drums; Don Ingle, announcer, valve trombone, arranger, co-leader; Don Gibson, piano, arranger, co-leader; John Harker on clarinet and alto sax; Dave Miller, banjo and guitar; Tom Pletcher, cornet; and Russ Whitman, bass saxophone. In this video you’ll hear six songs that Beiderbecke had recorded, and one traditional tune they occasionally played.
I heard this band live for the first time at this very festival. I was a little boy, almost 14, with a bowl-cut Dutch-boy head of blonde hair and corduroy pants climbing high over white socks. I joined some of them for a brief after-hours jam session, along with another young Bix-Pletcher protégé named Ralph Norton, whose hair was slicked back and parted down the middle. (By the next time I heard them live, Ralph and I were in a cordial race to see who could part with his hair first.)Fast forward. In August 1987, I was just graduated from college, and for that summer was at my family farmhouse near Montague, Michigan (within a 12-minute walk from the Lost Valley Lodge where I first had heard the Jackpine Savages as a lad). The Sons of Bix had two appearances in the area the 8th and 9th, one at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp with guest Marian McPartland, in which she joined the band for a standard, played “In a Mist” solo, and did a haunting duet of “Stardust” with Pletcher. The next day,the SOBs were at a country club near Muskegon. Tom was playing that weekend on a brand new, large-bore Getzen Eterna, and any adjustments he needed to get used to the feel of the new horn on its maiden voyage Saturday night had been made into a crackling performance for the local jazz society the next day.
Unfortunately, life was making demands on me that did not allow me any further opportunities to hear this band live. But the lp records had to suffice, and the magic had been done on me. In either case, here was a band that liked playing together, liked the specific material they were reviving and reshaping, played with energy and cohesion, joked and giggled a lot. They had intelligent arrangements when needed, they could hug the ballads, and could fire up listeners with the standard barn-burners of the genre. Each musician was a seasoned, veteran master at his craft. Each one had remarkable personal connection to his antecedents at a time when some of those musical forebears were still alive to enjoy their own memories and these new achievements.
I have resisted a number of other opportunities herein to insert myself further into the narrative about this band and its roots, about Ingle, and especially about Pletcher. I will simply close with a note of gratitude to them for their loving treatment of their musical heroes and their influence on the younger musicians they had the chance to shape, to the two horn players that especially mentored me, to all the other musicians who play in these sounds, and finally to the historians, archivists, and documenters that have the cultivating hands in making this tree continue to grow in the shape of a musician from Davenport, Iowa.
And now, that 1978 session. SUSIE / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / BORNEO / CARELESS LOVE / THOU SWELL / CLEMENTINE / FIDGETY FEET // Introduced by Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee: Tom Pletcher (cornet), Don Ingle (valve trombone), John Harker (clarinet), Don Gibson (piano), Russ Whitman (bass sax), Dave Miller (guitar, banjo), Glenn Koch (drums).
Back to David for a rewarding short interlude.
What could be nicer than four friends romping through a jazz evergreen: Albanie Falletta, David, Jonathan Doyle, and Jamey Cummins in 2014:
More friends, the Thrift Set Orchestra (yes, that’s Hal Smith!) in 2013, doing KRAZY KAPERS:
Many of the same rascals, plus the wonderful Alice Spencer, in 2014:
You can also hear David on the Brooks Prumo Orchestra’s THIS YEAR’S KISSES, two sessions by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet, THE ROAD TO LEAVING and LIVE AT THE SAHARA LOUNGE, as well as FLOYD DOMINO ALL-STARS.
David Lukácsdreams in lyrical swing. His most recent CD is evidence that I do not exaggerate. Now, I know that some of my American readers might furrow their brows and say, “Who are these people? I don’t know their names!” but I urge them to listen and watch.
To quote the lyrics from SAY IT SIMPLE (I hear Jack Teagarden’s voice in my head as I type), “If that don’t get it, well, forget it right now.”
Here you can hear the music, download it, purchase a disc.
The sweet-natured magicians are David Lukacs, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; Malo Mazurie, cornet, trumpet; Attila Korb, bass saxophone*, trombone; Felix Hunot, guitar, banjo; Joep Lumeij: string bass. The songs are DREAM CITY / A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND / OLD MAN BLUES / MORE THAN YOU KNOW / THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC / MOONLIGHT ON THE GANGES / I HAD IT BUT IT’S ALL GONE NOW / HALLELUJAH! / BLUE PRELUDE / MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND / THEN SOMEONE’S IN LOVE / LOUISIANA / CLARINET MARMALADE / MANOIR DE MES REVES. The liner notes are by Scott Robinson.
David told me that this CD is inspired by his father’s record collection (obviously the Lukacs lineage has taste and discernment) but his vision is even larger: “With this album I created my own city, my Dream City, where there’s Bix and Tram’s music in one club, Duke is playing in the theatre beside, and you might hear Django’s music around the corner.”
That transcends the time-machine cliche, and each track is a dreamy vision of a heard past made real for us in 2019. The dreaminess is most charming, because this disc isn’t simply a series of recreations of recordings. Occasionally the band follows the outlines of a famous disc closely — as in A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND — but each song becomes a sweet playground for these (sometimes shoeless) dear geniuses to roam in.
Here’s another video tour, with snippets of the title tune, OLD MAN BLUES, MOONLIGHT ON THE GANGES, MANOIR DE MES REVES (and comments from Scott, who knows):
Readers who feel this music as I do won’t need any more explanation — but a few lines are in order. I first heard David on record with Menno Daams (check out the latter’s PLAYGROUND) — two musicians who have deep lyrical intelligence, but DREAM CITY is an astonishing combination of the hallowed past and true contemporary liveliness. David told me that he has been inspired not only by the old records, but by the music Marty Grosz and others made, using those sounds as a basis. I hear echoes of the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet and the small-group sessions that were so prolific and gratifying on the Arbors label.
DREAM CITY offers us glorious yet understated solo work and — perhaps even better — delicious ensemble playing and gratifying arrangements. The inspirations are also the Kansas City Six, the Ellington, Basie, and Wilson small bands, and more. You can draw your own family tree with chalk on the sidewalk. The “unusual” instrumentation also allows a great flexibility in voicings — this is no formulaic band that plays each song in the same way, simply varying tempo and key — and this CD is not a series of solos-with-rhythm. Each selection, none longer than a 12″ 78, is a short story in sounds.
If you care to, go back to the video of DREAM CITY — which begins, if I am correct, with a line on the chords of BYE BYE BLUES and then changes key into a medium-bounce blues — and admire not only the soloing, so tersely expert, so full of feeling without self-consciousness — but the arrangement itself: the quiet effective way horns hum behind a soloist, the use of stop-time and a Chicago “flare,” the echoes of Bix and Tram without tying the whole endeavor to a 1927 skeleton . . . worth study, deserving of admiration.
All of the players impress me tremendously, but Attila gets his own * (and that is not the title of a children’s book) because I’d not known of his bass saxophone playing: he is a master of that horn, handling it with elegance and grace, sometimes giving it a limber ease I would associate with the bass clarinet, although he never hurries. (I also discovered Attila’s 2017 TAP ROOM SWING, a tribute to Adrian Rollini, which I hope to write about in future.)
I plan to continue blissfully dreaming to DREAM CITY, an ethereal soundtrack, so rewarding.
Here are some wonderful highlights from my first concert of 2019, a showcase for several bands under the brightly colored banner of Noble + Wylie, a musician-run enterprise that fills a real need, representing splendid traditional jazz performers, offering the best services to the artists and their audiences. The co-founders are musicians Emily Asher and Katie Lee, who know the business from many angles. You can read more about this promising company at the link above, but a few sentences from Emily give a taste of their forthright approach: “I see Noble + Wylie as an agency which elevates and celebrates excellence. By focusing on honesty and quality over chaos and hype, I look forward to fostering long-term positive relationships with diverse music venues, festivals, schools, and private clients in order to provide distinctive and creative music to audiences world-wide.”
(If you search for Noble & Wylie — connected by an ampersand — you’ll find only UK shoes, no music at all. Caveat emptor.)
At the January 9 showcase, we had the opportunity to hear three groups represented by Noble + Wylie: The Ladybugs, the New Wonders, and Emily Asher’s Garden Party — and I brought back some tasty video evidence. Here is the first set by the New Wonders, the remarkable band making the hot and sweet music of the Twenties alive again. For this occasion, they are Mike Davis, cornet; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, reeds; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Peter Cho, banjo; Jay Rattman, bass sax; Jay Lepley, with incidental singing by members of the band. My videos came from an odd angle, but I hope all can be forgiven.
The New Wonders, photograph by Renée Toplansky.
Mike’s introductions are delightful history lessons in themselves, so you need no more from me.
RHYTHM KING, for Bix:
I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED, for the Chicago Loopers:
OSTRICH WALK, for Bix and Tram:
CLORINDA, for the Loopers:
This one’s a particular favorite of mine, Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s sweet ballad, LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, in the style of Bix and his Gang:
Finally, a romping CLARINET MARMALADE — hot and spreadable:
Once again, you can learn more about Noble + Wylie here. (The name that Asher and Lee have chosen for their enterprise is a fascinating story in itself.) And their Facebook page is here.
This post is devoted to one of my favorite songs — even though I stopped setting my alarm clock almost two months ago. But I send it out for all of you who still have to obey the summons. And if you are newly freed from such tyrannies, the song continues to be charming.
I saw in my online research into this song — music and lyrics by Herman Hupfeld (best known now for AS TIME GOES BY, less so for LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS AND GO TO SLEEP, NIGHT OWL, or SING SOMETHING SIMPLE) — that I’d written about it in 2015, but there are now new versions on YouTube, so I propose this blogpost as an improvement rather than plagiarizing from myself. Here’s my favorite Thirties version, led by Adrian Rollini, with possibly Bunny Berigan, Al Philburn, Pee Wee Russell, Arthur Rollini, Fulton McGrath, Dick McDonough, Art Miller, Herb Weil, Red McKenzie:
I don’t have any personnel for this version. Possibly a Gene Kardos group?
and a British version that includes the verse:
We move out of the Thirties for a 2008 version featuring Marty Grosz, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Vince Giordano, Rob Garcia:
And to return to the song’s inception, it comes from a film delightfully titled MOONLIGHT AND PRETZELS. Evidence herewith.
and the relevant film clip — homage to Mister Berkeley:
Whatever your circumstances, may that other sock not elude you, and I hope your colleagues treat you kindly and with respect where you make your living.
I’ve never been on a cruise, but I now have one to look forward to in 2019 with the promise of joy afloat on the debut STOMPTIME adventure.
I like things as much as the next person, but I am also a collector of experiences, which are much more durable even though often intangible. And I believe strongly that we need to seize the day — life, as we know it, has that annoying finite quality — and, in this case, seven days in the Eastern Caribbean to a jazz and ragtime and blues soundtrack — much more alive than Spotify or a pair of earbuds.
A digression: I don’t advertise events or objects (discs, concerts, festivals) on this blog that I wouldn’t listen to or go to, and I pay my way unless some promoter begs me to keep my wallet shut or a musician sends me her CD. So I am going to be on this cruise, and not for free in return for an endorsement. Just in case you were wondering.
Here’s one soundtrack for you to enjoy as you read:
That’s not a well-known record, so here’s some data: Red Nichols, Tommy Thunen, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Babe Russin, Adrian Rollini, Jack Russin, Wes Vaughan, Gene Krupa, January 1930.
What, I hear you asking, is STOMPTIME? To give it its full name, it is Stomptime Musical Adventure’s 2019 Inaugural Jazz Cruise. It will mosey around ports and islands in the Eastern Caribbean, on the Celebrity Equinox leaving from Miami. Space is limited to 250 guests, and special offers are available to those who (like me) book early.
With all deference to the beaches and vistas, the little towns and ethnic cuisines, I have signed up for this cruise because it will be a seriously romping jazz extravaganza, seven nights of music with several performances each day. Who’s playing and singing?
Evan Arntzen – reeds / vocals; Clint Baker – trumpet / trombone; Jeff Barnhart – piano / vocals; Pat Bergeson – guitar / harmonica; BIG B.A.D. Rhythm; Marc Caparone – cornet / vocals; Danny Coots – drums; Frederick Hodges – piano / vocals; Brian Holland – piano; Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet; Nate Ketner – reeds; Carl Sonny Leyland – piano / vocals; Dick Maley – drums; Steve Pikal – upright bass; Andy Reiss – guitar; Sam Rocha – upright bass / vocals
Stephanie Trick & Paolo Alderighi – piano duo.
Even though that list ends with the necessary phrase, “Performers subject to change,” it’s an impressive roster.
Here’s a six-minute romp for dancers by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, whom I follow on dry land and on sea, that I recorded on June 1, 2018, at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival:
Of course you’d like to know how much a week of pleasure costs: details here. An interior cabin will cost $1548.13 per person, and there is an additional VIP package for $250. If this seems a great deal of money, just start repeating to yourself: “A week of lodging, adventure, food, and music,” and do the math. Feels better, doesn’t it? My cruise-loving friends tell me that Celebrity is well-regarded — a cruise line catering to adults rather than children, with good food and reassuring amenities.
“Amortize, you cats!” as Tricky Sam Nanton used to say.
Two other points that bear repeating.
The great festivals of the past twenty years are finding it more difficult to survive: because they are beautiful panoplies of music, they are massive endeavors that require audience participation. I am a newcomer to this world, having been part of a jazz weekend for the first time in 2004, but I could make myself sad by reciting the names of those that have gone away. And they don’t return.
Enterprises need support to — shall we say — float? I know many good-hearted practical people who say, “Wow, I’d love to do that. Maybe in a few years,” and I can’t argue with the facts of income and expenses. But we’ve seen that not everything can last until patrons of the arts are ready to support it. Ultimately, not everything delightful is for free, and one must occasionally be prepared to get out of one’s chair and tell the nice person on the other end of the line one’s three-digit security number on the back of the card. Be bold. Have an experience.
I hope you can make this one.
Postscript, just in (July 23) from my nautical-maritime-jazz expert, Sir Robert Cox: “You have picked you ship well as Celebrity Equinox is a Solstice-class cruise ship built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. Celebrity Equinox is the second of the five Solstice-class vessels, owned and operated by Celebrity Cruises.”
If you consider an artist’s works in chronological sequence (bibliography as well as discography) certain landmarks blot out their neighbors. In the case of Coleman Hawkins, there’s BODY AND SOUL, then the Hampton Victor date, then his big band — leading up to the small-group sessions of 1943-44 for Signature, Keynote, Savoy, and more.
The Varsity Seven sides — full of delights — recorded in December 1939 and January 1940 — haven’t received the admiration they deserve. Hawkins’ admiring biographer, the diligent John Chilton, calls them “a pastiche of Dixieland.” I disagree.
The Varsity label (please note the transparent pseudonyms for Hawkins and Carter) was run by Eli Oberstein, and it never seems to have been entirely out in the open. I don’t know that Oberstein was the equal of Herman Lubinsky of Savoy, but Eli seems to have been ingenious in his dealings. I believe the masters of these and other sessions were bought by Savoy, and thus the trail to licit reissues is complex. Were they Victor sessions, they would have been available straightforwardly for decades now, including “official” CD issue.
Another side-note is that the session — one or both? — was co-produced by Leonard Feather and Warren Scholl, which may account for a Feather composition being there. I knew two sides from this date because my Long Island friend Tom Piazza played them for me, forty-plus years ago: SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT and A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY. I don’t know where each of the musicians was working in 1939-40, whether Fifty-Second Street or Cafe Society or uptown, but they come together to create great jazz. Cheerful Jeanne Burns (known for work with Adrian Rollini and Wingy Manone) is a liability, but we’ve all heard less polished singers. Here’s the information for the first session.
Benny Carter, trumpet, alto saxophone; Danny Polo, clarinet; Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophone; Joe Sullivan, piano; Ulysses Livingston, guitar, vocal; Artie Bernstein, string bass; George Wettling, drums; Jeanne Burns, vocal. New York, December 14, 1939.
IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT (Burns, vocal). The first two choruses — bless Sullivan and Wettling, who are bringing Jimmy Ryan’s to a record date or doing the Commodore? — are flawless. Ms. Burns has pitch trouble, but I concentrate on Sullivan behind her. Polo and Livingston (the latter sounding much like a sweet Teddy Bunn) aren’t derailed by the young lady, and then Hawkins charges in, “I’m back from Europe, and let me remind you who is still King!” My idea of perfection is of course subjective, but the instrumental portions of this recording stand up with any other of this period:
EASY RIDER (Burns, Livingston, vocal). Hawkins starts off rhapsodically, and is then relieved by Polo, whose sound in itself is an aural landscape, no matter how simple his phrases. (In this, he reminds me of poets Joe Marsala, Raymond Burke, and Edmond Hall.) Ms. Burns Is much more at ease at this tempo and in this range, and her unusual mixture of Mae West and Mildred Bailey is her most successful vocal. Livingston’s vaudeville couplets are harmlessly archaic counterpoint, leading in to an ensemble where Carter and Polo take up most of the space, leaving Hawkins little to do. One must admire the lovely drumming of Wettling — and how beautifully Artie Shapiro’s bass comes through — before the consciously “old-timey” ending:
SCRATCH MY BACK is the one Leonard Feather composition, and a charming one, revisited by Dan Barrett a few years ago. I can’t figure out the changes beneath the melody — an experienced friend / musician says the first strain is similar to YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME. I love the opening ensemble, and Shapiro’s deep notes behind Polo, then Sullivan’s rollicking solo chorus, where Wettling is having a wonderful time — and the passage where Sullivan abstracts the melody for great dramatic effect. Then — what’s this? — a glorious alto solo by “Billy Carton” (heir to the cardboard box fortune) punctuated by a Livingston blues-pastoral. Everyone steps aside for Hawkins, and a recap of the theme with Livingston adding sweet arpeggiated chords. No complaints here:
SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA (Burns, vocal). Aside from the ending, I don’t think of this as “Dixieland”: rather a series of splendid improvisations from Carter, Sullivan, and two choruses from Hawkins — over a gently propulsive and balanced rhythm section. I find Burns’ version of Mildred Bailey’s upper-register-vibrato jarring, but I was listening to Polo, murmuring sweet limpid asides, and the rhythm section while she sang:
Fast forward to January 15, 1940: the same personnel except Big Joe Turner replaces Burns, an improvement.
And in his honor, they began with HOW LONG, HOW LONG BLUES. In the opening ensemble, Hawkins is nearly submerged (could this have been what irritated Chilton?) which leads into a lovely chorus by Polo — with plain-spoken rhythm section work. Then, Big Joe, in glowing voice, supported by a very powerful Sullivan, with lovely ensemble encouragements. It almost seems as if Hawkins has been waiting his chance, and he takes it eloquently, before Big Joe and the band return. At 2:23, apparently Turner has momentarily forgotten the lyric couplet or has gotten distracted. A fine improvised ensemble closes off the record, with a Wettling accent. This side seems slightly under-rehearsed, but the looseness adds to its charm:
SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT has always been a favorite, and this vocal version is a prize. If there’s a sound more engaging than this rhythm section following Sullivan, I have yet to hear it. Big Joe sounds positively exuberant (in touch with the lyrics); Polo and Livingston keep the forward motion going , and everyone is even more gleeful for Joe’s second chorus (“rub it all over the wall”) before particularly hot choruses by Carter and Hawkins follow, leading to jamming (with Wettling happily prominent) to end the record. If this is “Dixieland,” I want many more sides:
A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY was not a song much utilized for jam session recordings, but to have it here is a pleasure. I wonder if Oberstein said, “No more blues, fellows! Let’s have a hot one!” as Big Joe left the studio. Or it just seemed like a melodic yet under-played Berlin song, taken a little quicker than I imagine it was done in the Ziegfeld Follies. A very simple — even cliched — vamp led by Livingston starts things off before Polo takes the lead — which surprisingly turns into an ensemble passage, then a wonderfully quirky Sullivan solo AND Hawkins leaping into his chorus with the zeal of a great athlete (powerful playing from Shapiro, Livingston, and Wettling) — then a magnificent Carter solo and a romping ensemble close. This is one of the most successful sides of the eight:
And, finally, POM POM, a Carter original which might be a phrase from one of his solos scored for small band, with a particularly light scoring: I would have thought the opening 16 was scored for alto, clarinet, and tenor, but for the speed with which Carter plays trumpet on the bridge. Polo’s chorus is so tenderly levitating that if you, hearing his work on this session, don’t want to hear more, then I have failed. Hawkins is energized in his two-chorus solo, reminding me of the trio records he made in 1937, especially in his powerful second chorus — but Carter is as elegant a mountain-climber as I can imagine (with a distinct similarity to Joe Thomas or Bill Coleman of this period); another piece of swing lace-weaving from Livingston, and the record gracefully winds down — simultaneously hot and gentle. Is that a recording engineer’s “fade” or simply everyone getting softer? I don’t know, but it’s very sweet:
These aren’t flawless records. Some of them might have benefited from a second take. But they are uplifting examples of the stars willing to come in and play two dates for what I imagine was scale. All in a day’s work — and how glorious the results are.
I’ve just finished reading the charming autobiography of saxophonist Arthur Rollini (1912- 93), THIRTY YEARS WITH THE BIG BANDS, and it gave me the opportunity to learn about his first recordings — music graciously provided by the estimable AtticusJazzon YouTube. Here are his first two recorded sides (April 12, 1929, in London) — the first a head arrangement of NOBODY’S SWEETHEART, the second the full Fred Elizalde orchestra performing SINGAPORE SORROWS in an arrangement by Fud Livingston. Arthur was seventeen (as was the brilliant trumpeter Norman Payne, heard briefly on the second side); his legendary brother Adrian was then not yet twenty-six.
Of the first side, Arthur writes, “Bobby Davis took the first half of a chorus and I picked him up for the second half. Adrian played brilliantly.” Recalling SINGAPORE SORROWS, he praises Norman Payne, “This little solo in Bix’s tradition still stands up today.” Especially in SWEETHEART, I hear the influence of the contemporaneous Nichols recordings, and beautiful playing throughout.
The small band is Fred Elizalde, arranger / leader; Chelsea Quealey, trumpet; Bobby Davis, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophone; Max Farley, tenor saxophone; Adrian Rollini, bass saxophone; Billy Mason, piano; Tiny Stock, brass bass; string bass; Ronnie Gubertini, drums; Al Bowlly, guitar.
The large band is Fred Elizalde; Chelsea Quealey, Norman Payne, Nobby Knight, trumpet; Frank Coughlan, trombone; Bobby Davis, Max Farley, Phil Cardew, Fud Livingston, Arthur Rollini, Adrian Rollini, reeds; George Hurley, Ben Frankel, Len Lees, violin; Billy Mason, Jack Hull, banjo; Al Bowlly, Tiny Stock, Ronnie Gubertini.
Before I was deep into this book, I already valued it because it explained the early death of Adrian. Arthur tells us just how seriously Adrian was accident-prone: “He inadvertently smashed cars, stepped into holes and, although he was not a clumsy person, frequently tripped. It was so bad that insurance companies refused him coverage. Eventually, even his death was the result of an accident. It happened in Florida when he fell down a flight of stairs into a pit of coral rock” (17).
Then, as I read on in this low-keyed, modest book, I encountered compelling anecdotes of Benny Goodman’s oblivious cruelty, Richard Himber’s aberrational behavior (intentionally aimed flatulence as his idea of comedy?!), brief portraits of Bunny Berigan, Dave Tough, Hank D’Amico . . . Paul Whiteman uttering Turk Murphy’s “three little words” to a society matron who had pushed him too far, the eccentric Raymond Scott, and more.
As the Swing Era ends, Arthur and others find comfortable jobs in network radio for a decade or more, but the book slowly records the end of an era in popular music. He doesn’t moan or rant, but “thirty years with the big bands” as a sideman have left him without a place to go. Oh, there are gigs in Long Island clubs, but he doesn’t have the name recognition of, say, Buddy Tate, or the chameleon-like abilities of Al Klink. He and his wife try non-musical businesses, and they have a hard time, with all underscored by her eventually fatal illness. So I felt much sorrow in the final pages of the book, and I was undecided if I would keep my copy or pass it on.
Then I saw this picture (which I have poorly reproduced with my phone) and said, “I’m keeping this!”: the 1938 Benny Goodman softball team with Dave Tough in the front row with a mitt (what kind would it be?) that seems too big for him. The other players, in the back row, are Bud Freeman, Chris Griffin, Harry Goodman, Arthur, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Vernon Brown, Noni Bernardi; in the front, Benny Heller, Pee Wee Monte, Dave, Red Ballard. (And for the Lesterphiles in the audience, Arthur tells of the inside-the-park home run the Pres hit in one game.) You can find a much better copy of this photograph here.
Drummer Sam (or “Sammy”) Weiss played in New York with many of the most prominent jazz musicians of the ’30s and early ’40s, including Louis Armstrong, Adrian Rollini, Wingy Manone, Miff Mole, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. He also worked with Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Louis Prima, and Erskine Hawkins, among others. After moving to California in 1945, Weiss led his own successful orchestra and worked freelance. He led bands throughout the ’60s, and also worked in television; his TV work included appearances on The Jack Benny Program in 1961 and 1964. He died in 1977.
Here are Jack, Sammy, Wayne Songer, and others doing a “hilbilly” sketch:
And going back a few decades, a Weiss appearance with Gene Kardos in 1934:
Here I pause the official biography for a moment, to say that one of the most pleasant aspects of JAZZ LIVES (which I began nine years ago this year . . . no presents, please) is that people find me. Some months back, I got a cheerful message from Jayne Weiss, Sammy’s daughter, who had noticed that I had mentioned her father in a blogpost. In our conversation, I mentioned that her father was remarkable in making the transition from sideman to bandleader to personality, “Sammy The Drummer.” And she said, “That was exactly who he was. He was a personality.”
Sammy was one of the cast of characters on the Jack Benny television show: this episode is based on New Year’s Eve, 1961:
Here are some of Jayne’s thoughts.
Since my dad’s death, people are always finding things and sending them to us, so I got a hold of my cousin Brian, who does web design, and we are going to create a website for my dad, with discographies, clippings, photographs, videos. In 1971, my mother started to write a book about my father, because he had a very interesting story. She had written to Ralph Edwards of THIS IS YOUR LIFE, but the show was being cancelled. But I found the letter and the story she had written about him. I have a letter from Artie Shaw and telegrams from Jack Benny. He was with Jack Benny for twenty-five years, radio and television.
Sammy Weiss and Mickey Katz
He was from the Lower East Side, a very poor family, because his father, who was a bootlegger, had died when he was very young and he had to help support the family. He was self-taught at thirteen; he took rungs of a chair and made drumsticks, then took parts of the chair and tin plates and made a set of drums. And he would sit at the front of the building and entertain the neighborhood. One day a neighbor came by and asked Sammy if he would get a few friends together and play their daughter’s wedding. He was maybe fourteen, a big, tall guy. Having no drums, he would rent a set, and he got a band together . They paid the band three dollars, and my father decided that this was for him. At fifteen, he started his career. Then he started playing in the Catskills, fall and winter, dances, weddings, bar mitzvahs. In 1933, he was playing at the Stevensville Lake Hotel, where he met my mother. (They were married for thirty-seven years and had five children.)
Now, my mother, who looked like Jean Harlow, was already engaged to Henny Youngman’s brother-in-law. But when Sammy met my mother, he walked her all around the hotel, introducing her to everyone as his future wife. When she went to break up with the brother-in-law, he locked himself up in a room with a gun and threatened to kill himself. Unlike Sammy, my mother came from money: her father was in the pants business and one of his customers was Bugsy Siegel. Her parents were opposed to the marriage because Sammy didn’t seem as if he could support a family. Then she was in the hospital, seriously ill with peritonitis, with her father at her bedside, praying for her to get well. She looked at him and said, “I’ll only live if I can marry Sammy.” And she got well.
You know, he was the first drummer for Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. He was with Goodman at Billy Rose’s Music Hall in June of 1934. But when they went on the road, he didn’t go, because he wanted to stay home and raise a family.
That’s why Gene Krupa showed up, and Buddy Rich, because Sammy stayed in New York. In fact, when I was young, I went with my dad to the musicians’ union on Hollywood and Vine, I was crossing the street and Buddy Rich was crossing the street the other way, coming towards us, and the two of them stopped in the middle of the street, hugging each other, and I was standing there, going “What the heck?”
He moved to the West Coast in 1945 because my older brother got very sick, and the doctors told him that my brother couldn’t survive another winter. Luckily, the Jack Benny Show was moving west. When he and my mother first moved out to California, their house had a room separate from the house where the musicians would jam, also because my brothers were musical. There were always people coming and going, and they used to say that my mother cooked in army pots because there were so many. Maurice played trumpet, drums, and piano. My brother Allan sang and played drums. And Jack played clarinet, saxophone, drums, and piano. And they all had bands.
I was twelve years younger, so I remember hearing about all of this, but I was little. I played piano, violin, and guitar. My father always used to say I had perfect pitch, because he would call across the room, “Hit A,” and I would hit it. One day they got a notice in the mail, “Come to _____ School. Your daughter is playing first-chair violin in the orchestra.” They didn’t even know. I had found a violin in the garage, took it to school, and learned how to play it.
On radio, he worked on WNEW and then went on staff with WNBC. He had his own radio show called JAMMIN’ WITH SAMMY, and worked with Paul Whiteman, Kate Smith, Walter Damrosch, “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round” with Abe Lyman — also with Mark Warnow, Freddie Rich, Ray Bloch, Raymond Scott, Paul Lavalle. He could read, play piano, and all the percussion instruments. He was on the Carnation Show, Meet Millie, Edgar Bergen, the Colgate Hour, Russ Morgan, Jack Carson, Lucky Strike, Al Jolson, Steve Allen, Burns and Allen, Victor Young, Dinah Shore. My mother took Dinah Shore to pick out an outfit for her first audition in New York. My father accompanied Tony Martin at the Cocoanut Grove. In 1953, he did a movie with Frank Sinatra, THE JOKER IS WILD. He recorded with Johnny Guarneri and Slam Stewart for Savoy Records.
On the Benny Show, he was a character. He was bald. They actually wrote a show about me, in May 1951, “When Sammy’s Wife Has a Baby.” The joke was that everyone went to see the baby in the hospital, and someone says, “How did you know which one was Jayne?” “She was bald!” Jack and Mary Benny bought me my layette when I was born.
He had his own band for private parties and conventions, dances. In November 1957 he had a month’s engagement at the Hollywood Palladium, “playing the kind of music the public has always loved.”
He was wonderful. Definitely Mister Personality. A wonderful father who loved his kids. I had the best parents ever. He was so involved. We would have lots of people for the holidays, for Thanksgiving. Wherever we went, if we would walk into a restaurant, “Oh, my God! Sam!” And he was such a sport. My mother would yell at him because he would always pick up the tab. “Bring me his check.” People knew him at the market, on the golf course. He could golf during the day and work at night.
There’s a famous steakhouse, Monty’s in the San Fernando Valley. On my twenty-first birthday, we went there for dinner. Over the years, I heard “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” jokes constantly. That night, sitting at the bar, was Johnny Weissmuller, drunk. My father didn’t realize just how drunk Johnny was, but he said, “Look, it’s my daughter’s birthday, and her name is Jayne. It would be such a hoot if you came over and did your shtick.” There was an outdoor patio, and Johnny opened the doors and did the Tarzan call, then came over to the table and said, “You Jane. Me Tarzan.” I wanted to die, to crawl under the table.
Sammy was on every Mickey Katz album. My mother actually sings on one. Mickey and Grace Katz were very dear friends of our family. In fact, I have a picture of Joel Grey before his nose job, dancing with my mother at one of the bar mitzvahs! Mickey did my father’s eulogy. I knew Mannie Klein (his wife was nicknamed “Dopey”) and he gave me a nickname when I was about three. They would sit me on the piano, and call me “Quackwee.”
He passed away in 1977 from pancreatic cancer. He was only 67. My older brother also contracted that cancer and died at 75.
Many thanks to Jayne Weiss and her brother Allan for their memories and memorabilia: they’ve made their father come wholly alive once again.
A nice bio of trumpeter / vocalist Taft Jordan is available here, which is also the source for the photograph.
In February 1935, “Taft Jordan And The Mob” — Taft, trumpet; Ward Silloway, trombone; Johnny Mince, clarinet; Elmer “Tone” Williams [not “Skippy” Williams as listed in Tom Lord — thanks to Mark Cantor], tenor saxophone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Bobby Johnson, guitar; John Kirby, string bass; Eddie Dougherty, drums — recorded four memorable sides that have never gotten the attention they deserve. (Incidentally, the beautiful record labels are illustrations only: the music can be found in the videos below.)
The idea was John Hammond’s, and one that we are grateful for. The usual story is that Hammond worked hard to get the music he loved on record, to make opportunities for racially mixed bands. He succeeded beautifully: most readers know this part of the story as preface to the 1933-42 Billie Holiday sides.
But other parts of the story deserve attention. There is, for one thing, the success of the coin-operated phonograph (later, the “jukebox”) that could offer people recorded music in restaurants, bars, and elsewhere for what seems to us like a bargain: a nickel would get you three minutes of new music. But a 1935 nickel was much more than the ninety-nine cents per song that iTunes charges. (A contemporary advertisement shows Easter dresses for $1.95, and a skilled worker for the W.P.A. might earn $79 a month.)
And, at the time, commercially produced records were — as it says on the label — “not licensed for radio broadcast.” I think that coin-operated phonographs served the audience’s desire for novelty (“Let’s hear that new record of ______ by Erin Morris and her Ponies!”) — songs from new movies, new songs popularized by much loved bands and singers . . . and for five cents, one could have a side played for a gathering of listeners and/or dancers. The record labels pictured above are now called “dime-store,” because one could buy these records inexpensively at, say, Woolworth’s.
Radio and recordings created a need for new material, so many songs, not all memorable, were published, with a clear financial relationship between composers / lyricists, publishing companies, artists, recording supervisors, and record companies. (A small example: IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN was written by Bernard Hanighen, Billie Holiday’s friend, also a recording director at Brunswick Records. He would have been happy — aesthetically and financially — to have his song recorded.)
Taft’s four sides run parallel to other small groups led by Fats Waller, Henry Red Allen, Bob Howard, Putney Dandridge, Stuff Smith, Adrian Rollini, Tempo King, Cleo Brown, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Frank Froeba, Bernard Addison, Louis “King”Garcia, Stew Pletcher, and others. I’ve heard writers say these sessions were “cranked out for the jukebox trade,” but these records are lovely, imperishable. That there were only four sides says more about an audience’s awareness of Taft as a star than about their quality. Some listeners might have known him from the Savoy Ballroom and radio, but not many. When the records were later reissued in the UK (the red-and-gold Vocalion issues) Teddy Wilson had become famous enough so that his name would sell discs.
The artists made little or nothing for these sessions: they were paid “scale,” although they were pleased to make the extra money. The math is fascinating, a quiet recital of economic disparity, even at the remove of eight decades. Let us say a band of eight musicians made four sides for $50 a musician. The records were pressed, distributed, and ended up in the phonographs. One could hear a side once — no limit on the number of hearers, theoretically — for a nickel. The machine could take in twenty nickels in an hour. In 1935, the profit went to the record companies and the owners of the phonographs. Later (too late, perhaps) musicians and composers received royalties, but that is another story.
Yes, mechanical reproduction of art guarantees “exposure,” but one cannot eat exposure. I am aware of this from both sides as an interloper with a video camera who can only recompense musicians in insubstantial ways.
I offer these notions, some of them quite sad or infuriating, as preface to wonderful music, and also to point out that an unstable, often exploitative relationship between the artists, “the marketplace,” technology, and lasting art is not a twenty-first century issue.
What good songs these “disposable” pop tunes are — thanks to Rothberg, Coots, Alex Hill (yes!), and Hanighen. And the players, professionals all, were used to sight-reading and creating instant arrangements — with split choruses, riffs, backgrounds. To take one example, LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE, still recognizable, is a series of thirty-two and sixteen bar solos with rhythm (and what a rhythm section!) with a jammed ensemble ending. How fine it sounds now. One could spend an afternoon listening to the glowing epigrams Wilson dispenses, the variety of timbres the horns offer, solo and in ensemble.
In my collecting history, these four sides were part of a Columbia Chick Webb lp compilation — glorious gap-fillers, but also logical because of Taft’s role in the band. Mince and Silloway were with Tommy Dorsey; Skippy Williams, Bobby Johnson, and John Kirby with Webb also; Eddie Dougherty a busy free-lancer. Wilson had not yet joined the Goodman orchestra as a member of the Trio and Quartet, but had recorded with BG in ad-hoc studio groups.
What we have here — each side is less than three minutes long — is both superior dance music and small-band swing of the highest order, pleasing to all audiences.
In my time-travel fantasy, I would like to be a silent onlooker at one of these sessions, but I doubt the musicians romanticized such work. It was another way to pay the rent, perhaps (for the lucky sideman) to get some recognition for future leader’s gigs . . . or perhaps, after creating four quiet masterpieces, the guys went out for a drink or some ribs, a nap before the night’s work. If I’d asked Taft about these sides in 1972 /3 and later — I didn’t see him at close range — I wonder what would he have said.
LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE:
DEVIL IN THE MOON:
IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN:
All four of these songs were also recorded “with vocal chorus” by Taft, a charming Louis-influenced singer (consider his work with the Washboard Rhythm Kings and Webb) but none of the vocals was issued. Mysterious. I know there is an alternate take of NIGHT WIND issued on a Jerry Valburn collectors’ compilation, but it’s instrumental.
Does anyone know more about Eddie Dougherty than is published in John Chilton’s WHO’S WHO IN JAZZ? I have learned that he recorded between 1933 and 1952 or a little later, that he lived in Brooklyn, and, according to Johnny Williams via Mike Burgevin, that he pronounced his last name as if spelled Dockerty. But no more.
The music remains. And I, for one, am truly grateful for that.
Taft as a member of the Ellington orchestra. Photograph by Charlie Mihn, courtesy of Chuck Slate.
As a postscript, here are four contemporaneous versions of DEVIL IN THE MOON — in honor of the Blessed Alex Hill. I think they are all beautiful, so this is not to make insidious comparisons.
Mills Blue Rhythm Band (with an incendiary Buster Bailey interlude that the expert dancers must have loved):
I think that Ray Skjelbred, in all his varied incarnations, is too expansive for one blogpost at a time, so here — two performances by Ray and his Cubs plus Marc Caparone — is what I offered yesterday. But the urge to honor Ray while he honors the music continues today, so I present four more performances, solo piano, from that same November 27, 2015, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.
“Solo piano” might be somewhat misleading. In the past seventy years, there has been some redefinition of what that sounds like. Of course, it is one person at the keyboard. But with the advent of three and four-piece rhythm sections, the idea of what a pianist might do when seated alone at those white and black keys has changed. Once, the pianist’s role was orchestral: think of Hines, Waller, Tatum — then it got pared down — from Wilson onwards to Haig and his descendants.
Ray Skjelbred is not limited to any one conception of playing, but he likes to make the piano a small but legendary orchestra, all by itself. And in this solo set, he explicitly said that he likes playing “band” repertoire — songs associated with great jazz ensembles — I think not only for their evocative power (think of a magician who can evoke Louis, Don Redman, Bix, Adrian Rollini, Guy Kelly, Jimmie Noone) but for the larger space they offer, the freedom of repertoire that doesn’t arrive with its own set of prescribed conventions.
So here are four beauties. Muse on them, delight in them.
A groovy lowdown version of that new dance, THE BALTIMORE:
Don Redman’s NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (revived in this century by Ruby Braff and Jon-Erik Kellso and friends):
THE BLUES JUMPED A RABBIT with a slow, sad, half-spoken vocal. We’ve all felt that way:
BEAU KOO JACK (which of course means LOTS OF MONEY, thanks to Louis, Don Redman, and Earl):
Observe this man and his musical transformations closely. He has much to teach us about the poetry of jazz.
For all those people lamenting the end of the long weekend, who will be complaining when the alarm goes off and they have to resume their lives as adults, here is a more cheerful ditty — circa 1933, words and music by Herman Hupfeld, performed here by Marty Grosz and the Hot Winds in 2009 (Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Vince Giordano, Rob Garcia) for Arbors Records:
I confess that my favorite recording of this optimistic ditty is the one featuring Red McKenzie with Adrian Rollini’s Orchestra . . . and that I pestered Marty to record his own version, since he and I share an obsession with Mr. McKenzie. But the Rollini version is not on YouTube, although it is on a beautiful Jazz Oracle double-CD set devoted to Adrian.
Here is the source — an excerpt from a 1933 film, MOONLIGHT AND PRETZELS (two of my favorite things) with a good deal of Busby-Berkley-esque waving of attractive bodies and body parts [choreography by William Miller], then a positively stimulating rendition of “Are You Makin’ Any Money?” by Lillian Miles. That second question is directly relevant to the going-to-work scenario I’ve chosen to describe:
For more about MOONLIGHT AND PRETZELS, visit this entrancing site devoted to pre-Code films, also the source for the film poster:
I hope that all of you who want jobs have them, that you are treated nicely, that the work suits you — that even after you shut off that obscene noise in the darkness, you are OK with going to a place where they give you some money for doing some thing.
From the JAZZ LIVES Collection (currently on display in the JAZZ LIVES kitchen)
I’d love to have this Gang in my neighborhood: paying tribute to Adrian Rollini, they make beauty, not violence. This session took place at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and the “New York Gang” evoked five classic recordings with connections to Rollini from 1928 to 1934. They were Frans Sjostrom, bass sax / leader; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano; Jacob Ullberger, guitar; Nick Ball, drums; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Lars Frank, tenor saxophone; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone.
IF I HAD YOU (if memory serves, the 1928 arrangement from a Sam Lanin record featuring one Bing Crosby, vocal):
DAVENPORT BLUES by our man from that town:
SOMEBODY LOVES ME:
Such sessions have been the hallmarks of every Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party since before my time — my first was in 2009. Notice, please, the enchanting mix of expertise and casualness, while great recordings and great performers are evoked, more than imitated. It’s a wonderful party — now renamed the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party— and this year’s version begins with a jam session by the Union Rhythm Kings, a glorious band, on November 5, and the party goes until November 8, or perhaps the early hours of November 9.
I urge anyone who loves the music to experience it live. For some, that isn’t possible because of cost or one’s health. But even though I am proud of my video recordings, they are not the same thing as being on the spot while beauty is created. And jazz festivals, parties, clubs, concerts can only go on if there are people in attendance.
My readers know all this. But the trick is to make the great leap from an intellectual awareness (“I should go hear some live jazz . . . someday.”) to action. All of us who have said, “I’ll go to hear Hot Lips Ferguson some other Sunday . . . those gigs will go on forever!” know the sadder reality.)
End of sermon.
I cannot attend this year’s Steamboat Stompin New Orleans, but my absence means there’s another seat for you. It begins Friday evening, November 14, and ends Sunday afternoon, the 16th. In between I count nineteen one-hour sets of music, in addition to a presentation about the Historic New Orleans Collection, four steam calliope concerts by Debbie Fagnano. Much of the music will be performed on the two decks of the steamboat Natchez, gliding up and down the Mississippi River. The artists include Duke Heitger, Don Vappie, Evan Christopher, the Yerba Buena Stompers, Dukes of Dixieland, Tim Laughlin, David Boeddinghaus, Hal Smith, Banu Gibson, Solid Harmony, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Clint Baker, Tom Bartlett, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley, Steve Pistorius, and another dozen.
I was able to attend in 2013, and had a wonderful time. Some evidence!
SWEET LOVIN’ MAN by Duke and the Steamboat Stompers:
Steve Pistorius considers the deep relationship between music, memory, and love in A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:
Banu Gibson, as always, shows us her heart, and it’s full of RHYTHM:
and the Yerba Buena Stompers play a later King Oliver piece, EDNA:
INSERT FOUR-BAR MODULATION HERE.
I returned last night from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, exhausted and uplifted. The exhaustion will wear off (it always does) after a day or two of treating myself like an invalid, nut the joy is permanent. It comes from seeing people make friends through music. The music began with rehearsals at 9 AM on Thursday and ended sometime late Monday morning (I heard the jam session at the pub as I was going up the stairs around 1 AM). The texts for those mellow sermons were based on the teachings of Johnny Dodds, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, Jabbo Smith, Jean Goldkette, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Chu Berry, Paul Whiteman, Cootie Williams, Adrian Rollini, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Johnny Dunn, Luis Russell, Bing Crosby, Helen Morgan, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Don Byas, Willie Lewis, Sidney Bechet, Al Bowlly, Cliff Edwards, Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Chick Webb, Jelly Roll Morton . . . you get the idea.
And the performers! Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, Menno Daams, Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, Claus Jacobi, Thomas Winteler, Matthias Seuffert, David Boeddinghaus, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan, Martin Litton, Janice Day, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols, Richard Pite, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Spats Langham, Emma Fisk, Frans Sjostrom, Josh Duffee, Nick Ball, Mauro Porro, Henri Lemaire, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Martin Wheatley, Jean-Francois Bonnel. . . and sitters-in at the Pub, including Torstein Kubban. (If I’ve omitted anyone’s name, it is because yesterday was nearly twenty hours of travel, which does terrible things to cognition.)
And the friends! Everyone who was there will have a mental list, but I think we all start with Patti Durham — then I think of Bob Cox, Bobbi Cox, Derek Coller, Veronica Perrin, Chris Perrin, the young woman clarinetist, so intent, Jonathan David Holmes, Julio Schwarz Andrade, Andrew Wittenborn — and many more.
If you are wondering, the answer is Yes, I did bring my video cameras. Plural. Safety first.
And I shot video of all the sets, one jam session / concert in the Victory Pub, and many of the rehearsals — several hundred performances. It takes some time to upload and download, so I have nothing from this last weekend to share with you at the moment. But I will.
While you are thinking, “How could I start putting money away for the 2015 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY?” (for that will indeed happen), I invite you to revel in this, recorded at a rehearsal at the 2012 Party:
All over the quite comfortable Village Hotel in Newcastle (with a very solicitous staff) are signs and photographs advertising the pleasures to be found there, all sharing a lower case “v.” at the start, both to show an intensity of feeling (“very!”) as well as remind you of the hotel chain’s identifying logo. In the mechanism that takes you from one floor to another (I called it an elevator and was reminded that it was a “lift,” because I was in the United Kingdom now) was a photograph of three pillows reading “v. snuggly” “v. cheeky” and “v.lazy.”
All I will say here, as a bow to the Party and to the Village Hotel and to my heroes and friends, is that I am “v.joyous.”
But what follows is nothing historical, and it exists in the twenty-first century: CLARINET MARMALADE, played with exuberant Bix-and-Tram-and-Rollini brilliance at a jam session.
To me, this performance is so hot that it should have CAUTION! in its title — near the end of the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, a hot session in the Victory Pub of the Village Hotel Newcastle, featuring Torstein Kubban, cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Andy Schumm, C-melody saxophone; Lars Frank, clarinet; Claus Jacobi, bass sax [the one and only belonging to Frans Sjostrom], Morten Gunnar Larsen, keyboard; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums; various unidentified dancers and pedestrians.
Recorded on November 3 or perhaps the morning of November 4, 2013 — I cn no longer remember!
I know that this exuberance will happen again at this year’s Party — which is coming around the corner in fourth gear — as it has happened every year I’ve been there. (It begins on the evening of Thursday, November 6, 2014, which is a week away. I should begin to pack now.)
Since absurdity appeals to me almost as much as does hot jazz, I have to tell JAZZ LIVES readers that when I was documenting this video on YouTube, various helpful terms appeared at the bottom of the page to be considered as tags. One of them (understandably) was “fruit preserves.” Indeed.
See you in the Victory Pub, I hope.
And for another three minutes of Torstein, Lars, and Kris, here’s this lovely hot too-brief interlude on MELANCHOLY (with a serenely self-absorbed still photographer to bring the fun to an abrupt close):
The publishers of the Dutch jazz magazine and CD label DOCTOR JAZZ don’t overwhelm us with issues, but what they offer is rare and astonishing. First, they offered a two-CD set, DINNERTIME FOR HUNGRY COLLECTORS, which contained previously unheard Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Lester Young; Don Redman and Cab Calloway soundtracks from Max Fleischer cartoons; Lionel Hampton on the air; Jimmie Lunceford transcriptions; unissued alternate takes featuring Frank Newton, Bobby Hackett, Adrian Rollini, “The Three Spades,” Spike Hughes with Jimmy Dorsey / Muggsy Spanier; Charlie Barnet; Earl Hines; Mildred Bailey with the Dorsey Brothers; Frank Trumbauer; Joe Venuti; Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald; Paul Whiteman; Jack Teagarden; Bob Crosby featuring Jess Stacy; Billie Holiday; Raymond Scott Quintette; Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins in Europe.
Their new issue, “THAT’S MY DESIRE,” is exclusively focused on the 1947-48 Lionel Hampton big band, and offers seventy-nine minutes of previously unheard (and unknown) aircheck material. Eighteen of the performances come from November 2-30, 1947, at the Meadowbrook in Culver City, California; the remaining four originate from the Fairmont in West Virginia, on June 29, 1948.
The songs are RED TOP / THAT’S MY DESIRE / HAWK’S NEST / VIBE BOOGIE / MUCHACHOS AZUL (BLUE BOY) / GOLDWYN STOMP / LONELINESS / HAMP’S GOT A DUKE / MIDNIGHT SUN / GOLDWYN STOMP #2 / MINGUS FINGERS / OH, LADY BE GOOD / RED TOP #2 / CHIBABA CHIBABA (My Bambino Go To Sleep) / ADAM BLEW HIS HAT / I’M TELLING YOU SAM / PLAYBOY / GIDDY UP / ALWAYS / DON’T BLAME ME / HOW HIGH THE MOON / ADAM BLEW HIS HAT #2
These are newly discovered airchecks, and Doctor Jazz tells us, “In this period the band was musically very creative and a tight musical aggregation. The Hampton band was one of the top jazz bands in business. In this version we hear a young Charles Mingus performing his ‘Mingus Fingers’. We don’t know who recorded these acetates, but our ‘recording man’ was very active at that time (1947-1948). He recorded a lot from the radio and may have had some other sources where he could dub then rare recordings. In 2013 a building contractor worked on an old abandoned Hollywood house in the Hollywood Hills and discovered a storage area that was walled off and filled with several wrapped boxes of acetate records. Among them these Hampton acetates. They are now carefully restored by Harry Coster and released for the first time. The CD contains a booklet of 32 pages including photos and a discography.”
Collectors who know airchecks — performances recorded live from the radio or eventually television — savor the extended length and greater freedom than a band would find in commercial recordings of the time. And the sound is surprisingly good for 1947-48, so the string bass of Charles Mingus comes through powerfully on every cut even when he or the rhythm section is not soloing. Another young man making a name for himself at the time is guitarist Wes Montgomery, and the West Virginia HOW HIGH THE MOON is a quartet of Hampton, Mingus, Wes, and pianist Milt Buckner (although Wes does not solo on it). Other luminaries are trombonist Britt Woodman, trumpeter Teddy Buckner; tenor saxophonists Johnny Sparrow, Morris Lane, and clarinetist Jack Kelso take extended solos as well.
The Hampton aggregation, typically, was a powerful one. If the Thirties and early Forties Basie band aimed to have the feeling of a small band, Hampton’s impulses led in the other direction, and even in these off-the-air recordings, the band is impressive in its force and sonic effect. Hampton tended to solo at length, although his solos in this period are more melodic and less relentless than they eventually became. The rhythm section is anchored by a powerful drum presence, often a shuffle or back-beat from Walker.
It is not a subtle or a soothing band, although there are a number of ballad features. What I hear — and what might be most intriguing for many — is a jazz ensemble attempting to bridge the gap between “jazz” and “rhythm and blues” or what sounds like early rock ‘n’ roll. Clearly the band was playing for large audiences of active dancers, so this shaped Hampton’s repertoire and approach. It is music to make an audience move, with pop tunes new and old, jump blues, boogie-woogie, high-note trumpets, honking saxophones, and energy throughout. As a soloist, Hampton relies more on energy than on inventiveness, and his playing occasionally falls back on familiar arpeggiated chords, familiar gestures. He is admirable because he fit in with so many contexts over nearly seventy years of playing and recording — from Paul Howard in 1929 to the end of the century — but his style was greatly set in his earliest appearances, although he would add a larger harmonic spectrum to his work.
The Meadowbrook personnel (although labeled “probably”) includes Wendell Culley, Teddy Buckner, Duke Garrette, Leo Shepherd, Walter Williams or possibly Snooky Young, trumpet; James Robinson, Andrew Penn, Jimmy Wormick, Britt Woodman, trombone; Jack Kelso or Kelson, clarinet; Bobby Plater, Ben Kynard, Morris Lane, John Sparrow, Charlie Fowlkes, saxophones; Milt Buckner, piano; Charles Mingus, string bass (Joe Comfort or Charles Harris may also be present); Earl Walker, drums; Wini Brown, Herman McCoy, Roland Burton, the Hamptones, vocals.
For the 1948 West Virginia airchecks, Jimmy Nottingham is the fifth trumpet; Lester Bass, bass trumpet; the trombones are Woodman, Wormick, and Sonny Craven; the reeds are Kynard, Plater, Billy “Smallwood” Williams, Sparrow, Fowlkes, with the same rhythm section.
The good people at Doctor Jazz don’t offer sound samples, but having purchased a few of their earlier issues, I can say that their production is splendid in every way: sound reproduction of unique issues, documentation, discography, and photographs. So if you know the Hampton studio recordings of this period and the few airshots that have surfaced, you will have a good idea of what awaits on this issue — but the disc is full of energetic surprises.