Tag Archives: AM radio

BILLY BUTTERFIELD and ASSOCIATES on the RADIO (WJZ, Blue Network, December 13, 1944)

What follows is a few seconds less than eight minutes, so you could be forgiven for thinking it a crumb, a scrap — especially in our times of unlimited streaming, box sets with hours of music, and more. But as you’ll hear, it is testimony to the Elders’ ability to fill small spaces brimful with memorable, varied sounds. My guess is that trumpeter Billy and colleagues were on staff at the Blue Network (ask someone venerable what that means in radio-lingo . . . this predates FM) and this little program was a brief scheduled interlude, something to look forward to on Wednesdays. But it’s clearly not impromptu: there’s a theme, a pop song, a ballad, a “Dixieland classic,” (faded out for time) — quite a large portion of music packed in tightly.

And let us say a word about Mr. Butterfield, someone not often given his proper due, overshadowed by more showy brassmen, perhaps, and not an “entertainer,” rather, a shy man who wanted to play but not to talk. But when Bobby Hackett was asked in an early Seventies interview to name his favorite current trumpeter (admittedly a question many would have sidestepped) he named Billy. THAT, to me, says so much. And this group is so stylish yet also so profound. Sleek but not slick, and versatile beyond praise.

The Billy Butterfield Septet (all “characters,” as the announcer states) offer an opening theme / GAL FROM NOGALES / MAYBE / SATANIC BLUES. I’ve identified the players by ear and by reasonable assumptions: possibly Bill Stegmeyer, clarinet, arrangements; Hymie Schertzer, alto saxophone; Deane Kincaide, baritone saxophone, arrangements; Vernon Brown, trombone; Dave Bowman, piano; Bob Haggart, string bass; George Wettling, drums:

If any reader has a large collection of these Wednesday interludes, or knows more about the personnel than I do, please step forward. This lovely offering came from the collection of my dear friend John L. Fell, about thirty years ago, but it stood alone. As I’ve said before, imagine these beauties coming out of the radio speaker . . . . nectar for the ears. And thank goodness someone had the wisdom to preserve this one. . . a brief but intense bouquet from musicians both professional and inspired.

This one’s for Judi, Debbie, Clyde, Pat, and their families.

May your happiness increase!

THE SOUNDS FROM JOHN HAMMOND’S CAR RADIO: “MOTEN SWING”: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (Presented by THE HOT CLUB OF SAN FRANCISCO): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA, and MIKE LIPSKIN: March 2, 2014

THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (presented by the Hot Club of San Francisco) played wonderful music on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at Rancho Nicasio in Nicasio, California.  They are Paul Mehling, guitar / vocal; Evan Price, violin; Sam Rocha, string bass / vocal; Clint Baker, trumpet, euphonium / vocal.  And for this session, stride master Mike Lipskin joined them with delicious results.  The band is dedicated to the hot music of violinist Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys — but it’s not a tribute band or a jazz repertory ensemble: they live to swing, and swing they did.

The closing performance of that evening was MOTEN SWING, that Kansas City streamlining of Walter Donaldson’s YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY.

For me, the most memorable improvisations deeply evoke an Elysian past while standing comfortably in the present.  MOTEN SWING does just that. A small bit of history.  Count Basie and his fellow musicians changed the world as we know it, with their approach to improvisation.  But perhaps the course of history would have been so much different had John Hammond not been a child of privilege with a very expensive radio in his car in 1935.  Bands broadcast live on the radio all over the United States, and a powerful AM radio could pick up these sounds from far away (there were fewer stations on the dial and the time zones made it possible to hear a band broadcasting hundreds of miles away, in another state).  Hammond heard the nine-piece Basie unit broadcasting from the Reno Club in Kansas City, and — properly inspired — went to meet them in person.

I imagine that MOTEN SWING is an evocation of what Hammond heard — sweetly swinging music that makes me impossibly happy, because if I am not watching the video I can imagine the small Basie band signing off one of those 1935 broadcasts that John Hammond heard on his car radio.  Listen!  That’s Hot Lips Page on mellophone and trumpet, Bill Basie himself on the rickety piano taking us to NAGASAKI, Fiddler Claude Williams, guitarist Eddie Durham, and bassist (spiritual father) Walter Page.

Close your eyes and come to the Reno Club with the Ivory Club Boys:

I’m not a demanding person (you could ask the Beloved) but I want this band to have a regular gig where I can visit them.  You will hear more from and about them, and it won’t only be from JAZZ LIVES. Thank you, Evan, Clint, Paul, Sam, and Mike, for this lovely trip to joy.

May your happiness increase!