We believe that everything is knowable. After all, we have Google.
This post is about a ninety-year old artifact that pretends to offer up all its secrets. The oddly appropriate cliche is that it is “an open book,” but its secrets are hidden.
I can’t figure out whether the owner’s name is “Jack E. DuTemple” or “D. Temple,” and no online map turns up a Robert Street; rather, I get sent to Roberts. I never met Jack, but I have faith that he knew where he lived. The last entries in this book are dated Christmas 1933, so that is clear.
THIS JUST IN, thanks to Master Sleuth David Fletcher:
John E. “Jack” Detemple, 1908-1968. Because you knew I would… 🙂 Jack worked in a Binghamton shoe factory along with his dad. Thank God he was a music nut! He ended up in Sidney NY, a longtime Mason and a machinist for Bendix Corp. Several kids– no doubt one of them treasured Dad’s autograph book (and maybe his old records too).
Here is a tour of the music Jack heard in 1933.
Ten miles north of the Pennsylvania border, Johnson City, New York is not a metropolis; 15,174 population in the 2010 census. But obviously dance bands came through towns of that size: in 1933, there were more ballrooms and “dance halls” for bands of all kinds. And Jack seems to have been a happily avid listener and perhaps dancer, enjoying both hot and sweet sounds, Black and White groups, famous and less so. The autograph book speaks to his enthusiasm, but also to the variety of live music available to audiences in the Depression. Yes, there was unemployment and breadlines, but there were also men and women making music all over the country, and creating it for actual audiences . . . not people staring into lit screens. I would say flippantly that we have more but they had better.
And “provenance.” I’ve had this book for about ten years. It was a gift from my dear friend and inspiration Mike Burgevin, who found it in an upstate New York antique shop, bought it, and saved it for me, knowing that some day I would share it on the blog. For this and so many other kindnesses I bless him.
My photographic captures are admittedly amateur, but, then again, JAZZ LIVES is not a high-level auction house.
So now you can see how the fabled Jack Pettis signed his name. Hardly a common sight. And perhaps some reader can tell us more about Dick Fidler (?) and Pauline Wright. Google has let me down, which returns me to my original thought: da capo al fine. But energetic readers of JAZZ LIVES now have many more sweet and hot rabbits to chase.
I haven’t done anything that would require an apology or what my friend Richard would call an act of contrition, but this lovely ballad, I APOLOGIZE, has taken up residence in my head. You can find emotional versions by Bing, many by Billy Eckstine, and other singers on YouTube, but this instrumental version feels like the ideal ballad performance: quiet but completely intense.
This performance by Claude Hopkins, piano; Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Joe Thomas, trumpet; Wendell Marshall, string bass; J.C. Heard, drums was recorded in 1961. My microgroove copy of this session goes back to the very early Seventies, when Prestige, Riverside, and Verve lps were being sold at very low prices, and it remains a treasure. In the Seventies as well, I saw (and sometimes spoke to) Claude, Joe, and Buddy, so I feel connected to their work.
It is very much a showpiece for the two horns, with the rhythm section discreetly supporting (Claude’s tremolos behind Buddy are a wonderful touch). Buddy’s approach to the melody is like the embrace of someone in a fur coat, delightfully enveloping both the notes and the listener; Joe’s sotto voce comments are perfect counterpoint, affirming and responding. I am sorry that Prestige did not consider a whole album of ballads for this team (they had a “Moodsville” series, presumably meant as a soundtrack for quiet intimacies) but this is memorable to me. And, I hope, to you:
When the Welsh jazz pianist and composer Dill Jones (born Dillwyn Owen Paton Jones) died far too young in 1984, the New York Times obituary was titled Dill Jones, Pianist, Dies at 60; Expert in Harlem Stride Style. No one who ever heard Dill rollicking through Waller, James P., Sullivan, or his own improvisations on ANYTHING GOES, could quibble with that. But Dill was so much more, and now we have a half-hour’s vivid evidence, on several pianos, in his homeland (I don’t know a date, but I see that this recital was recorded in BBC Llandaff, Studio C1. — and Dill’s trio partners are Craig Evans, drums; Lionel Davies, string bass. The songs are GRANDPA’S SPELLS / I WANT TO BE HAPPY (interpolating HANDFUL OF KEYS) / SLOW BUT STEADY (trio) / JITTERBUG WALTZ (solo) / A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY (solo, Dill, vocal) hints of boogie and IN A MIST / ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET / YELLOW DOG BLUES (trio) / Reprise: GRANDPA’S SPELLS:
I saw Dill first as a member of the JPJ Quartet (Budd Johnson, Bill Pemberton, and Oliver Jackson), then at a solo recital in April 1972, thanks to Hank O’Neal — with Eubie Blake, Teddy Wilson, Claude Hopkins, as pianist in the Basie-reunion small band “The Countsmen,” and with Mike Burgevin, Sam Margolis, and Jack Fine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, circa 1974. The last time I saw Dill was not in person, but on one of Joe Shepherd’s videos at the Manassas Jazz Festival in December 1983, a tribute to Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson at the Roosevelt Grille (with Ernie Hackett, Larry Weiss, and Vic): Dill was not in good health but I can hear his ringing piano even now.
His stylistic range was broad and authentic: he could play in the best two-handed style but also be sweetly ruminative, and his musical intelligence was not limited to any one period. And in our one person-to-person meeting, he showed himself as unaffectedly funny, gentle-spirited, articulate, and full of feeling. A rare man, not only at the piano.
He left us far too soon, but — for half an hour — he is back with us.
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:
Ray Skjelbred is one of my favorite artists — his scope is too large to be confined to “pianist,” and his Cubs are a favorite band of mine. I can’t say that the pandemic has brought an onslaught of pleasures, but the absence of real-time gigs has sent me back to my archives, and I find many unseen video-recordings of Ray and his Cubs, which it is my pleasure to share with you.
The Cubs are a winning team, although they don’t employ the usual sporting goods: rather, they create uplifting music no matter where they are or what the tempo is. This performance of a song associated with Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines took place during Ray’s mid-summer 2014 California tour (here, they are playing for the Napa Valley Dizieland Jazz Society). The Cubs — bless them! — are Ray, piano, occasional vocal, ethical guidance; Jeff Hamilton, drums and slyness; Clint Baker, string bass, occasional vocal, moral rectitude; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar, occasional vocal, warmth; Kim Cusack, clarinet, occasional vocal; whimsical sagacity. If you know Claude Hopkins, you’ll get the reference to THE TRAFFIC WAS TERRIFIC, but the Cubs’ vibrations come right through.
Speaking of “big boys,” a story of dubious relevance. Decades ago, my friend Stu (who reads this blog) and I went to lunch at a kosher delicatessen. I was hungry and ordered a good deal of food; Stu had eaten and said to the very theatrical woman holding her pad and pencil, “I’ll just have an order of fries,” which we did as a matter of course then. She looked aghast and said, mixing mock-horror and mock-solicitude, “Such a small portion for such a BIG BOY?” but Stu resisted the Sirens’ song.
All I will say is that this performance — by the clock — is a small portion; it would fit on a V-Disc, but it is a tableful of joy. And there’s more to come.
When someone you admire celebrates his ninetieth birthday (and the publication of his autobiography — published by Golden Valley Press) at a public gathering with music, it would be foolish to miss the festivities. That’s why I took the train to Philadelphia in March to help celebrate (and document) Marty Grosz and his friends rather than spend my remaining years kicking myself that I didn’t. Here are three posts, each with a performance from the Marty Party. WABASH BLUES, JAZZ ME BLUES, and IT DON’T MEAN A THING, for the curious.
But wait! There’s more! Marty essays the famous Alex Hill-Claude Hopkins song of complete romantic cooperation. The creators of mirth and hot music are Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; Joe Plowman, string bass; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Brennen Ernst, piano; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone; Dan Block, clarinet; Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone and bass taragoto, Jim Lawlor, drums. Incidentally, the song has two titles: either I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU or the more-tempered I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU. Your call. My truncated title is because YouTube has a 100-character limit.
I think WHO’S SORRY NOW? (note the absence of the question mark on the original sheet music above) is a classic Vengeance Song (think of GOODY GOODY and I WANNA BE AROUND as other examples): “You had your way / Now you must pay” is clear enough. Instrumentally, it simply swings along. It seems, to my untutored ears, to be a song nakedly based on the arpeggiations of the harmonies beneath, but I may be misinformed. It’s also one of the most durable songs — used in the films THREE LITTLE WORDS and the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA — before being made a tremendous hit some twenty-five years after its original issue by Connie Francis. Someone said that she was reluctant to record it, that her father urged her to do it, and it was her greatest hit.)
Jazz musicians loved it as well: Red Nichols, the Rhythmakers, Frank Newton, Bob Crosby, Lee Wiley, Sidney DeParis, Wild Bill Davison, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Eddie Heywood, Woody Herman, Buck Clayton, Sidney Bechet, Paul Barbarin, George Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, Archie Semple, Charlie Barnet, Raymond Burke, Rosy McHargue, Oscar Aleman, the Six-and-Seventh-Eighths String Band, Kid Ory, Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Miff Mole, Hank D’Amico, Teddi King, Kid Thomas, Bob Scobey, Franz Jackson, Chris Barber, Matty Matlock, Bob Havens, Ella Fitzgerald, Armand Hug, Cliff Jackson, Ken Colyer, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jonah Jones, Capt. John Handy, Jimmy Rushing, Tony Parenti, Claude Hopkins, Jimmy Shirley, Bud Freeman, Ab Most, Benny Waters, Peanuts Hucko, Billy Butterfield, Kenny Davern, Humphrey Lyttelton, Bill Dillard, New Orleans Rascals, Barbara Lea, Allan Vache, Paris Washboard, Bob Wilber, Lionel Ferbos, Rosemary Clooney, Rossano Sportiello, Paolo Alderighi, Vince Giordano, Michael Gamble . . . (I know. I looked in Tom Lord’s online discography and got carried away.)
Almost a hundred years after its publication, the song still has an enduring freshness, especially when it’s approached by jazz musicians who want to swing it. Here’s wonderful evidence from Cafe Bohemia (have you been?) at 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York, one flight down — on November 22, 2019: Ricky Alexander, tenor saxophone; Chris Gelb, drums; Daniel Duke, string bass; Adam Moezinia, guitar, and special guest Dan Block, tenor saxophone:
That was the penultimate song of the evening: if you haven’t heard / watched the closing STARDUST, you might want to set aside a brief time for an immersion in Beauty here. And I will be posting more from this session soon, as well as other delights from Cafe Bohemia. (Have you been?)
To my ears, modern bands don’t find it easy to reproduce the music of Twenties and early Thirties medium-sized ensembles beyond playing the notes, although I commend their attempts. The most pleasing exceptions have been Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, still doing the thing regularly in New York and elsewhere; I’ve also delighted in some ad hoc ensembles put together at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Festival. (Listeners have other favorites, I know: I am not compiling a list here.)
But most recently, the Chicago-based FAT BABIES are are a consistent pleasure.
Here’s UPTOWN, performed at the July 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival:
UPTOWN is also the name of the Babies’ latest CD, their fourth for Delmark, beautifully thought-out, played, and recorded.
Visit here to buy the disc and hear samples, or vice versa.
The band on this disc is the 2016-18 version, with Andy Schumm, cornet, alto saxophone, clarinet; Dave Bock, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, tenor, soprano; John Otto, clarinet, tenor; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, tenor banjo, tenor guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums, percussion. They deeply understand the music without being stuffy.
Of the thirteen selections, UPTOWN and THAT GAL OF MINE are originals by Andy Schumm; SWEET IS THE NIGHT by Jonathan Doyle. The arrangements and transcriptions are by Schumm, Doyle, and Paul Asaro, who also sings on five tracks with proper period flourishes. The rest of the repertoire — venerable songs — EDNA, HARMONY BLUES, THE BATHING BEAUTY BLUES, RUFF SCUFFLIN’, OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY, THUMPIN’ AND BUMPIN’, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, TRAVELIN’ THAT ROCKY ROAD, THE SOPHOMORE, HARLEM RHYTHM DANCE — have noble associations with King Oliver, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Eubie Blake, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Clarence Williams, Claude Hopkins, and others. But you’ll notice that the song selection, although deep and genuine, is not The Same Old Thing (you know: the same two Ellingtons, one Bix, DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, MOTEN SWING, and so on): even scholars of the period might not be used to hearing some of these compositions.
What makes this band so delightful? The answers come thick and fast. They are a working band, so their section work is beautifully polished but never stiff. The solos caress or explode, depending on what the song requires. There’s also a refreshing variety in tempo and mood: the Babies do not need to play racetrack tempos all the time, and they know that hot is best served with with nicely seasoned side dishes of sweet. This is music for dancers as well as listeners. I’ve seen other ensembles do creditable work with charts they are seeing for the first or second time, but nothing can replace the comfortable familiarity that comes with playing a song twenty times in a month.
“Authenticity” is always a slippery subject, but the Babies manifest it in every note and phrase: they’ve lived with this music long enough and intensely enough to have the rhythmic feel of this period as part of their individual and collective nervous systems, so there is no self-conscious “going backwards,” but the band feels as if they’ve immersed themselves in the conventions of the style — which go beyond slapped bass and choked cymbal. It doesn’t feel as if they are acting, pretending to be ancient: their joy in being comes through. And the solos are stylistically gratifying without being museum-pieces. It’s been said before, but if the Babies were to be dropped in Harlem in 1931, they would cause a sensation and be welcomed at the Rhythm Club, the dance halls, and after-hours clubs.
It’s joyous music, joyously played. And my only reservation about this Delmark CD (which, again, I point out, is beautifully recorded) is that it’s not a three-disc set. Maybe next time.
Marty at a 2008 recording session for Arbors Records.
Marty Grosz doesn’t necessarily believe in the lyrics of the love songs he chooses (although he can croon most tenderly) but he does return to this one, a swing perennial for bands and singers, and I for one am glad.
This song is apparently c0-written by the mysterious Rob Williams, Alex Hill and Claude Hopkins (my money’s on Mr. Hill, whose memorable tunes often had lyrics that told of unfulfilled romantic yearning). It states one wild promise of devotion after another — things imagined only by Edgar Rice Burroughs — but all in the conditional — “I would do,” and some versions have become even more cautious: I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU. Is this an “if-then” construction, or is it “I’ll do this if YOU do that?” It sounds like uptown seventeenth-century poetry, and perhaps I would feel more confident if its title were I WILL DO. But let us clear our minds and enjoy the frolicsome sounds rather than lingering too long on how we would respond if these tokens of affection were offered to us.
Our mellow sermon for today comes from the delightful enterprise known as Jazz at Chautauqua when I first made my way to it in September 2004 — a weekend cornucopia of music where I met many heroes, made new friends, and was eventually accepted as someone doing good things for the music. And what music!
The Atehaeum Hotel, where the joys happened.
More than many jazz parties, Chautauqua put people onstage who didn’t have the opportunity to perform together, and the results were often magical. As in this case: a little band led by Marty, with Scott Robinson playing, among other instruments, his alto clarinet; Andy Schumm on cornet; Kerry Lewis on string bass and Pete Siers on drums making up a delicately unstoppable rhythm team. Pay particular attention to Mr. Siers — someone who should be acclaimed worldwide as a flawlessly swinging versatile percussionist, a maker of great sounds.
They certainly rock, don’t they? More to come from the JAZZ LIVES vaults, I assure you. For the moment, find someone to profess love to, with or without Marty to provide the soundtrack.
Hereis the first part of a delightful Saturday afternoon of music performed at Fraunces Tavern by the Garden Party Quartet: this version being Rob Adkins, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Dan Block, clarinet, tenor saxophone, on May 7, 2016. Four more delicious performances follow below.
People who fear jazz — it makes them skittish — often say that they can’t recognize the melody. For them (and for us) here are four standards, played and sung with loving swinging reverence by this melodic quartet. You’ll hear the work of Hoagy Carmichael, Sidney Arodin; Alex Hill, Bob Williams, Claude Hopkins; Cole Porter; Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler. And I daresay that the composers and lyricists would be pleased with the results. You decide.
YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:
I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING:
Yes. The real thing. The good stuff. Out there in public, too.
It’s not often that I receive a new CD on Monday, play it on Monday and Tuesday, and sit down to write about it on Wednesday, but the new reissue (I know, illogical but true) of a March 1968 session led by Wild Bill Davison, issued on Delmark Records, has inspired me. The session was originally recorded by John Norris for Sackville Records, and the band — for once — deserved the title, with Wild Bill, cornet; Benny Morton, trombone; Herb Hall, clarinet; Claude Hopkins, piano; Arvell Shaw, string bass; Buzzy Drootin, drums.
What makes this CD so endearing is not a whole host of rare / previously unissued material — although there is one new performance and one unissued take. No, it is the band, the music, and the repertoire.
Although Davison was praised by none other than Ruby Braff, who said that the pride of Defiance, Ohio, had “drama,” I found Davison’s appeal limited in his later years. He passionately got up and played for all he was worth — he never seemed to coast — but his solos were often set-pieces, established in 1947 and played verbatim night after night. I recall seeing him in New York City in the Seventies, and it was rather like watching a polished stand-up comedian do identical material. All one could say was, “Well, Bill’s timing tonight is off,” or “He’s on fire tonight!” but he rarely surprised. But on this disc he seems inspired sufficiently by his colleagues to venture from his time-tested solos, and the result often made me look up and think, “I never heard him play that before,” which, for me, is one of the great pleasures of improvisation.
Herb Hall sounds lovely and liquid; Arvell Shaw is more than reliable. Claude Hopkins was never captured enough on record, so his particular version of stride — polite but classically perfect — is a delight, in solo and in ensemble.
But this CD is unusually valuable for the opportunity to hear Buzzy Drootin and Benny Morton — players held dear by their colleagues but rarely given any opportunity to lead sessions. I saw Buzzy in person many times in the early Seventies, and I fear I did not appreciate him sufficiently. But now, heard afresh, how arresting he sounds! Yes, there are echoes of Catlett in his four-bar breaks, but he is entirely his own man with his own sound-galaxy and his own way of thinking, as individualistic as Cliff Leeman. Instantly recognizable, always propulsive, ever engaged. And Benny Morton, who recorded with a wide range of players and singers over a half-century (appearing live with Louis, Bird, and Benny Carter!) is in peerless form, his eloquent phrasing, his yearning tone, a great boon. Sadly, Morton, a terribly modest man, doesn’t have a solo feature (which might have been WITHOUT A SONG).
The CD isn’t perfect. A few of the solo features sound overdone and the band is, for me, a little too cleanly miked (each instrument rings through, as if there were six separate tracks rather than one — the perils of modern recording and the horror of “leakage”), but it is a rewarding hour-plus.
And it made me think, which is always an enjoyable unexpected benefit — about the repertoire. Consider this list: STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / DARDANELLA / BLACK AND BLUE (two takes) / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / I FOUND A NEW BABY / BLUE AGAIN / I SURRENDER, DEAR / YESTERDAYS / THEM THERE EYES / THREE LITTLE WORDS. What struck me about that assortment is that most of the band’s choices were “popular songs” known to the larger audience rather than “jazz favorites” known only to the cognoscenti.
Repertoire in jazz has often served artists as ways to define themselves and their allegiances. If you are a young singer or player, and you offer a performance (or a CD) of your original compositions, you are in effect saying, “Take me seriously as a composer; I have ideas and feelings to offer you that aren’t Cole Porter, Shelton Brooks, or Ornette Coleman.”
Some players and singers use repertoire as loving homage: Bix Beiderbecke played AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL because his heroes, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, had written and recorded it; Eddie Condon and his friends played the song because it was a good one but also as a loving bow to Bix; players in this century offer it as an extension of the Condon tradition. In any jazz club or festival, one can hear people playing the music of Louis, Bird, Hawkins, or a hundred others. Even if one is playing the blues or a song built on familiar changes, the choice of the melodic line superimposed on top says, “Here’s to Don Byas. Here’s to Roy Eldridge,” and so on.
But this CD reminds me of something Davison told an interviewer. When he came to New York City in 1943, he was asked by Commodore Records’ saintly founder Milt Gabler to make 12″ 78s of “classic jazz tunes,” for instance PANAMA, THAT’S A PLENTY, and more. Davison remembered that these songs were not what he was used to playing — for audiences that had come to hear jazz — in Chicago and Milwaukee, but they had played popular songs of the day. And when I heard him in New York, he was most likely to play AS LONG AS I LIVE, SUNDAY, or THEM THERE EYES. And no one, sitting in the audience, demanded their money back because he wasn’t playing “authentic” jazz.
What the moral of all this is I can’t say. Perhaps it’s only that I would like to hear Mainstream / traditional ensembles remember the treasures of popular song. There are worlds to be explored beyond the same two dozen favorites — favorites often chosen as markers of ideology / regional or stylistic pride (BIG BEAR STOMP and RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE). I’d love to hear such bands play THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL, YOU CALL IT MADNESS, or WHERE THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT MEETS THE GOLD OF THE DAY.
I offer musical evidence:
Wild Bill paying tribute to Louis at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival by playing THEM THERE EYES, supported by Dave McKenna, Larry Ridley, Oliver Jackson (there is an unsubtle edit in the film, probably removing a Ridley solo, alas) with even more beautiful — although subtle — backing from Ray Nance, Bobby Hackett, Benny Morton, and Tyree Glenn. “Indecent exposure” for sure.
In the 1939 photograph, he is with his manager Shep Allen at the Howard Theatre: credit to Scurlock Studios and thanks to Chuck Slate.
Although Fats has been elsewhere for almost sixty-five years, he continues to inspire. One example is this sweetly energetic session recorded by the ubiquitous, diligent Rae Ann Berry (all hail! all hail!) at the second annual Hot Jazz Jubilee in Rancho Cordova, California.
This energized band — titled JUST KATIE AND FRIENDS — was, for this wonderful gathering, our Miss Cavera, guitar, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet, vocal; Clint Baker, trombone, clarinet, vocal; Chris Calabrese, piano; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal.
Their repertoire for this set was primarily Fats — songs composed / featured by him — as well as by fellow pianists Claude Hopkins and Earl Hines. A ringer, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, is by Irving Berlin — but both Fats and the Paul Whiteman band recorded it.
Notice that JK&F doesn’t aim to reproduce the Waller-Autrey-Sedric-Casey ambiance; there is a welcome absence of “Wallerisms,” either in rapid tempos or shouts by the ensemble. Chris Calabrese, bless him, can hold his own in any stride session, so the relaxed approach is everyone’s choice.
What you will experience is a congenial group of swinging pals, and you might hear echoes of Henry “Red” Allen, Mouse Randolph, J.C. Higginbotham, Al Morgan, Carmen Mastren, James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Count Basie, the Rhythmakers — an aesthetic roundtrip between 1936 and 2014 — but the individual resonances and loving nods coalesce into a joyous whole.
THAT RHYTHM MAN:
HOW CAN YOU FACE ME? (with Katie’s rather plaintive inquiry):
FAIR AND SQUARE (in memory of Lueder Ohlwein and the Sunset Music Company as well as Fats, with an egalitarian vocal by Marc):
UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG:
LONESOME ME (a feature for the extremely talented Mr. Calabrese):
WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD (with hopeful vocalizing by Clint):
ROSETTA (sung by our Sam, with echoes of THE SOUND OF JAZZ):
BABY BROWN (by Alex Hill, who is reputedly the true composer of the next tune as well):
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, an earnest assertion from Clint:
Fats gave us everything he had, and we are still smiling at what (Just) Katie and Friends have made from his inspirations.
We don’t have to wait for The Real Thing To Come Along. Surely it’s here.
Ms. Berry is essential to our edification, for here is her regularly-updated list of San Francisco / Bay Area hot jazz attractions; here is her YouTube channel, where she has nearly a thousand subscribers (she’s been posting videos since March 2008).
And she’s had a direct influence on my life, because I saw all there was to see of hot California jazz through her efforts, and you know the rest. She’s also on Facebook, displaying the same energies as her improvising heroes.
Bobby Hackett, listening to Vic Dickenson sing. October 14, 1952. Photograph by Robert Parent, taken while Bobby and Vic were performing at Childs Paramount, New York City. For another vision of happiness at that same gig, although a different evening, click here.
I believe the photograph is posed rather than a candid shot, since no one is in motion, but the delight on Hackett’s face is not something he could or would have put on for the photographer.
Please study that expression — mingled astonishment, delight, and surprise.
Even though Bobby and Vic had worked together a few years before (their first recorded appearance is a 1945 Jubilee broadcast) and they would play together as friends until Bobby’s death in 1976, the emotions Vic could stir, and still does stir, are always fresh.
In this photograph, Vic is making a point — lightly, not emphatically, and Hackett is indicating, “I need to hear more of this.” If you looked only at each man, you would see a singular version of pleasure. Vic is ready to laugh — he had a particular high-pitched giggle — and Hackett is clearly enjoying what he hears. Vic might have been singing his own lyrics to SISTER KATE — a story of erotic wooing both difficult and ultimately unsatisfactory — but the song itself is not important.
Here are three versions of Dickensonian happiness.
In Vic’s seventies, he appeared with Trummy Young, Jay McShann, Milt Hinton, and Gus Johnson at Dick Gibson’s 1982 jazz party.
Forty-five years earlier, in a Claude Hopkins band recording for Decca, revisiting MY KINDA LOVE (a hit for Ben Pollack nearly a decade earlier). Vic has sixteen bars in the middle of the performance, and he leaps in with a break (tightly muted), and offers balletic ease and witty references to CHRISTMAS NIGHT IN HARLEM and SHOOT THE LIKKER TO ME, JOHN BOY — rather like a dazzling jazz acrobat who shows you all his twists and turns in less than thirty seconds:
And finally, Vic playing an ancient song (he knew them all) OH, BY JINGO! — introduced by Bobby. This comes from a Chicago television show, JUST JAZZ, 1969, with Lou Forestieri, Franklyn Skeete, and Don DeMicheal. Notice the mutual admiration between Bobby and Vic, and hear the latter’s “Yeah!” after Bobby’s break:
Between 1970 and perhaps 1981 I saw Vic as often as circumstances (time, finance, and geography) allowed — and although no one took my picture while he was playing, I am sure that my expression was much like Bobby’s — deep pleasure mixed with surprise.
And, three decades after his death, he still has the power to evoke those reactions. His friend, Mr. Hackett, continues to amaze at the same level.
Even if you do not get to listen to Vic or Bobby, alone or together, I hope that life brings you many opportunities to be just as pleased . . . whatever the reason.
The heroes and the people we cherish forever don’t always have their names written in huge capital letters. But we know who they are.
One of them was the drummer, artist, raconteur, dear friend and gracious man Michael Burgevin. We lost him — abruptly, of a sudden heart attack — on June 17, 2014. If you look in Tom Lord’s discography, the listing of official recordings MB (how he signed his emails — a man with things to do!) made is brief, but that is in no way a measure of his effect, his swing, his sweet presence.
MB and Cornelius, 2001, by Penny Haddad
I had met Mike in 1973, in New York City, and although we were out of touch for about twenty years, he was always in my thoughts as someone I was grateful to.
Because I miss him and admire him — first as a musician, then as a generous friend, then as a thinker who knows and feels the truth — what follows below is the leisurely narrative of my friend MB. The dates are fuzzy, my feelings sharply realized.
When I met him in 1973, I was a college student, deeply involved in jazz, without much money to spend on it. But I read in The New Yorker that there was a little bar / restaurant on East 34th Street, Brew’s, that featured live hot jazz.
You can read more about Brew’s here — on a blog called LOST CITY — with MB’s comments.
I read the names of Max Kaminsky and Jack Fine. I didn’t know about Jimmy Andrews, piano, and Mike Burgevin, drums. But when I saw a listing that advertised “trumpeter Joe Thomas,” I began to pay attention.
Joe Thomas remains one of the great subtle players in the swing idiom, recording with Benny Carter, Ed Hall, Don Byas, Sidney Catlett, Art Tatum, Claude Hopkins, and many other luminaries: he was one of Harry Lim’s favorite players and gets a good deal of exposure on Keynote Records.
I worried that my trip to Brew’s would turn out to be a jazz mirage; how could one of my heroes be playing in a club just ten minutes from Penn Station? “Joe Thomas” is a very plain name, but I got myself out of my suburban nest, brought my cassette recorder (of course) and came to Brew’s. When I came in the door, the sounds told me I was in the right place. Not only was Joe on the stand, instantly recognizable, but he had Rudy Powell and Herb Hall with him; Jimmy Andrews was striding sweetly and quietly.
The man behind the drums was tall, elegantly dressed. His hairline receding, he looked a little like a youthful Bing Crosby without his hat on. And he sounded as if he’d gone to the magic well of Swing: without copying them, I heard evocations of Dave Tough and George Wettling, of Sidney Catlett and Zutty Singleton: a light, swinging, effortless beat. Quietly intent but restrained, with not too much flash and self-dramatization. He didn’t play anything that would have been out of place on a Commodore 78 but it seemed fresh, not a collection of learned gestures and responses. I can hear his hi-hat and rimshots as I write this, his brushes on the snare drum. He was leading the band, but he let the men on the stand direct traffic: in retrospect, he was a true Condonite, letting the music blossom as it would.
I was shy then, but I got my courage together and spoke to him — I must have seemed an unusual apparition, a college student breathless with enthusiasm about swing drumming and especially about Sidney Catlett. I had just purchased the three records (from England) of the complete 1944 Metropolitan Opera House Jam Session, and I asked Mr. Burgevin if he had them or would like a tape of that concert. He hadn’t known of this music (like many musicians, he loved hearing new things but wasn’t an obsessive collector himself). And so we arranged something: perhaps I asked him for a copy of the records he had made with Doc Cheatham.
That night, Joe Thomas took a solo on a set-ending CRAZY RHYTHM, and although Joe is no longer with us, and the performance is now forty years away, I can hum the beginning of his solo, upon request. To say the music I heard that night made an impression is putting it mildly.
Memory is treacherous, but what I remember next is being invited to the apartment he and his wife Patty — Patricia Doyle, if we are being formal — shared on East 33rd Street in an apartment building called The Byron. At some point MB persuaded me to stop calling him “Mr. Burgevin,” and I was made welcome. And often. I had been brought up to be polite, but I blush to think of how many meals I ate in their apartment, how long I stayed, how much time I spent there.
Often MB was at work on a piece of commercial art in his little studio, wedged in a corner: I played the records he had or the ones I had just bought for him. Louis, Bing, Condon, stride piano, Billie, Bud Freeman and his Chicagoans, Dave Tough, Lee Wiley, Mildred Bailey. We had much to talk about, and I learned to hear more under his gentle tutelage. We didn’t speak of anything deep: I don’t think I knew how at that time, skating over the surface of my life, moving from one small triumph or failure to the next. But we admired J. Fred Coots’ YOU WENT TO MY HEAD and other beauties.
(I cringe now to think that MB and Patty might have liked to be left in peace a little more. I wonder how many meals were stretched to include a hungry guest. When, in this century, I apologized to MB and Patty for my late-adolescent oblivious gaucheries, they said they remembered nothing of the sort. I take this as a great kindness.)
Chicken cacciatore, Dave Tough, a feisty little terrier named Rex, are all inextricably combined in my mind. I can see that rectangular apartment now. MB lent me records and books, tapes and other music-related treasures, and in general made his house mine, open-handedly and open-heartedly.
In ways I didn’t verbalize then, I felt his kindness, although I didn’t at the time understand how powerfully protective the umbrella was. It was all subtle, never dramatic. One thing MB encouraged me to do was to bring recording equipment along to gigs he was playing. And (again in this century) he told me this story that I had not been aware of while it was happening. One night at Brew’s, the musicians were MB, the Welsh pianist Dill Jones, and Kenny Davern, then alternating between clarinet and soprano saxophone. Blithely, I came in, said hello to MB, and began setting up my reel-to-reel recorder. Davern turned to MB and said — out of my hearing, but referring to me, “WHAT is THAT?” and MB told Kenny to calm down, that I was a friend, not to worry about me. As a result, Kenny, with some polite irascibility, showed me where to set up my microphone for better results. Now I know that he would have just as energetically told me where the microphone could be placed, but for MB’s quiet willingness to protect his young friend, myself.
In the next two years, I was able to hear Joe Thomas, Doc Cheatham, Al Hall, Al Casey, Vic Dickenson (at length), Ruby Braff, Sam Margolis, Wayne Wright, Red Richards, Dick Wellstood, Susannah McCorkle, Norman Simmons, and a dozen others at close range. MB shared his tape library with me, so I heard him as a glowing, uplifting presence with Herman Autrey, Bobby Gordon, Benny Morton, Bobby Hackett, and others. He delighted especially in the sounds of Fats Waller and his Rhythm, and took every advantage possible to get together with Jimmy Andrews, Al Casey, Herman Autrey, and Rudy Powell to recapture some of that jovial spirit.
MB told stories of spending time with Vic Dickenson, of how Bobby Hackett insisted he play sticks, not brushes, behind him, of meeting Pee Wee Russell late in the latter’s life, and a favorite anecdote of an early encounter with Cliff Leeman at Condon’s, in the eraly Fifties, when MB was on leave from the Merchant Marine (I think): he had come into Condon’s and was listening to the band, which then took a break. Leeman stepped down from the drums and MB asked politely if he could sit in with the intermission players — Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone and Ralph Sutton, piano. Leeman, always tart, said to MB, “Whaddaya want to do with the drums? Fuck ’em all up?” but he let MB play.
Here is a photograph of Michael Burgevin, young, jamming on board the USS IOWA, circa 1955-7:
My friendly contact stopped abruptly when MB had a heart attack. I was terrified of going to a hospital to visit anyone (I have said earlier in the piece that I was young, perhaps far too young). Before I could muster the maturity to visit him, he and Patty seemed, as if in a snap of the fingers, to flee the city for points unknown upstate. I wondered about him in those years, heard his music, and thought of him with love — but we had drifted apart.
We reconnected around 1997, and I am sure I can’t take credit for it, for I felt guilty for my emotional lapses. I think that Vic Diekenson drew us together once again, through the research Manfred Selchow was doing for his book, and MB got in touch with me when he planned to come down to New York City to play on a Monday night with the Grove Street Stompers at Arthur’s Tavern. Once before, he had played with that group. I don’t know who else was in the band, but I recorded a version of HINDUSTAN that had MB stretching out for a long solo in the manner of STEAK FACE.
I didn’t have sufficient opportunities to video-capture MB at play in this century, although there are examples of him on YouTube with his concert presentation of three men at drumsets “drumatiCymbalism” — but here is a 2009 video he made to promote his concerts and his paintings. It seems odd to hear him gently trying to get gigs, but it is a good all-around picture of Michael Burgevin, his sound (solo and in an ensemble with Warren Vache, Dan Block, Harry Allen, Howard Alden, and others) and it gives glimpses of his paintings:
A few years ago, MB seriously mastered the computer and moved from writing letters to writing emails, and we stayed in contact, sometimes several times a week, that way. I sent him music and jazz arcana, and we had deep philosophical conversations — the ones I had not been ready for in the early Seventies. I hadn’t known that he had become a Jehovah’s Witness (as had Trummy Young and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Joe Thomas and Babe Matthews) but our discussions were fervent, even when we were gently disagreeing about our views of the world. Recently he burst forth of Facebook, and had a delighted time sharing photographs of his friends from the old days.
If Ricky Riccardi posted some new Louis / Sidney Catlett on his blog, I forwarded it to MB, and we shared our joy and excitement often. A few years ago, he came down to New York City to meet the Beloved, and he and our mutual friend Romy Ashby had lunch together. MB was beautifully dressed and as always sweetly gallant.
It was foolish of me to think we would always have our email conversations, or another meeting in person, but we never want the people we love to move to another neighborhood of existence. I know he read JAZZ LIVES and delighted in the videos and photographs of the men and women we both revered. That thought gave and continues to give me pleasure.
He wrote a little self-portrait more than a decade ago: As a child was riveted by marching band drums in firemen’s parades on Long Island. Born with rhythm! Given a pair of drumsticks at age seven and a 1920’s style trap set at age 15 and began his professional career playing weekends at Stanbrook Resort in Dutchess Co. (NYS) Played with bands in high school and at Bard College. Strongly influenced by his uncle George Adams’ jazz collection of 78’s (rpm records). Studied drums in Pine Plains High School (1950’s) and later under Richard Horowitz percussionist with the Metropolitan Opera Symphony Orchestra (1970’s). Studied (and uses) many of the early African tribal rhythms- Dinka, Bini, Malinke, Bakwiri, Watusi. About 10 years away from music working as a freelance commercial artist and graphic designer. Returned to drumming in 1968. Spent many nights sitting in at famed Jazz clubs Jimmy Ryan’s on 57th Street and Eddie Condon’s 55th St. There met legends Zutty Singleton, Freddie Moore, and Morey Feld often subbing for them. Lived in Manhattan. Worked steadily at Ryan’s with Max Kaminsky’s band. Also became friends with George Wettling, Cliff Leeman and Jo Jones. Worked full time with almost all the titans of small band jazz during this period of time (late 1960’s through 1980’s) including Roy Eldridge, “Wild Bill” Davison, “Doc” Cheatham, Bobby Hackett, Claude Hopkins, Bobby Gordon, Marian and Jimmy McPartland. Toured Canada & USA with Davison’s Jazz Giants. Made Bainbridge, NY, situated on the beautiful Susquehanna River, a permanent residence in the 1990’s. Traveled to NYC for many engagements. Connected with Al Hamme, professor of Jazz Studies at SUNY Binghamton, playing several concerts there. Since 2001 has been producing Jazz concerts in the 100-year-old, Historic Town Hall Theatre in Bainbridge, featuring world-class jazz personalities: Kenny Davern, Warren Vaché, Peter Ecklund, James Chirillo, Joe Cohn, Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Joel Forbes, Phil Flanigan, Dan Block and many, many others.
Why do I write so much about this man?
Michael Burgevin seems to me to be the embodiment of kind generosity. Near me, as I write, I have a little 1933 autograph book full of inscriptions of jazz musicians that he bought and gave to me. Invaluable, like its owner.
But MB’s giving was more than the passing on of objects: he gave of himself so freely, whether he was behind the drum set or just sharing ideas and feelings. Reading these words, I hope his warmth and gentle nature comes through, his enthusiasm for Nature and for human nature, for the deep rhythms of the world and the way a good jazz ensemble could make us feel even more that life was the greatest privilege imaginable. A deeply spiritual man, he preached the most sustaining gospel without saying a word.
I have a story I can only call mystical to share. Yesterday, on the morning of the 17th, I was writing a blogpost — which you can read here. I had indulged myself in the techno-primitive activity of video-recording a spinning record so that I could share the sounds on JAZZ LIVES. It was a slow blues featuring, among others, Joe Thomas and Pee Wee Russell, two of MB’s and my heroes. Through the open window, the softer passages had an oddly delightful counterpoint of birdsong, something you can hear on my video. I was not thinking about MB while I was videoing — I was holding my breath, listening to music and birdsong mixed — but now I think that strange unearthly yet everyday combination may have been some part of MB’s leaving this earthly realm — music from the hearts of men now no longer with us overlaid by the songs of the birds, conversing joyously.
Patty, Michael’s wife, tells me that the funeral will be Friday, June 20, at the C.H. Landers Funeral Home in Sidney, New York (the place name is appropriate for those who understand): the visitation at noon, the service at 1 PM. Landers is on 21 Main Street, Sidney, New York 13838. (607) 563-3545.
Adieu for now, Michael Burgevin. Kind friend, lovely generous man, beautiful musician. Born January 10, 1936. Made the transition June 17, 2014.
It seems odd to close this remembrance in the usual way — but someone like MB increases my happiness, even in sadness, that I will continue as I always have. May you, too, have people like him in your life, and — more importantly — may you be one of the loving Elders to others, and older brother or sister or friend who shelters someone who might not, at the time, even recognize the love he or she is being shown.
Loosening our collars and wiping our brows — all in the name of hot music.
Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band swung out on Sunday, January 26, 2014, at the Central Coast Hot Jazz Society’s concert held in Pismo Beach. Clint himself played trombone and euphonium and sang. With him were Marc Caparone, cornet; Mike Baird, reeds; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano, vocal; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Katie Cavera, string bass and vocals; Jeff Hamilton, drums. The wonderful Dawn Lambeth sang a few songs, which you can hear and see here.
If you didn’t make it down to Pismo, here’s the first instrumental set.
And a second helping of delightful music:
William H. Tyers’ PANAMA (with a parasol parade, no extra charge):
Katie Cavera asks, respectfully, WON’T YOU COME HOME, BILL BAILEY?:
Headgear or other clothing optional, but PUT ON YOUR OLD GREY BONNET:
J.C. Higginbotham asks, politely, GIVE ME YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER:
After the number is received, the proper response might be I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU (thanks to Alex Hill and Claude Hopkins):
Clint and his bands are active at a variety of gigs and festivals and swing dances. If you want to experience this hot music for yourself, click here to plan your next swing outing.
That’s written on the back of this snapshot — originally taken by drummer Walt Gifford, later held by jazz enthusiast Joe Boughton:
I am assuming that it was taken in the Boston area, but Wettling is the main attraction. In the great tradition, Wettling played drums for the band — caring more for that than for any extended solo, although his four-bar breaks at the end of Eddie Condon recordings (Commodore, Decca, and Columbia) are justly famous. He wasn’t as dramatic as some of his more celebrated peers, but any group that had Wettling in the rhythm section could relax, secure that the tempo would be steady, that every accent or sound would make sense as a complementary part of the whole.
Here are two samples of George at work — atypically visible as well — along with Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield, Cutty Cutshall, Vic Dickenson, Ed Hall, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Al Hall, and Eddie himself — from a 1964 television program:
and — nearly a quarter-century earlier, sounds only:
If you follow the recordings he left behind — with Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, Fats Waller, Joe Sullivan, Hot Lips Page, Lou McGarity, Pee Wee Russell, Bobby Hackett, Lee Wiley, Louis Armstrong, Chu Berry, Teddy Wilson, Muggsy Spanier, Jess Stacy, Frank Teschemacher, Frank Melrose, Boyce Brown, Paul Mares, Omer Simeon, Wingy Manone, Jimmy McPartland, Joe Marsala, Red Norvo, Mildred Bailey, Pete Brown, Jack Teagarden, Joe Bushkin, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Paul Whiteman, Coleman Hawkins, Max Kaminsky, Danny Polo, Herman Chittison, Joe Thomas, Mezz Mezzrow, Benny Carter, Miff Mole, Brad Gowans, Marty Marsala, George Brunis, Ed Hall, Wild Bill Davison, Rod Cless, James P. Johnson, Yank Lawson, Jerry Jerome, Billy Butterfield, Una Mae Carlisle, Dick Cary, Benny Morton, Jonah Jones, Errol Garner, Billie Holiday, Bujie Centobie, Red McKenzie, Chuck Wayne, Lucky Thompson, Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, Martha Tilton, Connee Boswell, Sidney Bechet, Frank Newton, Bing Crosby, Art Hodes, Doc Evans, Bob Wilber, Tony Parenti, Charlie Parker, Ralph Sutton, Barbara Lea, Vic Dickenson, Ruby Braff, Kenny Kersey, Frank Signorelli, Milt Hinton, George Duvivier, Urbie Green, Marian McPartland, Stuff Smith, Big Joe Turner, Buck Clayton, Claude Hopkins, Nat Pierce, Jimmy Jones, Marty Napoleon, Buster Bailey, Shorty Baker, Tyree Glenn, Kenny Davern, and many others — you will always hear rewarding music.
One can only imagine the circumstances that led to the titling of the first song in the Victor studios in 1929, but Lola was Pee Wee Russell’s girlfriend in the late Twenties and early Thirties. Legend has it she was exceedingly jealous and showed it in remarkable ways: once cutting up all of her lover’s suits with a long sharp scissors. (Maybe Lola said to Pee Wee, “If you really loved me, you would name a song after me and record it so that everyone could see my name on the label.”)
I doubt that Lola is with us today, or that anyone named Lola was in the audience at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest (formerly the Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival) but the Grand Dominion Jazz Band knows its social courtesies and said “Hello!” to the crowd through hot jazz. The players here are leader Bob Pelland, piano; Clint Baker, trumpet; Gerry Green, reeds; Jim Armstrong, trombone; Hal Smith, drums; Mike Fay, bass; and Bill Dixon, banjo. Any band that has Clint at the front and Hal at the back can’t get off course!
BOGALUSA STRUT (recalling Sam Morgan, who never had a pair of scissors):
PERDIDO STREET BLUES (another evocation of the Crescent City):
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU (remembering Claude Hopkins and Alex Hill, both very willing individuals, eager to please):
In my Ideal Jazz World — which exists only in my mind and those of a few people who share my leanings (Dan and Mal and Clint among them) — Vic Dickenson is one of the greatest creators.
But Vic’s art was very subtle. People found it easy to see only its broad outlines and thus minimized it as a matter of low-toned naughty growls filling in the gaps in a Dixieland ensemble. Vic often worked with bands where he was alone on the mountaintop, making his way through BASIN STREET BLUES or IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD for the ninth time that week.
In addition, trombones tend to get less attention than they and their players deserve, especially if the men and women behind the mouthpiece and slide are reliable. Reliable players — think of Bennie Morton, Al Hall, Buck Clayton, Ray Nance, Milt Hinton among fifty others — get less attention than dramatic ones.
Vic seems to have come from nowhere — blossoming fully on the 1943-44 Blue Notes, or (for those whose historical perspective starts later) on the Vanguards and Columbias of the Fifties. But he had been working his magic for a long time. There’s his marvelous solo on Benny Carter’s MY FAVORITE BLUES, his work on a few 1940 Basie Columbias . . . and earlier — I’ve posted Blanche Calloway’s I NEED LOVIN’, which I think would amaze and terrify any contemporary trombonist — marvelous tumbling epigrams no matter what the context or the tempo.
That garden of delights, YouTube, offers us another aural glimpse of the Vic the musicians knew and admired. His solo on this little-known record is only sixteen bars, and it comes late in the performance, but it is a marvel.
The original recording was made for Decca in 1937 by the Claude Hopkins band. MY KINDA LOVE was perhaps best known through Ben Pollack’s recording of it with Jack Teagarden a half-decade earlier. The Hopkins record is taken up with Hopkins’ pleasant piano and Beverly White’s singing. Nothing is less than expert — the rhythm section rocks along nicely under Hopkins — but it is music for dancers. Beverly White sounds close to Midge Williams and even Ella Logan: all the notes are in the right places, her enunciation is precise; she sings clearly and rhythmically, but the overall affect is well-behaved rather than memorable. This band could play a senior prom in 1937 and not upset the chaperones overmuch.
Beverly was known as “Baby,” and she has her own place in the Jazz Pantheon because Teddy Wilson said he preferred her singing to Billie Holiday’s. What that statement really means is hard to say: there is so much mythology around the luminous 1935-41 recordings Billie and Teddy made that his words seem heretical. Perhaps Baby White was easier to work with; she didn’t smoke pot in the hall; she was more professional? It could be that Teddy simply liked the sound of her voice more. I wonder if in the years after those recordings were made, there was a slight tinge of rancor that Billie had become BILLIE HOLIDAY and other singers hadn’t. (Michael Brooks wrote that Henry “Red” Allen told him vehemently that Anna Robinson was also much better than Billie.)
For me, the first two-thirds of MY KINDA LOVE are amiably dull — politely swinging without calling attention to itself — an almost faceless “dance record,” perhaps insisted upon by Jack Kapp.
But when Vic leaps in, for about thirty seconds, my musical world changes.
He begins with a break that owes something to Louis, something that might have come from a Hot Seven record, reinvented through Vic’s own prism of sound. It’s a witty solo, glancing at Swing phrases that were already conventions in 1937 . . . but Vic’s staccato phrasing and sound are his own. He doesn’t dramatize; his solo is in the middle register and he doesn’t demand that we admire his pyrotechnics, but the solo amazes as evidence of what he could do in sixteen bars. A writer of musical epigrams, a painter of miniatures, eight bars here or sixteen bars there with their own logical, funny, shapes.
The thought that I can no longer see Vic on the stand at the last Eddie Condon’s or Your Father’s Mustache or an outdoor concert in Suffolk County makes me sad. Had I been able to tell him how many people had their lives uplifted by his music, I think it would probably have embarrassed him. But as I get older and I hear more jazz; as I understand more how difficult it is to create something when the rhythm is moving along inexorably underneath you, the more I prize Vic Dickenson. It was a miracle that he was with us. And he still is.
I’ve tried fish oil capsules and probiotics, saw palmetto and niacin, magnesium and multivitamins, goldenseal and Bach flower remedies.
But nothing gives me the lift of a Reynolds Brothers set — and one with Clint Baker (trombone, clarinet, occasional vocal) is even more potent. Take as directed: like homeopathy, the smallest dosage is transformative.
The RB are, as always, Ralf (washboard); John (guitar, whistling); Marc Caparone (cornet); Katie Cavera (string bass) — all four have been known to break into song when the moment is ripe. See for yourself in this delightful long set recorded at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival (at the Railroad Museum on May 27, 2012, for the record-keepers).
Alex Hill must have been especially willing to please when he wrote I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, and Claude Hopkins suggested that his whole band was equally cooperative:
Sung by Bing. Who needs more? LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:
THREE LITTLE WORDS (but not with the variant Turk Murphy text):
For Bix and Tram, BORNEO:
Come to Camden, New Jersey — I hear the Bennie Moten band is cooking up something good on BLUE ROOM:
Sweet and sassy, Sister Katie invites us to join her in films, with YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES — and John whistles the theme so engagingly:
Mister Berlin must have liked a drop of schnapps once in a while, thus I’LL SEE YOU IN C-U-B-A — sung with spice and wit by Senorita Cavera:
From the Cotton Club Parade of 1935 (by Ted Koehler and Rube Bloom) — I just found a copy of the original sheet music: now I’m ready to start TRUCKIN’:
A beautiful excursion into Louis Armstrong – Sammy Cahn – Saul Chaplin democrary in SHOE SHINE BOY. That Caparone fellow didn’t study at the Waif’s Home, but he sure gets Louis:
If I could wire my refrigerator so that it played FAT AND GREASY when I opened the door, perhaps I would be back to my middle-school weight. of course having Fats Waller sing and play it does lend a certain ironic twist. Rockin’ in rhythm:
And the National Anthem of what Eddie Condon called “music,” Louis’ SWING THAT MUSIC:
Feeling better? I know I am. (And that’s not my medicine cabinet, in case you were wondering.)
My mother used to gently urge me — “urge” is the nicest way of putting it — to go outside occasionally. “Are you going to stay in your room with a book all day? It’s so nice outside!”
This post’s for you, Mom — I made it out-of-doors at a jazz festival — the Sacramento Music Festival — and soaked up the sun, the Vitamin D, the sweet California air.
Of course, I didn’t notice much of those cosmic gifts, because I was busy feeling the good seismic disturbances that the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker were creating — that’s John on guitar, vocal, and whistling; Ralf on washboard and vocal; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; Clint Baker on trombone, clarinet, and occasional vocal (he had some laryngitis that weekend).
They began with their public profession of loving willingness from Alex Hill and perhaps Claude Hopkins, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU. John asserts it all so willingly; who would doubt him?
Marc sings about that naughty flirtatious COQUETTE, so tantalizing:
Ralf and John team up for their classic SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans):
No one sings on MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (the lyrics would be about the fleshpots of Storyville) but the ghosts of Louis and Higgy certainly were enjoying the outdoors as well:
John, more plaintively this time, gives us the early Thirties version of the solitary lover, pale and wan, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF:
The other side of the amorous spectrum — having one’s hands full of delights — is offered by the witty Miss Cavera in CHARLEY, MY BOY. “Shivers of joy,” indeed:
My new quest. Where or what or why is SAN?:
For Harold Arlen, Louis, and Jack, Marc lets us know he’s GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES:
I don’t know the source of STOMP STOMP! (is it Slim and Slam or the Cats and the Fiddle or a physical therapist’s command?) but it certainly made the cosmos move:
“Jack, you really come on!” How true. Even though no one in the band is named Jack.
“See, Mom, I went outside! What? Now you want me to clean my room . . . . ?”
Some time ago, an eBay seller offered an autograph book for sale.
That rather ordinary exterior gave no hint of the marvels it contained: not someone’s schoolmates but the greatest players and singers — of the Swing Era and of all time. Now individual pages are being offered for sale, and I thought that they would thrill JAZZ LIVES readers as they thrill me. The owner of the book was “Joe,” residing in New York City and occasionally catching a band at a summer resort. We know this because Joe was meticulous, dating his autograph “captures” at the bottom of the page. Understandably, he didn’t know much about the lifespan of paper and put Scotch tape over some of the signatures, which might mean that the whole enterprise won’t last another fifty years — although the signatures (in fountain pen, black and colored pencil) have held up well.
Through these pages, if even for a moment, we can imagine what it might have been to be someone asking the greatest musicians, “Mr. Evans?” “Miss Holiday?” “Would you sign my book, please?” And they did. Here’s the beautiful part.
Let’s start at the top, with Louis and Red:
This page is fascinating — not only because Louis was already using green ink, or that we have evidence of the band’s “sweet” male singer, Sonny Woods, but for the prominence of trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen. Listening to the studio recordings Louis made while Red was a sideman, it would be easy to believe the story that Red was invisible, stifled, taking a position that allowed him no creative outlet. But the radio broadcasts that have come to light — from the Cotton Club and the Fleischmann’s Yeast radio program — prove that Red was given solo spots during the performance and that he was out front for the first set. Yes, Red had been creating a series of exceptional Vocalion recordings for two years, but I suspect Joe had much to hear on this Saturday night at the Arcadia Ballroom.
Something completely different: composer / arranger Ferde Grofe on the same page with Judy Ellington, who sang with Charlie Barnet’s band:
Time for some joy:
Oh, take another!
Joe really knew what was going on: how many people sought out pianist / arranger / composer Lennie Hayton for an autograph:
A good cross-section of the 1938 Benny Goodman Orchestra — star pianists Teddy Wilson and Jess Stacy, saxophonists Vido Musso, Herman Shertzer, George Koenig, Art Rollini, as well as the trombonist Murray McEachern, guitarist Ben Heller, arranger Fred Norman, and mystery man Jesse Ralph:
Someone who gained a small portion of fame:
You’ll notice that Joe knew who the players were — or, if you like, he understood that the men and women who didn’t have their names on the marquee were the creators of the music he so enjoyed. So the special pleasure of this book is in the tangible reminders of those musicians whose instrumental voices we know so well . . . but whose signatures we might never have seen. An example — the heroes who played so well and devotedly in Chick Webb’s band: saxophonists Chauncey Houghton, “Louie” Jordan, Theodore McRae, Wayman Carver, bassist Beverley Peer, pianist Tommy Fulford, guitarist Bobby Johnson, trumpeters Mario Bauza, Bobby Stark, Taft Jordan, trombonists Nat Story, Sandy Williams . . . .Good Luck To You, indeed!
But one name is missing — the little King of the Savoy (subject of the wonderful new documentary, THE SAVOY KING — which is coming to the New York Film Festival at the end of September 2012 — more details to come):
Jimmie Lunceford and his men, among them drummer Jimmie Crawford, saxophonist Willie Smith, trumpeter Paul Webster:
saxophonists Joe Thomas and Austin Brown, Jas. Crawford (master of percussion), bassist Mose Allen, pianist Edwin Wilcox, and the little-known Much Luck and Best Wishes:
Blanche Calloway’s brother, the delightful Cab, and his bassist, the beloved Milt Hinton:
trumpeter irving Randolph and Doc Cheatham, drummer Leroy Maxey, pianist Bennie Payne, saxophonists Walter Thomas, Andrew Brown, “Bush,” or Garvin Bushell, and Chu Berry, and Cab himself:
Paul Whiteman’s lead trumpeter, Harry “Goldie” Goldfield, father of Don Goldie (a Teagarden colleague):
I can’t figure out all of the names, but this documents a band Wingy Manone had: vocalist Sally Sharon, pianist Joe Springer, Don Reid, Ray Benitez, R. F. Dominick, Chuck Johnson (?), saxophonist Ethan Rando (Doc?), Danny Viniello, guitarist Jack Le Maire, and one other:
Here are some names and a portrait that would not be hard to recognize. The Duke, Ivie Anderson, Cootie Williams, Juan Tizol, Sonny Greer, Fred Guy, Barney Bigard, Freddie Jenkins, Rex Stewart, and either “Larry Brown,” squeezed for space, bottom right (I think):
And Lawrence Brown, Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Billy Taylor, and lead man Art Whetzel:
Calloway’s trombones, anyone? De Priest Wheeler, Claude Jones, “Keg” Johnson, and trumpeter Lammar Wright:
Our man Bunny:
Don Redman’s wonderful band, in sections. Edward Inge, Eugene Porter, Harvey Boone, Rupert Cole, saxophones:
The trumpets — Otis Johnson, Harold Baker, Reunald Jones, and bassist Bob Ysaguirre:
And the trombone section — Quentin Jackson, Gene Simon, Bennie Morton — plus the leader’s autograph and a signature that puzzles me right underneath. Sidney Catlett was the drummer in this orchestra for a time in 1937, but that’s not him, and it isn’t pianist Don Kirkpatrick. Research!:
The rhythm section of the Claude Hopkins band — Claude, Abe Bolar, Edward P. (“Pete”) Jacobs, drums:
And some wonderful players from that band: Joe Jones (guitar, nort drums), trumpeters Shirley Clay, Jabbo Smith, Lincoln Mills; the singer Beverly White (someone Teddy Wilson thought better than Billie), saxophonists Bobby Sands, John Smith, Arville Harris, Happy Mitchner (?); trombonists Floyd Brady and my hero Vic Dickenson, whose signature stayed the same for forty years and more:
I suspect that this triple autograph is later . . . still fun:
If the next three don’t make you sit up very straight in your chair, we have a real problem. Basie at Roseland, Oct. 12, 1937: Earle Warren, the Count himself, Billie, Buck Clayton, and Eddie Durham. The signature of Paul Gonsalves clearly comes from a different occasion, and I imagine the conversation between Joe and Paul, who would have been very pleased to have his name on this page:
Miss Holiday, Mister Shaw, before they ever worked together ANY OLD TIME. I’d call this JOYLAND, wouldn’t you?
And a truly swinging piece of paper, with the signatures of Walter Page, Lester Young, James Rushing, Bobby Moore, Herschel Evans, Ronald “Jack” Washington, Edward Lewis, Freddie Greene, Joe Jones, Bennie Morton . . . when giants walked the earth.
To view just one of these pages and find your way to the others, click here – I’ll content myself with simple gleeful staring. And since I began writing this post, the seller has put up another ten or more — Mary Lou Williams, Ina Ray Hutton, Clyde Hart, Roy Eldridge . . . astonishing!
This Buescher trumpet, the advertisement tells us, is the model Emmett Berry plays with Johnny Hodges. For tremendous power and range, which Mr. Berry would have had on any horn.
Emmett Berry came from the tradition of individualistic players — with an intense near-ferocity no matter what the context . . . with Fletcher or Horace Henderson, Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins, Cozy Cole, Edmond Hall, Bennie Morton, Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells, Buddy Tate, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Walter Thomas, Ben Webster, Budd Johnson, Oscar Pettiford, Harry Carney, Johnny Guarneri, Illinois Jacquet, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Eddie Heywood, Vic Dickenson, John Kirby, Gerald Wilson, Betty Roche, Helen Humes, Johnny Thompson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Al Sears,Al Hibbler, Lem Davis, Dodo Marmarosa, Slim Gaillard, John Simmons, Zutty Singleton, Sidney Catlett, Sammy Price, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones, Eddie Bert, Lucky Thompson, Bennie Green, Lawrence Brown, Sidney Bechet, Ruby Braff, Art Farmer, Claude Hopkins, Pee Wee Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, Andy Gibson, Paul Gonsalves, Cannonball Adderley, Shorty Baker, Chu Berry, Earl Hines, Joe Williams. On Keynote he was the third trumpet player with Joe Thomas and Roy Eldridge. He was in the trumpet section for a Miles Davis and Gil Evans session.
Between 1937 and 1967, he seems to have been active on gigs and in the recording studio, even if some of that work had him playing second trumpet to Buck Clayton or as part of the brass section behind a singer. But this record of activity says to me that various people (Harry Lim, John Hammond, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Buddy Tate) valued him as a powerful, reliable, creative player — someone who could swing, improvise, blend with a section, sight-read music the first time he saw it.
Buck Clayton’s story of Berry whacking Jimmy Witherspoon in the head with his trumpet when Spoon had been particularly out of line suggests that Berry was not someone to be trifled with, and his phrasing does suggest an expert boxer and dangerous counterpuncher.
But no one seems to have interviewed him during his playing career, and I have it in my memory (true?) that he suffered some sort of late-life mental collapse and retired from music. (What does anyone know of him in the years from 1967 to 1993?)
His sound– so vehement — remains in my ears. On the early Clef sessions with Hodges, on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, backing Rushing on Vanguard — unmistakable.
Here’s “a little good blues” with Earle Warren, Sir Charles Thompson, Gene Ramey, and Oliver Jackson, from 1961:
Berry doesn’t take enough space, and his vehemence is hinted at rather than fully released, but his sound and physical presence are fully evident.