Tag Archives: comb and tissue paper


During this set at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, it began to snow, but Andy Schumm and his Blue Blowers brought so much heat to the room that we barely noticed the changes being made.

We know young hero Andy as a paragon of the cornet, to which he has added piano, various reeds, drums, and now the comb and newspaper (or is it tissue paper?) in the manner of the heroic Red McKenzie, late of St. Louis.

The collective swingers for this set include our master of ceremonies Mike Durham (Mike was temporarily unable to lead on brass — doctor’s orders — but will be back blowing hot in 2013); Emma Fisk, violin; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field and Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Seck, piano; Spats Langham, vocal, banjo; Malcolm Sked, brass bass; Josh Duffee, drums.  “Hotter than a depot stove!” to use the ancient but appropriate phrase — on these performances of music first recorded between 1927 and 1929.  Connoisseurs of the paranormal will note spectral (approving) appearances by Glenn Miller, Joe Venuti, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Teschemacher, Adrian Rollini, and the mysterious Jack Bland.




Fire extinguisher, anyone?  Perhaps next year I could request a ballad-tempo I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, one of McKenzie’s finest records.

May your happiness increase.


First Andy mesmerized us with his cornet playing, then his pianisms (rollicking or pensive), then his tenor saxophone and clarinet.  Now . . . the pocket comb and a strip of paper — the kazoo’s elegant cousin — in tribute to Red McKenzie.

Marty Grosz told me that Andy uses real newspaper.  That boy’s got the right spirit, even if the WORLD-TELEGRAM and the JOURNAL AMERICAN (the papers of choice for Mr. McKenzie) are no more.

Here Andy leads an all-star band at the 2012 BixFest — thanks to Phil Pospychala.  Thanks to Tom Warner for the video, complete with do it yourself closeups for the folks at home.  Here’s an evocation of the 1933 “Mound City Blue Blowers” recording — unissued at the time — of GIRLS LIKE YOU WERE MEANT FOR BOYS LIKE ME, which featured Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Coleman Hawkins.

The other notables making such sweet music are John Otto, reeds; Frank Gualtieri, trombone; Jason Goldsmith, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Dave Bock, tuba; Josh Duffee, drums.

I hope that at the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua, Andy and Marty get to do a small-group set together: it will be dynamite!  And I predict a run on the dollar stores once this video reaches its widest audience — for jazz combs, of course.

May your happiness increase.


This Vitaphone short (circa 1931) is ten minutes long, and viewers who suffer from even mild impatience may want to fast-forward through the hillbilly jokes that take up the first four minutes: the man sitting on a box of eggs because his hen has wandered off, the local constable directing traffic (it’s another man and his cow).  Cinematic vaudeville at its finest and broadest, as those city slickers show how dumb the rubes are.

But things start to get hot when the trio from the local cafe, “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” (who are they, really?) sing a low-down melody, an eccentric dancer capers around the stage on clown shoes.  That would be intermitently hilarious vaudeville, but the jazz content would be low.  However, you can begin to hear Red McKenzie creating wailing phrases behind the dancer, as if he couldn’t contain himself.  Then, after some more labored banter, the trio-that-became-a quartet takes the stage for a ferocious ST. LOUIS BLUES — from left to right, there’s Red (blowing his comb wrapped in newspaper into his hat), Josh Billings whacking a suitcase with whiskbrooms and kicking it for bass-drum accents, Eddie Condon and Jack Bland, playing what appear to be Vega lutes.

Josh Billings, by the way, is credited with one of the great wry aphorisms of the last century.  Someone is supposed to have been complaining about how things were in what would later be called the Great Depression.  “Will it ever get better?” lamented the nameless interlocutor.  Billings said thoughtfully, “Better times are coming . . . now and then.”

The rocking interlude is over too soon, and we descend into a drunken-dog act . . .  I find it weirdly significant that Whitey the dog gets star billing, but no matter.  How else would we have seen the Mound City Blue Blowers?  Thanks to Vitaphone, to Roy Mack, the director, to TCM, to Dailymotion, and others.

And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . !