Tag Archives: Dailymotion

RUSSELL, SMITH, CONDON, DAVISON, FELD, LLC.

A gathering of individualists, playing the blues in two moods.

PeeWee Russell, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Wild Bill Davison, Eddie Condon, Morey Feld.  The film, made for Canadian television, purports to capture what it was like after hours at Condon’s club (the midtown version) in December 1963.  How close it is to reality is anyone’s guess.  Did Helen Ward, looking so pretty here, drop by to sing when there was no camera crew in attendance, and was there usually someone sitting at a table, sketching?

But the music that initially feels tenuous, ready to fall off the edge into disunity, comes together surprisingly.  The sounds are genuine, and so are the smiles on everyone’s face at the close.  “All the Olympians,” to quote Yeats.

Thanks to Bob Erwig for posting this on Dailymotion, and to David Weiner for reminding me about it.

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JIM GOODWIN, 1943-2009

I have just learned that the brilliantly individualistic musician Jim Goodwin has died.  He had been ill for some time and had concentrated on the piano rather than his first love, the cornet.  On that instrument, he had much of the same surprising intensity and off-center majesty of Red Allen: you didn’t know where his phrases came from or where they were going, but they always fit.  An eloquent player, he knew how to drive a band!

His most accessible CD, perhaps, may be his Arbors Records duet session with Dave Frishberg, DOUBLE PLAY, but the Blue Swing Fine Recordings label has just reissued music from the Sunset Music Company (including Dan Barrett, Jeff Hamilton, and Bill Carter) at their 1979 concert in Dusseldorf.   Thanks to Bob Erwig for the Dailymotion video below.

This post is written in haste, so it’s not a full tribute to Jim — but he was a HOT jazz player, fervent and intense, someone who didn’t know what it was to coast through a chorus.  I never met him, but his death is a real loss.  I send condolences to Retta Christie and all of Jim’s family and friends.

The remarkable singer Melissa Collard said this of Jim: “I didn’t know him well but was just lucky to be around during some blessed moments when his playing seemed to make heavens open up and rain down beauty so clear it made you laugh.”

HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE

Who else could it be?  Louis, obviously delighting in the rocking propulsion of saxophonist Max Greger’s big band, enjoying himself on German television.  Although the routines Louis created with the All-Stars made him extremely comfortable, he outdid himself when fronting a first-class big band.

I saw it happen on American television — perhaps the Merv Griffin Show, circa 1970, when he did “What A Wonderful World” before the commercial break, and came back to perform a truly exultant “Jeepers Creepers” afterward — in front of a studio band full of jazz players (Jimmy Cleveland and Bill Berry among them).  I hope someone finds that clip, which begins with the band warming up after the break, Louis telling them, “That’s the scales! The fish will come later!”

“SOLITUDE”: BRAFF-BARNES QUARTET

Thanks to Bob Erwig for posting this clip of the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet, perhaps in Berlin in 1974.  The other heroes here are the Wayne Wright and Michael Moore — singing their way through Ellington’s “Solitude” as if it were a hymn and they were divinely inspired.  I remember seeing this quartet accomplish artistic miracles in Bryant Park, outside the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.  To say their performance was unforgettable is simple accuracy.

LOUIS ROUTS DEATH

I don’t know what viewers will see in this clip from the 1936 Bing Crosby musical PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, which gave Louis his first starring role in a full-length motion picture.  Some may find it offensive, demeaning.  After all, the premise of this dramatization of “The Skeleton in the Closet” is racist.  Colored folks, everyone knew back then, were frightened to death of spooks.

But I see Louis the peerless actor, storyteller, comedian, also the man who was a great dancer.  And that masked drummer, young Lionel Hampton, is swinging heroically. 

But when Louis blows his mighty horn and chases that skeleton back to the graveyard, I see a man vanquishing death.  Not only for himself, but for all of us.  What we love and what we create lives on.

LOVE AND THE BLUES, TWICE

Even though they have the most expressive faces imaginable, so many inspiring jazz players and singers were passed over by film producers because they weren’t conventionally “attractive.”  Think of how wonderful it would be to see Mildred Bailey sing.  Alas.

But here are two clips of jazz / blues singers that we are lucky to have.  And, coincidentally or not, the blues they are singing talk about Love, from very different perspectives.

First, the under-acknowledged Ida Cox, “Miss Ida” to even the most illustrious musicians, captured here with her husband, pianist Jesse Crump, some time in the Forties.  I can’t find the source of this clip — which seems to be two versions of “‘Fore Day Creep” from different camera angles, spliced together.  “‘Fore Day” is almost always incorrectly written and conceived as “Four Day Creep,” which suggests that the Wandering Man will be away Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Nay nay, to quote Louis.  It’s “‘fore day,” as in “before sunrise,” but logic is elusive for some people.

Miss Ida looks healthy, assured, sure of herself and her advice.  I love the Twenties hand gestures as well as the nimble, rippling piano accompaniment — a mixture of tidy minimalist stride and slowed-down boogie woogie figures.  And her commentary?  It might strike some as pre-feminist, but it comes from the same tributary as the song DON’T ADVERTISE YOUR MAN.  Obviously, it’s a pre-internet conception of what can be kept private!

Here’s another bit of enticing memorabilia: an autographed Ida Cox publicity picture.

ida-cox-autograph

The second clip comes from a May 1965 BBC television program called JAZZ 625, which featured Humphrey Lyttelton and some of jazz’s finest players and singers: here, Big Joe Turner, Buck Clayton, and Vic Dickenson — here with Tony Coe, tenor sax; Joe Temperley, baritone sax, Eddie Harvey, piano; Dave Green, bass; Johnny Butts, drums.  The song is CHAINS OF LOVE, much sadder and more uncertain — although Big Joe looks so powerful and assured here that the pleading questions he is asking of His Woman must be purely rhetorical.  This clip also gives us Vic Dickenson up close, a beret over the bell of his horn, playing the blues ever so masterfully.  Vic sang on his horn better than most singers.

Perhaps these two performances speak to our age much more that Petrarch spoke to his.

MOUND CITY BLUE BLOWERS: “NINE O’CLOCK FOLKS”

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 . . . !