We like to think that everything can be known, and in many cases answers can be found by the diligent, but I am sharing a small mystery with my readers, for their pleasure and perhaps our mutual enlightenment.
Certain jazz soloists are immediately recognizable: you can make your own list. Other superb players are less familiar because of the paucity of evidence (we know what Charlie Shavers sounds like because of his distinctive approach, but we also have hours of his recorded work to compare any unidentified playing against.) I think also of Coleman Hawkins’ comment about being on the road: that you could go to some small town and there would be a tenor player who no one ever heard of who would be as good as the famous ones.
When I saw this record — rather obscure and rare — I wanted it, for those reasons. Also because Edgar Sampson, saxophonist, composer, arranger, never produced any music that was less than superb. I knew one song — DON’T TRY YOUR JIVE ON ME — because of Fats Waller’s UK recording. When I played it, though, I was impressed and mystified. A great trumpet solo on JIVE, and rippling swing piano on both sides.
I have some vanity about knowing the great soloists of the period, and it piqued me that I couldn’t identify anyone except Sampson. But I have friends who are also experts, and I tried their knowledge as well — let me list their names in alphabetical order: Marc Caparone, Menno Daams, Jan Evensmo, Jon-Erik Kellso, Bent Persson, Rob Rothberg, Bo Scherman — but no definitive answers.
About The Three Swingsters, I can only surmise that they were a vocal group with some regional fame — I think Pennsylvania — but I do not know whether the record was made to showcase them or not.
Before we go deeper, here is the mysterious listing in Tom Lord’s online discography:
Edgar Sampson And His Orchestra : 2 tp, tb, Edgar Sampson (as) unknown p, b and d, The Three Swingsters (vcl-1)
New York, May 25, 1939
WM1023-A Don’t try your jive on me (1) Voc 4942
WM1024-A Pick your own lick (1) –
WM1025-A Sly mongoose (1) (unissued)
My experts (I apologize if that seems too possessive) came up with names of who the trumpet soloist couldn’t be, and proposed Dick Vance or Benny Carter as the trumpeter, and Tommy Fulford as the pianist, with some thoughts of perhaps Eddie Heywood or Kenny Kersey. Vance and Fulford were stalwarts of the Chick Webb band — this disc was recorded very late in Chick’s life — and at that time Sampson was the band’s musical director. I have heard Fulford with Chick’s “Little Chicks,” and he is plausible — fleet and swinging.
On first hearing, I thought the pianist was Billy Kyle, but the player does not reach for Kyle’s beloved downward run, and Billy recorded that day with Jack Sneed for Decca (of course he could have made two sessions in one day). The connection to Master Records suggests the salutary influence of Helen Oakley. And PICK YOUR OWN LICK (written by “newcomers to songdom” Roy Jacobs and Gene de Paul, according to Billboard) was published by Mills Music. de Paul went on to write DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE FROM ME and I’LL REMEMBER APRIL, but LICK is not his finest hour. Or three minutes.
Here’s DON’T TRY YOUR JIVE ON ME:
About PICK YOUR OWN LICK: I try never to write these words, but what a terrible idea — an attempt to have a pop hit by cannibalizing bits of other pop hits. But the band sounds good, even while the lyrics pummel us with obvious hopeful thefts.
May your happiness increase!