First, it’s not Dudgeon and Dragons. “High dudgeon” is annoyance, anger, resentment. “She left the meeting in high dudgeon.” A witty piece on the etymology by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman can be found here.
And it’s also the title of a wonderful Joe Sullivan record. I present the four sides he recorded in Los Angeles on April 1, 1945, for Sunset Records. Sunset was the creation of Eddie Laguna, also a concert promoter, who’s proven elusive. But the music isn’t. Encouraged by his friend Zutty Singleton, Joe had moved west in 1943, and the first two sides recorded for Sunset were piano solos.
But these records are by a quintet and a trio: Joe, piano; Archie Rosati, clarinet; Ulysses Livingston, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Zutty Singleton, drums: NIGHT AND DAY / HIGH DUDGEON / BRUSHIN’ OFF THE BOOGIE / HEAVY LADEN (Joe, Archie, Zutty).
Joe is typecast as a “barrelhouse” “Chicago” pianist, and that he could be, but he loved the great lyrical songs — Coward and Porter as well as the blues. Perhaps this choice was also inspired by another clarinetist named Shaw?
And the very thing:
Hear the crystalline sound of Zutty’s brushes:
and finally a trio performance (the cover of the Nagel-Heyer assemblage is odd at first — although Joe and Bird would have played together without scrapes):
A few small mysteries, without which no blogpost can be said to be complete. One: I have not found a photograph or biography of Eddie Laguna, although he is references endlessly in articles about Nat King Cole (Will Friedwald, inexplicably, even makes fun of his name) Wardell Gray, and others of that time and place.
Two: I am assuming that HIGH DUDGEON is Joe’s title, not Eddie’s, because it is credited to Joe. He went to parochial school in Chicago, although he may have stopped in his teens. I envision a nun saying, “Do that one more time, Joseph, and you will see me in high dudgeon!’ Just as possible is that Joe picked it up from Bing Crosby, who loved elaborate flourishes of language. Joe himself was articulate in speech and prose: see him on JAZZ CASUAL with Ralph J. Gleason; I’ve also seen several of his sophisticated letters to Jeff Atterton, which will turn up on another post.
All I know is that Joe’s music never leaves me annoyed, angry, resentful. Is the opposite of HIGH DUDGEON something like FLOATING JOY? Consider this, but listen to Joe as you do.
If you wanted to visit Joe in his San Francisco period — more or less from 1945 to his death in 1971, here’s where you would find him:
. . . . on the fifth floor:
A nifty postscript. More than one skeptical reader wrote in to dispute the existence of Eddie Laguna, because that name was used as a pseudonym for Nat Cole on a record label. The fine scholar-professor-guitarist Nick Rossi rode to the rescue with Ray Whitten’s photographs of the December 4, 1947 Dial Records date, led by Dexter Gordon at Radio Recorders, supervised by Eddie Laguna. Personnel as follows: Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards, tenor saxes; Jimmy Rowles, piano; Red Callender, bass; Roy Porter, drums.
Feast your eyes, friends! Laguna, should you need a clue, holds no instrument.
and Mister Rowles in his Sweater, too:
and BILLBOARD, March 20, 1948:
May your happiness increase!