For the first two volumes of HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT (featuring Hot Lips Page, then Stan Getz and Teddy Wilson) click here.
Then, proceed with appropriate reverence and delight to the musical treasures below . . . .
THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU (February 4: probably Johnny Glasel, trumpet; Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone; Joe Castro, piano; Oscar Pettiford, string bass; Ron Jefferson, drums. Duke Farms, Somerville, New Jersey):
I have a sentimental attachment to the music issued on the Black and White label in the Forties. My father, a motion-picture projectionist, spent his working life “in the booth.” In addition to keeping the picture and sound on the screen, the projectionist was expected to fill the theatre with music during intermissions. In my childhood, theatres were making the transition from turntables in the booth that played 78s, and my father would occasionally liberate a disc he thought his music-mad son would like.
He told a funny story of playing Bill Haley and the Comets’ ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, not paying much attention to it until the manager called him in a frenzy to take the ——- ——– record off because of what the kids were doing to the theatre. But I digress.
One of the records he brought home was this 12″ disc:
The other side is LADY BE GOOD, and it made a considerable impression. (“BROWN GAL” is a reference to her composition and 1936 Decca recording of the same name.)
Later on, when I began to actively collect records, I saw that so many issues on this label were rewarding and unusual combinations of musicians: Joe Marsala (with Chuck Wayne and Dizzy Gillespie!), Joe Thomas, Art Tatum, Leo Watson, Nat Jaffe, Art Hodes, Pee Wee Russell, Sidney Bechet, an imperishable session with Rod Cless, Sterling Bose, James P. Johnson, and Pops Foster; Barney Bigard, Cliff Jackson, Erroll Garner, Teddy Bunn, Leo Watson, Brad Gowans, Oscar Pettiford, Ivie Anderson, Helen Humes, Vic Dickenson, Buck Clayton, Red Rodney, Howard McGhee, Irving Ashby, Ulysses Livingston, Lucky Thompson, and two dozen others. But almost all of them were simply listings in discographies.
Occasionally a session, transferred from worn discs, would surface on a European anthology, and a supermarket-label, TOPS, issued a compilation called JAZZ GREATS with the unequalled combination of no data and a yearning young woman portrayed on the cover. Still later, perhaps into this century, a short series of CDs appeared on the Pickwick label, anthologies assembled with hope but little logic. And there it stood.
To be fair, the story is not unique to this label. Search for a coherent reissue of many of the small labels that proliferated in the Forties, and you have to hope for the best. Ownership rights are tangled or on the ocean floor, and most — if not all — reissue companies are not relying on an audience thirsting for invaluable music.
But what is that I hear, coming over the hill? The drums and trumpets of Mosaic Records, once again, bringing heart, valor, enthusiasm, and exactitude to a worthy project.
The facts? 243 tracks, spanning 1942 to 1949, primarily studio performances with a few concert ones for leavening; New York, Chicago, California (mostly Los Angeles), eleven CDs, price $179.00 plus shipping. I’ll let you do the math, but just for a thrill, I looked up the Lil Armstrong disc I began with on eBay, and the least expensive version is $23.66 here, assuming of course you have the turntable and stylus to play it properly. You could also look for some of these records on YouTube — happy hunting! — but although the Tube is priceless for certain things, music tends to transfer off-pitch, and some of the collectors (heartfelt as they are) have makeshift methods of getting the music to us.
No, the Mosaic Records issues remain — a cliche but no less true — the gold standard. They are also limited editions, so one cannot really say, “I’ll buy that set in _______ years when and if my ship comes in,” because then the only place to purchase it will be charging a premium price, if, indeed, it can be found.
But enough words about money. How about some sound(s)? Here you can hear Charlie Ventura, Red Rodney, Willie Smith, Barney Kessel, Billy Hadnott, and Nick Fatool play ‘S’WONDERFUL; Jack McVea; Gerald Wilson; Joe Marsala with Dizzy Gillespie, Cliff Jackson, Chuck Wayne, Irving Lang, Buddy Christian play MY MELANCHOLY BABY; Willie “the Lion” Smith, Max Kaminsky, Rod Cless, Frank Orchard, Jack Lesberg, Mack McGrath play BUGLE CALL RAG. Delightful performances.
And the sound is translucent; you hear all the nuances, thanks to lovely transferring from the best original sources by Andreas Meyer and Nancy Conforti of Swan Studios, who have outdone themselves. Perhaps you knew that small labels of this period suffered because shellac was rationed, so many treasured 78s were pressed on a mixture of substances including horse manure, as my expert friend Matthew Rivera tells us.
On that same page, a detailed discography, and, of course, a place to buy the set.
The set has photographs — rare and stunning, beautifully reproduced, and essays by Billy Vera, Scott Wenzel, and the Eminence Dan Morgenstern. Dan’s notes are characteristically witty, heartfelt, and candid. Who else do we have who was in New York in 1947, saw, spoke with, and befriended many of the musicians on this set? Priceless.
It’s a valuable swinging human archive. And you deserve a present, don’t you?
The eBay seller “jgautographs,” from whom I’ve purchased several marvels (signatures of Henry “Red” Allen, Rod Cless, Pee Wee Russell, Pete Brown, Sidney Catlett, among others) has been displaying an astonishing assortment of jazz inscriptions. I haven’t counted, but the total identified as “jazz” comes to 213. They range from “traditional” to “free jazz” with detours into related musical fields, with famous names side-by-side with those people whose autographs I have never seen.
As I write this (the early afternoon of March 21, 2020) three days and some hours remain.
Here is the overall link. Theoretically, I covet them, but money and wall space are always considerations. And collectors should step back to let other people have a chance.
The signers include Benny Carter, Betty Carter, Curtis Counce, Jimmy Woode, Herb Hall, Bennie Morton, Nat Pierce, Hot Lips Page, Rolf Ericson, Arnett Cobb, Vernon Brown, Albert Nicholas, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Sammy Margolis, Ed Polcer, Ed Hall, Billy Kyle, Sam Donahue, Al Donahue, Max Kaminsky, Butch Miles, Gene Krupa, Ray McKinley, Earl Hines, Jack Teagarden, Arvell Shaw, Barrett Deems, Buck Clayton, Babs Gonzales, Benny Bailey, Joe Newman, Frank Wess, Pharoah Sanders, Kenny Burrell, Reggie Workman, Stanley Turrentine, Louis Prima, Wayne Shorter, Tiny Bradshaw, Harry Carney, Juan Tizol, Bea Wain, Red Rodney, Frank Socolow, Bobby Timmons, George Wettling, Roy Milton, Charlie Rouse, Donald Byrd, Kai Winding, Kenny Drew, Kenny Clarke, Steve Swallow, Shelly Manne, Frank Bunker, Charlie Shavers, Ben Pollack, Jess Stacy, Ron Carter, Bob Zurke, Jimmy Rushing, Cecil Payne, Lucky Thompson, Gary Burton, Jaki Byard, Noble Sissle, Muggsy Spanier, Don Byas, Pee Wee Russell, Slam Stewart, Hazel Scott, Ziggy Elman, Buddy Schutz, Ernie Royal, Boyd Raeburn, Dave McKenna, Claude Thornhill.
And signatures more often seen, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Hoagy Carmichael, Artie Shaw, Sidney Bechet, Gerry Mulligan, Cab Calloway, Rosemary Clooney, Wynton Marsalis,Tommy Dorsey, Oscar Peterson, Billy Eckstine, Mel Torme, Chick Corea, Count Basie.
In this grouping, there are three or four jazz-party photographs from Al White’s collection, but the rest are matted, with the signed page allied to a photograph — whether by the collector or by the seller, I don’t know. And there seems to be only one error: “Joe Thomas” is paired with a photograph of the Lunceford tenor star, but the pairing is heralded as the trumpeter of the same name.
My head starts to swim, so I propose some appropriate music — sweet sounds at easy tempos, the better to contemplate such riches, before I share a half-dozen treasures related to musicians I revere.
Jess Stacy’s version of Bix Beiderbecke’s CANDLELIGHTS:
Harry Carney with strings, IT HAD TO BE YOU:
Lester Young, Teddy Wilson, Gene Ramey, Jo Jones, PRISONER OF LOVE:
Here are a double handful of autographs for your amazed perusal.
Charlie Shavers, name, address, and phone number:
Lucky Thompson, 1957:
Jimmy Rushing, 1970:
Hot Lips Page (authentic because of the presence of the apostrophe):
Benny Carter (I want to see the other side of the check!):
And what is, to me, the absolute prize of this collection: Lester Young, whom, I’m told, didn’t like to write:
Here’s music to bid by — especially appropriate in those last frantic seconds when the bids mount in near hysteria:
This post is for my dear friend, the fine young trombonist Joe McDonough, who worships at the Teagarden shrine. A few days ago, I began to collect orts, fragments, and holy relics (from the treasure house of eBay and elsewhere) for him, and for you. Along with Louis, Sid Catlett, and Teddy Wilson, Jack was one of my earliest jazz heroes — and he remains one, memorably. Wonderful pieces of paper follow below, but no tribute to Jack could be silent. Although there are many versions of his hits in his discography, he made more superb recordings than many other players and singers. Here’s one of his late masterpieces, a sad song that reveals Jack as a compelling actor in addition to everything else. The trumpet is by Don Goldie:
and an early one, with support from Vic Berton and frolics from Joe Venuti:
and since we can, here’s another take (who knows at this point which is the master and the alternate?):
And the 1954 LOVER, with an astonishing cast: Jack, Ruby Braff, Sol Yaged, Lucky Thompson, Denzil Best, Milt Hinton, Kenny Kersey, Sidney Gross:
An early favorite of mine, the 1947 AUNt HAGAR’S BLUES, with beautiful work from Eddie Condon, Wild Bill Davison, and Pee Wee Russell:
And now, some pieces of paper. Remarkable ones!
Pages from an orchestral score for SUMMERTIME (title written in by Jack):
The seller of some of these treasures has a pleasing explanation, which I offer in full:
This is the score for Jack TEAGARDEN, when he performed in bands and orchestras, throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Jack TEAGARDEN was known as the jazz singer and jazz trombonist, who was an innovator at both. He was famous for playing trombone with the best – Paul WHITEMAN, the Dorseys, Louie Armstrong, etc., etc.
Teagarden’s wife, Addie was a great personal friend, throughout the 1980s. She shared some of Jack’s personal effects, including this historic and valuable score for “Summertime”, which Jack actually used in studio and on stage. This is a genuine original score. What a great piece of jazz and musical history.
Jack’s part on trombone is designated (in a small rectangle), on each of six, large, hand-written score sheets from Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California. The front of the sheets, when closed, has the words, Summer time, which have been doodled, by Jack.
I will be selling other TEAGARDEN and Louis Armstrong memorabilia, over the next year.
Weldon Leo “Jack” Teagarden (August 20, 1905 – January 15, 1964) was a jazz trombonist and singer. According to critic Scott Yannow of Allmusic, Teagarden was the preeminent American jazz trombone player before the bebop era of the 1940s and “one of the best jazz singers too”. Teagarden’s early career was as a sideman with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman and lifelong friend Louis Armstrong before branching out as a bandleader in 1939 and specializing in New Orleans Jazz-style jazz until his death.
At my age (77), I am beginning to sell a lifelong, eclectic, collection of unique artwork. I enjoyed this great collection. Now, it’s time to share it with others.
Is it “Milly” or “Willy”? Jack wished her or him the best of everything:
In 1936 and perhaps 1937, Jack was one-third of a small band aptly called THE THREE T’s. Here’s a page from a fan’s autograph book (selling for 449.95 or thereabouts on eBay):
in 1940, Jack either played a Martin trombone or advertised one, or both:
Some years later, the Belgian label issued BOOGIE WOOGIE by Jack — which is from his 1944 transcription sessions:
And this is a Billboard ad for that same or similar band:
At the end of the Swing Era, when big bands were dissolving and throwing their leaders into deep debt, Jack got telegrams, at least one decidedly unfriendly:
Jack inscribed this photograph to the Chicago photographer Nat Silberman:
and the newspaper advertisement for Jack’s last gig, at the Dream Room in New Orleans — where Connie Jones was with him:
At the end of the trail, Jack’s headstone with its very moving inscription, although I wonder if those sweet moving words were his idea:
I believe that most people reading these words understand the sustained power of Louis Armstrong through the decades. (If you think he went into “a deep decline” or “became commercial,” please go away and come back next week.)
But I think that many are in danger of taking Louis for granted, in the same way we might take air or sunlight as expected. Yet there is always something new and uplifting to experience. My text today is the glory of Louis in his and the last century’s late forties, as displayed on two very different but equally desirable CDs. “Mid-century modern,” we could call it, with no side glances at architecture aside from Louis’ own creations.
Two new CDs provide heartening reminders. Both are equally delightful: suitable as gifts to others or to oneself, with no greater occasion needed than “Wow, I got through that week!”
The first, on the Dot Time label, presents music few have ever heard, taken from Louis’ own archives, the “Standard School Broadcast” of January 30, 1950, recorded in San Francisco, featuring Louis, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, and a clarinetist, string bassist, and drummer whose names are not known or are — in the case of the clarinetist — a guess. (If anyone known more about “Lyle Johnson,” please write in.) Clancy Hayes is the master of ceremonies — he doesn’t sing — and the premise is that he is helping Jack Cahill, “Matt the Mapmaker,” construct a musical map of America: in this case, New Orleans jazz.
There is a good deal of music issued that presents Louis alongside Jack and Earl. But this CD is better than what we already know. For one thing, there is a very small studio audience, and the recorded sound is superb: when Hayes picks up his acoustic guitar to add rhythm, it’s nicely audible. And everyone sounds relaxed, playful, inventive, even with familiar repertoire. I know that some listeners might pass this CD by because, “I already have two versions of Louis playing LAZY RIVER and I don’t need another.” That would be an error, I suggest. Not a note on this disc sounds routine or stale.
About that repertoire: DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? [plus two rehearsal takes] / MUSKRAT RAMBLE / BASIN STREET BLUES / STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / BOOGIE WOOGIE ON THE ST. LOUIS BLUES / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / PANAMA / LAZY RIVER / BACK O’TOWN BLUES [issued performance plus Louis playing along with the 1950 tape two years later]. Those wise enough to purchase this CD and play it — attentively — all the way through will have a wondrous aural surprise on the final track, where Louis duets with himself. When the performance is over, he’s still practicing, and there is a solo exposition of the first sixteen bars of the current pop tune, I COULDN’T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT, that is positively awe-inspiring. Louis, completely alone and at his peak, one of many.
DotTime Records is releasing the Louis Armstrong Legacy Series — four CDs, of which this is the first, and the second, “Night Clubs,” has just come out. For more information, visit their website. These issues have funny, friendly, edifying notes by Ricky Riccardi, the Louis-man of great renown.
The other Louis issue is possibly more familiar to collectors but is musically thrilling. Here’s Bert Stern’s famous photograph to get you in the mood, or perhaps the groove.
That photograph comes from the film NEW ORLEANS, which starred Louis and Billie Holiday, Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, and others too rarely seen on film.
I remember sitting in front of the television in the den of my parents’ house in early adolescence, having waited all week for this movie to be shown, perhaps on MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE on a weekday afternoon. The consensus was that the film was disappointing. As a showcase for my heroes, even more so. Watching it, waiting for my idols to break through the terrible script, was depressing. I had grown up on false representations of the jazz-past (“The Roaring Twenties,” starring Dorothy Provine, for example) but NEW ORLEANS was spectacularly bad, especially when Louis and Billie would appear, read a few lines, do their feature numbers, and disappear.
Some years later, an album — music recorded for the film but for the most part not used — was issued on the Giants of Jazz label. I see in the discography that the Giants of Jazz issue was “reissued” on several bootleg CDs, and it now appears, with even more music, on the Upbeat label — which issue I recommend to you. The music was recorded in Hollywood in late 1946, and the participants, in addition to Louis, Billie, Bigard, and Kid Ory, are Charlie Beal, Red Callender, Zutty Singleton, Minor Hall, Meade Lux Lewis, Arthur Schutt, Mutt Carey, Lucky Thompson, Louis’ 1946 big band (that recorded for Victor) and more.
As poor as the film was, the music on this CD is just as wonderful. Anything even tangentially associated with “my old home town” made Louis happy, and that happiness and relaxation comes through the music. I expect that because he and Billie were pre-recording music for the film, they had not been compelled to face what their roles in the film would be . . . Billie playing a maid, a grievous insult.
The CD enables us to spend seventy minutes embraced by the music itself, with Louis in the company of old friends and mentors Ory and Mutt Carey, playing “good old good ones” — the cadenza to WEST END BLUES, FLEE AS A BIRD, SAINTS, TIGER RAG, BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES, DIPPERMOUTH BLUES, KING PORTER STOMP, MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, heard in multiple versions. For one example, there is DIPPERMOUTH, played as a medium-slow-drag with Mutt Carey in the lead, as if taking Joe Oliver’s place, then a version at the expected romping tempo with the young “modernist” Lucky Thompson audible in the ensemble before Barney Bigard takes the Johnny Dodds solo. Fascinating, and I looked in astonishment to see that the second version was only one minute and thirty-four seconds, because it felt so complete.
SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, BALLIN’ THE JACK, KING PORTER STOMP, and MAHOGANY HALL STOMP also feature this splendidly hybrid band of Louis, Mutt, Lucky, Ory, Bigard, Beal, Callender, and Zutty: realizations of what was possible in 1946. One could do a fascinating study of ensemble playing as created by Ory and Lucky, side by side. They solo in sequence on KING PORTER STOMP as well. Incidentally, if you are familiar with the jazz “journalism” of this period, as practiced by Feather, Ulanov, Blesh, and others, you might believe that the “beboppers” loathed and feared “the old men,” and the detestation was mutual. Nothing of the sort. What is audible is pure pleasure: hear Louis on the two versions of MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, leisurely and intense. Attentive listeners will also delight in the very fine string bass work of Callender — someone who deserves more celebration than he has received.
I have said little of Billie Holiday’s recorded performances on this CD: DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS (twice), FAREWELL TO STORYVILLE, THE BLUES ARE BREWIN’ — these tracks have often been issued in various forms, and she sounds wonderful.
I thought of printing the complete discography of what music had been issued, but it was a confusing labyrinth, so I will simply list the titles on the Upbeat release and hope that purchasers will be guided by their ears: FLEE AS A BIRD – SAINTS / WEST END BLUES / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / BRAHMS’ LULLABY / TIGER RAG / BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (2) / BASIN STREET BLUES / RAYMOND STREET BLUES / MILENBERG JOYS / WHERE THE BLUES WERE BORN IN NEW ORLEANS / FAREWELL TO STORYVILLE / BEALE STREET STOMP / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES (2) / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE / BALLIN’ THE JACK / KING PORTER STOMP / MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (2) / THE BLUES ARE BREWIN’ / ENDIE / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS? / HONKY TONK TRAIN / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS? / WHERE THE BLUES WERE BORN IN NEW ORLEANS / MAHOGANY HALL STOMP / ENDIE / THE BLUES ARE BREWIN’.
The Upbeat issue is generous: the last five titles are from issued Victor 78s of the same songs, giving us an opportunity to compare. Hereis the Upbeat site where this disc can be ordered.
Incidentally, to see the wonderful photographs Phil Stern took of Louis and other luminaries, visit here.
And for those who have never seen the film NEW ORLEANS or don’t believe me, here is the whole thing uploaded to YouTube. But don’t get your hopes up: once the first three minutes of WEST END BLUES is over, we have left the reality of the “Orpheum Cabaret” for the melodrama of a routine script:
At times the subtitles are the most diverting thing. But we have the music, in full flower, on the Upbeat CD.
On September 3, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Mezzrow, that shrine for fascinating rhythms and floating melodies, to hear two sets by tenor saxophonist Tad Shull, pianist Rob Schneiderman, and string bassist Paul Gill. Ted called the group his “Radical Swing Trio,” which to him means a return to the roots: strong melodies, logical emotive improvisations, lovely ballads. And, as I said the first time, don’t be put off by “Radical”: this trio would have been forward-looking but comfortable in the fabled New York jazz past, although they are far from being archaeologists. Listen, and be delighted.
The ebullient woman shining her light in the photograph, Banu Gibson, is a superb singer who doesn’t get the credit she deserves as a singer.
If you have no idea of what she sounds like, here, take a taste:
Banu, Bucky, and Berlin — endearing adult music, no tricks.
I think Banu is undervalued because she is so powerfully distracting as an entertainer, and this is a compliment. We hear the wicked comic ad-libs, we see the flashing eyes, we admire the dance steps, we are entranced by the Show she puts on (that, too, is a good thing) but I think we don’t always hear her fine voice as we should — her warm timbre, her dramatic expression, her phrasing, her intuitive good taste, her swing.
But with her new CD, we have a chance to hear her, deeply. That CD, BY MYSELF, is delightfully swinging, at times poignant. The song list is a perceptive assortment of songs that haven’t been overdone: BY MYSELF / MEET ME WHERE THEY PLAY THE BLUES / ILL WIND / THE MOON GOT IN MY EYES – MOONRAY / WAITIN’ FOR THE TRAIN TO COME IN / YOU LET ME DOWN / UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG / THEY SAY / STOP THE SUN, STOP THE MOON (MY MAN’S GONE) / MY BUDDY / NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS / OH! LOOK AT ME NOW / DAYTON, OHIO – 1903 / OUR LOVE ROLLS ON / LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES. And Banu’s wonderfully empathic band is Larry Scala, guitar; Ed Wise, string bass; Rex Gregory, tenor sax and clarinet; Tom McDermott, piano on DAYTON and OUR LOVE.
Banu is a great connoisseur of songs, with a wide range of under-exposed great ones, as opposed to the two dozen that many singers favor. I’ve only heard her in performance a few times, but when she announces the next song, I always think, “Wow! How splendid! She knows that one!” rather than thinking, “Not another MY FUNNY VALENTINE or GOD BLESS THE CHILD, please, please.”
Song-scholars will notice that a number of these songs have sad lyrics, but this is not a mopey or maudlin disc. Every performance has its own sweet motion, an engaging bounce, as the musicians explore the great veldt of Medium Tempo.
Although a handful of songs on this disc are associated with other singers — Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley, and Billie Holiday — BY MYSELF is not in a tribute to any of those great foremothers, nor is there any ill-starred attempt to recapture those recorded performances. If Rex and Larry happen to sound a little like Pres and Charlie Christian on these sides, that is a wonderful side-effect, but no one’s been asked to pretend it’s 1937 and John Hammond is in the studio. Everyone swings gently — the shared goal, with no artificial ingredients.
The disc is not narrow in its conception, either. Banu and the band approach each song as a separate dramatic playlet with its own mood, tempo, and feeling. It’s one of those rare and delicious discs where the emotions are not only intense but fully realized. I could not listen to it all in one sitting — not because it bored me, but because I felt full of sensations after a few tracks, and few CDs are so quietly arresting. Each song is treated tenderly and attentively, and although I suspect the underlying theme of this disc is deeper than “Hey, I haven’t made a CD in a few years and here are some songs I like,” we’re not whacked over the head with one emotion. Rather, it’s as if Banu wanted us to consider the whole spectrum of intimate personal relationships. She and her band have deep true stories to tell, but you have to figure out what they are, performance by performance.
Incidentally, I am snobbish, narrow, hard to please (ask people who have heard me discuss what I do and don’t like) but I fell in love with this disc in the first twenty or so seconds of BY MYSELF, which is a rubato duet between Banu and Larry Scala. (When is the world going to wake up about Scala? Come ON, now! But I digress.) Her diction is remarkable; her solo swing a model, and her voice is rich and full of feeling. Her sweet vibrato is so warm: there’s nothing mechanical in her delivery and her superb phrasing: the second variation on the theme is never a clone of the first. (Hear her variations on “He made a toy of romance!” in MOONRAY: nothing that a lesser artist could do or what have envisioned.) By the way, the Gregory-Scala-Wise swing machine (with two interludes from McDermott) is perfectly lyrical and swinging — Basie plus Lester with Basie taking a smoke break in the hall, or perhaps Skeeter Best / Oscar Pettiford / Lucky Thompson if you prefer. On many singer-plus-band sessions, the disparity between one and the other is sharp, so the listener waits through the instrumental interlude for the Singer to come back, or vice versa. Here, every note seems right, and the result is very affecting.
In the ideal world, Banu and her band would be touring the world — giving concerts and clinics and workshops — and I would hear this music from other cars’ radios when we were at red lights. But until this happens, I commend this splendidly-recorded disc to you: the emotional density of a great volume of short stories combined with the elation of a book of coupons to your favorite ice-cream shoppe. BY MYSELF — after many listenings — seems a series of gems. You can buy it here. You will rejoice.
I think that on Sunday, October 27, 1968, I might have been helping my father rake leaves in the backyard, or perhaps doing my homework for the next day. (I was in eleventh grade.)
I can say with regret that I wasn’t at the jazz event above. And I certainly didn’t have a video camera yet. The forces in the cosmos didn’t work together on my behalf that Sunday — but it’s very pleasing to know that these musicians had a gig. And that we can see the evidence now.
Before WCBS-AM radio in New York became an all-news station, Jack Sterling had a famous morning show, which is why he would have been a good host for this concert. Here’s more about Jack:
From the same eBay prowl, I offer another holy relic. True, that Oran Thaddeus Page felt that his nickname needed an apostrophe makes the English professor in me wince, but Hot Lips Page could do whatever he wanted.
And here’s why (with the noble assistance of Earle Warren, Lucky Thompson, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, and Sidney Catlett):
I’d written about this exciting new CD — of material that is both “old,” recorded in 1944-45, and “new,” as in previously unheard — here. But now I’ve had a chance to hear the disc, and I can recommend it enthusiastically.
It may be difficult for some readers to envision a time and place where everything cannot be instantly recorded on one’s iPhone or Android – through the magic of Instagram and other such phenomena. But these inventions are very recent, and those individuals who actually recorded live jazz performance from the Thirties onwards are my idea of secular saints: Jerry Newman, Jerry Newhouse, the many anonymous home recordists who had their microphones pressed to the radio speaker (no doubt shooing other people out of the room while their Heroes played and sang) and the Baron, Timme Rosenkrantz.
Timme took it especially seriously, apparently inviting musicians to his apartment to play and sing at leisure, in peace and quiet. He had taste, and an ear for those musicians who were not always in the public eye. This CD is but a brief sampling, but what it has to offer us is rich and rewarding, music that has not grown old.
Timme loved pianists and tenor saxophonists, so we have precious glimpses of the most subtle Jimmy Jones — one of the music’s forgotten individualists — fifteen minutes of Thelonious Monk, eleven minutes of Garner. That would be enough for anyone — but add in some new Sidney Catlett, some Stuff Smith (only issued before on Anthony Barnett’s AB Fable label), and gorgeous tenor work from Don Byas and Lucky Thompson — and this disc is one to cherish and revisit.
Through the kindness of Mark Cantor, jazz film scholar extraordinaire, we now know that the singer on EMBRACEABLE YOU, sweetly crooning in the best Eckstine manner, is Kenneth Jackman, who is still with us. I hope to have an opportunity to speak with Mr. Jackman about these sessions: coming soon to a blogpost near you if all goes well.
Sharp-eyed readers noticed some printing errors both inside and out (they will be corrected in the next batch) and some gaps in the personnel listings, so I offer below a complete, corrected personnel: thanks to, among others, Anthony Barnett, Dan Morgenstern, Mark Cantor, and Fradley Garner:
That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen) 4:43 Johnny Come Lately (Billy Strayhorn) 3:32 Tea For Two (Vincent Youmans – Irving Caesar) 2:56
Personnel: Jimmy Jones (p), John Levy (b) on 2, 3, Slam Stewart (b) on 1, 2.
Recorded September 25, 1944 at Timme Rosenkrantz’s apartment, 7 West 46th St., NYC.
Embraceable You (George & Ira Gershwin) 9:25
Personnel: Don Byas (ts), Sammy Benskin (p), Harold McFadden (g) Kenneth Jackman (vo).
Recorded November 20, 1944 at 7 West 46th St., NYC.
Lady Be Good (George & Ira Gershwin) 4:30
Personnel: Don Byas (ts), unidentified (p), unknown (brushes).
Recorded at 7 West 46th St., NYC, probably late 1944.
These Foolish Things (Holt Marvell-Jack Strachey-Harry Link) 6:02 ‘Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk) 3:37
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (p).
Recorded November 11, 1944 at 7 West 46th St., NYC.
Swing Test 2149 (Stuff Smith) 3:38
Personnel: Stuff Smith with Frank Froeba and His Back Room Boys.
Stuff Smith (vln), Frank Froeba (p), Dick Kissinger (b)?, Terry Snyder (dr)?.
Radio broadcast, WNEW Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, January 21 or February 11, 1945, Art Ford (mc).
Variation on Rockin’ In Rhythm (Duke Ellington) 5:50
Personnel: Don Byas (ts), unidentified (as) Thelonious Monk (p), Al Hall (b), unidentified (dm)
Recorded at 7 West 46th St., NYC, probably late 1944.
I Got Rhythm (George & Ira Gershwin) 4:10
Personnel:; Stuff Smith with Frank Froeba and His Back Room boys.
Stuff Smith (vln), unknown (tp), Nat Brown (cl), Frank Froeba (p)?, Al Caiola (g), Dick Kissinger (b)?, Terry Snyder (dr), Art Ford (mc).
Radio broadcast, WNEW Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, January 21 or February 11, 1945, Art Ford (mc).
Note: Art Ford introduces the number as “I Got Rhythm”, but Stuff Smith begins playing “Bugle Call Rag”, that afterwards develops into “I Got Rhythm”.
Swing Test Sarah Bell Cuckoo (Don Byas) 2:45
Personnel: Don Byas (ts), Frank Froeba (p)?, Dick Kissinger (b), Sidney Catlett (dm).
Radio broadcast, Art Ford Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, July 15, 1945, Art Ford (mc).
All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II) 11:42
Timme Rosenkrantz was born a Danish Baron, but he preferred to identify himself as “a little layman with an ear for music and a heart that beats for jazz.” Duke Ellington, no stranger to the nobility, called him “a very unselfish man who dedicated himself to the great musicians he loved and the music they played.”
A jazz fan on a lifelong pilgrimage, Timme arrived in New York City in 1934 and made dear friends of many musicians, writers, and critics. His cheerfully light-hearted chronicle of those journeys has been published (translated and edited by Fradley Garner) as HARLEM JAZZ ADVENTURES: A EUROPEAN BARON’S MEMOIR, 1934-1969 (Scarecrow Press).
One of the most tantalizing sections of that book — full of lively anecdotes — is its discography of private recordings that Timme made between 1944 and 1946: a trove, including pianists Erroll Garner, Herman Chittison, Jimmy Jones, Billy Taylor, Ellington, a young Monk, Eddie Heywood, Willie “the Lion” Smith, hornmen Bill Coleman, Gene Sedric, Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, Charlie Shavers, Barney Bigard, Bobby Pratt, Jack Butler, Benny Harris, Vic Dickenson, bassists Slam Stewart and Oscar Pettiford, violinists Stuff Smith and Ray Perry, guitarists Bernard Addison and Zeb Julian, drummers George Wettling and Cliff Leeman . . .
A few of these recordings have been issued commercially (the best example being the Smith and Perry sides on Anthony Barnett’s ABFable label) and others less properly or in edited form. I first heard some of the music Timme recorded through the collectors’ grapevine, on cassette, in the Eighties, and it still sounds magical, with musicians stretching out, free from the tension of the recording studio or the imposition of the producer’s “taste.”
You can hear more — although there’s only one private recording — of the music Timme cherished from sessions he produced at THE JAZZ BARON, a site devoted to him, his musical adventures, and the book.
But we are going to be able to peek behind the curtain that has kept those privately recorded sessions private . . . soon, because Storyville Records is issuing what I hope will be the first in a series, TIMME’S TREASURES.
I haven’t heard a copy yet, but I am eagerly looking forward to it. How about ten minutes of solo Monk from 1944 — a six-minute THESE FOOLISH THINGS and a four-minute ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT? Or a quartet of Don Byas, Monk, Al Hall, and an unidentified drummer playing something called LET’S GO for another six? Broadcast material featuring Stuff Smith, Frank Froeba, Byas, and Sidney Catlett? More from Lucky Thompson, and a trio session for Jimmy Jones, bassists John Levy and Slam Stewart?
The liner notes are by Timme’s friends Dan Morgenstern and Fradley Garner. And the Storyville Records site will soon have more information about this exciting release.
Here’s a wonderful example — imperishable — of Timme’s taste: a duet for tenor saxophone (Don Byas) and string bass (Slam Stewart) recorded in concert in 1945:
Possibly you haven’t yet heard of the tenor saxophonist Sam Taylor. But I guarantee you will. He has a rare gift.
When I was opening the plastic wrapping enclosing Sam’s debut CD, I confess I was expecting more-of-the-same: in this century, many young musicians are technically gifted in ways that would astonish the Ancestors. There isn’t anything they can’t play. Complex harmonies at top speed, chorus after chorus, are their basic vocabulary. They often make Bird sound like Honore Dutrey. They have spent their youth practicing, and it shows. And that in itself is a wonderful accomplishment — if technique is your primary goal. But often it is cold — music that doesn’t ring in the listeners’ hearts.
I come back to what I think of as the basic ideal of instrumental music: to communicate something, without words, that makes us feel and reflect. To “tell a story.” To “sing on your horn.”
I knew Sam Taylor had a good chance of being different — of reaching our hearts — when I saw the song he had chosen as the title of his CD, a beautiful obscure 1930 song. Not an original, although full of original sentiment.
Here are two versions of MY FUTURE JUST PASSED. The first, by Annette Hanshaw, is hopeful rather than morose:
I know that the lyrics of the verse (George Marion, Jr.) suggest a certain light-heartedness (rhyming “not less” and “spotless” but the melody is haunting, especially the bridge — thanks to Richard Whiting.
Here is the 1963 version by Shirley Horn (gorgeous arrangements by Jimmy Jones) at a heartfelt tempo:
Beautiful — and I admire her willingness to take her time, to let the song unfold.
Now, listen to this — and understand why I think so highly of Sam Taylor:
If your first reaction is, “Oh, he’s only playing the melody,” I offer two options. The more polite one is, “Please listen again,” and the less is, “Please go away.”
I think of a comment (reported by Nat Hentoff, I believe) of Bobby Hackett listening to Louis Armstrong, “Do you know how hard it is to make melody come that alive?”
In Sam’s playing I hear the great melodists — Louis of course, but also Bing and Sinatra, Ben, Hawk, and Pres — but he sounds like himself as he patiently and lovingly devotes himself to the song. No self-referential playing (those quotes that show us “ingenuity” and no ostentatious “virtuosities”) — nothing but rapt attention to the song, to melody, to the way a great artist can make us feel. I admire his ease but also his patience, as if he is saying to us through his horn, “I have something to tell you, but it is at once both very simple and too deep for words. It is a story of hope, but hope tinged with melancholy and risks that might not come off. Please sit down, shut off your phone, join with me in the great ritual of music-making and truth-exploring.”
You can find out more about Sam Taylor here, and you can also download the CD. Of course you should search out Sam at a gig and buy a copy directly, but it can also be ordered from CellarLive.com. It will soon be available on Amazon as well.
I like my CDs physically tangible, especially in this case where Sam has written the notes himself — simple, full of feeling. Here are his opening lines:
Sometimes, a song enters our life at the perfect moment. It gives clarity and meaning to seemingly random events. It speaks and gives voice to our feelings of love, heartache, joy and jubilation. It taps into our memories, both personal and collective, taking root in our hearts, stirring our imagination.
And the music on this CD exemplifies this philosophy, both simple and deep. Sam is wonderfully assisted by bassist Aidan O’Donnell and drummer Taro Okamoto — who do not fade into the background nor do they overpower. This trio has the balanced lightness and weight of the trio sessions Lucky Thompson did with Oscar Pettiford and Skeeter Best, yet it sounds entirely fresh, not a “recreation.”
The songs reflect Sam’s love for lasting melodies: LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / MY FUTURE JUST PASSED / DO SOMETHING (based on a Cole Porter melody) / SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY / WHY DON’T I / MEAN TO ME / ERONEL / YOU ARE TOO BEAUTIFUL / T.O.’S BLUES.
I am certain you will welcome him as someone not afraid to create beauty.
The music I love conveys deep feeling in a few notes; it engages me. I may not know the players as people but I feel their friendship in sounds. When the music is spirited but calm, expert but experimental, playful without being goofy, I feel at home in the world, embraced by dear sounds. It can happen in the first eight bars of the first song.
I had one of those wonderful musical interludes at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street in April of this year — one of the divine Sunday afternoon sessions often led by Tamar Korn. But when Tamar is out of town, her friends do their best to make sure we feel wonderful — instrumentally speaking.
Rob Adkins, musically and emotionally trustworthy — with his bass, with his fingers, with his bow — picked two great players to make up an uplifting trio: Dan Block, clarinet and tenor; Dalton Ridenhour, piano. Here are some selections from the first half of the afternoon. Yes, there’s audience chatter, but try to feel compassion for the people whose Sunday brunch is their social highlight, an escape from their apartments. Or, if you can’t ascend to compassion, just listen to the music. It’s what I do.
I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING:
NIGHT AND DAY (One):
NIGHT AND DAY (Two) — the reason for the break was that the battery in my Rode microphone passed out and could not be revived by the battery EMT crew, so there is a gap. Imagine it as the music missed while Jerry Newman put a new acetate on the turntable and lowered the cutting arm. Or not:
I NEVER KNEW:
YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO:
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:
A few words about the players. I’ve been admiring and following Dan Block for over a decade now: his music is a bright light in a sometimes murky world, always surprising but in its own way a deeply kind phenomenon. When he puts any horn to his lips, what comes out is intense yet playful: I’ve been moved to tears and have had to stifle laughter — the best kind — listening to his music.
Rob Adkins is terribly modest and gently low-key, but he reminds me — without saying a word — of Milt Hinton’s axiom that the bass was the foundation of the band. Harmonically, rhythmically, emotionally, morally. He knows and loves his instrument, and he plays for the comfort of the ensemble, never egotistically — although he is proud to swing and he is always ready to be lyrical. And as you can see and hear here, he is a great catalyst.
Dalton Ridenhour gets a few more words. Because the Music Business — as distinguished from the music — encourages non-musicians to make people into commodities, into products, I first encountered Dalton as “a ragtime pianist” and a “stride pianist.” These little boxes are accurate: he can play superbly in both idioms. But when I actually heard Dalton — both words need emphasis here — I understood that his musical soul was much more expansive than the careful reproduction of one idiom. He’s a free bird, someone whose imagination moves through decades and idioms with grace. You’ll hear his brave light-heartedness through this session (I also had wonderful opportunities to hear him at the Atlanta Jazz Party this year: more about that in time) — he makes music, something that is very rare and very endearing. So far, he has only one solo CD, but ECCENTRICITY on Rivermont Records(2o12)is a constant delight. I urge you to “check it out,” as they used to say on Eighth Avenue in New York City in the Seventies, and you will hear that Dalton has all the accuracy and sparkle of the Master, Dick Hyman, with his own very personal warmth.
And a small personal caveat. Some of my listeners, who love making connections between the Now and the Hallowed Past, will leap to do this and hear Lester Young – Nat Cole – Red Callendar, or perhaps Lucky Thompson – Oscar Pettiford, etc. I know it’s meant as high praise. “Sounding Like” is a great game, and I do it myself. But I beseech such wise historiographers to for once leave the records behind and hear the music for itself. It is even more magnificent when it is not compared to anything or anyone.
There will be more music from this trio to come. I look forward to someday encountering them again as a group. Such things are possible and quite wonderful.
Without fanfare, seven minutes of beauty: after a chiming piano introduction, a beautiful tenor chorus (more Lucky Thompson than Coleman Hawkins), an impassioned cornet chorus, a piano solo (improvising sweetly around the cornet’s closing phrase) that becomes a dialogue for everyone, with sweet thoughtful codas.
The players: Paul Neves, piano; Ahmed Abdul-Malik, string bass / leader; Walter Perkins, drums; Seldon Powell, tenor saxophone; Ray Nance, cornet. New York, March 12, 1964.
Jazz musicians had a strong attraction to BODY AND SOUL (think Louis, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum) even before Coleman Hawkins made his recording of it in 1939 — so this later exploration of the song by kindred spirits would have surprised no one. Since this session was recorded for the STATUS label (a subsidiary of Prestige, devoted to jazz-for-people-who-didn’t-necessarily-consider-themselves-jazz-fans) I can imagine the session producer asking the musicians to stretch out on BODY AND SOUL as a familiar ballad.
But how beautiful their individual sounds are, and the collective mixture of serenity and intensity that results. I remember with pleasure that even living in suburbia, I had an opportunity to see and hear Seldon Powell (leading a small group in a local park’s jazz concert series) and several to marvel at Ray Nance, one of the greatest — and least acknowledged — musicians ever.
I could think, with some regret, that this was the end of a great period where popular music and jazz could coexist in the consciousness of adult hearers; a year later, the Beatles would come to Shea Stadium and this equilibrium would never return in quite the same ways.
I’m always intrigued yet sometimes puzzled by the waves of interest in jazz figures that I can discern in the searchers who find this blog. I’m thrilled to know that somewhere, people yearn to know more about the obscure, “al drootin,” or “bernard addison.”
But often the curiosity (as tabulated by search engine visits) has been both odd and sad. It feels as if unknown people want badly to put large figures into tiny labeled boxes.
I note with discomfort the morbidly voyeuristic fascination with Billie Holiday unrelated to her music, as documented in many inquiries about her last husband, Louis McKay, about heroin (some searchers have gotten the threads tangled and search for “ella fitzgerald heroin death”), as well as “billy holiday nude” and “how much did billie holiday weigh,” which I find both inexplicable and painful.
More recently, I’ve noted a consistent fascination with Jo Jones. That in itself would cheer me up, but it seems to grow out of one legend connecting Jo — disdainful, furious — with a youthful and unprepared Charlie Parker. I wrote about that incident in 2011 here. (Do people still take Clint Eastwood’s BIRD, where this incident is a repeated narrative thread, as an accurate historical record?)
I saw and heard Jo Jones often in person between 1971 and 1982, and although he was not a predictable individual, what I remember about him is more than the potential for violence, as I have written here.
Jazz enthusiasts and makers of myth apparently need to simplify; they take pleasure in flattening out complex individuals into single iconic gestures, as if making plastic action figures out of them. I imagine a series of dolls sold at giant toy store. Buy them. Trade them. Collect the set! Here’s Billie Holiday with a needle in her arm or knocked to the ground by her man. A plastic Louis Armstrong grins and sweats. In another box, Miles Davis scorns the audience. Count Basie strikes a single note. Duke Ellington, in an electric-blue suit, woos a woman.
And now, Jo Jones imperiously humiliating Charlie Parker — complete with tiny gold cymbal flying through the air as if to decapitate the boy who has presumed to enter the world of men.
The Jo Jones I experienced was part mannered exhibitionist, a complete commedia dell’arte troupe in himself, grinning, gesticulating, insisting on playing eleven-minute solo spectacles, demanding our sustained attention.
And then there was the unpredictable deity who commanded the ocean, summoning cosmic rhythms. His outward appearance — someone you could see on the subway, the compact balding man wearing short trousers that revealed white socks — was only a guise put on so that he could pass among mortals.
Hear him with his peers Emmett Berry, Lucky Thompson, Bennie Green, Freddie Green, Walter Page, and that same Count, playing SHOE SHINE BOY:
The sounds Jo creates — I use the present tense intentionally — will outlast any concocted myths, searchers and search engines.
And if future cosmologists discover that the Basie rhythm section was and is really the music that animates the universe, it would explain the durability of this cosmos that some people have tried so hard to destroy.
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.
Delights from the eBay treasure chest . . . costly but surely unique.
This is a concert program from the 1948 Nice Jazz Festival (notice that Louis and the All-Stars are billed as the Hot Five). That would be enough in itself, but notice the autographs: Louis himself, Big Sid Catlett, Lucky Thompson, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Barney Bigard, Arvell Shaw, Velma Middleton, Humphrey Lyttelton, Bob Wilber, Baby Dodds, Sammy Price, Sandy Williams, and more.
And here’s a picture (the eBay site has other close-ups):But wait! There’s more!
How about a copy of HOT DISCOGRAPHY— signed by Billie Holiday, Bunny Berigan, Claude Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, Buster Bennett, Israel Crosby . . . ? No, I didn’t believe it, either.
But here is some evidence. Even though the photographs are (perhaps intentionally?) blurry, the overall effect is dazzling:
The Nice concert program obviously has a specific location in time and space. The seller hasn’t said anything about this copy of HOT DISCOGRAPHY, but given the signatures, I suspect that its owner was at one time a Chicagoan . . . and you can guess when the signers took out their pens, at least by their death dates.
To me what is important here is that the owners of these artifacts not only loved the music but idolized the players and singers — so much so that having the seconds of personal contact needed to approach Lucky Thompson or Israel Crosby and ask for an autograph was worth the effort. We benefit immensely from this kind of devotion.
Neither item is inexpensive, but the value here is immense.
Bassist, cellist, and composer Oscar Pettiford is in the odd position of being both legendary and forgotten (as Whitney Balliett wrote of Pee Wee Russell). If you ask any aficionado of jazz string bass playing to name a dozen favorites — living and dead — it’s likely that the names will come easily. But Pettiford’s is often not among them.
Yes, he died young, but not before performing and recording every famous musician (with some notable exceptions) in a short career. An incomplete list would include Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Charlie Christian, Gil Evans, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, Ray Charles, Stan Getz, Lucky Thompson, Charles Mingus, Zoot Sims, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, Julius Watkins, Ben Webster, Sammy Price, Ruby Braff, Mel Powell, Ellis Larkins, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Billie Holiday, Red Norvo, Clifford Brown, Buddy De Franco, Phineas Newborn, Kai Winding, Roy Eldridge, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Don Byas, Clyde Hart, Earl Hines, Budd Johnson, Joe Thomas, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Martial Solal, Attlia Zoller, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Billy Eckstine, Cozy Cole, Shadow Wilson, Charlie Shavers, Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams, Ed Hall, Lawrence Brown, Sonny Greer, Maxine Sullivan, Dick Hyman, Eddie Bert, Joe Derise, Ike Quebec, Jonah Jones, Buck Clayton, Helen Humes, Benny Harris, Boyd Raeburn, Serge Chaloff, Howard McGhee, Sir Charles Thompson, Wynonie Harris, Vic Dickenson, Red Rodney, Tal Farlow, Denzil Best, Jo Jones, Leo Parker, Al Haig, Al Hibbler, Nat Pierce, Bill Harris, Howard McGhee, J.J. Johnson, Art Taylor, Wynton Kelly, Lockjaw Davis, Jackie McLean, Kenny Clarke, Dave McKenna, Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Chris Connor, Hank Jones, Earl Coleman, Thad Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Donald Byrd, Billy Taylor, Chuck Wayne, Roy Haynes, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Al Cohn, Frank Wess, Jimmy Cleveland, Barry Galbraith, Joe Morello, Joe Wilder, Harry Lookofsky, Jimmy Jones, Urbie Green, Ernie Royal, Herbie Mann, George Barnes, Clark Terry, Dave Schildkraut, Helen Merrill, Jimmy Raney, Horace Silver, Doug Mettome, Quincy Jones, Duke Jordan, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham, Cecil Payne, Toots Thielmans, Red Garland.
This suggests that Oscar’s peers respected him and called him for gigs and recordings. It’s not as if he was obscure: his career was longer than, say, Blanton’s or Steve Brown’s. But, oddly for jazz, which loves to mythologize the musicians who die young and abruptly (and Pettiford died as the result of a 1960 automobile accident) he hasn’t received the benefit of the weird reverence fans and writers have for the young dead.
Of course, it could be that bass players don’t get the respect they and their instruments deserve, but it is and was hard to ignore Pettiford on a session. He offered a rhythmic foundation that was powerful rather than obtrusive, but when he soloed, his lines have the solid eloquence that any horn player would aspire to — while seeming light rather than ponderous. And as the list of players above suggests, his musical range was exceedingly broad: he wasn’t captured on record in free jazz or ragtime, but he elevated every other variety of jazz and jazz vocal performance he was part of. Had he lived longer, he might have enjoyed the visibility of a Milt Hinton or a Ray Brown, but we have only brief moments of him on film (the 1945 THE CRIMSON CANARY) and a few seconds of his speaking voice.
Surely he should be better known.
Enough words and keystrokes for the moment: listen to his 1960 feature on WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:
and here he is, playing his own BLUES IN THE CLOSET — from a little-known 1953 television broadcast — on cello (which he took to for a time after breaking an arm in a baseball game):
And his stirring solo on STARDUST:
Now, two pieces of good news that might go some distance in making Oscar’s name and music known to a larger audience. One is that there is a YouTube channel, PettifordJazz, with sixty videos of Pettiford solos, ensembles, and compositions. That means that no one has to start collecting Oscar’s music — it is being made available to all for free.
Oscar (or “O.P.”, as his colleagues called him) also spent the last two years of his life in Europe (mostly in Scandinavia and Germany), and recorded often there. Sessions with guitarist Attila Zoller have been issued and reissued on a variety of labels (in the vinyl era, they appeared on Black Lion) and a famous 1960 concert in Essen with Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Coleman Hawkins was available forty years ago. Recordings made in 1958-59 for the German radio network have now been issued for the first time on compact disc, in beautiful sound, as OSCAR PETTIFORD: LOST TAPES — GERMANY 1958 / 1959, on SWR Music.
American expatriates Lucky Thompson (on soprano sax for a gorgeous, melancholy SOPHISTICATED LADY) and Kenny Clarke (drums on the final five performances of the disc) are the “stars,” but Zoller stands out as a beautifully measured guitarist.
And although some US critics of the time might have been condescending to European players, this disc shows their equal mastery. Trumpeter Dusko Goykovich duets with Oscar on the opening BUT NOT FOR ME. Other notable players here are clarinetist Rolf Kuhn; light-toned tenorist Hans Koller; baritone saxophonists Helmut Brandt, Helmut Reinhardt, Johnny Feigl; altoist Rudi Feigl; guitarist Hans Hammerschmid; drummers Jimmy Pratt and Hartwig Bartz. The songs are a mix of standards and originals: BUT NOT FOR ME / SOPHISTICATED LADY / A SMOOTH ONE / O.P. (Hans Koller) / MINOR PLUS A MAJOR (Kuhn) / POOR BUTTERFLY / ANUSIA (Hans Koller) / MY LITTLE CELLO (Pettiford) / THE NEARNESS OF YOU / YESTERDAYS / ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE / BLUES IN THE CLOSET (Pettiford) / BIG HASSLE (Hammerschmidt) / ATLANTIC (Helmut Brandt) / ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE / BLUES IN THE CLOSET — the last two are live performances.
And just because it’s accessible and stirring, here is that film clip — from an otherwise undistinguished 1945 murder mystery, THE CRIMSON CANARY, which features Hawk, Pettiford, Howard McGhee, trumpet; Sir Charles Thompson, piano; Denzil Best, on a fast SWEET GEORGIA BROWN line by Hawkins called HOLLYWOOD STAMPEDE:
Ultimately, I think if you’d asked Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, or any number of jazz luminaries, “What about this O.P. fellow? Should I listen to him?” the answer would have been a very strong affirmative. So let us do just that. These tapes were lost, but have been found: spread the word about Oscar. Remind those who have forgotten; introduce those who never knew. “Learn it to the younguns!” as the youthful protagonist of Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN hears at the start of that novel.
In jazz, the Infant Prodigies become the Youngbloods, Established Heroes, and Elder Statespersons in what seems like sixty-four bars. Tempus fugit rapidly in 4 / 4!
Here are two CDs by young fellows — with the gracious assistance of a Senior Sage — that I commend to you. The first features American brothers Peter and Will Anderson; the second UK pals Jamie Brownfield and Liam Byrne.
Most often, Will and Pete, superb players, have been found in situations I would call lovingly retrospective — recreating the music of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, sitting in the reed section of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks. But they aren’t repeater pencils; their range is both broad and deep. Their latest CD, MUSIC OF THE SOPRANO MASTERS, (Gut String Records), shows how easily and comfortably they move in expansive musical worlds. There is a great deal of swinging brotherly love on this CD (no fraternal head-cutting), and each selection seems like its own small improvised orchestral cosmos.
Another delight of this disc is the way in which the Andersons have dug into the repertoire to offer us beauties not so often played, by reedmen not always known as composers — Lucky Thompson, Roland Kirk, and the ever-energetic Bob Wilber, who is represented here by his compositions and his vibrant playing. The rhythm section of Ehud Asherie, Mike Karn, and Phil Stewart couldn’t be nicer or more attentive, and the recorded sound is a treat. Sweetly sculpted liner notes by Robert Levin complete this package . . . a present ready for any occasion.
The songs are Home Comin’ (Lucky Thompson) / A Sack Full of Soul (Roland Kirk) / Vampin’ Miss Georgia (Bob Wilber) / Caressable (Thompson) / Jazzdagen Jump (Wilber) / Bechet’s Fantasy (Sidney Bechet) / My Delight (Kirk) / Warm Inside / Haunted Melody (Thompson/Kirk) / Lou’s Blues (Wilber). It’s available in the usual places, but the best way to get it (if you can’t come to the gig) is here.
Some months ago, a friend passed along a YouTube video of youthful trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and saxophonist Liam Byrne, and I was delighted. They, too, didn’t exactly copy the past, but they swung mightily in an idiom I would call post-Lestorian with dashes of Tony Fruscella, Harry Edison, George Auld. With the addition of guitarist Andrew Hulme, Nick Blacka, string bass, Marek Dorcik, drums, and Tom Kincaid, a special guest pianist, they sound wonderful — as if the Kansas City Six had time-traveled forward to meet Barney Kessel and Jimmy Rowles in the ether.
Their new CD is appropriately called B. B. Q. for the Brownfield // Byrne Quintet, and although they don’t perform the Hot Five classic, there is a good deal of unaffected joyous strutting on this disc.
Here is a selection of videos (posted on trumpeter Jamie Brownfield’s blog), and here is the band’s Facebook page. The repertoire on the CD might make it seem to some listeners that the band is looking in the rear-view mirror, but their performances are fresh, personal, and lively — on Wynton’s HAPPY FEET BLUES, Liam’s own IVEY-DIVEY, and a variety of classics, each with its own sweet deep associations: TICKLE-TOE, SINGIN’ THE BLUES, BOUNCE OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY, NOSTALGIA / CASBAH, WEST END BLUES, JOAO, WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, 9:20 SPECIAL.
Jazz isn’t dead, dear readers; its hair isn’t even graying.
The simpler answer, at least in 1957 terms, although any musician knows that buying a box of the reeds Lucky Thompson plays will not automatically result in your sounding like Lucky . . . but the search continues!
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.
The IAJRC — the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors –is worth investigating. Record labels come and go; jazz magazines and clubs surface and vanish, but the IAJRC keeps rolling on.
I have to say that I’ve always found the IAJRC’s title a little misleading. “Jazz record collectors,” to some, are gentlemen of a certain age who prefer the great indoors; who can rattle off matrix numbers of obscure Argentinian Odeons — the objects of satire, puzzlement, even pity.
The IAJRC members I know don’t fit that stereotype. More than a few are women. Many are employed, have families and spouses; go out in daylight; can have conversations about subjects beyond the unissued LITTLE BY LITTLE. So if you are reading this post and feeling interested . . . but worried that you will become a swing-Stepford-wife . . . have no fear of collector-contagion.
Seriously, the IAJRC and its members do so much more for and about the music than just acquire these precious artifacts. Yes, they collect “records,” but that means everything from early ragtime to free jazz, from cylinders to film and video. And their aim is ultimately to shed light on the accomplishments of the artists they (and we) admire.
And (here I quote), the IAJRC aims “to advance the cause of jazz music by creating more recognition of the great jazz musicians, by creating an atmosphere favorable to increased public acceptance of jazz as a great American art form, and by attracting more young musicians, listeners and patrons of the art into the field of jazz music.”
They accomplish this in several ways — publishing the quarterly IAJRC JOURNAL and other monographs; encouraging various kinds of research; holding meetings where the members can exchange ideas, information, and hear live jazz.
By the way, the IAJRC has a lively new website: here
The 2012 IAJRC Convention is being held in New Orleans — in a four-star hotel at the corner of Canal and Bourbon (a sufficiently atmospheric location for the jazz GPS). It will take place on September 6-8, and will be full of presentations (scholarly / swinging), good friendship and live music. (My friend Tom Hustad will be giving a presentation on Ruby Braff, complete with video from Ruby’s final recording session — something remarkable!)
The 2011 Convention, by the way, featured creative hot jazz from groups led by our own Mike Durham and the talented Digby Fairweather; the 2010 Convention had the West End Jazz Band with our young hero Andy Schumm.
I have the most recent issue of the JOURNAL — over a hundred large-format pages — and I’ve been reading and admiring it for the last week. There are serious extended research essays on Jimmy Joy’s Orchestra (complete with the band’s itinerary and rare photographs) and a study of “Black Europe” — early African-American musicians venturing beyond the United States — or the photographs of Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where Charlie Parker recuperated. More: pages of enthusiastic record reviews, spanning the whole spectrum of recorded jazz. A chapter of “life-on-the-road” fiction by the venerable Don Manning, and rare advertisements reproduced from old jazz magazines . . . the eye goes from one thing to another, and I found a splendidly balanced mix of information and pleasure. In the center of the issue I read four pages of (free) classified ads from IAJRC members — some offering to sell records, others looking for information. Late in the pages there is a large photograph of Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, grinning, with baton raised at a serious angle: the caption is “FAN IT!” What more could anyone want?
For three dollars, you may have a sample issue sent to you — details here: journal/samples.
Dues for an individual living in the United States or Canada are $45 / year; $55 outside those areas — and one can pay through PayPal on the website. That’s the cost of three compact discs — and although it’s a paradox to encourage people to join an organization of record collectors by not buying three discs . . . a year’s membership in the IAJRC will give much more pleasure, and you will be part of an enterprise devoted to helping jazz flourish.
P.S. And if you feel CD-deprived in this transaction, know that the IAJRC has produced splendid discs of its own — previously unheard material featuring Al Cohn, Lucky Thompson, Joe Venuti, Joe Haymes, Buck Clayton, Horace Henderson, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Ed Hall, Dick Wellstood . . . which are available to members at seriously discounted prices.
Ruby Braff wasn’t terribly interested in food . . . but one of his prime words of praise was DELICIOUS. And it came into my mind in the first few seconds of these performances by tenor saxophonist David Lukacs,tenor saxophone; Henk Sprenger, guitar; Uli Glaszmann, string bass — recorded on November 13, 2011, in the Theatre De Meerpaal, Dronten, the Netherlands.
Here they make something positively translucent out of Victor Herbert’s INDIAN SUMMER:
And a collection of jazz standards beginning with the witty, twisty Fifties anthem, BERNIE’S TUNE, before moving to a limpid clarinet reading of YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME,and a bit of BESAME MUCHO (the Swing Era is back!), a touch of INDIAN SUMMER, a mournful glance at SEPTEMBER SONG, a sniff at CLARINET MARMALADE, and some FLYING HOME to get us there.
Every note’s beautifully in place, but nothing’s chilly or over-intellectualized. This swinging trio reminds me greatly of Lucky Thompson / Oscar Pettiford / Skeeter Best or — in this century — the nifty playing of Americans Chris Madsen, Andy Brown, Dan Elfland, Joe Policastro. I first encountered David (through the magic of YouTube) as a member of the Menno Daams small band, and was instantly won over. I hope there are more videos of this group, and a CD, and a concert tour . . . world stardom, riches beyond the dreams of avarice . . . they deserve it and more! (I’m ready!)