Tag Archives: Mark Cantor

THERE’S LIFE IN (AND BEYOND) THOSE GROOVES: THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JAZZ RECORD COLLECTORS

I suspect that most people, asked to describe “a jazz record collector,” would create at best a gentle caricature.  It wouldn’t be too far from the general stereotype of someone who assorts, covets, arranges, and studies any kind of ancient artifact.  In the imagined cartoon, the man showing off his prize collection of mint Brunswick 78s by the Boswell Sisters is simply a cousin of the museum curator, happily dusty.

But stereotypes are meant to be exploded by reality, and many jazz record collectors have seen the daylight and know that there is life beyond the shelves, beyond their notebooks of sought-after discs.  One sign of life is the refreshing friskiness of the Journal of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors.  I would have written this blogpost a few weeks ago but I kept on finding new things to read in the March 2012 Journal . . . so I apologize for my tardiness but it is another sign of life.

I was entranced immediately by the cover — a comic portrait of trombonist Miff Mole, taken in Chicago in the early Fifties (courtesy of the jazz scholar Derek Coller): boys and girls, don’t try this at home without adult supervision.

Inside I found Bert Whyatt’s discography of the rough-and-tumble West Coast pianist Burt Bales (including recordings with Bunk Johnson and Frank Goudie), a chapter in Don Manning’s novel SWING HIGH! — its subject being an insider’s look at life on the road with a big band in the Forties.  I read an extensive affectionate report by Perry Huntoon on Jazz Ascona, and made my way through many CD reviews.

And that’s not all.  In an initial offering of jazz research done by Dr. Ian Crosbie — who sent questionnaires to many musicians and got remarkably candid answers, we learn from the Paul Whiteman reedman Charles Strickfadden that (in his opinion) Bill Challis’ arrangements for the Whiteman band were “melodic, uncomplicated, non-swinging . . . No affect on trend.”

In another section of the Journal I read a fascinating long letter by the scholar and current IAJRC President Geoffrey Wheeler — its focus on Charlie Parker’s RELAXIN’ AT CAMARILLO.  To give this its proper context, the previous issue of the Journal (December 2011) had an intriguing study of Parker’s actual stay at  the mental hospital located in Camarillo — written by William A. Pryor.  Wheeler adds this, which surprised me: “During a stay at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in the early 1950s, Parker was interviewed by a resident psychiatrist regarding his use of drugs.  At one point, the psychiatrist asked Parker if he wanted to give up drugs.  Parker’s response was an emphatic ‘no’!  . . . . This was related to me by a personal friend who was later on the staff at Bellevue and was told this by the attending psychiatrist.”

There’s more.  The IAJRC will be holding its annual convention in New Orleans (Sept. 6-8, 2012) and in addition to scholarly presentations and the opportunity to buy records, chat with fellow jazz enthusiasts, and tour the city, there will be live music, video presentations by Tom Hustad, Ruby Braff expert and author of the new book BORN TO PLAY, film scholar Mark Cantor, and jazz researcher Sonny McGown (the last one having as its subject the eccentric clarinetist Irving Fazola).  The banjoist and singer Michael Boving (of the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys) will speak about Eva Taylor touring Scandinavia in the Seventies — with filmclips, photos, recordings never heard — and he will be joined by Clarence Williams’ grandson, Spencer.   

To join the IAJRC and get in on the fun, click here.  To learn more about the convention, click here.

May your happiness increase.

“SANDRA”: FOR ADULTS ONLY, 1944

I don’t know how seriously anyone is going to take my gentle warning in this title, for by 2012 standards, this short burlesque film of “Sandra” is tame.  But it must have been seriously arousing then — produced by “Quality Pictures” for audiovisual jukeboxes . . . placed in taverns, I assume.

Lest you worry that JAZZ LIVES has all of a sudden sunk to slavering over antiquarian naughtiness, let me reassure you.  First, the source of this film is the very knowledgeable jazz-film scholar Mark Cantor, and it appears on his YouTube channel, CantorJazzOnFilm.

Our interest, for the moment, is twofold — for those who can concern themselves with subjects aside from the lithe and nimble “Sandra.”  (I put her name in quotation marks because I assume that it might well be a pseudonym.)

Not seen on camera is a reasonably swinging jazz sextet, directed by the pianist / composer David Rose.  In one of the sweet ironies of this film and of history, perhaps twenty years later, Rose’s big hit — aside from HOLIDAY FOR STRINGS — was a single on the MGM label called THE STRIPPER, which later became the music for a television commercial for shave cream (Noxema?) with a breathy woman encouraging the lathered-up male to “Take it off.  Take it ALL off.”  Pop culture — an anthropologist’s dream!

But I digress.  What piece of light classical music is the sextet offering, and are any of the players immediately evident?  I think I hear trombone, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, string bass . . . but aside from that, it’s somewhat murky.

And here’s “Sandra,” doing her lowdown dance:

I am not good at estimating women’s ages, but if Sandra was legally of age when she performed her dance, she would be — at least — eight-nine now.  Is she with us still, or are there any grandchildren, cousins, or nieces who recognize her?  “Research!”

May your happiness increase.

MORE ABOUT EDDIE CONDON’S FLOOR SHOW

My posting of Stompy Jones’s memories of watching Eddie Condon’s Floor Show have resulted in some wonderful responses.  One reader of this blog, who didn’t want to be identified, offered the possibly-apocryphal story that has, he said, been circulating for years about the disappearance of the Floor Show kinescopes.  I hope that this lurid tale of criminal behavior  isn’t true and that someone like Mark Cantor stumbles upon a pile of film cans by surprise.  And then someone can find the discs of the Whiteman Old Gold radio programs.

Jim Lowe of the UK reminded me that I had left out Billie Holiday as a charter member of the Show’s cast, as indeed I had.  I also neglected to mention one of the high points — Louis Armstrong reading “The Three Bears,” a unique experience.

Rob Rothberg, whose collection of jazz-related still photographs is a marvel, sent these two along.  I assume (from the quality of their paper) that they come from newspapers of the time or perhaps Variety?condon-floor-show-1Whoever the singer is, and her identity eludes me, she surely isn’t Lee Wiley.  Was that woman even a singer, or was she a pretty secretary, added to the shot?  The people I do recognize are Roy Eldridge and a black-shirted Bobby Hackett, Peanuts Hucko, Condon himself, perhaps Jack Lesberg on bass (in sunglasses to protect himself from the bright studio lights?) and Cutty Cutshall on trombone.  An audio-only “Rose Room” from 1948 pairs Eldridge and Hackett, so perhaps this shot comes from that year.

condon-floor-show-2

Apparently NBC thought that a photograph of Condon and Sidney Bechet, two of the “greatest names in pop music,” might attract Proctor and Gamble or Coca-Cola.  As I recall, the big companies weren’t terribly interested.  Or was it that Condon wanted to play music rather than selling detergent?

Other photographs taken on the set can be found in EDDIE CONDON’S SCRAPBOOK OF JAZZ — Hank O’Neal’s delicious trip through Condon’s photographs, letters, and memorabilia — with Eddie’s hilariously incisive comments.  There’s a tiny shot in that book of perhaps the world’s best jazz trio: Lips Page, James P. Johnson, and Zutty Singleton, the three men all looking foreshortened by the camera angle, even though we know they were giants, like Condon himself.

WHO ARE THEY? A JAZZ MYSTERY

Although I have very little patience for detective fiction and mystery novels (except for the witty ones by Josef Skvorecky), I savor the mysteries that jazz is full of.  Why didn’t Frank Newton record for a major label after 1939?  What happened to James P. Johnson’s recording career after the Twenties?  And there are mysteries of influence: what Bing Crosby recordings did Louis know when he entered his “crooning” period?  And how did Irving Kaufman feel about singing — with the utmost sincerity — a song called “My Wedding Gown”?  Where are the kinescopes of the Eddie Condon Floor Show?  Ernie Anderson told a story of a private recording session featuring the remarkable trio of Bobby Hackett, Harry “the Hipster” Gibson, and Sidney Catlett: where did the records go?  And more . . . .    

But today’s mystery is called WHO ARE THEY?  All of this came about when I learned that jazz film scholar Mark Cantor had located a photographs from a short film made for television in 1948 featuring the Adrian Rollini Trio.  Rollini, a heroic multi-instrumentalist, had given up the bass saxophone, on which he had no equals.  He then concentrated on the vibraphone, forming a trio with a guitarist and bassist. 

Mark says that he originally thought the guitarist in this picture might be Frank Victor, the bassist Sandy Block, but no longer thinks this.  He would like to know if anyone recognizes the guitarist and bassist below.  As they say in Britain and Ireland, I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue, but I thought some of my very hip readers might.  All I can say about these three musicians is that I admire their sharp suits and neatly folded handkerchiefs.  Here they are:

adrian-rollini-trio

Of course, not all fine jazz musicians or studio musicians are famous, their faces instantly recognizable.  The mysterious picture evokes a departed past where every town and metropolis had a host of players who could read the charts, swing, and improvise.  It’s still true in New York City — one of the delights of going to clubs is hearing someone wonderful whose name I don’t know — and I get to say, politely, “Damn, but you can play.  Why haven’t you got a raft of CDs?”  But I digress.

If anyone thinks they know the identity of the bassist or the guitarist, please let me know and I will pass the information along to Mark.  And if, perchance, you’re listening to one of the Rollini CD reissues still available while you read this (on Jazz Oracle and Retrieval), our collective pleasure will be doubled and redoubled.