What follows is what I would call a Hot Jazz Mixtape — forty minutes of unissued performances, their provenance a matter of informed guesswork — that serves as an aural tour of Red Hot Chicago, 1939-50, combining club and living room music.
I was “trading tapes” with fellow collectors from the mid-1970s, and that usually consisted of in-person handoffs, “You recorded X last week? I’d love a copy of that!” “Sure, if you will copy your 78 acetate of A and B for me.” There was a good deal of finger-to-the-lips secrecy; some tapes had DO NOT COPY written on them in red or orange crayon — prohibitions we promptly violated, because it was important that a friend hear the new treasure. I would like to think that I and my fellow scoundrels did some good in making music heard, and we were busily buying records and compact discs, so we absolved ourselves of the crime, “Your cassettes are cutting into my sales!” The accusing ghost of Frank Newton never appeared in my bedroom to upbraid me, which I am thankful for.
The music that follows was sent to me by that rare person, a woman jazz collector, whose name I will keep unwritten; her tapes were annotated in pretty cursive, often with strips of paper — coarse-grained and narrow — of the kind most often seen as cash register tape or court reporters’ paper. This tape was labeled PRIVATE CHICAGO, and I have copied down all the information she supplied below.
Here’s the skeletal listing, with commentary to follow.
LADY BE GOOD / TIN ROOF BLUES Miff Mole, trombone; Darnell Howard, clarinet; Don Ewell, piano; unidentified drummer. Jazz Ltd., 1949
BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC Johnny Windhurst, trumpet; Jack Gardner, piano; others 1950
SUNDAY Bill Priestley, cornet; Bud WIlson, trombone; Squirrel Ashcraft, piano, others
BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND Jimmy McPartland, cornet; Joe Rushton, bass saxophone; Squirrel Ashcraft, Bill Priestley, guitar
YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME McPartland, Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Rosy McHargue, clarinet; Joe Rushton 1939
TUT STOMPS THE BLUES Boyce Brown, alto; Tut Soper, piano; Jack Goss, guitar 1945
LADY BE GOOD McPartland, Boyce, Rosy McHargue 1939 (incomplete)
SWEET LORRAINE George Barnes, electric guitar 1940
But a few explications. The Miff-Darnell-Ewell band was a regular working unit; the drummer might be Booker T. Washington or someone remembered by Marty Grosz as “Pork Chops.” The performances that follow are most likely recordings made at the Evanston, Illinois house of Squirrel Ashcraft, and some of them may have been issued on the MORE INFORMAL SESSIONS record label — Hank O’Neal’s project — but I gather that there were certain songs the musicians liked to jam on, so that there might be multiple versions of BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND, Jimmy McPartland’s tribute to the land of his people; Bud Freeman would play ADVANTAGE where and whenever. TUT STOMPS THE BLUES might come from a gig recording from a Chicago hotel. There are wonderful glimpses of my heroes Windhurst, Gardner, Soper, and the magnificently elusive Boyce Brown. But for me, the treasure is the concluding SWEET LORRAINE, featuring a nineteen-year old George Barnes, already dazzling.
For more from and about the young George Barnes — masterful even in his teens — visit here — and enjoy this:
To learn more about George, hear more, and purchase some of his invigorating music, visit https://georgebarneslegacy.com/.
I hope you enjoyed the aural travelogue of Hot, Chicago-style. And if you follow your ears to any of the players above, so much the better.
May your happiness increase!