No one talks during these bass solos, I assure you!
Milt Hinton, Arvell Shaw, Slam Stewart, Bob Haggart, string bass; Hank Jones, piano; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. YESTERDAYS (Arvell Shaw) / BODY AND SOUL (Slam Stewart) / BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA (Bob Haggart) / HOW HIGH THE MOON (ensemble) // “Four Basses,” Bern Jazz Festival 1983.
A precious document: four masters, having a deep friendly swinging good time.
I wish they had had a longer showcase, with more jamming, but it’s pointless to carp about what should have been . . .especially because this exists to be shared and treasured.
Bless these gentlemen, and bless the organizer of the Bern Jazz Festival who thought of this and the Swiss television people who had it televised. The words, “We don’t know how lucky we are,” float through my head, and I hope through yours.
And this one is for Bonnie Prince Andrew of Malta.
I was seriously tempted to call this post THE OFFICIAL JAZZ LIVES HOLIDAY MUSIC RESCUE KIT, but maybe some readers like the new hip-hop FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, so who am I to get in the way of pleasure? Leaving aside THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, I have no argument with the songs themselves, but the current performances strike me as the aural equivalent of instant oatmeal with too much hot water mixed in. (And this blogpost had its start in a large Boston hotel lobby with Christmas music everywhere, so I am not writing it in isolation.)
So I was thrilled to stumble over this gem (thanks to Lin McPhillips on Facebook) and am very happy to share it with you. It’s hip but not self-conscious, and the playing is superb, ensembles, arrangements, and solos. The performances are compact — perhaps with hopes of AM radio airplay so that these would become a hit — but these wonderful musicians pack so much music into eight or sixteen bars that no one went away wishing for JATP-length excursions.
Here’s the discographical listing:
A Cool Yuletide : Urbie Green and his All-Stars : Joe Wilder (tp) Urbie Green (tb) Al Cohn (ts) Al Epstein (bar) Buddy Weed (p) Mundell Lowe (g) Milt Hinton (b) Jimmy Crawford (d-1) Don Lamond (d-2) Charlie Shirley (arr) New York, 1954 E4LB5118 Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (1) “X” LXA3026 E4LB5119 Christmas song (1) – E4LB5120 I saw mama kissing Santa Claus (1) – E4LB5121 Santa Claus is coming to town (1) – E4LB5122 White Christmas (2) – E4LB5123 Jingle bells (2) – E4LB5124 My two front teeth (2) – E4LB5125 Winter wonderland (2) –
and the music. To some listeners, this will not be a “pure jazz” recording of the type issued then by Verve, Savoy, or Prestige — more “middle of the road” or “businessman’s bounce.” But the solos are jewels, and Charlie Shirley’s arrangements pack so much music into those short (by our standards) selections.
RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER:
THE CHRISTMAS SONG:
I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS:
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN:
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH):
and something for those who crave the best possible sound:
I only go the mall these days under the most serious duress, but were I walking through one and I heard this, I would be delighted and astonished: such good and vibrant music.
Three I’s: IMPORTANT, IRREPLACEABLE, and INEXPENSIVE.
But I’ll let Dan Levinson explain it all to us.
In 1992, legendary record producer George Avakian produced an album in homage to the pioneers of 1920s Chicago Jazz, known as The Austin High Gang, who had been among his most powerful influences when his love for jazz was developing. Those pioneers included Frank Teschemacher, Eddie Condon, Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman, Muggsy Spanier, Joe Sullivan, Gene Krupa, and others. Avakian’s 1992 recording featured two bands: one, directed by pianist Dick Hyman, which played Hyman’s note-for-note re-creations of the original recordings; and a second band, led by clarinetist Kenny Davern, which played its own interpretations of songs associated with the Chicago Jazz style, keeping the SPIRIT of the original artists close at hand. I was in the Teschemacher role in Hyman’s band, and had never been in a recording studio before.Avakian financed the whole project, but, sadly, was never able to find a label that was wiling to reimburse his cost and put the album out. The last time I went to visit George, in June of 2017, I asked him about the album again. Then 98 years old, he was clearly disappointed that it never came out, and he asked me to continue his search for a label and to “get it issued”. I exhausted my resources at the time, and wasn’t able to make it happen before George passed away several months later. Three years later, Bryan Wright, founder of Rivermont Records, rode in to save the day. And this month – thirty years after the original recording session took place – Avakian’s dream project is finally coming out on Bryan’s label as “One Step to Chicago: The Legacy of Frank Teschemacher and The Austin High Gang”. Bryan has – literally – spared no expense in assembling a beautiful package, which is actually a CD inside a booklet rather than a booklet inside a CD. I’ve written extensive liner notes detailing every aspect of the project, and there are also written contributions from author/record producer Hank O’Neal, guitarist Marty Grosz, and drummer Hal Smith, a specialist in Chicago Jazz style. I was able to track down the original photos from the recording session, and Bryan’s booklet includes a generous selection of them. I want to gratefully acknowledge the help of archivist Matt Snyder, cover artist Joe Busam (who designed the album cover based on Avakian’s 1940 78rpm album “Decca Presents an Album of Chicago Jazz”), the family of George Avakian, Hank O’Neal, Maggie Condon, and the New York Public Library, whose help in making this happen was invaluable.The album features a truly spectacular lineup of artists, including, in various combinations: Peter Ecklund, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dick Sudhalter, Dan Barrett, Ken Peplowski, Dick Hyman, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Bob Haggart, Milt Hinton, Vince Giordano, Arnie Kinsella, and Tony DeNicola.
The CD and digital download are available on the Rivermont Records website here. A vinyl version – a two-record set, in fact – will be available later this month.
And here is Rivermont founder (and superb pianist) Bryan Wright’s story of ONE STEP TO CHICAGO.
“Dick Hyman and his Frank Teschemacher Celebration Band” (Ecklund, Sudhalter, Kellso, Barrett, Levinson, Peplowski, Hyman, Grosz, Haggart, Giordano, Kinsella) play / recreate classic Chicago recordings from the Golden Era of free-wheeling jazz: ONE STEP TO HEAVEN / SUGAR / I’VE FOUND A NEW BABY / CHINA BOY / LIZA (Condon, not Gershwin) / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE: eighteen minutes in the most divine Hot Time Machine.
and “Kenny Davern and his Windy City Stompers” (Davern, Kellso, Barrett, Hyman, Alden, Hinton, DeNicola) going for themselves on THE DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL / WABASH BLUES / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / THE JAZZ ME BLUES / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / INDIANA.
and — a bonus — a nearly nine-minute excursion on FAREWELL BLUES by the combined bands.
But I can hear someone saying, “Enough with the facts. How does it SOUND, Michael?” To which I respond without hesitation, “It sounds terrific. Finest kind. It delivers the goods — sonically, emotionally, and heatedly.”
I will give pride of place to the writers / scholars whose words and reminiscences fill the eighty-page booklet (complete with wonderful photographs) Dick Hyman, Hank O’Neal, Dan Levinson, Hal Smith, and Marty Grosz, explain and elucidate, as they do beautifully, the roles of George Avakian, Eddie Condon, Bix Beiderbecke, and two dozen other saints of Hot. That booklet is both perceptive and unabashed in its love for the people and the sounds, and it is more than worth the price of admission. Unlike much jazz writing about the hallowed past, it is also delightfully free of hyperbole and something I will politely call hooey.
The CD — aside from the booklet — has two wonderful selves. The first six performances are evocations of the original, classic, recordings, with musicians who know the originals by heart working from expert transcriptions by the Master, Dick Hyman. The business of “re-creation” is difficult, and I have gotten into trouble in the past when pointing out that in some cases it feels impossible. Great art comes hot from the toaster; it is innovative, imagined for the first time in those minutes in the recording studio. So re-creation requires both deep emotional understanding of the individuals involved, the aesthetic air they breathed, and expert sleight-of-hand to make a listener believe they are hearing the ghost of Tesch rather than someone dressed up as Tesch for Halloween.
But the re-creations on this disc are as satisfying as any I’ve heard, more than simply playing the dots on the page, but dramatically assuming the characters of the heroes we revere. They are passionate rather than stiff, and wonderfully translucent: when Ken Peplowski plays a Bud Freeman chorus, we hear both Bud and Ken trotting along in delightful parallel.
I confess that the second half of this disc makes my eyes bright and my tail wag: it isn’t “hell-for-leather” or “take no prisoners,” or whatever cliches you like to characterize the appearance of reckless abandon. What it presents is a group of sublime improvisers bringing all their knowledge and heart to the classics of the past, playing their personalities in the best ways. And each selection reminds us that however “hot” the Chicagoans prided themselves on being, lyricism was at the heart of their performances. I cherish INDIANA, performed at a rhythm-ballad tempo by Kenny Davern, Howard Alden, Milt Hinton, and Tony DiNicola, and the other band selections are full of surprises, pleasing and reassuring both. The closing FAREWELL BLUES has all the joy of a Condon Town Hall concert, and that is no small accomplishment.
And I can’t leave this without noting how lovely the recorded sound is — applause for David Baker, Malcolm Addey, and Peter Karl. I’ve heard more than two-thirds of these performers live, often at very close range, and this disc captures their sounds, their subtleties so marvelously.
This disc is a treasure-box of sounds and homages, with lively music from present company. I predict it will spread joy, and my only encouragement would be for people to for once shun the download, because they won’t get the book. It’s the Library of Alexandria transported to 35th and Calumet.
And here are some sound samples so no one need feel that they are purchasing on faith, although faith in these musicians and these producers would be wholly warranted.
I don’t think JAZZ LIVES’ readers will need an introduction to this wonderful band. Eddie Condon would have called this band SONS OF BIXES. And they are! (In a nice way, mind you.) Warren Vaché, cornet; Bill Allred, trombone; Bob Wilber, reeds; Dick Wellstood, piano; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Jake Hanna, drums; guest Wild Bill Davison, cornet, who also talks about Al Capone with an interviewer at the end. (Bill hadn’t been able to warm up properly for his first chorus of MONDAY DATE but was in wonderful form a few minutes in.)
The music: AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL / BEALE STREET BLUES / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE (Vaché-Allred) / MOOONLIGHT ON THE GANGES (Wilber-Bucky-Milt-Jake) / add Wild Bill, Warren out: MONDAY DATE / BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME (don’t miss Bill’s Hackett-coda!) / Warren returns: LADY BE GOOD / Encore (Wild Bill out): HINDUSTAN //
Incidentally, the music is billed as “Chicago jazz,” and I suppose that is evident in some of the repertoire choices. But if you take away all the labels — “Nicksieland,” “hot jazz,” “Mainstream,” the music stands on its own, with masterful players regarding the past with affection and skill while completely being themselves. And, with no disrespect to the elegantly hot front line, WHAT a rhythm section! Make sure that fragile items nearby are secured because you will feel turbulence of the best kind throughout the cabin.
I could watch and listen to that all day. What a blessing that it was performed, recorded, and preserved, and that Warren and Bill are still with us, making music.
This astonishing band was assembled for the 1989 Bern Jazz Festival. Even more astonishing — across the distance of years — is that a concert was televised, the evidence remains, and you can see it here and now. We have Clark Terry, m.c., trumpet, flugelhorn, mouthpiece, vocal; George Masso, trombone; Kenny Davern, clarinet; Danny Moss, tenor saxophone; Howard Alden, guitar; Ralph Sutton, piano; Milt Hinton, string bass; Gus Johnson, drums; Johnny Letman, trumpet.
Couldn’t be better.
Here’s the bill of fare: SWINGIN’ THE BLUES / MY BLUE HEAVEN / IT HAD TO BE YOU (Moss, Masso) / IN A MELLOTONE / THANKS A MILLION (Johnny Letman) / MOTEN SWING / TRAV’LIN ALL ALONE (Davern, Alden, Milt, Gus) / IN THE DARK (Sutton) / PULL ‘EM OFF (Milt, Clark, Alden, Gus) / GOD BLESS THE CHILD (Clark) / UNDECIDED / Encore: THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE //
Some of these festival assemblages — you know them in the first ten minutes — have a “Do we have to go through this again?” weary air, with the opening ensemble number, a string of features, and a breakneck finish. Not this one: it is a gathering of wonderfully swinging friends, smiling at each other in person and in sound. And the familiar repertoire gleams.
I could have offered a portrait of any of the Eminences on the stand, but I choose Howard Alden for a few reasons aside from his natural sustained brilliance. In 1989, he was already a young veteran who’d recorded with everyone from Dizzy to Ruth Warrick to Joe Bushkin, Benny Carter, and Mel Powell . . . but there in the Swiss spring he was the Official Youngblood, and now he is the Eminence standing squarely on his own. I also salute him because when I asked him for permission to post this video, his response was (typically) gracious and swift: he remembers “a wonderful trip.”
A triumph of the Common Language of Jazz and the buoyancy of joy.
Here’s a vibrant paradox: the musicians who understand themselves deeply know that singularity is the great goal. Be aware of where you’ve come from, revere your heroes and know the tradition, but be yourself. At the same time, play well with others: understand that the community of jazz improvisation is sacred, and work for “the comfort of the band,” to quote Baby Dodds.
In this Town Hall concert, from April 12, 1952, that delicate paradox is on display in every performance. Here’s the roadmap.
This Saturday concert, produced by Bob Maltz, was billed as a farewell party for Wild Bill Davison, who was leaving New York to tour. It was recorded by the Voice of America for broadcast overseas, which may be the source of this copy. The introduction is by Al “Jazzbo” Collins, with Marian McPartland playing softly underneath his paragraphs:
BLUE SKIES / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU”RE IN LOVE WITH ME / HINDUSTAN Wild Bill Davison, Ed Hall, Jimmy Archey, Frank Signorelli, Pops Foster, George Wettling /
THE LADY IS A TRAMP / SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Bushkin) – DON’T BLAME ME (Milt) – DINAH (Buck) – HALLELUJAH! – BLUES (Jo) Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /
CLARINET MARMALADE / DAVENPORT BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES Jimmy McPartland, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, Tony Spargo /
ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE / STREET OF DREAMS / MANHATTAN / [Roy Haynes mentioned] ‘DEED I DO / I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU Lee Wiley, Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /
Collins jokes and talks to fill time . . .
FIDGETY FEET / SISTER KATE (Vic, vocal) / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN / Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, George Wettling //
THAT’S A PLENTY (explosively) / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SAINTS Davison, Archey, Hall, Signorelli, Foster, Wettling //
Listening to these musicians, at the peak of their expressive powers, I thought of Ruby Braff (in Boston when this concert took place) and the subject of the party, Wild Bill Davison. Ruby was often cutting about his colleagues, except for half-a-dozen who he held sacred. Thus, in my hearing, Wild Bill was “that moron.” But later in life — perhaps in the wonderful conversations he had with Steve Voce, Ruby unwound enough to praise Bill: he “had drama.”
But my point is not to praise Bill in isolation. Every musician at this concert has their own drama — Lee Wiley wooing, Vic Dickenson telling stories, Wild Bill taking a hot-jazz-flamethrower to the curtains to see if they would catch fire. The concert reminds me of a televised production of KING LEAR where every role was filled — gorgeously — by a star actor (Laurence Olivier, John Hurt, Michael Gambon, Leo McKern, Diana Rigg) — and they meshed wonderfully, their reverence for the play and for each other evident.
It also reminds me that there was a time, nearly seventy years ago, where both Milt Hinton and Pops Foster were available for a gig, as were Marian McPartland and Tony Spargo. A proliferation of riches! And even if you think, “God. Another version of FIDGETY FEET, for goodness’ sake?” listen — you’ll be startled out of your preconceptions and hustled into joy.
A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.
Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.
The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.
Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):
Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.
Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.
Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!
Bing Crosby was born on this date in 1903. In December 1976, he took his family, Rosemary Clooney, and a jazz quartet to the Uris Theatre for a short run of what was called BING ON BROADWAY. I’d been a devout fan for more than a decade by then, and when my dear friend Mike Burgevin suggested that he, his wife Patti, and I go, we went. We couldn’t afford the better seats, so Bing was this tiny figure below us, but we’d seen him up close in films and television, so it wasn’t a problem. And the amplification system was both kind and accurate. This wasn’t the Bing of 1931, but it certainly was Bing. From the first note.
The show was long, with a good deal of variety-television built in. What we’d read about, and were waiting for, was THE MEDLEY: where Bing and friends Joe Bushkin, piano and occasional trumpet; Milt Hinton, string bass; Herb Ellis, guitar; Jake Hanna, drums, would meander through his hits. I don’t know the exact date of this performance, but the result is both casual and polished. And terribly moving in all kinds of ways. We didn’t know that Bing would leave our neighborhood for another less than a year later, so this vision of a perfectly poised yet completely loose artist is even more precious.
Did I mention that I’d brought my cassette recorder?
I SURRENDER, DEAR / SWINGING ON A STAR / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE / TRUE LOVE (and Kathryn Crosby?) / DON’T FENCE ME IN / PENNIES FROM HEAVEN with verse, Ellis acc.; Bushkin, tpt., on chorus / BLUE HAWAII / SWEET LEILANI / TOO-RA-LOO-RA / JUST ONE MORE CHANCE / THEM THERE EYES / MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE / I’LL BE SEEING YOU / BASIN STREET BLUES / AC-CEN-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE / PLEASE / BABY FACE / SOUTH OF THE BORDER / GALWAY BAY / DINAH / SAN FERNANDO VALLEY / I FOUND A MILLION-DOLLAR BABY / SAN ANTONIO ROSE / I’M AN OLD COWHAND / IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN / WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE (with Kathryn?) / IT’S EASY TO REMEMBER / IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME / BLUE SKIES / WHITE CHRISTMAS (with verse) / OL’ MAN RIVER :
Notice that under the 1970s photograph of Bing in the show’s PLAYBILL — with pipe and hat — there’s an advertisement for the Algonquin Hotel, “Great Last Act.” That it certainly was. Happy birthday, Bing. We’ll never forget you.
Some jazz enthusiasts hold these half-truths to be completely evident:
a) No one buys CDs anymore, and if someone does (contradicting the first assumption) he probably has a crank phone on the wall of his basement room, next to the black-and-white television set found on the street;
b) No one pays for music anymore, since everything is accessible online.
Brace yourself. What follows is a recommendation that you — gasp — buy a CD to hear divine music not available any other way.
“Let yourself go!”
The CD contains 36 musical performances by a medium-sized big band, broadcast in early 1937. The band was led by violinist superhero Stuff Smith, and combined parts of his own Onyx Club Boys with members of the Cab Calloway and Chick Webb orchestras: Ben Webster, Jonah Jones, Sandy Williams, Garvin Bushell, Walter Thomas, Clyde Hart, Bobby Bennett, John Kirby (perhaps Milt Hinton), Cozy Cole.
AND a pearly young Miss Ella Fitzgerald.
Here’s a sample: Ella before the Cole Porter Songbook, in a composition she didn’t record in her early prime — with solos by Ben:
Such a de-lovely rarity, found — along with 36 other previously unheard performances from 1937 on the CD depicted in the image — issued on AB Fable CD 024. The music and the documentation will also explain why Ella refers to “Lucidin” in the lyrics. Source material courtesy of Jonah Jones, Edgar Sampson, and Anthony Barnett: read about — and purchase — this dazzling offering http://abar.net/index.htm.
And if you would like nearly six more minutes of swing ecstasy to be convinced that AB Fable is worth investigating, I invite you to listen and read more here.
P.S. Why am I writing a blogpost about a CD released in 2010? Simple: not enough people know about it, and it is one of my favorites on my wall of CDs. And whenever I have conversations with people and I reveal that I am deeply involved in jazz, before they start to look wildly around the room for someone else — anyone! — to talk to, they say, “I really like Ella Fitzgerald,” before they run off. I wish one-tenth of the people who “really like Ella” would buy this CD!
It was one of those bands that actually lived up to its bold title, whether the front line was as it was here, or the variation that I saw in Morgan Park in Glen Cove, so many years ago — Joe Wilder and Phil Bodner (with Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, and I think Ronnie Zito).
Under Dick Hyman’s astonishing leadership, the Quintet chose to concentrate on jazz before the Second World War, but the result was timeless, full of improvisational brilliance and energy, even though there were many manuscripts on those music stands. One of the pleasures of the video that follows is seeing members of the quintet, professional in every detail, taking their music off the stands at the end of the set. But I have doubt that a Quintet performance concentrating on the music of Tadd Dameron, Charlie Parker, and early Miles Davis would have been compelling music also.
Here we have their first manifestation: Dick Hyman, piano; Pee Wee Erwin, cornet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums.
The video that follows captures a performance at the Grande Parade du Jazz, made for French television but apparently not broadcast and certainly not trimmed-down for time limitations.
Setting up [for the impatient, the “music begins at” 5:55] / CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / I’M GONNA STOMP MR. HENRY LEE [at a lovely swaying tempo] / MY MAN’S GONE NOW (Wilber) / OLD MAN BLUES / SOPHISTICATED LADY (Hyman, Hinton, Rosengarden) / JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK (Erwin – Hyman) / DOOJI WOOJI / DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN / a few seconds of packing up //.
The late reedman Leroy “Sam” Parkins told me, more than once, that great art was in the balance between passionate abandon and expert restraint. The Quintet embodies that in every note.
A very happy P.S. I posted this video early on Friday, February 20, and mid-afternoon Mr. Dick Human himself (he will be 94 this March 8) commented on the video:
Yesterday, I posted a video of Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs performing BIG BOY here, and the response was so enthusiastic that I thought, “Let’s have another one right now.”
Ninety-five years ago, people were praising Peter — first instrumentally (Herb Wiedoft, Glen Oswald’s Serenaders, the Broadway Dance Orchestra, Paul Specht, Alex Hyde, Red Nichols) — then vocally (Arthur Fields with Sam Lanin) and the 1932 “Rhythmakers” sessions that Philip Larkin thought the highest art.
Here, as a historical benchmark, is a 1924 version by Glen Oswald’s Serenaders (recorded in Oakland, California) — a varied arrangement, full of bounce:
“Peter” remains a mystery – – but we do know that he was “so nice,” as proven by four versions of this secular hymn of praise to his romantic ardor recorded in April and May 1932 by the Rhythmakers, a beyond-our-wildest-dreams group featuring Henry Red Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Joe Sullivan, Jack Bland, Al Morgan, Zutty Singleton. If you don’t know the Rhythmakers sessions, you are honor-bound to do some of the most pleasurable research.
But here we are in 2014, with Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs at the one-day al fresco jazz party held at Cline Wineries in Napa, California. This wondrous little band — having themselves a time while making sure we do also — is Ray, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums. Members of the Cubs have been known to burst into song, but this time Peter’s praises must be imagined or implied. However, Ray and the Cubs are clearly nice and more: no ambiguity there.
The Cubs continue to delight me for the best reasons. They don’t wear brightly-colored polo shirts; they are humorous but not jokey; they play hot and sweet music — honoring everyone from Frank Teschemacher and Eddie Condon to Jimmie Noone and Jeni Le Gon — without putting on the kind of show that more popular “trad” bands get away with. They are what Milt Hinton called GOOD MUSIC, and I celebrate them. Tell the children that such a thing exists, please.
And a digression (what’s a blog for if the CEO can’t digress?) — OH PETER — no comma in the original — was composed by Herb Wiedoft, Gene Rose, and Jesse Stafford. Wiedoft played trumpet and led his own orchestra, where Rose played piano and wrote arrangements; Stafford played trombone and baritone horn. And hereis the original sheet music, verse and chorus.
I take a deep breath and point out that “peter” has been slang for “penis” since the mid-nineteenth century. . . . so “When you are by my side / That’s when I’m satisfied,” and “There’s nothing sweeter, Peter, Peter,” in the chorus, has always made me wonder, and the verse, new to me, contains the lines, “I’m missin’ / Your love and kissin’ ? And lots of other things too.” The lyrics do state that Peter is a real person who has been “stepping out,” but if the song were titled OH SAMMY, would it have the same effect? (What of Morton’s 1929 SWEET PETER, by the way?) Perhaps you will propose that I need a more virtuous life, but I wonder if this song was sung with a wink at the audience, even though it’s clearly not a double-entendre blues of the period. Do think on it. And please admire my superb restraint in not titling this post IS YOUR PETER NICE?
Note: any connections between BIG BOY and OH PETER that readers might perceive are their own responsibility.
Wingy Manone isn’t well-remembered today, but he was a singular personality. There were more powerful trumpet players, more polished singers, more original comedians, but the combination of his talents added up to an energetic joy-maker.
For those who have never heard him, he sits somewhere between Louis and Fats as a swinging jester. His great heyday was the Swing Era, when he took little bands into the studio for OKeh, Brunswick, Bluebird, and smaller labels, and created jam-session recordings often based on frankly ephemeral popular songs. From this distance, some of his gaiety seems a little amateurish, reminiscent of the relative who asks to sing a slightly off-color parody with the wedding band, but Wingy always hired the best musicians so that his records always have gratifying interludes. I always looked forward to what he would do with sentimental or formulaic hits, so when this four-song “extended play” disc appeared on eBay, I bought it to share with you.
Recorded in New York, July 26, 1954, it presents Wingy with Lou McGarity, trombone; Hank D’Amico, clarinet; Charlie Queener, piano; Milt Hinton, string bass; Cliff Leeman, drums. One traditional jazz standard, one Wingy original, one current film hit, and (of course) one remake of his hit, ISLE OF CAPRI. (I wonder if this was a George Avakian experiment.) I doubt that these performances got a great deal of radio airplay, and Columbia didn’t record more music to make a full-length 10″ or 12″ record, but the music is jovial, swinging, and rare.
Wingy’s pronunciation of “coins” and his spoken interlude are both priceless.
PAWNSHOP DOOR is a fast blues — with the drama of Wingy’s band being so hot they lose the job — and ST. JAMES INFIRMARY is one of the better versions of that overdone song.
On all four tracks, there’s spectacular playing from Leeman and McGarity, as well as some classic Fifties echo in the recording studio, adding up to ten minutes of jivey fun.
Some may read those words as blasphemy, but the music is its own divine truth.
One of John Hammond’s best ideas, and he had many, was the two FROM SPIRITUALS TO SWING concerts in 1938 and 1939: marvelous events with irreplaceable music from Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, James P. Johnson, Charlie Christian, Lester Young, Hot Lips Page, Ida Cox, Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Count Basie, and more. The music was recorded, and even with some technical flaws, it remains monumental. Because of Hammond’s connection with Vanguard Records, it was issued there — first a two-record set, and more recently, on CDs. (Like most CD sets, it’s “out of print,” but you can find copies.)
But this post is concerned with “newer” music . . . created in 1967.
In 1967, someone had the good idea of booking Carnegie Hall for a thirtieth anniversary concert, and selections from the concert were recorded and (five years later) issued on a two-record set featuring Basie, Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, John Handy, George Benson, and Marion Williams. I wrote on the back of my copy that I bought it at Record World, a local chain, for $5.29, on April 23, 1972. (I no longer annotate purchases this way: life got more complicated.) The segment I love the most has a distinct Basie flavor.
In conversation with a new erudite jazz friend, Randy Smith, I found that we both had hoped for this music to be issued on CD, but obviously the glory days of jazz reissues are gone for whatever corporate entity controls this music, and even the European issuers have not touched it. So — since yesterday was oddly and happily quiet in my apartment building, the families and dogs elsewhere for the moment, I made a DIY transfer of the music. There’s a certain echo-y quality, but pretend that you have been taken by magic back to Carnegie Hall on January 15, 1967, and let me — and us — have our fun.
Goddard Lieberson introduces the “Cafe Society Band,” with some rueful amusement that the crowd response to that fabled place is small (the generation that had heard Frank Newton and Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, and Basie there had probably stayed at home) and he stumbles over Milt Hinton’s name, but he brings on the celestial orchestra: Count Basie, piano; Buck Clayton, trumpet; Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Milt Hinton, string bass; Jo Jones, drums, for SWINGIN’ THE BLUES. I won’t explicate the delights here, but these nine minutes have been special music since 1972, and when I return to this performance I hear gratifying surprises, the hallmark of the greatest art.
The solos and ensemble interplay between Buck, Ed, and Buddy are priceless, showing that the players so brilliant in 1937 were still brilliant thirty years later, without a hint of repeating their routines. (How DO they age so well?) For me, though, this is a post-graduate seminar in rhythm-section playing, with each of the three “in the back” bringing so much sonic and textural variety, playing little aural games of hide-and-seek. Basie, especially, shows once again that he was not only the master of silence, which is not a paradox, but of how to push a soloist with the right note or propulsive chord. I think only Sidney Catlett approached his mastery in this — when to bide his time, when to create one accent that would have the effect of a “Yeah!”:
“They called him a shouter.” Big Joe Turner, who had appeared at Hammond’s original concerts, comes onstage. In his later years, he often appeared to be very little concerned with what verses he sang in what order (although he may have had a plan that I am not able to discern) and the result was a kind of swing autopilot, where I and others just listened to the majestic roar and holler of his voice. But here, on a blues called (perhaps after the fact) I’M GOING AWAY TO WEAR YOU OFF MY MIND, his dramatic gift, his sadness, is lovely and powerful. Hear how he sings his initial “Thank you,” and note the wonderful support Ray Bryant gives him, Buck’s solo, and Jo Jones’ exhortations:
Then, ROLL’EM, PETE — which Joe and Pete Johnson first recorded in 1938. Pete Johnson had been ill, but he was at this concert. I’ll let Dan Morgenstern, who was also there, describe the scene that you will hear, as he did in DOWN BEAT (included in Don DeMicheal’s fine liner notes):
Then, for the concert’s most moving moment, Lieberson escorted Pete Johnson on stage and introduced him as one of the participants in the original Spirituals to Swing and the greatest boogie-woogie pianist. Johnson had suffered a series of paralytic strokes and had not played piano for many years. His old buddy, Turner, took him by the hand, and for a moment the two middle-aged men looked touchingly like little boys.
Turner dedicated ROLL ‘EM PETE to his old friend, as Lieberson and Johnson were about to leave the stage. Instead, they stopped, and the pianist seated himself next to Bryant at the piano and began to play the treble part of his old showpiece, Bryant handling the bass. Johnson was a bit shaky but game, gaining in confidence as the number built in intensity:
It wasn’t 1938 any longer, but it was a damned fine evocation, with Buddy Tate at his vocal best, Edmond Hall matching him in exuberance (Hall died later that year), Buck and Jo building castles of swing as only they could:
In 2020, no one who sang or played on that stage in 1967 is around to uplift us. (I take pleasure in knowing that Dan Morgenstern will read this post.)
But their sounds, their passion, their grace remains.
Sometimes a JAZZ LIVES post is the result of a record I’ve heard, a musician I’ve been thinking about, or a particular idea. Other times, it takes a village, which I define as members of my emotional jazz-family to make something coalesce into print. In this case, I am grateful to adopted-brothers Bernard Flegar and Mark Cantor, who may never have met in person — that’s the way my extended family works. (I also have Brothers Hal Smith and Mike Karoub: someday we can all have Thanksgiving together!) Others, less beloved, who acted as stimuli, are the late Andre Hodeir and a sour YouTube armchair critic who will not be named.
About a week ago, to celebrate George Wein’s 95th birthday, I posted an eighteen-minute video featuring Barney Bigard and friends playing at Nice, and you can see the video here. Barney was 71. He sounded beautiful.
But the first YouTube comment was a dismaying “Not Barneys finest hour ?” I gently replied that Barney couldn’t be expected to play as he had in 1940, and did take a swipe at the commenter — without correcting his punctuation, “Your comment says more about you than about him.” His vinegary response came right back: “I’m 83 and an avid jazz fan ; there’s a time to leave your instrument in its case if you can’t keep up ! Just like boxers who hang on too long ; singers who hung on to long ( Frank was a classic example) Barney would have agreed . Unrepentant !” Someone else chimed in to echo the unrepentant avid fellow.
I sighed and didn’t write any of the things I could have about the irony of people of 83 being ageist. “Don’t insult my musicians!” is my credo, and I would rather hear Lester Young in Paris in 1959 than not at all.
Then, the splendid film scholar Mark Cantor and I conversed online about the French jazz critic Andre Hodeir. I was delighted to find that I had written about Hodeir in 2011 here. In his first book, Hodeir had rhapsodized over the “romantic imagination” of Dicky Wells as displayed in his memorable 1937 recordings. Dicky then came to France in 1952, but he was no longer the player he had been. Hodeir attacked him in an essay, “Why Do They Age So Badly?” stating that Wells had no reason to keep on playing, that his work no longer met Hodeir’s standards. I saw Dicky playing splendidly in the early Seventies, but Hodeir’s criticism stung not only him but readers like myself.
Yesterday morning, the wise drummer-scholar Bernard Flegar (whose eyes are open to the good stuff) led me to something that, in the fashion of Edgar Allan Poe, had been hiding in plain sight: a video shot by Bob Byler at the 1988 Elkhart Jazz Festival, a tribute to our mutual deity Eddie Condon, two sets featuring Wild Bill Davison, Tommy Saunders, Chuck Hedges, George Masso, Marty Grosz, Dave McKenna, and (set one) Milt Hinton, Rusty Jones; (set two) John Bany, Wayne Jones — nearly two hours of extraordinary music.
Wild Bill could sometimes coast, but not here. And he was 82 and a half. Please consider that number for a moment. By the standards of Hodeir and YouTube critics, he should have stopped long before. But he’s so charged; the rest of the band, including younguns Hedges and Grosz, is also. A viewer who looks for double chins and thinning hair will find them. But the music — inventive, surprising, and fun — is anything but geriatric.
Bob Byler (with his devoted wife Ruth) shot many videos — some of them are cinematically flawed, but this one is fine.
Here’s the roadmap.
The first set [afternoon turning into evening, outdoors] offers leisurely swinging improvisations on LADY BE GOOD, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY (Saunders, vocal), ‘S’WONDERFUL (Bill tells a joke) I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (Marty Grosz), IF I HAD YOU (Masso and Hedges out), INDIANA (Milt, at a beautiful tempo), NOBODY ELSE BUT ME (Masso) SKYLARK (Hedges), AM I BLUE, I NEVER KNEW.
The second set [evening, indoors}: I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN (at a sweet tempo), AS LONG AS I LIVE, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF (Masso and Hedges out), TEA FOR TWO (Masso), RUNNIN’ WILD (ending with a spectacular solo from Wayne Jones).
We listen with our ears and our hearts, not our actuarial tables, I hope.
And if anyone wants to tell me I am too old to be blogging (I started in February 2008) tell me to my face and I’ll throw my pill bottles at them. That’ll do it.
Many thanks to the true heroes, here and elsewhere: Bill, Tommy, George, Chuck, Dave, Marty, Milt, John, Rusty, Wayne, Bernard and Mark, Hal and Mike. Their life-force cheers me and gives me strength.
Jazz history as presented by people who should know better is compressed into telephone poles glimpsed through the window of a speeding train: “All aboard! MAPLE LEAF RAG . . . .WEST END BLUES . . . . LADY BE GOOD . . . . COTTON TAIL . . . . KO KO . . . . KIND OF BLUE . . . . A LOVE SUPREME. Last stop, ladies and gentlemen!”
At best, an inexplicable series of distortions, omissions.
One small example of this odd perspective on the music I’ve spent my life immersed in is the discussion of the “jazz ballad.” I take it to be players or singers improvising over a composition in slower tempo, its mood romantic or melancholy or both. Of course people wanted slower tempos to dance to: THE STAMPEDE was a marvel, but you couldn’t hold your darling close to you on the dance floor at that tempo. One of the “authorities” states that the first jazz ballad performance is the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA, followed by the Mound City Blue Blowers’ ONE HOUR, 1927 and 1929, respectively. But that leaves out, for one example, Jimmie Noone’s SWEET LORRAINE and many other recordings. And, of course, recordings are only a tiny sliver of what was being performed and appreciated.
But as far as jazz ballads are concerned, I think performances of songs titled I NEED YOU and NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU are certainly relevant. And they have not been considered worthy of notice by those who reduce an art form to easy-to-swallow historical capsules, useful for those who need to pass final examinations.
Also what runs parallel to this “ballad hypothesis,” a statement I’ve heard recently, is the contention that Caucasian audiences liked sweet music; Afro-Americans liked hot music. We’re told that recording supervisors embraced this hypothesis as well. The exceptions proliferate: tell that to Charles Linton, Pha Terrell, Harlan Lattimore, Eva Taylor, and more. But that’s another posting.
Enough grumbling about those who theorize from a very narrow awareness. Here are two very seductive examples of category-exploding that also fall sweetly on the ear. Neither performance has lyrics, but they would be easy to invent: to me they are very satisfying unacknowledged jazz ballads.
The first is Clarence Williams’ I NEED YOU, composers credited on the label as Jackson and Williams, from May 29, 1928, performed by Clarence Williams’ Jazz Kings : Ed Allen, King Oliver, cornet’ probably Ed Cuffee, trombone; probably Albert Socarras, clarinet, alto saxophone; Clarence Williams, piano; Cyrus St. Clair, tuba:
Then, a beautiful song by Tiny Parham from the last recording session he made for Victor, November 11, 1930, NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU:
That lovely record contains what is, to me, a delectable unsolved mystery. The listed personnel of Tiny Parham And His Musicians is: Roy Hobson, cornet; Ike Covington, trombone; Dalbert Bright, clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone; Charlie Johnson, clarinet, alto; Tiny Parham, piano, leader; Big Mike McKendrick, banjo, guitar; Milt Hinton, brass bass; Jimmy McEndre, drums. The Victor label clearly indicates “Whistling chorus by Maurice Hendricks.” And a gorgeous twenty-four bars it is, in high style: the Red McKenzie of whistlers. A small sidelight: “Hendricks” whistles the first sixteen bars elegantly, and I find myself missing him through the bridge and elated when he returns for the final eight bars.
But who is or was Maurice Hendricks? If he is a real musician, why doesn’t his name appear in any discography? The theory that it might be young Milt Hinton (the initials are the only hint) is implausible because Milt is audibly playing brass bass — tuba, or sousaphone, what you will — throughout the record, not putting the horn down while the Whistler is so prettily doing his thing. Brian Rust and “Atticus Jazz” say that “Maurice Hendricks” is Big Mike McKendrick, and I would grant a certain aural similarity between the name and the pseudonym, but a) why would a pseudonym be needed on the label, and b) why are there apparently no other recorded examples of Big Mike whistling? Was “Maurice” a friend of the Parham band, welcomed into the studio to amaze us now, ninety years later?
My best answers for the moment are of course whimsical: “Maurice Hendricks” is really Lew Le Mar, who made the hyena and billy goat sounds for the 1927 Red Hot Peppers session, or, if you don’t think that Lew hung around Chicago for three years just to get back in the Victor studios, I propose that the Whistler is Cassino Simpson, who was capable of more than we can imagine, but that’s only because Jack Purvis was busy making many recordings in New York in November 1930.
Theorize as you will, though, the music rises above whatever we can say about it. Listen again. Thanks to Mike Karoub for his ears, to Matthew Rivera of the Hot Club of New York and especially to Charles Iselin for bringing the second recording to my attention.
In the years that I was able to see and hear him live (1972-2006), Kenny Davern had unmistakable and well-earned star power, and on the sessions that I witnessed, his colleagues on the bandstand would have it also: Bob Wilber, Dick Wellstood, Dill Jones, Vic Dickenson, Bobby Hackett, Milt Hinton, Cliff Leeman, Dan Barrett, Jake Hanna, Bob Barnard, Randy Sandke, Buzzy Drootin, Bucky Pizzarelli. You can add your own names to that list, but these are some of my memorable sightings.
Here, in 2020, I confess to admiring some musicians more than others, and feeling that some that I know are going to give great performances . . . and they do. Musicians I’ve not met before might bring a moment of trepidation, but then there is the joy of discovering someone new — a stranger, now a hero. I write this as prelude to a video record of a performance Kenny gave (I think it was a patrons’ brunch) at the Manassas Jazz Festival on November 25, 1988.
This band, half of them new to Kenny (Jernigan and Proctor) produces wonderful inspiring results, and if you think of Kenny as acerbic, this performance is a wonderful corrective: how happy he is in this relaxed Mainstream atmosphere. And he was often such an intensely energized player that occasionally his bandmates felt it was their job to rise to his emotional heights. When this worked (think of Soprano Summit, Dick Wellstood and Cliff Leeman) it was extraordinary, but sometimes it resulted in firecrackers, not Kenny’s, being tossed around the bandstand.
All three players here are models of easy swing, of taking their time: notice how much breathing space there is in the performance, with no need to fill up every second with sound. I’d only known Dick Proctor from a few Manassas videos, but he is so content to keep time, to support, to be at ease. Dick left the scene in 2003, but his rhythm is very much alive here. I’d met and heard Larry Eanet at the 2004 Jazz at Chautauqua, and was impressed both with his delicacy and his willingness to follow whimsical impulses: they never disrupted the beautiful compositional flow of a solo or accompaniment, but they gave me small delighted shocks.
But the happy discovery for me, because of this video, is string bassist David Jernigan — the remaining member of this ad hoc quartet (younger than me by a few years! hooray!) — someone with a great subtle momentum, playing good notes in his backing and concise solos, and offering impressive arco passages with right-on-target intonation. You can also find David here.
That Kenny would invite the receptive audience to make requests is indication of his comfort, as are the words he says after SUMMERTIME:
I accept the applause for Dick and Dave and Larry, because I feel as you do. It’s not every day you can walk up on the bandstand . . . and really, literally, shake hands with two out of three guys that you’ve not played with before, and make music. And I think these guys really are splendid, splendid musicians.
Hear and see for yourselves.
‘DEED I DO / LAZY RIVER / “Shall I speak?”/ THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU / Johnson McRee and Kenny talk / SUMMERTIME / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS //
Indeed, it’s not every day we hear music of this caliber. How fortunate we are.
The jazz world is full of Stars — the people who attract crowds, who get five-star reviews and adoring press. But those of us who have been around for more than sixteen bars know that not every excellent musician becomes a Star. There is that really superb singer in a small town who refuses to travel; the guitarist who doesn’t want to record or to be on YouTube, the musicians who don’t end up in this or the other alphabetical reference of Famous Musicians. The locals know these people, and the musicians who travel from town to town know and admire them also.
Cleveland’s Theatrical Grill and owner “Mushy” Wexler: home to pianist Hank Kohout.
One such excellent musician who’s hardly known is pianist Hank Kohout, whose professional career spanned more than forty years. If you hadn’t heard him in person, you missed your chance, because he left us in 2006, just before his 83rd birthday. Some months ago, his brother Jerry found me and asked if I’d heard of Hank. I hadn’t — but I certainly had heard of guitarist Bill De Arango, Red Norvo, Harry James, and Bobby Hackett. And before Hank had turned twenty, he was praised in DOWN BEAT as a promising newcomer.
Jerry’s note to me suggests that not only was Hank a splendid musician but a fine person to have in your family: I miss him on a daily basis . . . . I can’t say he was the best, but he certainly could hold his own and would not embarrass himself. I’ve listened to my fair share of piano men in my time, and I’ll describe him in this way. In my full time job I traveled quite a bit, and if there was a piano player to be found, I would more often than not find him. In many cases, I would not stay long, and rarely would I find someone who would captivate my time and attention, and who actually understood my requests (usually Little Rock Getaway was way out of their league) — conversely, they would come in to hear my brother . . . and stay till closing.
After his passing, I found no less than 40 autographed photos, most with glowing remarks from the likes of Eddie Heywood, Teddy Wilson, Jimmy and Marian McPartland, Gene Krupa, Jimmy Durante, Bobby Hackett, etc.
Here’s an informal sample of Hank — his playing strongly melodic, his harmonic understanding subtle yet deep, admiring but not copying Teddy Wilson.
And the full story can be found in this beautifully detailed piece on Hank from “Jazzed in Cleveland,” written by Joe Mosbrook in 2005:
For more than 60 years, Hank Kohout has been one of Cleveland’s leading jazz pianists. He is probably best remembered for playing with the Bob McKee Trio, the house band at the Theatrical Grill on Vincent Avenue, for 17 years, but Hank also played with some of the giants of jazz on New York City’s famous 52nd Street, with leading big bands, and with network broadcast orchestras as well.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Kohout graduated from West Tech High School and studied classical music for ten years before he was exposed to jazz. “One day,” he recalled, “I heard Teddy Wilson play piano and suddenly asked myself, ‘What took me so long?’” He quickly dropped classical music. “I listened to Teddy’s records.” he said, “and tried to copy what he was doing. Teddy was a very clean player and that’s what I like to hear; I like to hear every note nice and clear.”
In 1939, after studying classical music for ten years, teenager Kohout immersed himself in jazz, playing everywhere he could. “There were a lot of people playing jazz in Cleveland at that time,” he said, “and they used to have jam sessions which I attended. I learned a lot just sitting in.” During some of those jam sessions, Hank met and played with an amazing young guitarist from Cleveland Heights who had gone to Ohio State University. “Bill de Arango called me,” Hank recalled, “and wanted to put together a trio. We started playing at some of the nightclubs on Short Vincent.
Eventually the trio went on the road. One day in Indiana, Hank ran into a friend who was playing with the Red Norvo band and said Red was looking for a piano player. “I decided to take a crack at it,” said Hank. “I left the trio and went to New York.” He auditioned for the vibraphonist and bandleader, got the job, and began to tour with the Norvo big band.
They played the theatre circuit including the Palace Theatre in Cleveland. On the bill with the Norvo band were such entertainers as comedian Jimmy Durante, singer Mildred Bailey, and dancers Step ‘n Fetch It. But the Norvo big band was not a huge success. “When we got back to New York,” said Kohout, “the war broke out and the band broke up. We put together a sextet which we took into the Famous Door.”
The Famous Door was one of the jazz clubs along New York City’s fabled 52nd Street where every night for years the top jazz artists were performing. Clevelander Kohout found himself right in the middle of the action. He said, “Red hired Shorty Rogers on trumpet, Eddie Bert on trombone, Aaron Sachs on clarinet and Specs Powell was the drummer. We had Johnny Guarnieri’s brother Leo playing bass with us. And Red and myself.”
When the Norvo Sextet broke up, Kohout continued playing on 52nd Street. In 1942, he was playing piano in the house band down the street at the Three Deuces. The other members of that house band were Powell and bassist Milt Hinton. They regularly backed such saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Flip Phillips and Georgie Auld. Looking back, Hank smiled and admitted, “That was pretty fast company!”
In the early 1940s, there were still seven jazz clubs concentrated on New York’s 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Top jazz musicians seemed to be almost everywhere on “the street.” Kohout said, “That was an era that will never be duplicated again. There were a whole bunch of clubs and at any given time they had some of the best music in the world by some of the best players.”
For several weeks, Kohout substituted for native Cleveland pianist Al Lerner, playing with the Harry James Orchestra, including an engagement at New York’s Paramount Theatre. He also played briefly with the Bobby Byrne big band. But, he decided to leave New York City in 1943.
“I left because they were looking for a piano player in Cleveland,” he said. “I came back to Cleveland and auditioned for a job with the WHK studio orchestra.” The orchestra, led by Willard Fox, was doing regular radio broadcasts from Cleveland to about 300 stations of the Mutual network. Kohout played for ten years with the radio orchestra, plus six or seven years on a program called The Ohio Story on WTAM. He also did TV work in Cleveland including The Mike Douglas Show which was produced at Channel 3 for a national audience. While working the studio jobs, Kohout was also playing jazz gigs at night at a variety of clubs. He said, “I think I played about every club in town.”
Beginning in 1963, Kohout was the pianist in the house band at the Theatrical Grill for 17 years. With drummer Bob McKee and bassist Ken Seifert, he played six nights a week at the popular club that featured national jazz artists. “It got to the point,” recalled Kohout, “that some of the touring musicians came in without their groups and we would play with them, people like Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson and Doc Severinsen.” When Red Norvo came to the Theatrical, Hank pulled double-duty, playing piano with both his old boss’ group and with the McKee Trio. When Jimmy and Marian McPartland played at the Theatrical, Hank joined Jimmy’s group for several numbers and then sat side-by-side with Marian, playing four-handed piano. Newspaper reports said It brought down the house.
Mushy Wexler, who ran the Theatrical, liked traditional jazz and hired a lot of dixieland bands. Kohout remembered Wilbur de Paris, Billy Maxted, Jonah Jones and many others. “There were so many that I can’t remember them all.”
The Theatrical, Cleveland’s leading night spot for more than 50 years, attracted a wide variety of customers. They included politicians, lawyers, newspaper people, and sports figures. Hank said, “We had them all, clergy sitting next to guys in the Mafia. We had strippers. They were all there and they were like family.”
Kohout finally left the Theatrical in 1979 after Wexler died and the music policy changed. The club stopped presenting live jazz in 1990 and closed a few years later. “If Mushy had lived another ten or twenty years,” said Kohout, “it wouldn’t have changed at all. It would still be today like it used to be.”
Kohout, now 81 and living quietly in Parma, teaches a little, but he is not playing piano very much. He said, “I have Parkinson’s now and it hasn’t helped my playing at all. I get disgusted. I can still do it, but if I can’t do it the way I want to do it, I don’t want to do it.”
Like his early idol, Teddy Wilson, Kohout always played with a clean, pure technique. Performing in almost every musical style, the native Clevelander, who has been heard and appreciated by millions, is still remembered as a piano player’s piano player.
Jerry also sent me an informally-recorded sample of his brother in his native habitat, obviously enjoying himself and making the audience happy. I hear a witty, playful synthesis of Wilson, Tatum, Hines, and others — fused in a gracious individualistic style.
What’s the moral to this tale? People who don’t go on the road or make records, who aren’t “known,” can really play and should be acknowledged for their talent.
I can’t believe how many people who love jazz are asleep on Benny Carter.
The King, a few years before 1977.
The hierarchy of stardom in jazz gets narrower with time, so it feels as if there is only room at best for a dozen boldface Names from Louis to Ornette. Can contemporary jazz audiences understand the absolute reverence that Benny Carter received from his peers during his lifetime and now? How many students in jazz education programs know him as he should be known? After 1945, Charlie Parker cast a giant shadow, but Carter, quietly indefatigable, pursued his half-dozen careers with immense grace. Perhaps his life lacked drama: he wasn’t a tragic figure; he lived a long time and was happily married (his widow, Hilma, is with us at 99!); he was a professional who made it all look easy: alto, trumpet, clarinet, trombone, compositions, arranging, bandleading, film and television scores — a genuine Renaissance man. Ben Webster said that Benny could bake a cake as light as a feather and whip any man: what better testimonial could anyone want? But I wonder how many fans today could name more than one Benny Carter record?
Recently a Irish collector-friend, Mchael O’Donovan, has passed on to me a substantial assortment of videos, some broadcast on French television, of La Grande Parade du Jazz, in the second half of the Seventies. I’ve shared a duet between Jimmie Rowles and Sir Roland Hanna here. I think these videos are precious, even though the cinematography is unusual: multi-camera setups where no shot is longer than a few seconds, and the videos came to me arbitrarily cut into time-chunks, so one will end at twenty minutes, no matter what is happening . . . but these are small complaints when one considers the wonderful assortments of jazz stars, the good sound, the leisure to stretch out. Occasionally someone in the band rushes, but we’re all human.
And now, for some Benny Carter — with a wondrous feature for Vic Dickenson (I saw Vic play this perhaps twenty times, but watching him at close range is something I never dared to think I would see on video), delightful Mel Lewis, and some late-period but refreshing Teddy Wilson.
7-9-77 THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE Carter, Kai Winding, Ray Bryant, Slam, J.C. Heard 7-7-77 IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD Vic, Hank Jones, Bill Pemberton, Oliver Jackson (identified by Bo Scherman, who was there!) 7-10-77 THREE LITTLE WORDS Benny, Bryant, Milt Hinton, Mel Lewis and the first few notes of the next song.
7-10-77 WAVE Carter, Ray Bryant, Milt, Mel Lewis
7-7-77 SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER – I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING – AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – HONEYSUCKLE ROSE // SOPHISTICATED LADY – SATIN DOLL (partial) Teddy solo.
Doc Cheatham told James Dapogny that his secret to a long life was to listen to Louis Armstrong every morning, sound medical advice. Matt Rivera begins his Monday-night Zoom sessions of the Hot Club of New York (7-10 PM, the link can be found here) with a Carter record. Maybe that’s a perfect healing regimen: breakfast with Louis, dinner with the King. In between, you’re on your own. You can do this.
The splendid people at jgautographs (on eBay) have reached into the apparently bottomless treasure chest and come up with an assortment of photographs for sale. The auction has a time limit, so don’t (as we say) dither.
Bill, Kenny, and Bob, also riding the range, although dressed like city slickers.
Question: what do Bobby Hackett, George Barnes, Flip Phillips, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Connie Jones, Max Kaminsky, Joe Venuti, Lou Stein, Joe Wilder, Zoot Sims, Ralph Sutton, Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Scott Hamilton, Milt Hinton, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Greg Cohen, Dick Hyman, Urbie Green, Trummy Young, Vic Dickenson, Hank Jones, Bob Haggart, Dick Cathcart, Jess Stacy, Joe Bushkin, Dave McKenna, John Best, Franz Jackson, Wild Bill Davison, Butch Miles, Jack Lesberg, Dick Johnson, Bob Havens, and a few others have in common . . . . aside from their musical glories?
Urbie, the one, the only.
Answer: They were all caught in performance by Al White and his roving camera (many of them at Dick Gibson’s Colorado jazz parties) — asked to sign the photos — the ones I’ve seen have all been inscribed to Al — and these 8 x 10″ black and white beauties are now being offered at the site above.
In 2000, Al and Ralph Sutton’s biographer James D. Schacter created a large-format book, JAZZ PARTY, with over a hundred of these inscribed photographs, but that book is now out of print, although copies can be found.
Al started life as an amateur drummer and jazz fan, then put on concerts and parties in Arkansas . . . . and at some point began to specialize in candid shots of the musicians he admired.
The noble Dick Cathcart.
The photographs offered on eBay have, for me, a special resonance. For a moment in time, Bobby or Urbie had to touch this piece of paper to sign it, so they are beautiful artifacts or relics or what you will.
I’ve been running out of wall space for some time now (and it would be disrespectful as well as damp to start hanging photographs in the bathroom) so the field is clear for you to visually admire and place bids, even though I might be tempted in two days and twenty-something hours.
I thought you might like some jazz-party-jazz, so here is the priceless 1977 color film (102 minutes) of the Dick Gibson party, “The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party,” featuring everyone:
The eBay seller jgautographs continues to delight and astonish. They (she? he?) have several thousand items for sale as I write this, for auction or at a fixed price, and even if the later items are unusual yet unsigned photographs, what they have to show us is plenty, from Jacquelie Kennedy Onassis’ stationery, a Playbill signed by Arthur Miller (DEATH OF A SALESMAN, of course), Joey Heatherton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Redford, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Frederick Douglass, Stephen Sondheim, and more. When people signed their name in cursive, and often before ballpoint pens were ubiquitous.
And did I mention they have jazz autographs for sale? I remarked upon such wonders here and here about ten days ago. I’ll leave it to you to search the thousands of items, but here are some of very definite jazz interest. (This time, the seller is not showing the reverse of these signatures, as (s)he did earlier, so there is a slight air of mystery to these offerings. But someone was hip.)
There must still be thousands of Tommy Dorsey signatures still circulating, but this one’s unusual: did TD sign it for a family friend, or for someone who asked what his middle name was? I’ve not seen another like it, and the flourishes mark it as authentic.
Coleman Hawkins had gorgeous handwriting, which does not surprise me. I have no idea if the signature and photograph are contemporaneous, though:
Someone who worked on and off with Hawk, including time in the Fletcher Henderson band and reunions in the 1956-7 period, my hero, Henry “Red” Allen:
and a signature rarely seen, Leon “Chu” Berry — also from the time when musicians not only signed their name but said what instrument they played:
So far, this post has been silent, but it would be cruel to not include the two small-group sides that bring together Hawk, Red, and Chu — under the leadership of Spike Hughes in 1933 (also including Sidney Catlett, Lawrence Lucie, Wayman Carver, Benny Carter, and Dicky Wells — truly all-star!
HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?
SWEET SUE, JUST YOU (with a glorious Carver flute chorus):
Back to Chu Berry . . . he was playing in Cab Calloway’s band at the end of his life; in the trombone section was Tyree Glenn, who lived much longer (I saw him with Louis):
A star of that orchestra and a star in his own right, trumpeter Jonah Jones:
Here’s BROADWAY HOLDOVER, originally issued on the Staff label under Milt Hinton’s name, featuring Jonah, Tyree, Al Gibson, Dave Rivera, and J.C. Heard:
Our autograph collector friend also made it to a club where Pete Brown was playing — again, another signature rarely seen:
Pete, Tyree, Hilton Jefferson, Jerry Jerome, and Bernie Leighton join Joe Thomas for one of my favorite records, the Keynote YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME:
And (exciting for me) our collector made a trip to Nick’s in Greenwich Village, from whence the signatures of Pee Wee Russell and Miff Mole came. Now, two musicians from the same schools of thought — the short-lived Rod Cless:
and trumpet hero Sterling Bose:
and because they have been so rare, here are the four sides by the Rod Cless Quartet with Bose, James P. Johnson, and Pops Foster on the Black and White label — I am told that the Black and White sides will be a Mosaic box set, which is fine news. Here’s HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY? (with verse):
MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR:
and James P., brilliantly, on I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW:
If I could play clarinet, I would like to sound like Cless.
And a postscript of a personal nature: the auction ended a few minutes ago. I bid on the Cless, the Pete Brown, the Bose, and on a whim (because I knew it would go for a high price) the Chu Berry. Chu went for nearly $171; someone beat me by a dollar for Sterling Bose, but my bids — not exorbitant — won the Cless and Pete. When they come in the mail, I envision a frame with Pee Wee, Rod, and Pete. It will give me pleasure, and some years from now, it will give someone else pleasure also.
Those of you who get excited by genuine paper ephemera (as opposed to this, which is not even a careful forgery) will have noticed my recent posting with many signatures of jazz greats here. After I had posted my elaborate cornucopia of collectors’ treasures, I returned to eBay and found this holy relic I had overlooked:
I find the card very pleasing, and fountain pen blots add to its c. 1944 authenticity. But here’s the beautiful part:
and another version:
There wasn’t enough time between my discovery and the end of the bidding to post it, so (I hope readers will forgive me) I offered a small bid and won it. I am completely surprised, because usually someone swoops down in the last two minutes and drives the price up beyond what I am willing to pay.
But the card now belongs to someone who loves Pee Wee Russell in all his many incarnations. Here is a quick and idiosyncratic tour of Charles Ellsworth Russell’s constantly changing planetary systems — all held together by surprise, feeling, and a love for the blues.
Incidentally, some otherwise perceptive jazz listeners have told me that they don’t “get” Mr. Russell: I wonder if they are sometimes distracted from his singular beauties by their reflex reaction to, say, the conventions of the music he was often expected to play. If they could listen to him with the same curiosity, openness, and delight they bring to Lester or Bix they would hear his remarkable energies even when he was playing MUSKRAT RAMBLE.
The famous IDA from 1927:
Philip Larkin’s holy grail — the Rhythmakers with Red Allen:
and CROSS PATCH from 1936:
even better, the 1936 short film with Prima, SWING IT:
DOIN’ THE NEW LOW DOWN, with Bobby Hackett, Brad Gowans, Eddie Condon:
and the first take, with Max Kaminsky, James P. Johnson, Dicky Wells, Freddie Green and Zutty Singleton:
and thank goodness a second take survives:
and Pee Wee with Eddie and Brad:
in 1958, with Bud Freeman, Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson, and Nat Pierce:
and this, so beautiful, with Buck Clayton and Tommy Flanagan, from 1960:
with Coleman Hawkins, Emmett Berry, Bob Brookmeyer, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones:
an excerpt from a Newport Jazz Festival set in 1962:
a slow blues with Art Hodes in 1968, near the end of Pee Wee’s life:
and another wonderful surprise: the half-hour documentary on Pee Wee, in which our friend Dan Morgenstern plays a great part:
Pee Wee truly “kept reinventing himself,” and it would be possible to create an audio / video survey of his career that would be just as satisfying without repeating anything I’ve presented above. His friends and associates — among them Milt Gabler, George Wein, Ruby Braff, and Nat Pierce — helped him share his gifts with us for forty years of recordings, a wonderful long offering.
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: