Tag Archives: Newport in New York

CELEBRATING THE WORLDS DOUG DOBELL CREATED

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I didn’t get to the UK until 2005, so I missed a great era in Anglo-American relations . . . not Roosevelt and Churchill, but the opportunity to go record-shopping at Dobells, 77 Charing Cross Road.  I knew about it, however, through the “77” record label — with issues featuring Dick Wellstood, Don Ewell, Pete Brown, Bernard Addison, Sonny Greer, and more.

A new gallery exhibition, lovingly assembled, celebrates that great place and time — and the music that Dobells nurtured.  The exhibition runs from April 10 – May 18, 2013 at CHELSEA space.

CHELSEA space presents a rare opportunity to view previously unseen material from the Museum of London and British Record Shop Archive collections, concerning one of the world’s greatest record shops.

Dobells (1946-1992) was a significant meeting place for fans of jazz, folk and blues. This exhibition explores Dobells position as a retail environment, information network, cultural landmark and social hub through archive artefacts, ephemera, photographs (many by the celebrated jazz-blues photographer Val Wilmer), and graphics.

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Doug Dobell began selling collectable and imported jazz records in 1946 at his family’s rare books shop at 77 Charing Cross Road. In 1957 he started up the 77 record label and was instrumental in developing, recording and marketing jazz, blues, folk and world music in the UK. At a later point 75 Charing Cross Road next door to the original store, was used to house Dobells Folk Record shop section.

Prominent US musicians could be found dropping into Dobells including Muddy Waters, BB King, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Red Allen and members of the Ellington band. A young Bob Dylan recorded in the small basement studio there in 1963 and Janis Joplin would visit with a bottle of Southern Comfort as a gift for the staff of the store.

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Dobells stocked American blues 78s, 45s and LPs and many British music fans got their first ever taste of Mamie Smith, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy there. The imported US records purchased at the record shop inspired such pioneers of British jazz and blues as Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies and Chris Barber (amongst many others). All the bands of the British Blues explosion: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Fleetwood Mac shopped there. Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Mac McGann, Bert Jansch, The Vipers Skiffle Group, Lonnie Donegan and other folk musicians raided the shop’s racks of Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston records. David Bowie was also a regular customer during the early 1960s.

Dobells provided a network for British Jazz musicians including Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Vic Lewis, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr, Mike Westbrook and many others who would meet there to check out the new imports in the listening booths and chat about the latest sounds. Such was the standing of Dobells, that it found its way into literature with New immigrants to London from former colonies and war torn nations would also visit as Dobells as it was the only shop in London to stock African, Irish, Yiddish and music from other parts of the world.

This exhibition recalls an era when a specialist record shop helped shape the nation’s underground cultural scene.  The exhibition takes place to coincide with Record Store Day UK, which occurs on Saturday 20th April 2013.  Exhibition curated by Donald Smith with Leon Parker.  For more information, email info@chelseaspace.org or telephone 020 7514 6983.  Admission is free and the exhibition is open Tue – Fri: 11:00 – 5:00, Sat: 10:00 – 4:00.  CHELSEA space is located at 16, John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU – behind the Tate Gallery.

Those of us who spent happy hours (and dollars or pounds or the prevailing currency) in specialist record shops — where one could converse or debate with an educated, impassioned salesperson about the course of Bud Powell’s career — will find this exhibition powerfully evocative.  The generation that has no idea of what came before invisible digital sound should be gently escorted there . . . for a greater historical awareness.

Here’s a postscript and a photograph from my UK friend Robin Aitken, someone who knows:

This exhibition is only a precursor for a more long term project which is in the preparation stage at present. This will be a book on Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop edited by myself and Brian Peerless who worked part time in Dobell’s from 1962 until its final closure in 1992. It is intended that the book will be in the same format as Nat Hentoff’s wonderful “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya” with sections on the history of the shop, the staff, the customers, the stories , the music and of course the musicians. We are assiduously collecting material and welcome any contributions from anyone who has visited the shop over the years. In 1972 a contingent of staff and customers, myself included, made to trip to New York for the First Newport Jazz Festival there. There were ten of us on that trip – sadly only four of us survive. The Dobell’s exhibition has prompted me to finally put down my memories and those of my surviving companions of a wonderful 2 weeks in the Big Apple. I took several photographs which I hope to include in the article and I have attached one of my favourites. This was taken outside Jim & Andy’s at West 55th Street in late June 1972 just before Jim closed for the month of July. It shows from left to right the drummer Richie Goldberg, John Kendall, Manager of Dobell’s Second-hand Shop, Ray Bolden, Manager of the Blues and Folk Shop, Scoville Brown who played with Louis in 1932 and nearly everyone else thereafter – some great records with Buck Clayton on HRS in 1946, and Doug Dobell himself, the owner of Dobell’s Jazz, Blues and Folk Record shops.

(Notice the record bag Richie Goldberg is holding — the thing in itself!)

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May your happiness increase.

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BIG JAZZ: CELEBRATING ROY ELDRIDGE’S 100th at THE EAR INN (Jan. 30, 2011)

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Otto “Toby” Hardwick of the Ellington band dubbed Roy Eldridge LITTLE JAZZ a long time ago.  Not simply because Roy was short (great trumpeters often are, as Whitney Balliett pointed out).  But Roy he was animated by the spirit of the music. 

Roy always wanted to play; he had a gleefully feisty spirit; he swung harder than anyone could imagine.  He has been gone for some time now, but I remember seeing him in concerts — at Williams College and Newport in New York — and at his late-life home base, Jimmy Ryan’s.  He didn’t coast; he didn’t ever want to play it safe.  And his giant spirit is alive in our hearts and our ears. 

Jon-Erik Kellso admires Mr. Eldridge greatly — not only the built-in rasp of his trumpet tone or his hot, speedy articulation, but his inventiveness, his emotional force.  In fact, the first time I heard young Kellso on a CD, years ago, I thought, “Who is this young cat who sounds a little bit like young Roy without copying the Master?” 

Since January 30, 2011 happened to be David Roy Eldridge’s one-hundredth birthday, the EarRegulars turned their regular Sunday gig at the Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) into a small heartfelt tribute to the spirit of Little Jazz, again without copying the records. 

In this, Jon-Erik was aided mightily by several swing sages: Dan Block on clarinet and tenor sax; Jon Burr on bass; Chris Flory on guitar.  Oh, how they rocked!

Here are a few highlights: 

Although AFTER YOU’VE GONE is sometimes a song played as a farewell, it was offered early in the evening at a relaxed yet steamy tempo, with the EarRegulars clicking in to gear.  (Pay paricular attention to bassist Jon, who was eloquent beyond his usual eloquence in solo after solo.):

Roy was known for searing playing at fast tempos, but his ballads were something special, and audiences who knew this often came in to Ryan’s about 11:30 for “The Ballad.”  I remember once hearing an extraordinary WILLOW WEEP FOR ME. 

The EarRegulars didn’t make us wait that long to hear I SURRENDER, DEAR (yet another reminder of how much Coleman Hawkins and his generation devoted themselves to the singing and repertoire of Bing Crosby, with good reason):

I don’t recall Roy recording I FOUND A NEW BABY as such, but he improvised on its chord changes more than once, I believe — and this wasn’t a repertory tribute to Mr. Eldridge, but another Sunday night excursion into deep fun.  (At the end of the night, Jon-Erik said, “I started making a list of tunes associated with Roy, but I realized that’s what we play, anyway!”):

The second set brought forth a classic Gift From The EarRegulars scenario: the chance to hear someone new to me and to be impressed. 

I’d already been impressed by clarinetist / reedman Eric Elder from Chicago without hearing a note: his perceptive, witty emails got to the heart of things.  When we met, we spent a good long time talking about music and musicians and life — a wonderful combination.  So when Eric came up to play, I was excited.  And he didn’t disappoint.  Mind you, for a younger reedman (“Jon-Erik called him Eric Elder the Younger) sitting next to Dan Block and Pete Martinez is both Paradise and the hot seat — but Eric played nimbly and with feeling on the selections that closed out the night.

You’re going to hear a lot from him, I assure  you. 

Here’s one delicious highlight of the second set, containing a sweet surprise that (in my experience) happens often at the Ear Inn on Sunday nights.  I was seated at the bar behind my camera, fixated on what was in my viewfinder, when I heard a trombone both smooth and gutty.  I didn’t quite think of WHERE’S WALDO? or “Who is the mystery guest?” but eased myself forward, still shooting this veideo, to find our pal Jim Fryer seated, playing, adding joy to a pretty medium-tempo ROCKIN’ CHAIR (that’s Ruby Braff-tempo, by the way):

The session ended much later than usual.  

I missed what would have been the convenient train.  

I overslept the next morning and missed work. 

I apologize to my students, but this session was sublimely worth it.

And if these video performances make you feel warm and sunny inside, you’ll know what to do!

MISS LEE WILEY, 1959 and 1972

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I had never seen this photograph before — Lee Wiley, after her “retirement” from music, at the Grandview Inn in Columbus, Ohio, on September 21, 1959.  The candid shot was taken by the late Ed Lawless.  More of his jazz photographs appear at the website of the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California — http://www.nojcnc.org/nojcphotos.html.

I also have to say a few words about the only time I saw Miss Wiley perform — at her last public appearance, during the two “Newport in New York” concerts in summer 1972 devoted to the music of Eddie Condon and his remaining friends — called EDDIE AND THE GANG.  The Gang included Wild Bill Davison, George Brunis, Barney Bigard, Dick Hyman, Joe Thomas, J.C. Higginbotham, Max Kaminsky, and others.  For those with copies of Hank O’Neal’s EDDIE CONDON’S SCRAPBOOK OF JAZZ, a photograph of the closing “Impromptu Ensemble” ornaments the back inner cover.  The first half of the concert, if I am correct, was a set devoted to the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — all of its members with solid Condon associations: Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Vic Dickenson, Eddie Hubble, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Ralph Sutton, Bob Haggart, Gus Johnson, who played their familiar repertoire expertly.  Much of the instrumental music that followed was a reminder of how many years it had been since the Town Hall concerts and the glory days of the Fifties . . . as older musicians went through their paces, backed by an over-miked piano that tinkled and rattled.  Thomas and Hackett played beautifully, but they weren’t asked to do much; the others roared and circled. 

Miss Wiley had one set to herself — where, happily, she was backed by Teddy Wilson, Bobby Hackett, Bucky Pizzarelli, George Duvivier, and Don Lamond (if I recall).  She seemed rather nervous at the 5 PM concert but everything was in place — her unmistakable timbre, warmth, and vibrato — for the second concert at 9 PM.  I don’t recall how she was dressed, except that she, too, had changed somewhat since her glamorous portraits of the Thirties and Forties.  But her voice, although more husky, was still beautiful, as you can hear on the Jazzology CD that captures her short set. 

But Miss Wiley did something unforgettable.  Stu Zimny and I were in the first or second row, way off to the side, surrounded by men and women who seemed to have been Condon fans in the Forties and Fifties.  I had my concealed cassette recorder, and was perhaps (in retrospect) so concerned with tape-recording the music that someone without such concerns might have enjoyed it more.  And my tape of the 5 PM session fell apart and vanished, as objects tend to do.  But during Miss Wiley’s WHEN I FALL IN LOVE, I closed my eyes for a moment, a hopeless romantic even then.  I knew, in some rational way, that I was another anonymous face — if she cared to look down and see me — at best.  Performers at Carnegie, I would guess, don’t see people in the audience all that well.  But, with my eyes closed, basking in the lovely warmth of her sound, I could imagine that she was singing directly to me.  I knew it was an illusion then and know it is one now.  But that’s the effect Miss Wiley had on people who heard her . . . and it comes through the recordings.  Bless her.