Tag Archives: newsreel

CINEMA STUDIES: LOUIS, SEPT. 30, 1938: HEARST METROTONE NEWS

Uwe Zanisch, whose blog SATCHMOTUBE (satchmotube) chronicles the appearances of Louis Armstrong on television and film, let me know about this marvel — three minutes of amazement.

But the real Onlie Begetter is the jazz-on-film scholar Franz Hoffmann, who specializes in Red Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, and their friends: his YouTube channel can be found here.

What’s all this about?  I will let Franz explain — but how about live sound footage of Louis and his big band playing a dance in 1938?  Intriguing?

8/9/30 poss. Baton Rouge, Old Fellows Temple for white public – Hearst Metrotone News, LOUIS ARMSTRONG (t, v) & HIS ORCH.: Shelton Hemphill, Otis Johnson, Red Allen (t) Wilbur DeParis, George Washington, J.C.Higginbotham (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl, ts) Rupert Cole, Charlie Holmes (cl,as) Bingie Madison (cl, ts) Luis Russell (p) Lee Blair (g) Pops Foster (b) Paul Barbarin (d) 2:56 MEDLEY: SKELETON IN THE CLOSET – SWING THAT MUSIC – CONFESSIN´

My late friend Dr.Klaus Stratemann wrote in his Louis Armstrong-film book (pages 93-94): parts of this footage with the first two tracks originally came to the attention of Armstrong enthusiasts in a 1969 documentary by Francois Rossif (“Why America”). In 1971, another clip of “The Skeleton…” was used in an Armstrong TV-obituary, with dubbed over narration….

Charlie Holmes denied a suggested Oct. 16th New Orleans location where they played for a larger auditorium. Possibly the Hearst team had come with Armstrong from L.A. who joined at 9/30/38 Baton Rouge where the played the first eve for white publicity and dancers.  I separated several very short silent reed-section clips out of a 1999 BBC-Armstrong documentation, which used probably a longer very clean David Chertok´s Armstrong-footage and mixed them with the below known Medley with new syncrone sound from recorded “Swing That Music” -100% identical with the known MEDLEY sound. Who owns the original complete reel now?  The Hearst News Team filmed in general without soundtrack and remixed that.  Rather mysterious is the black male dancer among the other white dancers — either also a fake mixed in or it suggests another location than on the Octorber-tour in the US-Southern States. (Franz Hoffmann — Red Allen Bio Disco in four parts on pdf-files with chapter-5: Louis Armstrong “Day By Day 1937-1940”).

I confess to being less the scholar than Professor Hoffmann.  I don’t worry about the particular date in 1938.  I am simply enthralled.  This is marvelous stuff.  And when Louis kisses his “little Selmer trumpet” so sweetly . . . we would kiss him if he were alive in person to recieve it.  SWING THAT MUSIC, indeed!

“SATCHMO SWINGS IN CONGO” and MORE

A very brief newsreel from October 31, 1960 — narrated by the once-ubiquitous Ed Herlihy — showing us the exultant reception Louis Armstrong received on his African tour.  Unfortunately, the music that would have accompanied a few seconds of this newsreel has been removed (perhaps it was difficult to record a soundtrack for Louis being carried through the streets?) and a generic “jazzy” one substituted, but one has only to see the proliferation of smiles to know the prevailing happiness:

Uwe Zanisch, the creator and proprietor of “Satchmotube” (http://satchmotube.blogspot.com/)  a website devoted to collecting and sharing footage of Louis on film of all kinds, told me about this extended profile — in German — of Louis, overseas in spring 1965.  I wish the dubbed translation hadn’t overpowered Louis’s voice, but even with my nonexistent German, much of this is accessible.  And I am now considering the purchase of a striped bowtie, whether or not it clashes with my Hawaiian shirts.  I am sure that the Beloved will avoid a horizontally-striped coat such as Lucille’s, but she’s more discreet:

It’s not often that I feel grateful to the news media, but I do now!

WHEN HOT JAZZ WAS NEWS

Three clips from a vanished era — when movies were introduced by black-and-white newsreels (and cartoons, short subjects, even travelogues) that had time to show jazz musicians, those vivid people, in action.  Here are three very short excerpts brought to us by that intrepid jazz time-traveler Enrico Borsetti.  The subjects of the first clips will be more than familiar (you’ll see Arvell Shaw in the big band clip) but the surprise, for me, was of the brilliant New Orleans clarinetist Albert Nicholas in the final clip. 

Those of you who don’t speak Italian fluently and rapidly will find the narration difficult at first — but my readers are good at improvising!

In the first post (April 1959) the welcome is provided by the Roman New Orleans Jazz Band, and don’t ignore those beautifully dressed, smiling “stewardesses”:

Then, we move to Holland (May 21, 1958) in front of a very happy audience.  FINE comes all too soon:

Finally, the International Jazz Festival at San Remo (February 1, 1956) with twelve glorious bars of Albert Nicholas — one luminous blues chorus:

Also featured are Italian jazz notables Nunzio Rotondo, Carlo Pes, Romano Mussolini, Gilberto Cuppini and the Milan College Jazz Society.

P.S.  I have a particular sentimental attachment to footage of this kind because my late father worked for a time at Movietone News.  Irrelevantly, perhaps — one of his colleagues was Walter Bishop Sr., father of the modern jazz pianist.

BETWEEN THE SHEETS

Yesterday the Beloved and I visited what we call “Mrs. Rodgers’ Book Barn,” although its official name is “Rodgers Book Barn” — a fine old-fashioned used bookstore (467 Rodman Road, Hillsadle, New York, 518-325-3610).  Mrs. Rodgers herself is a pleasure to talk to and deal with.  The Beloved ended up with four or five new gardening books . . . but her clever eye had spotted a stack of sheet music, and Mrs. Rodgers, seeing me clutch my purchases ardently, told me that more awited in the barn. 

Aside from the one late-Thirties ringer (which you will spot easily) this is a hot collection circa 1931, with photos of musicians and bandleaders I had not seen before.  The original owner or owners had an ear for lively pop music. 

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I had never seen the music for this song before and was dismayed to find it has a truly uninspired verse, but any song made immortal by Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, and Django Reinhardt in 1937 and later by Dick Sudhalter and Marty Grosz is worth celebrating.

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Signs of the times — the reverse of one of the music sheets (which, in other cases, show the industry at a crossroads, with ads for music, phonograph records, and piano rolls — anything to keep people from sitting in front of their radios and listening for free).

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In her sweet little Alice Blue gown — a pretty waltz before the jazz players got to it!

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I never heard of Walter Doyle, but was captivated by this because of the hot recording by Rube Bloom and his Bayou Boys in 1930 — and a hot performance of the song done by Spats Langham at, you guessed it, Whitley Bay.  It’s one of those period songs that threatens to terrify the listener.  Is it the Ur-text for OL’ MAN MOSE, I wonder?

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In honor of Bix, Whiteman, and that Movietone News clip (1928).

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One of my heroes, looking skeptically off into the distance.  (I gather there’s never been a biography written of Cliff Edwards?)

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Nice publicity still of Bing — although I have never heard him sing this song.

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Then again, I never heard Gene Krupa sing this one, either.

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A lively cover for a hot Twenties tune — again, in my memory because of Spats Langham’s performance.

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I bought this one for the cherubic Whiteman portrait.  All of the sheet music I’ve encountered here and on other vacations tends to wander far from its original source (some sheets were originally purchased in Missouri, one in a Maine music store that billed itself TEMPLE OF MUSIC) but this song must have been well-loved here or elsewhere, if the number of copies unearthed here is any indication.  “Why Wyoming?” I ask myself, with no particular hopes of an insightful answer.

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This is a real oddity — a 1913 folio of original compositions.  At first, I thought it was music for those pianists who improvised to fit what they saw onscreen (the big love scene, the terrible storm) but now I think it’s something even more subversive: music implicitly connected with those pictures and perhaps the fantasy of being the pianist in the pit . . . to make Junior put down his bat and ball and practice that piano. 

Only diehard jazz fanciers will understand why I got terribly excited about the last two sheets, below:

Lorna plus Sheets 013I know that that portrait finds Husk O’Hare perhaps a little past his fame as a bandleader in whose organization hot players could find work, but I’d never seen a picture of him.

Lorna plus Sheets 006I knew Pollack was famous, and that this 1929 engagement brought him fame, but I never expected to see him on the cover of this sheet music.  Of course, in an ideal world, Jack Teagarden’s picture would replace Pollack’s, but you can’t have everything. 

And (speaking of crass commerce) these pieces of irreplaceable jazz ephemera cost less than an entree at the local Mexican restaurant, so I am in the unusual position of being rich in possessions and positively thrifty at the same time — thanks to the unknown Benefactors and gracious Mrs. Rodgers.

REVISITING BENNY GOODMAN’S TRIUMPH, JANUARY 16, 1938

In the past year, there’s been much well-deserved attention paid to the life and music of Benjamin David Goodman, clarinetist supreme, cultural icon, King of Swing, trail-blazer and phenomenal improviser — because he was born a hundred years ago.  In 2008, there was another reason to celebrate while invoking his name — the seventieth anniversary of his Carnegie Hall concert. 

I don’t wish to take an iota away from the significance of that event, nor do I wish to dull our reverence both for it and the recordings of that evening.  It may be heretical that I find the records uneven — but, then again, attempting to capture any live jazz is risky, and that Carnegie came off so spectacularly is a tribute to everyone’s creative energies.  (As an aside, I don’t have much enthusiasm for the recent concert recreations where a first-rate jazz band plays the concert, from first note to last, “live.”  The original event is irreproducible, another tribute to its essence.)  Perhaps my reaction is the result of having listened to the original recordings too many times in my youth, although the jam session on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE is still thrilling.

Here, to celebrate the event, is a snippet from a Goodman documentary: I include it not because of the leaden commentary, but for the silent newsreel footage taken in the hall that night. 

A celebration of January 16, 1938 that I can applaud whole-heartedly is Jon Hancock’s wonderful book: BENNY GOODMAN – THE FAMOUS 1938 CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT (Prancing Fish Publishing, 2009).

Before I explain this book’s virtues, I must reveal my own reactions to much of what is published on the subject of jazz in general and Goodman in specific.  Having read the best prose and criticism, I dislike sloppy research, poor attribution and inept paraphrase, polemical ideological statements passed off as evidence.  I applaud Whitney Balliett and Martin Williams, Dan Morgenstern and Richard M. Sudhalter even when I disagree with them, because of their insight and their evidence-gathering.  But many “jazz writers” have only the opinions and attitudes of others to offer: leftovers presented as fresh. 

Goodman, too, is a special case.  I have savored Bill Crow’s brilliantly lacerating memoir of the 1962 trip to Russia; Ross Firestone’s affectionate, forgiving biography of Benny, SWING, SWING, SWING told me things I hadn’t known and was therefore valuable.  Ultimately, Goodman the musician is a more absorbing study than Benny the neurotic. 

Hancock’s book is exciting because it does offer new information about this most singular event.  Even better, he has made a point of not taking familiar statements as gospel without tracing them back to their original sources.  The result is a fascinating mosaic.  I knew, for instance, that Harry James said, “I feel like a whore in church,” joking about his being in the august hall, but I knew nothing of the newspaper reports before the concert: predictions that Big Joe Turner might sing and W.C. Handy might appear, that Mary Lou Williams was writing a “Jazz concerto,” and, even better, that Lionel Hampton was composing a “Swing Symphony” for the occasion. 

And there’s just as much pleasure in the visual memorabilia.  John Totten was the stage manager at Carnegie, and he collected signatures in his autograph book.  One page of this book (beautifully reporduced) has the signatures of Benny, Jess Stacy, Hampton, “Ziggie” Elman, Gordon Griffin, and others; another page has the signatures of George Koenig, Martha Tilton, Pee Wee Monte, and “best remembrances” from Joseph Szigeti.  That’s priceless.

There’s also a photogrraph from the Ferbuary 1938 Tempo Magazine of a pre-concert rehearsal for the jam session: Freddie Green, Benny, Lester Young, his high-crowned hat pushed back on his head, a grinning Gene Krupa, an intent Harry James.  Is it evidence of Benny’s over-preparation that he would have musicians rehearse to jam on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE — or is it just that he wanted the opportunity to play a few choruses with Lester and Freddie? 

A beautiful picture of a young (he had just turned 29) Gene Krupa adjusting his tie between sets in the Madhattan Room has him against a background of brass instruments that, curiously, looks like the work of Stuart Davis or someone inspired — at first glance, I thought that the painter (and occasional drummer) George Wettling had been the artist. 

Hancock’s book also reproduces the twelve-page concert program; here one finds announcements for upcoming concerts by Rudolf Serkin and Adolf Busch, advertisements for Schrafft’s and the Russian Tea Room, for Maiden Form brassieres and Chesterfield cigarettes, and (something to live for) notice that the Gramophone Shop would have on sale on January 22, 1938, Teddy Wilson’s Brunswick record of MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOU and IF DREAMS COME TRUE.

 These lovely artifacts, including a ticket from the concert, shouldn’t make us forget that the real glory of the book is Hancock’s meticulous (but never stuffy) eye for detail — that pro-Franco demonstrators picketed Carnegie the night of the concert, chanting “Benny Goodman is a red from Spain,” necause Benny had played a concert for the Spanish Loyalists in December 1937.  Ziggy Elman’s rejoinder, “No, he isn’t, he’s a clarinet player from Chicago!” satisfies me, even if it did little to placate the protesters. 

The centerpiece of the book is Hancock’s easy, unforced commentary on the music played at the concert — forty pages of analysis and commentary, neither highflown musicology in the Gunther Schuller way or a fan’s yipping enthusiasm — something to read while the compact discs of the concert are playing.  Anything about the concert — the microphone setup, the photographs and newsreel footage — as well as the recordings made, the mythic story of their re-discovery, their various issues . . . . up to Benny’s later appearances at Carnegie — all are meticulously covered by Hancock.  And there’s a touching reminiscence of BG at home by his daughter Rachel Edelson that is a masterpiece of gentle honesty. 

Reviewers have to find flaws, so I will say that a few names are misspelled, as in the pastoral “Glen Miller,” but since none of these musicians were in the Goodman band, I and other enthusiasts forgive Hancock . . . while applauding his tremendous effort, both enthusiastic and careful.  Writing this post, I must add, took a long time — not because my mind wasn’t made up within the first fifteen minutes of looking at the book, but because I kept getting distracted from writing to reading and re-reading.  Good job!

Jon has a website, www.bg1938.com., where you can find out more about the book — and the more important information about how to get your own copy.  And you can add your own opinion about Just Who the Mystery Man is.  Someone has to know!