Perhaps because I am both nearsighted and fallible, “I MAY BE WRONG (But I think You’re Wonderful)” is a favorite song of mine — written by Henry Sullivan (music) and Harry Riskin (lyrics) no matter what the cover states. The lyrics only make sense if one realizes that the singer is seriously myopic. Here’s the verse:
A delightful November 929 recording (the song was a duet in the original presentation) thanks to the splendidly musical Peter Mintun:
and here is my favorite instrumental version, with decades of playing this track on the “Swingville All-Stars” session on the Prestige-Swingville label. (Coleman Hawkins, Joe Newman, J.C. Higginbotham, Jimmy Hamilton, and Claude Hopkins were on another session, which is why Hawk is credited here.)
The band is a gathering of gentle idiosyncratic deities, each singing his own song: Joe Thomas, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Al Sears, Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Cliff Jackson, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Joe Benjamin, string bass; J.C. Heard. drums. New York, May 19, 1961:
I think these performances are wonderful, and in this I don’t think I’m wrong.
My gratitude to Peter Mintun and to Michael Burgevin, who introduced me to Joe Thomas.
Some years before I met the reedman Sammy Margolis in New York City (at the Half Note, 1971, sitting in with his friend Ruby Braff) I had heard and admired him on record: a floating player, thoughtful, incorporating Bud Freeman, Lester Young, and Pee Wee Russell into his own gentle conception. He was never loud or forceful, but a sonic watercolorist.
In the next few years, I had the good fortune to hear and record him in several gigs: at Brew’s, at the New School, on an afternoon gig in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, at the Root Cellar in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, along with Vic Dickenson, Jack Fine, Marshall Brown, Doc Cheatham, Mike Burgevin, Dick Wellstood, Dill Jones, and others. I was a shy college student, reluctant to impose myself in conversation with my heroes, although from what I know of Sam, he would have made me welcome.
This was my first aural introduction to Sammy, serene in Ruby Braff’s energized wake, thoughtfully creating songs of his own:
and Sammy’s beautiful interlude in the company of George Wein:
About a year ago, I made friends (thanks to Facebook) with his multi-talented daughter Carla, who generously shared her memories of her father. I offer her extended loving portrait to you now, with thanks.
Sammy and Louis: photograph by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum
My dad had a fraternal twin brother who was also musically talented. He played piano by ear and whenever they went to the movies as kids, his brother would come home and play themes the pianist played during the showings, having somehow retained all of that musical information in his head. My Uncle Carl (for who I am named) tragically died young (I think from glomular neuphritis) after having returned home from WWII.
His father was a housepainter who died from a burst appendix when my dad was eight. His 12 year old (?) brother Mortie had to go to work as did his mother. He had two sisters as well.
I’m not even sure how he and Ruby came to be friends. As my dad often loved to say, “Oh, yes, I’ve been friends with Ruby many times.” My mother actually dated Ruby first. I don’t know what happened there, but then my mother started dating my dad.
Sammy and Ruby Braff, photograph by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum
The recordings that you sent me, around 1974, I was surprised that Ruby was on there. I heard so much about Ruby, but I never met him until I was a teenager. I was under the impression that they were on the outs, and I thought maybe it was because of the relationship with my mother, but I don’t know. They both were Boston people who came to New York, but they were really not the same people, my father and Ruby.
On records, he was the sideman for Ruby most of the time. But he was on a Martin Mull recording that Ruby wasn’t on. I didn’t know that he was on fifteen recordings! He talked about how much he hated doing studio work, that it made him very anxious. He didn’t like recording. And I didn’t find out until maybe two and a half years ago that he was on so many recordings.
Ruby and my dad loved Bud Freeman and Lester Young, but he had considered jumping the fence into be-bop. He strongly considered that, because that was what was coming, what was current. He claimed that Ruby had talked him out of it, so they both stayed on that side of the fence. I don’t know if he was happy about that decision or not, I don’t know how that went. He didn’t have a great opinion about bop — I went to Indiana University and I was a jazz studies major, and he was kind of unenthusiastic about it, but then he started listening to it more . . .
I do remember going to Brew’s and the Red Blazer with him. I remember going to Doylestown, Pennsylvania with him, the club that had the big murals at the back of the stage, Mike Burgevin’s THE ROOT CELLAR. He took me to the hotel once, and I remember telling him that I wouldn’t go to bed until he played SATIN DOLL. I was about nine.
Kenny Davern, Mike Burgevin, and Sammy at Brew’s, New York City: courtesy Chuck Slate
When I was in my teens, he had me sitting in a lot, singing, when he was playing at Jimmy Ryan’s with Max Kaminsky, who was the leader. Ernie Hackett, Bobby Hackett’s son, was playing drums. The trombonist might have been Bobby Pratt. One night I sat in and Roy Eldridge was in the audience, my dad introduced me to him, and I was “Yeah, okay, I don’t know who that is.” I’m really glad I didn’t know who Roy was when I was singing! I remember going to Eddie Condon’s with him, and he played a lot in the basement of the Empire State Building, at a restaurant called the Riverboat.
Back row: Sammy, Ruby, Vic Dickenson, Jackie Williams, Al Hall; front: Wayne Wright, Jimmy Andrews. Brew’s, New York City. Photograph by Mike Burgevin, courtesy Chuck Slate.
A musical interlude, 1974, part one:
and part two:
He was really making a living doing these gigs. He wasn’t doing anything else. In the summers he would play in the Catskills, all summer. The Italian Catskills, not the Jewish Catskills. I went with him one time; I usually spent my summers with him because my mom and dad weren’t together. From the time I was about eight I spent summers with him in New York. My mother sang a little bit but I wouldn’t call her a singer although she liked to sing. She was an actor and dancer who sang. She came to New York for that, and my dad was impressed with her dancing but he never saw her act, which I find astonishing, because that’s what her big aspirations were, and that’s what she did, mostly. She was a dancer at the Copacabana, and I don’t know where else. And she studied at the Herbert Berghoff Studio. But she later became a lawyer. Because of them, I grew up with a lot of exposure to musical theater and to jazz.
My father was really sweet and affectionate. He read a lot of Krishnamurti. He was very much into health foods and supplements, always reading up on those things. He was into ayurvedic medicine. He ate other things, but he wanted me to be very healthy. He was, although culturally, ethnically and gastronomically Jewish, an atheist, but interested in Eastern philosophy. Despite his avid interest in health foods, supplements, etc., he did enjoy the occasional hamburger and jelly doughnut and Sanka with Sweet and Low. When I asked him about that he responded “Years of bad habits.”
He was also a really good athlete, very athletic, forever, up until right before he died. He played golf and tennis. I remember he and Ruby had done a date in Hawaii with Tony Bennett, and when they came back he and Tony played tennis often. Once when they were playing tennis, some guy from the club asked Tony if he would play with him after he got done playing with his instructor (meaning my dad)…my mom loved telling that story.
I remember we went to Tony’s apartment one time and had lunch. Tony had artwork there and I thought that was really cool, because my dad was also a really lovely artist as well. He did a lot of watercolors. I don’t know what happened to his art, whether he got rid of it when he moved to Florida in 1990 or 1991, but it disappeared and I wanted to have some of it.
Portrait of the singer Connie Greco by Sammy Margolis
In NYC, he lived in Hell’s Kitchen on 44th and 10th Avenue. At that time, one had to be rather paranoid to stay safe from crime. Of course he was diligent about locking his car and his apartment. Once he moved to Deerfield Beach, Florida, he refused to live in fear and refused to lock his apartment or his car. Whenever I visited him in Florida, he would not allow me to lock anything either, which I found hilarious. I lived in NYC at the time, and understood completely.
He had had rheumatic fever as a child, and later that caused a leaky heart valve, so some time in the late Eighties he had surgery to replace the heart valve – several surgeries, because there was an artificial heart valve that his body rejected, then there was a pig valve which worked, but he had to be very careful. I’m not sure if he knew that he had prostate cancer before he moved to Florida. He moved down there to relax, to be a “snowbird” with family who spent winters in Palm Springs. There were a lot of musician friends who had retired to Florida, so he did do some gigs there – but he was basically retired when he went down there. He was very worried that the heart problem was going to do him in, but it was the prostate cancer, and they couldn’t do surgery because of the heart problem.
When I took my son down to Florida as a baby (I think that was the last time my dad saw him), I had to go to the laundry room in his complex, leaving him alone with my son (who could stand up but wasn’t yet talking). He played clarinet for my son to keep him amused. I only caught the tail end of it when I returned. It was so cute, my son was enthralled.
He was very funny, very outgoing, and he had hilarious stories. He was a very good storyteller, and I loved that. There was a story about a tiger in Bermuda, but I don’t remember how it went. He spent some time on cruise ships going to Bermuda, and he used to bring back gifts for me and art. There’s one statue of a woman which I have in my house now that he always had on the mantel in his living room.
He loved taking me to museums, to art museums, oh my gosh. He would talk to me about composition, and he loved Matisse and vibrant colors. Did you know he studied at the Art Students’ League? I mean, he felt it was really kind of a curse to be really good at a lot of things, but not just art. He was an intellectual, and some things he didn’t really have to try to be good at. Cooking and art and more. He was a thinker, and that may have been hard for him later. He loved Nature, and we’d go to Central Park, and he’d set up some watercolors and we’d draw, but he didn’t interfere with what I was doing, he would just let me do my thing.
Whenever we were walking down the street in New York, and we did a lot of walking together, and he was always singing or humming. All the time! – when we were talking or even when we were. He was a man full of music. There was never ever a second when it wasn’t turned on. I should record THE MORE I SEE YOU for him, because he always wanted me to do that song. I don’t know why it was that particular one, but he did. And he used to sing ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET all the time.
He loved having me sing, whenever I was with him in a club. Once I started that, he loved it. And he would give me really, really helpful feedback. Truly helpful. He was not overly critical of my singing at all. No, he was lavishing praise, But when I wanted to be a music major in college – I started out as a French major –which was actually useless to me (what was I going to do with that?) when I was at Indiana University. But I had friends who were musicians, I interacted with them, and they were super-surprised that I was not a music major. “You should be a music major!” they told me. I was terrified that I would not get in to the program. I went and did an unofficial audition for David Baker first, and he sent me to this classical vocal teacher, then, with their blessing, I officially auditioned for the music school there. I got it, but I didn’t tell anybody at all that I had auditioned.
Then I called my dad to tell him I had gotten in, and he was tickled, he was beside himself with joy. He hung up the phone, and thirty seconds later he called me back. “Are you sure you don’t want to get a different major as a backup? Why don’t you stick with the French?” And I looked at the phone, and I was like, “French??? French is more useless than music. I don’t know what the hell I would do with French. Go somewhere and translate?” I had no vision how that would work into my life. It cracked me up that he was so overjoyed and then called me back and was “Wait, wait, wait . . . . “ It was the mentality he grew up with; my dad was born in 1923. I mean, when I moved back to New York as an adult, I saw him every week, at least once a week, we had our official dinner once a week. I had a day gig at a Japanese insurance company, because I could type. And he would tell me, “You know, my dream for you, my goal for you, my life-dream is for you to marry some businessman you meet around there.” “Wow. Really? Your dream for me?” It didn’t work out that way. Maybe he was right, I don’t know. He was worried that if I became a singer I would become an alcoholic. He was sure those two things went together. It did not happen, but he was very, very worried about that.
He also helped me be prepared when dealing with musicians, even on pick-up dates, sitting in, or being a leader. He really told me, “You know, musicians are going to hate you because you’re a singer. You really have to be super prepared so that they respect you.” I thought that was the best piece of advice anybody could give me. I was incredibly spoiled by all the musicians I met even when I was a little girl. But when I was little even though I played a little piano, I didn’t know what keys I sang in. I’d just start to sing, they would find the key, and it would be fine. I was spoiled by that. But things change.
I remember meeting Vic Dickenson and Doc Cheatham, Marshall Brown, Mike Burgevin, Kenny Davern, and of course Max Kaminsky. Oh, there’s a sad thing. I was supposed to meet Louis Armstrong, my dad really wanted to introduce me to him, but I was in Michigan and Louis died before I got back to New York, but later I did meet Lucille Armstrong. Dill Jones was the first pianist to play for me in public. My mom and dad were both really good friends with Jack Bradley. My sister said – I wasn’t old enough to understand this – that Jack facilitated it so that my mother bought Louis’ cream-colored Cadillac from Louis for five hundred dollars. I remember that car very well and I know there was some connection to Jack Bradley and Louis.
That same evening. Photograph by Mike Burgevin.
In the Seventies, when I was in New York with him, he would go off and do gigs at night, and I wasn’t going out at night so I would stay at the apartment watching TV, but I got hold of his fakebook, and I was going through it, listening to jazz recordings that he had, and jazz radio – he listened to WNEW – teaching myself songs from that fakebook. Even though I couldn’t really read music yet, I would listen to people singing the songs and I would follow along. I learned a lot of tunes that way. I wouldn’t have learned them with him around, or my mother around: that was solo contemplation.
And on those recordings you sent, you said there were people talking at the start, and I thought, “Oh, I hope I get to hear his voice!” and he wasn’t talking, but he was in the background warming up his saxophone, and that’s why he wasn’t talking, he was on the stand already.
There’s a story my dad liked to tell, and in my recollection I cannot do it justice because I cannot give you his facial expressions or inflections. He was at his friend’s apartment in upper Manhattan (I don’t remember whose apartment, possibly Lou Levy’s?). Dave Lambert was at the party. Jazz records were being played (of course). Someone knocked on the door and the host asked my dad to answer. He opened the door and Duke Ellington was standing there. My dad was so surprised to see one of his idols standing there. After he let him in, the host asked my dad to pick the next record for everyone to listen to. My dad was so nervous because he couldn’t believe he was picking music for Ellington to listen to. I wish I could remember what he chose. But evidently it was something Ellington liked.
Here is Ruby Braff’s elegy for his friend, Ruby’s liner note to the 1996 BEING WITH YOU (Arbors):
This album, this salute to Louis, is as much about Sam Margolis as it is about Pops!
So much of my musical thinking was formed and inspired by the musical dedication and artistic humility of Sam, my old friend and teacher. No one ever did or could pay more homage to the genius and influence that Louis had on every aspect of American music. In that sense, Sam was a great champ and winner.
On March 23, 1996 tragedy struck out group of friends and many others! Our Sammy lost his fight with cancer. To the end he went with great courage and gallantry! My thoughts were about him as we made this recording a scant few weeks later.
Every one who knew him will miss this enormously talented person of profound influence. Jack Bradley’s great picture of Sam and Pops is the way I think he’d like to be remembered.
May God grant him the eternal peace his great soul deserves.
We will never forget you, Sam . . .
I would add to those grieving words my own perception that Sammy Margolis, up close or at a distance, was a joyous individual, a remarkable man: gentle, funny, modest, multi-talented. I regret now that my shyness got in the way of a real conversation, because I feel that Sammy would have engaged my young self with kindness.
There will be more music to celebrate Sammy, and perhaps JAZZ LIVES’ readers have their own tales. He deserves to be well-remembered. And my deep thanks to Carla Margolis for her memories above.
Many words follow, which one could skip in favor of the music, but this was and is an event of some significance. Here’s the press release.
The Museum of Modern Art Saturday, July 17, 1965 Pee Wee Russell will lead an all-star quintet Including cornetist Bobby Hackett in the Garden at The Museum of Modern Art on Thursday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m. The legendary clarinetist will also be joined by Dave Frlshberg, piano, George Tucker, bass, and Oliver Jackson, drums. The group plays the sixth In a series of ten Thursday evening promenade concerts sponsored jointly by the Museum and Down Beat Magazine. The regular Museum admission, $1.00, admits visitors to galleries,open Thursdays until 10 p.m. Tickets for Jazz in the Garden are an additional 50 cents. A few chairs are available on the garden terraces, but most of the audience stands or sits on the ground. Cushions may be rented for 25 cents. Sandwiches and soft drinks are available to concert-goers in the Garden Restaurant. Dinner Is served to the public in the Penthouse Restaurant from 6 to 8. In case of rain, the concert will be canceled; tickets will be honored at the concert following. Once dubbed “the Gertrude Stein of jazz” because of his highly individualistic approach to his instrument, Russell, with a style ranging from poetic to satiric, has never become dated. Though frequently associated with jazz of a Dixieland flavor, in 1963 he surprised the jazz world by recording with a pianoless quartet, playing a modern repertoire with pieces by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. In 1965 he was teamed with Monk and his quartet at the Newport Festival. Born in 1906 in St. Louis, Russell was a close associate of such pioneer jazzmen of the 20s as Bix Beiderbecke, Leon Rappolo and Frank Trumbauer. He played in Chicago with the founders of Chicago Style Jazz. In 1927 he came to New York where he worked and recorded with Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, Ben Pollack, Jack Teagarden and other leading players of the day. He was among the first to bring jazz to New York’s famed 52nd Street, working at the Onyx Club with trumpeter Louis Prima, whose big band he later joined. After working briefly with Bobby Hackett’s big band in 1938, he began a long association with guitarist Eddie Condon, sparkplug of small-group traditional jazz, and was for years a fixture at Nick’s and Eddie Condon’s in Greenwich Village. Russell won first place on clarinet in the Down Beat International Critic’s Poll in I964 and I965. Russell’s Museum concert will be videotaped by NBC-TV for broadcast later this summer as part of the Kaleidoscope series. For Jazz in the Garden. Dan Morgenstern, New York editor of Down Beat, is Chairman of a Program Committee consisting of David Himmelsteln, editor of FM Magazine, Charles Graham, a sound systems specialist, and Herbert Bronstein, Series Director. The series will continue July 29 with the Roy Eldridge Quintet featuring Richie Kamuca.
My friend and benefactor John L. Fell sent me, as part of an early cassette, the music from the NBC “Kaleidoscope” broadcast of September 4, 1965, hosted by Nat Hentoff: ‘DEED I DO, featuring Russell and Hackett; THE MAN WITH THE HORN, an unusual Hackett feature (the only recording of it by him that has been documented), and I’M IN THE MARKET FOR YOU, a Russell feature with Hackett joining in.
The remarkable bio-discography by Bert Whyatt and George Hulme, BOBBY HACKETT: HIS LIFE IN MUSIC, notes that eleven songs were played at this concert. Whitney Balliett reviewed it in THE NEW YORKER as well. It is too late to wonder, “Where is the rest of the video-recording?” because networks erased videotape for economy, but I would love to know if anyone ever had a complete recording of the concert. (And, while the researchers are at it, the Eldridge-Kamuca quintet and another concert, the front line Buster Bailey, Joe Thomas, and Vic Dickenson. Do I dream in vain? And I think: I was alive and reasonably sentient in 1965, and my parents had a television set. Was KALEIDOSCOPE under-advertised so that it escaped my notice, I, who read TV GUIDE avidly?)
Here’s what I have, noble and lively: the interplay between Bobby and Pee Wee, friends for almost thirty years in 1965; the wonderful terse support of Frishberg . . . and, as a side-note, the way Pee Wee says, wordlessly, “That tempo is much too fast for what I have in mind,” at the start of MARKET, and how Frishberg listens — some would have simply kept on obliviously.
Dan Morgenstern, intimately involved in this series, recalled asking Pee Wee to lead a group, Pee Wee said yes instantly and when I asked who he wanted he said, in less than two seconds, ‘Bobby,’ and we instantly agreed on Dave whom he had encountered, while the great, alas short-lived Tucker and Ollie were our choices, Pee Wee wanted Black musicians in there. He also said he did not want Condonites—not for strictly musical reasons but for a much desired environmental change.
And from Dan’s column in JERSEY JAZZ . . . . beginning with praise of the wonderful pianist Dave Frishberg . . .
Sometimes things happen in a strangely appropriate but unexpected way. When we lost Dave Frishberg recently I didn’t have to read the obits to learn that his well earnedsuccess as a songwriter sadly overshadowed, maybe even hid from view, his great gifts as a pianist. When I caught him live he’d give us a wee taste of his keyboard skills, almost like a teaser. I wanted to complain to his attorney Bernie and ask Dear Bix to pull his coat for some keyboard Quality Time but had to settle for some peeled grapes. Then I was gassed when I got a CD of a concert featuring Al and Zoot, with Dave at the piano, but the asinine producer had edited out all of his solos—something my colleague in the Crow’s Nest told me Dave was angry about, so he still did care about the keyboard…. A bit later, Dave called to tell me about a local tenor player he thought highly of and said he’d send me a sample. I was of course interested but primarily happy that I’d get to hear some of that piano! Well, guess what? There was plenty of a nice enough sax man but far too little piano, alas…. Then, just a few days ago as I write, my good friend Michael Steinman, who is a great finder of buried treasure, sent me something that not only was of special musical but also special personal value: an excerpt from a concert in the “Jazz in the Garden” series at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, co-produced by yours truly, in this instance from July 22, 1965. (The summer series ran for several years, successfully, until MOMA, modern to the core, decided that jazz was no longer in the moment and suggested we blend it with what was then considered hip, if not quite hop, to which we (Ira Gitler, David Himmelstein, Don Schlitten and I) said no thanks. (They hired a musician whose name escapes me; after a few performances, the concerts ceased due to noise complaints from neighboring tenants—who during the jazz regime had invited guests to join them in enjoyment, forfree, of the sounds emanating from the Garden. Sic transit non gloria mundi, needless to say to our considerable schadenfreude!) But I digress, the concert in question featured the inimitable Pee Wee Russell in the too rare role as leader of a band of his own choice—Bobby Hackett, bassist George Tucker, drummer Oliver Jackson and—you guessed it—Dave Frishberg. It was, uniquely, televised by NBC in an arts series, but when we asked for a copy we were told it had been wiped. However, audio fragments survived—one tune eventually appeared on a Xanadu LP, but that, we thought, was all. However, two more had been captured, and all three have now been heard by me more than half a century later. The band was great, Pee Wee was happy which made me happy, and there is great work by Dave. As I said—things happen. Ah, sweet mystery of life!
Some lament the loss of the Library of Alexandria; I lament that we cannot hear (and see!) the other eight selections this lovely band performed. What wonders they created.
This performance is both rare and familiar, famous and infamous, and you’ll hear why. It comes from a jam session organized by Joe Marsala from the St. Regis Hotel in New York City which was broadcast to the BBC — unheard at home. The eager announcer, jazz fan Alistair Cooke, is so eager to explain the new phenomenon of swing to the uninitiated that he explains — to some, insufferably — through most of the track.
But if you have the kind of first-rate mind F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke of, and you can listen around the well-intentioned Mr. Cooke, you will hear some astonishing music from Bobby Hackett, cornet; Marty Marsala, trumpet; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Dave Tough, drums. Source material from a Jazz Unlimited CD, GREAT SWING JAM SESSIONS.
I used to expend energy complaining about our Alistair, but as I’ve aged I hear him out of the corner of my consciousness while I prize the splash and drive of Dave Tough’s cymbal work and tom-toms, the ferocious joy of the soloists and ensemble. No Alistair, no jam session, even though his timing is off: he is like a little boy with short legs chasing the parade. Rather than complain, KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE. It’s a bubble, you know:
Hot in November for sure. And as Mr. Cooke wisely says, “This is no concert for people who don’t like swing.” Imagine this blazing out of your radio. And if you are so inclined to comment on Mr. Cooke’s loquacity, remember that he is an anthropologist introducing people to a new culture, and thank him: no Cooke, no music.
One of Marty Grosz’s favorite vaudeville bits is to announce the next number, and say “. . . performed with dispatch and vigor,” and then motion to two musicians near him, saying, “That’s Dispatch, and that’s Vigor.” How old it is I don’t know, but it still provokes a laugh from me and the audience. (The expression goes back to the eighteenth century and before: it crops up in a letter from George Washington, which would please Marty if he doesn’t already know it.)
Perhaps the earliest recording we have of Marty (then playing a four-string guitar) and his miraculous colleague Frank Chace dates from 1951, issued on a limited edition 10″lp by THE INTENSELY VIGOROUS JAZZ BAND. The personnel is John Dengler, cornet; Marty Ill, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet; Hal Cabot, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Stan Bergen, drums. Princeton, New Jersey, May 1951. I have a copy here somewhere, but it proves elusive. From what I remember of the liner notes, Marty and Frank were ringers, added to the Princeton students’ band of the time.
Through the good offices of the very generous collector Hot Jazz 78rpms — who shares marvels regularly on his YouTube channel — I can offer you all of this rather grainy but certainly precious disc. But before you leap into auditory splendor, may I caution you: not everyone on this session is at the same level, but it would be wrong to give it only a passing grade as “semi-pro college Dixieland.” Close listening will reveal subtleties, even in the perhaps overfamiliar repertoire. Marty, Frank, and John shine. And the three Princetonians, none of whom went on to jazz fame, play their roles. With dispatch and vigor.
NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:
BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (a memorable Chace chorus):
I FOUND A NEW BABY:
THE SHEIK OF ARABY (my favorite):
BASIN STREET BLUES:
AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
and, yes, WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN with some of its original luster intact:
Intense, vigorous, and joyous too. And if you hear echoes of Eddie, Charles Ellsworth, Bix, and their friends, that’s not a bad thing.
Pee Wee Russell hadn’t taken good care of himself, and his body had rebelled in 1951. Thank goodness for the medical acumen of the times that enabled him to live almost twenty years more. But I also think that knowing that he was so loved — Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong visiting him in the hospital — and events such as this concert must have helped. Music and love were so intertwined that it would be silly to ask where one starts and the other one ends, because neither one of them ends.
It’s odd to write that good things came out of the Cold War. But the belief that one of the best ways to exhibit the happiness possible under capitalism was to share hot music as an emblem of freedom may seem naive now, but it had sweet results. The Voice of America, an active propaganda medium, beamed live American jazz “behind the Iron Curtain,” hoping for conversion experiences.
In 2021, those of us old enough to remember Khruschev’s shoe and the Bay of Pigs, hiding under our desks, terrified of a thermonuclear device, can listen to some rich “Americondon” music. And for those who have no idea what those historical references might mean are encouraged to learn a little history and listen to the joys.
Here’s the menu:
JAZZ CLUB USA (Voice of America): from Town Hall, New York City, February 21, 1951: Tribute to Pee Wee Russell.
FIDGETY FEET / I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Ed Hall, Gene Schroeder, Eddie Condon, Bob Casey, Buzzy Drootin / UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE Ernie Caceres, Schroeder, Al Hall, Buzzy / I CAN’T GET STARTED – HALLELUJAH! Joe Bushkin, Ray McKinley / IN A MIST Ralph Sutton / BASIN STREET BLUES as FIDGETY FEET:
I did not take the pandemic lightly, and I spent a good deal of last year scared to bits . . . but I’m going. And I hope you will also, if you can.
Details here — but I know you want more than just details.
Although for those who like it very plain, some elementary-school math: four days, more than a hundred sets performed at eight stages, from intimate to huge. Dance floors. And the festival is wonderfully varied, presenting every kind of “roots music” you can imagine: “jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, rockabilly, Americana, Western Swing, country.”
Off the top of my head — when I was there in 2019, I heard the music of Charlie Christian, Moon Mullican, Pee Wee Russell, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Pete Johnson, Billie Holiday, and much more. Bob Wills said howdy to Walter Donaldson, which was very sweet.
And here are some of the jazz and blues artists who will be there: Carl Sonny Leyland, Duke Robillard, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Jonathan Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, Dan Walton, Marc Caparone, Joe Goldberg, Bill Reinhart, Joshua Gouzy, Joel Patterson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Clint Baker, Kris Tokarski, Nate Ketner, Brian Casserly, Josh Collazo, Ryan Calloway, and two dozen other worthies whose names don’t yet appear on the site. And of course, bands — ad hoc units and working ones.
For the justifiably anxious among us, here is the RCMF’s Covid update: several things stand out. First, California has mandated that ticket sales must be in advance. And understandably, there will be fewer people allowed in any space . . . so this translates for you, dear reader, as a double incentive to buy tickets early. I know that festivals always urge attendees to do this, but you can see these are atypical reasons.
How about some musical evidence?
CASTLE ROCK, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, by Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet:
REACHING FOR SOMEONE, by the Doyle-Zimmerman Sextet:
HELLO, LOLA! by Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:
SAN ANTONIO ROSE, by Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith’s Western Swing All-Stars:
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, by Marc Caparone and his “Louis Armstrong All-Stars”:
If the videos don’t act as proof, my words may be superfluous. But to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll write if I want to.”
I come to this festival-jazz party circuit late — both late for me and for the phenomenon — September 2004. Chautauqua, California, Connecticut, Newcastle, Westoverledingen, and others. I’ve attended a hundred of them. Meaning no offense to any festival organizer, I think Redwood Coast delivers such quality and such range that it is astonishing. I told Mark Jansen that it was the SUPERMARKET SWEEP of festivals: so much to pick up on in so short a time. And readers will understand that my range is narrow: there is much music on the list of genres above that doesn’t stir me, although it might be excellent.
However: in 2019 I came home with over 150 videos in four days of enthusiastic observation-participation. I slept as if drugged on the plane ride home. I’d been perforated by music of the finest kind.
I also need to write a few darker sentences.
There is a blessed influx of younger people — dancers, often — to music festivals like this one. But festivals are large enterprises, costly to stage and exhausting to supervise. Those of us who want to be able to see and hear live music must know that this phenomenon needs what realistic promoters call Asses in Seats.
So if you say, “Well, I’ll come in a few years when I’m retired,” that’s understandable. But Asses at Home mean that this festival, and others, might not wait for you. Grim, but true.
So I hope to see you there. There are a million reasons to stay at home. But who will come in and dust you?
Too good to ignore: Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone, clarinet; Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet. THREE LITTLE WORDS, key-changing from C to Ab:
That swinging love song from 1930 is much loved by jazz musicians — perhaps beginning with the Ellington version. It’s also the setup for a famous Turk Murphy joke, and Pee Wee Russell used to call it THREE LITTLE BIRDS. Here it’s a playground for this swinging band to enjoy themselves and bring joy to us.
I offer the keys to an Easter Sunday compact outdoor jazz festival in New York City — like water for people who have been parched by deprivation far too long — and Easter celebrations of the hallowed past. Yes, JAZZ LIVES is your full-service Easter jazz blog. Did you doubt it?
The good news for Sunday, April 4, 2021, for those people within easy reach of Manhattan, is that what Jay Rattman modestly calls “the little gig at the church” is going to happen. Hark! It’s 2-3 on Sunday in front of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher Street. (Take the #1 subway if you are so inclined.) Danny Tobias on trumpet, Jay on soprano saxophone assuming it’s a little too chilly for clarinet, Josh Holcomb on trombone, James Chirillo on banjo, and Brian Nalepka on tuba. I won’t be there with a video camera . . . other commitments . . . . so you have to make the scene yourself. And that, as E.B. White’s Charlotte says, is SOME BAND.
Here’s music to get in the mood, no matter what your Sunday plans are.
The live performances below combine all sorts of pleasures: Irving Berlin, Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Lou McGarity, Jess Stacy, Pee Wee Russell, Gene Krupa, George Wettling, Sidney Catlett, and more. Eddie liked the song — he loved American pop music of the highest order — as you can hear, he didn’t save it for the one spring Sunday.
I have another EASTER PARADE that didn’t get shared with the troops, but that will appear as part of a Condon concert that only a handful of people have ever heard. Watch this space.
Back to the issued music: if it needs to be pointed out, these performances stand alongside the more-heralded jazz recordings of the time, the small-group sides of the middle Forties, for delight, ingenuity, swing, and feeling. Let no one characterize Eddie and his friends’ music as “Dixieland”; let no one stereotype it as too-fast renditions of traditional warhorses. There’s elegance and lyricism here, exploration of the subtle variations possible within medium and medium-fast tempos. I think those truths need to be said repeatedly, to re-establish a proper hierarchy of great jazz performances.
Bobby Hackett, Muggsy Spanier (cnt) Max Kaminsky (tp) Miff Mole (tb) Pee Wee Russell, Edmond Hall (cl) Ernie Caceres (bar) Jess Stacy (p) Eddie Condon (g,mc) Sid Weiss (b) Gene Krupa (d). Town Hall, New York, Sept. 23, 1944:
Max Kaminsky (tp) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Ernie Caceres (cl,bar) Jess Stacy (p) Eddie Condon (g,mc) Bob Casey (b) Joe Grauso (d). November 11, 1944:
Billy Butterfield (tp) Lou McGarity (tb) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Ernie Caceres (bar,cl) Gene Schroeder (p) Eddie Condon (g,mc) Sid Weiss (b) Sidney Catlett (d). March 31, 1945:
Max Kaminsky (tp) Miff Mole (tb) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Ernie Caceres (bar) Jess Stacy (p) Eddie Condon (g,mc) Jack Lesberg (b) George Wettling (d). Audition for a Chesterfield cigarette-sponsored radio program, Spring 1945:
People who celebrate Easter as the most serious Christian ritual may do it in their own way; perhaps some families will still get together for closeness and food; some will just take the occasion to get dressed up or to watch others, so spiffy in their spring finery. Wise types who understand the importance of pleasure will get themselves down to 81 Christopher Street between 2 and 3 on Sunday. Heretics like myself may entertain themselves by thinking that chocolate bunnies will be half-price on Monday.
Over the past few months, I’ve been attempting to assemble a portrait, words and music, of Kenny Davern. He’s been the subject of an extensive biography, JUST FOUR BARS, by Edward Meyer, but I wanted to talk to musicians who had known and played with him while everyone, including me, is still around. This first part is a wonderful reminiscence of Kenny by his friend and ours, trumpeter Danny Tobias, who looks and sees, hears and remembers. At the end there’s music that will be new to you. And Part Two is on the way.
He had a reputation of being crabby, and he was all that, but he liked me, and he liked the way I played — most of the time — if he didn’t like it, he let me know . . . there was no bullshit. If I did something dumb, he would say it right there. If I screwed up an ending, he would say, “Why did you do that?” and I would explain, and he would say, “Don’t do that.” So I learned a lot from him. He didn’t pull any punches, but he genuinely liked the way I played. Once he told me I was a natural blues player, and that meant the world to me. I had a feel for it. When he said something nice, it meant a lot to me.
He introduced me to the music of Pee Wee Russell. He knew who was on every record. He’d say, “Did you ever hear those Red Allen records or the Mound City Blue Blowers from —– ?” and I’d say no, and he’d come in the next week with a cassette. Then, after the gig, we’d go out to the car, and he would smoke his Camels, and we would listen to a whole side of a tape! He was also very much into Beethoven, into classical music, in particular the conductor Furtwangler. He’d say, “Check this out,” and I’d get in his car and he’d play a whole movement from one of the symphonies. And then I started collecting recordings, mostly so I could talk to him about it. And if I heard anything, I could call him and say, “Do you know this record?” and “What do you think of this?” When he died, that was what I missed most — being able to call and ask him about this record or that record.
I’m still picking up recordings of Kenny I never heard before. Dick Sudhalter put together a concert of Kenny and Dick Wellstood at the Vineyard Theatre. It was terrific. I still get thrilled by these recordings.
I got to play with him, for about ten years, at a hotel in Princeton called Scanticon, If he wasn’t on the road, he could have that gig if he wanted it. He was there a lot — maybe half the Saturday nights. Here’s what I don’t regret. Some people say, ‘I wish I’d appreciated the time I spent with _____,” but I appreciated every night I spent with Kenny. I was in seventh heaven playing next to him.
The things I take away from him that I try to incorporate . . . He could build a solo. If he was playing three or four choruses, there was a growth. It was going somewhere. Everything would build. The tune would build. If you were in an ensemble with him, it was going forward. When I play now, he’s not here, but I try to keep that thought: build, build, build.
The other thing about him, and it’s a treasure — these aren’t my words, but somebody said he could play the melody of a song with real conviction. It would be unmistakably him. No hesitation. If he played a wrong note, it wouldn’t matter. He played with total conviction. And that’s kind of rare. I can hear other people getting distracted — it didn’t happen to him much, because he played with that sureness.
And he had more dynamic range than any clarinet player I’ve ever heard. He could play in the lower register, and I’d hear Jimmie Noone — he did that so well — in the middle register I could hear Fazola in his sound, and a thing he could do that I don’t hear anyone else do, he could soar. In an outchorus, he could play a gliss, it was the biggest sound you’d ever heard. And not just loud, but a big wide sound. Not a shrill high sound. It’s a thing I haven’t heard anyone else do. Irving Fazola had that same kind of fat sound. Who knows where that comes from? It’s a richness, I guess. Not loud, but big, Round.
He taught me how to play in ensembles. He said, “In an ensemble, don’t just leave space, but musically — ask a question and wait for the answer.” Play something that will elicit a response. And there’s nothing in the world more fun than that. You have a real dialogue going on. He’s the first person who explained that to me. People are afraid to talk to each other on the bandstand, we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings, but he’s the first person who said, “Do that,” and it made playing in ensembles so much more fun. I can get responses from other players by setting something up. Being the lead horn player, you have to set that up. It doesn’t just happen.
He had such varied interests. He would read all kinds of books. I don’t know where he got the time. I don’t think he slept. Not just music. He would read novels. A lot of it was over my head. He was all self-taught. He could speak really good German. He could communicate really well in several languages. I always wanted to be like him, to get a touring schedule and go here and there, because it seemed very exotic to me, in my thirties, and I’m sure it wasn’t as exotic as I pictured it. He complained about everything, but I think he loved it.
On a gig, Kenny would talk to the audience . . . he would just tell stories — how he just got back from Scotland and how everything was awful, the conditions were awful, how he had to spend a night in a hotel and couldn’t use the bar. He would go on diatribes — funny, acerbic. I remember one time he was playing at Trenton State, where I went to college. I went to hear him, and he was playing in the student center, talking about the architecture and how bad it was. The audience was laughing but the administrators were a little uncomfortable. He would talk as if he were in a conversation rather than just announcing songs . . . as if he was letting you in on the inside dirt.
He really loved the final group he had, with Greg Cohen, and Tony Di Nicola, and James Chirillo. He’d been to all the jazz parties and festivals, and so on, but he got to the point where that was he wanted to do. If you hired him, he wanted to be there with his band. He was happier being the only horn. And he loved guitar — you know, after Wellstood . . . I mean he loved playing with Art Hodes and with John Bunch, but in that group he liked guitar. In that group, it was freer for him. The piano can pin you in to certain harmony rules; it can be too busy. With the guitar, he got real freedom: he could play whatever he wanted. If he wasn’t with a great piano player, he would cut them out when it was his turn to play. He didn’t like extraneous stuff. I felt bad for them sometimes, but Kenny could just play with the bass and the drums. And sound great, of course.
He had a reputation for making fun of things, but he was so good to me. He went out of his way to introduce me to records he thought I should listen to, he put me on bands where I was in over my head a little bit, and he got me playing with great guys. He couldn’t have been nicer to me.
The music: Davern, clarinet; Dick Wellstood, piano; Butch Hall, guitar; Van Perry, string bass; Eddie Phyfe, drums; Tommy Saunders, cornet; Bill Allred, trombone; Mason Country Thomas, tenor saxophone. I WANT TO BE HAPPY / WABASH BLUES / SWING THAT MUSIC. Thumbscrews, no extra charge.
Louis, Bix, Brad, Gene, Jack, Buck, Pee Wee, and company . . . all in less than a dozen minutes. These delicious scraps come from the collection of John L. Fell — a potpourri he sent to me around 1987, some seen in the case above. This is part of my crusade (obsession?) to share the music with you.
From “The World Series of Jazz” [Quaker City Jazz Festival] in Philadelphia, CBS Radio, August 28, 1960, I FOUND A NEW BABY, featuring Gene Krupa, Pee Wee Russell, and Buck Clayton, probably Eddie Wasserman, tenor saxophone; Ronnie Ball, piano; Kenny O’Brien, bass.
An undetermined place and time, Jack Teagarden playing along with the 1928 Bix and his Gang recording of MARGIE.
Louis (and the All-Stars with Trummy Young, Ed Hall) selling Rheingold beer, October 1956.
Brad Gowans elaborates on the beautiful theme of JADA, perhaps his feature with the “Sextet from Hunger” transcription group.
The only problem is that now I want a beer, and it’s not even noon. Such is the power of Louis.
The singular musician and personality Oran Thaddeus “Hot Lips” Page was born today, January 27, in 1908. Alas, he moved to another neighborhood on November 5, 1954. Happily, he left behind a good deal of evidence: soaring heroic trumpet solos, wonderful vocals. He remains an inspiring presence who comes through whole on record. I don’t ordinarily celebrate birthdays on JAZZ LIVES, but he deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
Here’s Lips — leading the way as only he could — at a concert on February 22, 1947, at the Caravan Hall at 110 East 59th Street in New York City, with Charlie Castaldo, trombone; Tony Parenti, clarinet; Joe Sullivan, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Pops Foster, string bass; Charlie Minogue, drums. Beautifully recorded as well:
Music from three of these Caravan Hall concerts has been issued on Jazzology Records (including performances by Bunk Johnson, Muggsy Spanier, James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Baby Dodds, and others). The CD notes do not explain what saintly benefactor(s) recorded the concerts, but apparently the evenings were structured as friendly battles between two groups of musicians: established African-Americans, often from New Orleans, and a band of young Caucasians, some of whom went on to be famous, others remaining obscure — Castaldo, who worked with Goodman and Shaw . . .was he Lee Castle’s brother? and Minogue here).
I think that’s a mighty helping — and accurate depiction — of the energies Lips Page brought to music and to performance.
What follows is in celebration not only of Lips, but of Dr. Scott E. Brown, the James P. Johnson scholar. The second edition of his JAMES P. JOHNSON: A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY is something I eagerly look forward to.
Unlike the eight minutes above, what follows is silent, static, tantalizing (made available by the resourceful Jean-Marie Juif):
That’s a CBS television camera; the three stylishly-dressed men are Lips; Zutty Singleton, drums; James P. Johnson, piano. This is a less-reproduced photograph from the same occasion: one that is currently eluding me shows Lips playing, his body bent over Zutty’s drum kit, if memory is accurate.
Jean-Marie also opened the door to new information. There were two television shows — not preserved — by what Getty Images calls “Eddie Condons Jazzopators,” a name that would have made Eddie recoil and then lie down in his version of a Victorian swoon. CBS broadcast a variety show, MEN AT WORK, and Eddie Condon brought a band twice: these photographs are from April 16, 1942; the second show was May 14. Here‘s the sketchy IMDb link, and heretells who appeared on almost all of the sixteen episodes. Of greatest interest to us would be the appearance of “jazz harpist Adele Girard” on October 20, 1941, on a show that also included Professor Nelson’s Boxing Cats.
This description comes from tvobscurities.comand I take it as reasonably accurate, even though it makes no mention of Eddie and calls Robert Alda a “comic”: Beginning July 7th, 1941, WCBW broadcast an hour-long variety show called Men at Work every Monday from 8:30-9:30PM (starting with the December 22nd, 1941 broadcast, the show was cut down to 55 minutes; a five-minute news program was shown from 9:25-9:30PM).
Worthington Minor, the CBS director-in-chief of television, was in charge of Men at Work. Each program took two hours to rehearse and practice. During any given show, viewers might watch singers, dancers, bicyclists, acrobats, roller skaters, mimics, comics, toe dancers, boxing cats, puppeteers, marionettes, Indian dancers, ballroom dancers, comic cellists and more.
Some of the acts seen on the program included Lou and Dorothy Rowlands (roller skaters), Hildegarde Halliday (mimic), the Two Deweys (jugglers), Hank Henry and Robert Alda (comics), Ruth Page and Bentley Stone (dancers), Burl Ives (singer), Reid and Mack (acrobats) and Libby and Betty (bicyclists), to name but a few. Men at Work was last seen on Monday, January 26th, 1942, after thirty broadcasts.
No kinescopes of the Condon episodes [characteristically racially integrated] survive, and so far no home-recordings of the audio portion. However, my explorations of Getty Images this morning yielded jewels.
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums, Hot Lips Page, trumpet. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Joe Sullivan and Zutty Singleton:
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums;Joe Sullivan on piano. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Eddie, Billy Taylor, Sr., and Pee Wee Russell:
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Eddie Condon on guitar; Billy Taylor, bass; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Zutty, Eddie, Joe, Billy, Pee Wee, Bennie Morton, Max Kaminsky:
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums; Eddie Condon on guitar; Joe Sullivan on piano; Billy Taylor, bass; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Benny Morton, trombone; Max Kaminsky, trumpet. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Max and Bennie have changed places, but the same band:
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Television debut of all-star jazz band on CBS Eddie Condon on guitar, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet and other jazz greats. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
That trio again!
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums, Hot Lips Page, trumpet, James P. Johnson on piano. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
With Eddie, half-hidden, at right:
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums, Hot Lips Page, trumpet, James P. Johnson on piano. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condons Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums, Hot Lips Page, trumpet, James P. Johnson on piano and Eddie Condon on guitar. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
If you’re like me, these photographs may evoke emotions somewhere between sorrow and frustration, expressed briefly as “Why weren’t these programs recorded?” I offer these speculations. One, CBS had enough to do with sending these programs out “over the air.” The number of people who had home television sets was small — beneath “small.” Perhaps you could see one in the window of what would eventually be called an electronic store. I am doubtful that bars had televisions in 1942.
Preservation of broadcast material — as in radio — was not seen as crucial, for this was entertainment and thus perceived as ephemeral. For us, now, the idea of hearing more of James P. Johnson is a wonderful fantasy. If you lived in New York City then, however, you might be able to hear him five or six nights a week in Greenqich Village; Eddie and his friends were at Town Hall or Nick’s. So there was no scarcity: if you missed hearing Lips Page on Wednesday, you could always hear him on Friday.
At least we know MEN AT WORK happened and we can see flashes of it.
This just in (Feb. 7) thanks to good friend / deep researcher David J. Weiner:
It’s been a long time since I wore shoes that needed to be shined, but changes in fashion are less important than music sweetly offering hope. This song’s optimistic bounce has always pleased me, so I am pleased to share with you the most current version, by the group calling itself THE BIG FIVE. And I can now hear the verse, words and music . . . saying that shiny shoes are the key to success. Were it that easy:
I will also list the credits, because they make me laugh:
The BIG FIVE Robert Young – cornet Robert Young – 1st alto saxophone Robert Young – 2nd alto saxophone Robert Young – tenor saxophone Robert Young – special arrangement Robert Young – just kidding Jeff Hamilton – piano Bill Reinhart – guitar Hal Smith – drums Clint Baker – string bass.
The source of all this pleasure is the Epiphonaticchannel on YouTube, full of quiet swinging marvels. This morning, it had 99 subscribers. Surely JAZZ LIVES readers can add to that number.
Now, a little history. Three versions! — by the Rhythmakers, here under Jack Bland’s name, the recording band whose output Philip Larkin and others thought a high point in the art of the last century. Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet; Tommy Dorsey, trombone; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Happy Caldwell, tenor saxophone; Frank Froeba, piano; Eddie Condon, banjo; Jack Bland, guitar; Pops Foster, string bass; Zutty Singleton, drums; Chick Bullock, vocal. Oct. 8, 1932. Incidentally, admire Froeba’s playing (he’s gotten slandered because of later pop dross) and do not mock Chick Bullock, the perfect session singer — in tune, delivering melody and lyrics in a clear, friendly voice, which gave listeners the welcoming illusion that they, too, could sing on records:
a different take, where Chick sings “find”:
and a third take, a few seconds shorter since they do not perform the whole closing chorus, but at a less incendiary tempo:
and a duet of Monette Moore and Fats Waller, September 28, 1932 — a test recording that was not issued at the time:
A pity that the record company (I think it was Columbia’s predecessor, the American Record Company, then near bankruptcy) didn’t make a dozen records with Monette Moore, sweetly growling, and Fats Waller, at his relaxed best.
It also occurred to me while tracing this song that it documents a vanished time: when hot jazz and new Broadway songs were in the most effusive gratifying embrace. That current pop hits could be swung by Pee Wee Russell for records that ordinary people bought . . . now seems a dream. But I have the BIG FIVE to console me.
Once I was a hero-worshipping autograph-seeker (“hound” is so dismissive). Beginning in 1967, I asked Louis, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, Sonny Greer, Buck Clayton, Bobby Hackett, Zoot Sims, and others, for theirs. Oddly, only Jo, who had a reputation for being irascible and unpredictable, asked my name and inscribed my record “To Micheal.” Other musicians I would have liked to ask but either found them intimidating, or — since I was a criminal with a poorly concealed cassette recorder — thought it best to stay hidden.
Autograph-seeking presumes reverential distance. I am a Fan, you are The Star. The Fan approaches the Star, timidly, politely, holds out a piece of paper or some other object, and asks for a signature or an inscription. In that ten-second interchange, the Fan feels seen, and the Star may feel exhausted or be gratified by the appearance of a Fan or a line of them. (In my literary life, I asked Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Richard Ford, and Julian Barnes to sign books. And Whitney Balliett.)
But I no longer chase Stars. Were I to have asked Jim Dapogny, Connie Jones, Jake Hanna, or Joe Wilder for “an autograph,” they would have found the request strange, because I had been talking or eating with them as a presumed equal. I am sure the anthropologists have a name for this kind of cultural transgression, as if your mother made special waffles for your birthday and you left her a tip, even 25%. In my world, at least, many of the Stars have become Friends: whether formality is a thing of the past or my stature has changed, I have no need to investigate.
I will say that, a few years ago, when a musician-friend of mine, thinking to praise me, said I was “the best fan” he knew, I snapped, “I’m not a Fan!” and then explained what I associated with the term. He changed his designation, to what I don’t remember, and it felt better.
Yet I think autographs are sacred — here is a photograph that Sidney Catlett held and wrote on. The Deity comes to Earth for thirty seconds and touches down. I have bought or copied pieces of paper signed by Pete Brown, Rod Cless, Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell (who wrote his first name as two separate words, should you wonder), Adrian Rollini, Claude Hopkins, and more.
I continue to keep track of such holy relics on eBay, as people who follow JAZZ LIVES know. In that spirit, here are manifestations of the autograph dance.
Someone came to Cab Calloway — anywhere between 1942 (when the record was issued) and his death in 1994, and asked him to sign this lovely purple OKeh 78, which he did, with his signature phrase, in the white ink used for record labels:
I have seen enough Cab-signatures to think this one authentic.
And here he is — in his best passionate mode, with a very early reading of Alec Wilder’s classic:
This autograph’s closer to home for me:
Again, completely authentic. But from what I know — from my own experience of Ruby (and this could have been signed any time between 1954 and 2002) I am reasonably sure that when the admiring Fan approached him, Ruby would have said something dismissive, because he disdained his early work vehemently. I recall when I first met him in 1971, praising his MY MELANCHOLY BABY on a new Atlantic recording by George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, and Ruby’s response was terse, curt, and precise, “THAT shit?” Difficult to find shades of ambiguity in that response.
Here’s Ruby’s ELLIE (one of his few compositions) from that date, with Johnny Guarnieri, Walter Page, Bobby Donaldson:
Some artists, remarkably, used the occasion to impart a message — in this case, a moral lesson. Saxophonist Don Lanphere, later in life, was born again and changed his life completely . . . so much so that an inscription became a chance to spread the Gospel:
It feels as if Don had more than a momentary acquaintance with Debbie, Ron, and Bob, but I may be assuming too much.
Here’s his beautiful DEAR OLD STOCKHOLM from the 1983 sessions, a duet with pianist Don Friedman:
Those three examples suggest face-to-face contact, and certainly a few words being exchanged. The closing artifact, here, comes from another dance entirely. For instance, I have a photograph signed by Connee Boswell, in her distinctive hand, and then personalized by her secretary, and I presume this all was done by mail, that the Fan wrote to Miss Boswell asking for an autographed picture — and that Connee, sometime, somewhere, sat down with a pile of them and signed her name a hundred or five hundred times in a sitting, and the photos could then be sent off. (Better, mind you, than Benny Goodman requiring people who worked for him to copy his signature onto photographs.)
I had to do some quick research to find out (to remind myself) that the 8-track tape was popular between 1965 and the late Seventies . . . it was replaced by the smaller, more flexible cassette tape, which could also be recorded on. I saw these tapes and players in action, but neither my parents nor I had an 8-track deck in our respective cars.
But some people did. Thus . . .
I note with amusement the ages of the attractive couple on the cover: would you think that in 1970 they would be close-dancing to Harry rather than the Stones? I doubt it. And inside:
This was on sale on eBay for a very low price: $10 plus 3.99 shipping, and I asked a dear friend who admires Harry if he wanted it as a gift, and he snorted and said, “Please,” in the way that people do when they really mean, “I’ll kill you.” I amused myself by imagining the scene of the person or couple coming across the dance floor to Harry at the set break and asking him to sign their new treasure, which he did quickly and without fanfare. But I was wrong, because a return to eBay showed two other signed sets, which suggests to me that Harry spent some tedious hours at home or in a hotel room, signing set after set, box after box. Hence:
At least those purchasers got a “Sincerely.” I remember sets packaged by the Longines Symphonette Society, but can’t recall whether they were offered on television after 11 PM, and whether the autographed sets cost more.
Here’s a favorite recording by Harry, the October 1939 SLEEPY TIME GAL, in three tempos, with just the rhythm section — Jack Gardner, piano; Brian “Red” Kent, guitar; Thurman Teague, string bass; Ralph Hawkins, drums:
I hope you noticed the profound Louis-influence there, starting with the opening references to SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH. It’s the perfect segue to this delightful photograph — place, date, and photographer unknown (thanks to Loren Schoenberg for the Facebook “Rare Jazz Photos” group) of two men beaming love at each other. Feel free to invent appropriate dialogue:
At least for now, face-to-face meetings still seem fraught. So this wonderfully sweet song seems an alternative, perhaps. Whether “Dreamland” was an actual amusement or an imagined nocturnal lovers’ rendez-vous, I leave to you. In either case, the song presents possibility, more so than I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, where dreams must suffice because there’s no chance of an actual meeting. But enough philosophy.
From 1909 (one of Tim Gracyk’s beautifully detailed presentations):
Fifty years later, Bing and Rosie, with strings attached:
And the 1938 explosion that started this chain of thought, the delightful Condon-Gabler alchemy that turned old sweet songs into Hot Music for the ages:
As an aside, Allen Lowe’s CD sets and book, THAT DEVILIN’ TUNE, have brought me much pleasure: well worth investigating here.
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.
Arthur Bradford Gowans, often overlooked but peerless.
Fate did not treat Brad Gowans that well, although I don’t know that he yearned for the limelight. Most of us know him as a wondrous valve trombonist, eloquent as a soloist and deft as an ensemble player; others, going deeper, know his skillful arrangements for Bud Freeman’s Summa Cum Laude band; the true Gowans devotees know him as a delightful clarinet and cornet player. Yesterday, December 3, was his birthday, although the sad fact is that he has been gone since 1954 — he was fifty. We can, however, share some enlivening music thanks to two YouTube posters — the first, Hot Jazz 78rpms.
Here are two recordings not often heard. The first, I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER (originally recorded for Gennett, then reissued on John R.T. Davies’ “Ristic” label) just romps. The band name is “Gowans’ Rhapsody Makers,” the personnel is Herman Drewes (cnt); Eddie Edwards (tb); Brad Gowans (cnt,cl); Jim Moynahan (cl,as); Arnold Starr (vln); Frank Signorelli (p); Paul Weston (tu); Fred Moynahan (d); Frank Cornwell, Bill Drewes (vo);
New York, January 20, 1927. It was a brand-new song then, and although one site says it was first recorded by Nick Lucas, his version is six days later than this; the famous Goldkette and less-known Ben Bernie versions are from the 28th, for those of you marking down such things:
For those who long for warmer climates (even with global warming evident all around us), I’LL FLY TO HAWAII: Brad Gowans (cnt,cl); George Drewes (tb); Unknown (as),(ts); Frank Cornwell (vln,vo); Tony Francini (p); Eddie Rosie (bj); Paul Weston (tu); Fred Moynahan (d); Trio (vo) New York, October 26, 1926:
There were three Drewes brothers, it seems.
And later on — something rarer! — thanks to Davey Tough (whose channel recently has blossomed with unknown performances by the greatest jazz brass players: Bob Barnard, Ruby Braff, Bobby Hackett, Wild Bill Davison), an unissued take of a Yank Lawson blues:
Brad only appears in the last minute of this recording, but two things stand out. One, with busy Yank and Pee Wee in the front line, he keeps his ensemble part as plain yet effective as it could be. Hear the rich sound of his break near the end.
He invented a combination valve-slide trombone, “the valide,” which is held by the Institute of Jazz Studies, although I believe that no one has yet been able to fix the broken trigger. (Like Jack Teagarden, he was mechanically brilliant.)
Dan Morgenstern, holding the valide, which Brad invented and made — it resides at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers. Photo (2010) by fellow brassman Jon-Erik Kellso.
Finally, something astonishing, even if you’ve seen it before: 1946 out-take newsreel footage from Eddie Condon’s first club, on West Fourth Street in New York City — with Brad; Wild Bill Davison; Tony Parenti; Gene Schroeder; Jack Lesberg; Eddie; Dave Tough (amazingly).
For those who don’t know this footage, some explanations are needed. It is staged, and the band repeats the same sequence — the last choruses of IMPROVISATION FOR THE MARCH OF TIME, which is a medium-slow blues that turns into an uptempo DIPPERMOUTH . . . but please note Brad on the valide, switching from slide to valve for the last notes.
I know it’s useless to write these lines, but had Brad lived until 1974, he could have played alongside Bobby Hackett; perhaps I could have seen him at Your Father’s Mustache, and he would have enlivened so many more recordings and performances. He gave us so much in his short life.
In front, Bobby Hackett, Louis Armstrong, George Wein; behind them, Joe Newman, Dizzy Gillespie — at the July 1970 celebration of Louis at the Newport Jazz Festival.
I saw the pleasing news on Facebook — and in an online source called CELEBRITY ACCESS, which summed it all up with a video and these words (if the New York Times had a front-page story, it eluded me, alas):
NEWPORT, RI (CelebrityAccess) — George Wein, the legendary pianist, jazz and festival promoter, turned 95 on Saturday.
Wein, who founded the Newport Jazz Festival and co-founded the Newport Folk Festival, also played a key role in the creation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Wein’s birthday was marked by tributes from the likes of James Taylor, Senator Jack Reed, Dianne Reeves, Jason Moran, Nate Smith, and Ben Jaffe.
George deserves a little more fuss.
The Newport Jazz Festival, which he founded in 1954 — and is still a going concern — featured everyone. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Archie Shepp. Duke, Louis, Miles, Trane, Dizzy, Monk, Hamp, Benny, Billie, Roy, Hawk, Pres, Ben. What other festival featured both Donald Lambert and Sonny Rollins? If you didn’t appear at Newport — in its now sixty-six year span — you had died before it began [Bessie Smith, Charlie Parker, Frank Newton, Hot Lips Page] or you had missed your set. George’s reach was extensive and his tastes heroically inclusive. Those who never got to Rhode Island were nourished by recordings and performance film footage; George created tours — Europe and Japan — that brought the music to eager audiences who would otherwise not have partaken of it first-hand.
Before Newport, George had clubs in Boston: Storyville and Mahogany Hall, where you could enjoy Sidney Catlett, Stan Getz, Sidney Bechet, Lee Konitz, Erroll Garner, and other deities. When the Newport Jazz Festival took a brief trip to New York, as the Kool Jazz Festival or the JVC Jazz Festival, I was able to see Benny Carter, Allen Eager, Charles Mingus, Lee Wiley, Gene Krupa and others who gladden my heart. In the early Fifties, George also had a record label — Storyville — where you could hear Milli Vernon and Beryl Booker, Ruby Braff, Teddi King, Ellis Larkins, Johnny Windhurst and Jo Jones. I’m also reasonably sure that George’s generosity — not publicized, but apparent — kept some musicians in gigs and dinner for long periods.
Incidentally, I am doing all of this delighted salute from memory: George’s 2004 autobiography, MYSELF AMONG OTHERS, is a much more detailed view at almost six hundred pages, so I know I have left out a great deal for which George deserves praise.
George also loves to play the piano and to sing, and although I think those activities have slowed down or ceased in recent years, his pleasure in these activities emerged most fully in the Newport All-Stars, a group that at various times featured Tal Farlow, Pee Wee Russell, Buzzy Drootin, Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Red Norvo, Norris Turney, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Bud Freeman, Slam Stewart, and others: George’s discography begins in 1951 and its most recent entry is 2012.
I’d like to offer some swinging evidence of George as pianist: not at his own festival in Newport, but at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, in July 1977: a nearly nineteen-minute jam on TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, nominally under the leadership of clarinet legend Barney Bigard — featuring Jimmy Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpet; Clark Terry, trumpet and flugelhorn; Eddie Daniels, tenor saxophone; Slam Stewart, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. Notice the atypically expansive piano solo that George creates at the start: percussive, surprising, mobile . . . and watch Barney Bigard’s delighted face at the end.
Happy birthday, George! Our lives would be much poorer had you chosen another career.
Several eBay rambles turned up a hoard of beautiful unseen portraits — from the archives of the photographic giant Brown Brothers (who, I believe, divested themselves of the print archives a number of years ago). They remind me of a time when musicians, now obscure, were known to a large audience and had their remarkable faces in print.
Here are some of the treasures: the bidding was intense, so I did not acquire any of these, but the images are here for you to admire for free. The seller, evansarchive, has only one jazz photograph for sale as I write this, but the other photographs — film and stage actors — are equally fascinating.
Let us start with a particularly rare image — an unusual shot of the John Kirby Sextet on a very small bandstand, with glimpses of Kirby, Charlie Shavers, and Russell Procope (alas, no Buster Bailey) but a remarkable photograph of the short-lived drummer / vocalist O’Neil Spencer:
And here’s another under-celebrated hero, baritone saxophonist Jack Washington, definitely in action in the Count Basie band, with Vic Dickenson and another trombonist, possibly Bennie Morton, to his right. Vic is ignoring the photographer, but Jack — I think — is a little suspicious of the flash camera so near to his face:
and the real prize (which eluded me), a portrait of Frank Newton on a job:
I suspect this is a spring or summertime gig, given the lightweight suits — at some point Newton put his hand in his right jacket pocket and the flap is half-undone. I can’t identify the pianist, and the club is not familiar to me (which makes me think of Boston rather than New York City) but Ernie Caceres is immediately identifiable — with clarinet rather than baritone saxophone — and the skeptical-looking trombonist (gig fatigue or suspicion of a flashbulb explosion) might be Wilbur DeParis. But I’d love to know where and when: perhaps this is a hall rather than a jazz club?
Here’s composer, arranger, alto saxophonist Edgar Sampson in a photograph by Otto Hess:
Another Otto Hess photograph: Albert Nicholas and Zutty Singleton. Does the wall covering suggest Jimmy Ryan’s?
Stuff Smith in action (the photographer crouched behind the drum kit and the flashbulb rendered the underside of the cymbal bright white:
Bobby Hackett at Carnegie Hall, Eddie Condon behind him:
and just in case anyone needed confirmation:
Now, a few masterful percussionists. Jimmie Crawford:
and someone identified as Bauduc, but clearly not. Who’s it?
and some well-dressed luminaries who can certainly be identified, as well as the occasion — World Transcription session, 1944 — Wilbur DeParis, Bob Casey, and Pee Wee Russell:
From another source, Sidney Catlett in full flight. I can hear this photograph:
As I said, once upon a time these people were stars in larger orbits. Rather than mourn the shrinking of interest and knowledge, I celebrate the glorious circumstances that made these photographs “news.”
A few nights ago, I was deep in pleasing archaeology-commerce (prowling through eBay) and my search for “Ben Webster” came up with this gem (at a reasonable price). The slide was attributed to Nat Singerman, although it was the work of his brother Harvey, someone I’d written about (with photographs) here in 2018.
and the more dramatic front side. From other sildes, I propose that this band, Ben’s, had Howard McGhee, Oscar Pettiford, and Jo Jones. I couldn’t identify the pianist in my 2018 post, but that is some band:
The seller, celluloidmemories, describes this and other slides here, although misrepresenting Nat as the photographer:
Just a wonderful item for the collector of jazz photography! This is a color “slide” that was owned by Nat Singerman, co-owner of the Character Arts photography studio in Cleveland in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Singerman and his co-workers produced these beautiful images and then would share them with many of their subjects. Here is an example with Art Hodes, the famed jazz pianist, looking at some of these slides through a viewer:
The slides are approximately 4” long by 1 5/8” in width and consist of two pieces of color film placed between glass slides. The result is a wonderful 3D-like view of these jazz legends. We recently acquired a large number of these largely unpublished images at auction and are now able to pass them along to the marketplace. The slides have been left “as found” and may have some dust / dirt / scratches to the glass, etc… The images are striking and very rare to find in bold color like this. For each slide, you will be able to see a close-up of the film image and a photo of the front and back the actual slide being purchased. These slides come from Nat Singerman’s personal collection and have been referenced in a NY Times Magazine piece back in 2013 and then again on Antiques Roadshow – PBS Episode #2005 – Little Rock – 2015.
So, now to the item up for bid here… This is an image of two members of Ben Webster’s Band performing at Cleveland’s Loop Lounge in September of 1955. I think the trumpeter is Howard McGhee. Don’t know who the drummer is. [Jo Jones, say I.] Wonderful image! Please see all photos. Don’t let this rare piece get away! Enjoy! Please note: All slides will be expertly packed for delivery via USPS Mail. This auction does NOT include the Art Hodes slide seen above. The word celluloidmemories will not appear on the actual slide. No copyrights or other rights of reproduction are being transferred or inferred in this auction. This item is being sold strictly as a collector’s item.
And a few other Harvey Singerman slides, with appropriate music — in this case, Art Hodes and Pee Wee Russell in 1968 (also Jimmy McPartland, Bob Cousins, Rail Wilson) on television in Chicago:
Art, Pee Wee, and a string bassist, March 1949, location not identified:
Etta Jones at Lindsay’s Sky Bar, Cleveland, May 1952. Is that Jonah Jones, and is that Earl Hines’ band of that time?
Here are Etta and Earl:
Earl Hines, May 1952, “studio”:
And one that strikes me as spectacular: Red Norvo, Charles Mingus, Tal Farlow, Chicago, July 1951:
Freddie Moore, Club Riviera, March 1949:
There are several more worth looking for or at: Flip Phillips, Oscar Peterson, J.C. Higginbotham.
But before you drift away to the eBay page or elsewhere, remember that not all the good performance photographs are taken by professionals. Jerry Kohout, brother of the Cleveland piano legend Hank Kohout, asked me recently if I would like to see candid photographs of his brother performing (probably at the Theatrical Grill) with well-known stars, and I said YES.
First, music to admire by: Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson in New York, 1957, thanks to my friend “Davey Tough”— whose channel blossoms with rarities you didn’t know existed:
Nancy Ray, vocal; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Hank Kohout, piano.
and perhaps from the same gig, without Nancy for the moment:
Finally, heroes Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson (avec beret) with Hank:
Enjoy the sounds the pictures make: a vanished time that can be called back again.
Hearing Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, I recall the folktale where the wind and the sun (having nothing better to do) wager about which one can get a man to remove his coat. The wind blows, but the man merely wraps his coat tightly around him. The sun gently beams down on the man, and sweat starts to pour off his forehead, so he is glad to take off that coat. Persuasion, not force.
That tale stands for so much jazz that I admire. Sometimes it’s ferocious, even bombastic — ensemble choruses at the end of a performance, and we cheer. Perhaps I am thinking of the Great Dane puppy who just wants to greet you, and then you’re both on the floor. Surprise!
But I secretly revere the sweet stealth of music that says, “Come a little closer. Of course, nothing is happening. Just set a spell and enjoy,” and, seductively, osmotically, we become spellbound. The finest example is the Basie rhythm section; then, Duke and Blanton; Fats Waller on PRETTY DOLL; Sir Charles Thompson on Vanguard; and Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs.
Thirteen months ago, give or take a day, what I call the Pacific Northwest edition of Ray and his Cubs appeared as a guest band at America’s Classic Jazz Festival, in Lacey, Washington. I wasn’t there to record it, but Ray’s faithful videographer RaeAnn Berry was, and so I can share a few videos with you: dancing or skating without ever doing something so mundane as touching the ground.
They are Ray, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Matt Weiner, string bass; Josh Roberts, acoustic guitar.
OUT OF NOWHERE, June 30:
IDA (for Auntie Ida Melrose Shoufler, of course), June 28:
and with a nod to Joe and Bing, SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, again from June 30:
I could have called this post ADVENTURES IN MEDIUM-TEMPO, and you would have gotten the point as well. Or, this photograph of two Deities who took human form for some decades to show us how it should be done:
My phone rang on July 3. This in itself would not be unusual. But that the caller ID panel read “Ephraim Resnick” was a surprise. I had been on a quest to find the wonderful and elusive trombonist (now pianist) Ephie Resnick for a few years, and had enlisted my dear friend — also a fine trombonist — Dick Dreiwitz in the search.
I knew Ephie first as a beautiful soulful viruoso heard on live recordings from George Wein’s Storyville in 1952 — alongside Pee Wee Russell and Ruby Braff; later, I’d seen him with the New York Jazz Repertory Company in their 1972 tribute to Louis Armstrong, some of which was released on Atlantic, and then Bob Greene’s Jelly Roll Morton show in 1974, issued on RCA Victor. Perhaps eight years ago I had heard him playing piano at Arthur’s Tavern with the Grove Street Stompers. He asked me to refrain from videoing him, but he was friendly and I did buy his two recent CDs, NEW YORK SURVIVOR and THE STRUGGLE. Still more recently, a musical friend of his, Inigo Kilborn, had asked me if Ephie was still on the planet. He is. At 92, he’s a clear speaker and thinker, although his memory is “sometimes OK, sometimes not too good.”
Ephie and I made a date to talk on the morning of Monday, July 6. He doesn’t have a computer. “I live in the last century,” and when I asked if he wanted me to transcribe the interview and send it to him for corrections, he said no. So this is what he told me of his life, with my minimal editing to tie loose ends together. It’s not only the usual story of early training, gigs played, musicians encountered, but a deeper human story. If you’d never heard Ephie play, you’d think he wasn’t all that competent, given his protestations. I wonder at the gap between the way we perceive ourselves and the way the world does.
With musical examples, I present our conversation to you here.
I began with the most obvious question, “When you were a kid, did you want to be a musician?” and Ephie began his tale.
I come from a family of anger and bitterness and humiliation, and all that stuff, so I was in confusion most of the time. When I was in first grade, and this is really important, I was born left-handed, and they made me right-handed, so it really did away with my focus. I got asthma, and I started stuttering soon after that. So my life was a turmoil.
And when I was about sixteen, I guess, I hadn’t any idea of doing anything. I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything. And I heard a Louis Armstrong recording, and that really made me crazy. It showed me a way out, the way out of my turmoil. So when I went to school, they gave me a trombone. Because the guy said, “I want somebody to play the trombone,” and he pointed at me. At that point, it was difficult to breathe, it was difficult to talk, and I couldn’t get a sound out of the horn. And I didn’t understand it until just recently, when I moved to Brooklyn, after I was finished, finally. I wasn’t breathing. I couldn’t breathe.
I took the trombone home from school, I tried to play it, and really couldn’t play it much. But I listened to a lot of records. I listened to a lot of Louis Armstrong then. I got as much as I could out of him. And then I started, for some reason, to go out playing. In little clubs and things. I don’t know how I could play — I didn’t practice. But I played, mostly with black people at the beginning. And there were two places, especially, where I could play. A guy named Bob Maltz had a place downtown, all the way downtown. And across the street a guy named Jack Crystal — there’s a comedian, Billy Crystal, and Jack was his father. [The Stuyvesant Casino and the Central Plaza.] Both of these guys hired mostly black musicians from the Thirties, and I started out just sitting in, and then I started getting paid. And that was the beginning of my jazz playing.
And then I made a record [in 1947]. Irv Kratka, the guy who started Music Minus One, was in our little group. I went into — I forget what it’s called now — it was on Broadway and they had studios and rehearsal studios. I walked into one and there was Bob Wilber and his little group with Denny Strong on drums. The trumpet player turned out to be the Local 802 president years after that [John Glasel] but they gave me the names of some guys, and I got together a little group and made a record. I was just around 17 or 18, I was just playing about a year. It was OK, it was sort of nice.
Here’s Ephie with Knocky Parker, piano; Irv Kratka, drums, May 1, 1949:
I turned 18, and my mother wanted me to go to a college. And I thought, I could never do that. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t learn anything. Whatever I knew, I knew from having read myself or having heard, or something, so I got good marks in English and history. But anything I had to study and learn something, I couldn’t do it: language or science or something like that. So with all this, she wanted me to go to a college. So I applied to Juilliard, and they gave me a date for an audition. I picked a piece, and I couldn’t play it. I couldn’t play it at all. It sat there on my music stand, and once in a while I tried, but I couldn’t do it.
I should have called them up and told them I couldn’t make the audition, but I went there anyway. I played the piece perfectly. That was my life. Sometimes I played really good, sometimes I played terrible. Sometimes I played mediocre, but this time I played really good and they clapped me on the back and said, “You’ll go far, young man.” My teacher was there, Ernest Clarke, Herbert Clarke’s brother. Herbert Clarke was a trumpet virtuoso. Ernest Clarke was some sort of a name, I don’t know what he did, but he was well-known there. He was 83 then. And he opened up his book when I took my first lesson. The first page was a row of B-flats. B-flat with a hold on it, more B-flats and more B-flats. And I couldn’t play it. I couldn’t play the note. He would walk back and forth, his hands behind his back, he couldn’t figure it out. So I did that for a couple of weeks, I showed up once a week, and then after a while he turned to the second page. And there were F’s, a little higher but medium-low. And I couldn’t play that note either. And then he retired. I always say that he retired because of me.
Anyway, whatever it was, while this was happening, I was playing outside. I was sitting in and playing, going to clubs and stuff. I played a lot at the beginning with Sol Yaged. He was a clarinet player who played in the clubs where they used to have jazz and now they had strippers. So I played for the strippers with Sol Yaged. I still couldn’t get a sound on my own. When I was in the house, I couldn’t practice. I couldn’t play a scale, I couldn’t do anything. I fell apart. And I went to a lot of teachers. Nobody gave me anything. And when I moved to Brooklyn, I quit playing the trombone when I was here. I started to figure out, what it was was so simple — I guess I wasn’t breathing. I was tight. I never could find an embouchure, except once in a while it happened. It came in by itself, and when it happened, I could really play well. But I wasn’t practicing, I couldn’t play a scale, I couldn’t play anything like regular trombone players could. But I knew that.
My first year at Juilliard I got a straight A because all they did was ear stuff — ear training — and I was good at that. And piano playing, and I could do the piano. And that was it. The second year, I started getting academic subjects: science, languages and stuff, and I couldn’t do it. So I stopped going to school. And years ago, before they fixed up Forty-Second Street, it was a mess, but there was one movie theatre called The Laugh Theatre, and they had, once in a while, regular movies, but usually short subjects, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and all that stuff. So I was there, and I was laughing. My life was awful, but I was laughing. I did that for the rest of my school year, and then I got out of Juilliard. Finally. And years later I figured out that, you know, going to school would have depressed me and made me feel really awful, but being away from the school I was laughing. I felt OK. Laughing is very good for you.
Anyway, I don’t know how it was, but I got out of school, and I started working. I still couldn’t play, I still didn’t practice. So my first job was with Eddie Heywood. He was a piano player. It was an all-black band, at Cafe Society Downtown. There was also a club, Cafe Society Uptown. I was there six weeks or so, and then somebody recommended me — I don’t know how it happened — to Buddy Rich. It’s hard for me to believe. I played six weeks with Buddy Rich: Zoot Sims and Harry Edison were in the band, I forget the bass player and the piano player. So I did that, and then I came out, and that was the end of the big band era. So then I went out, maybe two or three weeks, maybe a weekend, with big bands, but they were beginning to close down. I played with a lot of them, but the only ones I could remember were Buddy Morrow, Ray McKinley, and Charlie Barnet. And with these bands, I was the jazz player.
With Charlie Barnet I also played lead, but I had one solo — that was the audition. There were about eight trombone players who auditioned for Charlie Barnet, and later on he told me that when he saw me he figured I would be the last guy to get it. But the audition was a song — I forget the name of it — [Ephie hums ESTRELLITA] — a Spanish song. It had a trombone solo, there was a high E in the middle or someplace, and I really smacked that thing. I took a chance, you know, I got it, and I was great. The other guys played that E, but they played it hesitantly, so I got the job. And that was great. I had that one solo, and I played lead, which was great for me, because I learned how to do that.
Here’s Ephie with Marty Grosz, guitar; Dick Wellstood, piano; Pops Foster, string bass; Tommy Benford, drums; Hugh McKay, cornet; John Dengler, baritone saxophone; Frank Chace, clarinet. June 6, 1951: comparative listening thanks to “Davey Tough”:
And then I started to work with small bands. I don’t know how I got this work either. Dixieland bands. Wild Bill Davison, who was at Condon’s for I guess twelve years, lost that job — they closed down or something — he went on the road and I went with him, and we made a record. Then I played with Buddy Morrow, and I was the jazz player in that band. He was a great, great trombone player, but a little stiff for my taste. Then Ray McKinley, and I was the jazz player in that band. And Bill Davison, we made a record with that. And then I went with Pee Wee Russell, Ruby Braff was in that, and I forget who else. And we made a record with him. So, so far, I made a lot of records. I got a little bit of a fan club in England because of those records. And Pee Wee — those records were in Boston, and they recorded a whole night, and they put out four ten-inchers. And then they made an lp out of it, or two lps. I don’t imagine any of these things are available now. That Pee Wee thing, it sold well, I don’t understand how, exactly. Can’t figure out those things.)
Here’s Ephie in 1952, with Pee Wee Russell, Ruby Braff, Red Richards, John Field, Kenny John — the second part of this presentation (the first offers Johnny Windhurst, Ed Hall, Vic Dickenson, George Wein, John Field, and Jo Jones). For the impatient among us, Ephie’s portion begins at 16:00:
While I was working, I was still struggling. I wanted to finally learn how to play. Since I was working, I might as well learn how to play. I still couldn’t play a scale without falling apart. But in context, I could play, somehow. I saved enough money for a couple of years and went to Philadelphia and studied with a guy named Donald Reinhardt who had a system. His system was really good, but you had to figure out the system. He couldn’t, by himself, help you.
Art DePew, a marvelous trumpet player who played lead with Harry James and a few other bands, went to him and got fixed up. Kai Winding used to run there once in a while. He had problems. His mouthpiece would slip down. Sometimes he could get it back up, sometimes he couldn’t.
Reinhardt didn’t teach me anything. He couldn’t tell you what you were doing wrong or what you should be doing. He had a book and a system. He had a lot of people, and they could look at what he had to say and do it. I couldn’t do that. I had to be told what I was doing wrong. And nobody told me I wasn’t breathing. Lots of times I couldn’t get a sound out. I had no control over it. When I played well, it had nothing to do with me. It just happened. When I played badly, there was no way for me to fix it.
I spent a couple of years there in Philadelphia, and I met my wife. She was a singer, a wonderful oratorio singer. And there was a jazz club over there, and I was playing once a week. I was playing piano in strip clubs with another guy, a very strange man. He wore a toupee, but never bought one. He wore other people’s old toupees; everybody gave him their old toupee. So he just dropped them on top of his head. I spent four years there, learned nothing, and still couldn’t figure out what was happening.
I had to come back to New York, because we got married, and she had a six-and-a half-year old son. We became friends, and that was really good. I did various things, and then a contractor called me. In those days, there was a lot of money around, money flowing freely. In music, there was a shortage of musicians, and I came in at that point.
I’ve been lucky all my life, actually.
I got a job playing in various theatres around the city, short things. There was a theatre on Sixth Avenue and Forty-Eighth Street, I believe, the contractor liked me, and he had some shows coming to New York. He said I could pick one, and one of them was HELLO, DOLLY! I did that for seven years. Playing a show, especially if you’re a jazz player, is terrible. You’re doing the same thing all the time. But I took off a lot. You could take off as long as you got somebody good, and I always got somebody better than me.
I worked with Lester Lanin and played all around the world — Ireland, France, Paris, the Philippines. The guy whose wife had all those shoes [Imelda Marcos], I played their thirtieth anniversary. We went to Hawaii, to Hong Kong, and then I came back, was home for a couple of weeks. They started a group in New York, playing different types of music, so I was in that group, and then they had a small group out of that. I was picked out of that, and we went to Russia — a jazz group. We traveled all over the country, and that was really interesting. That was during the Khruschev era. When I came back, I continued to do club dates, but I couldn’t really progress, I couldn’t learn anything. When I was forty, I still couldn’t play a scale. I was making my living as a trombone player, and I couldn’t play a scale once up and down without falling apart.
Somebody introduced me to marijuana. I tried that, and it was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It saved my life. The first thing I started to do after I started to smoke was to go downstairs to the basement every morning. We had small radios, and I hung the radio up, right next to my ear, as loud as I could. Not music, but talking. I started to play scales, and it sounded awful, because I couldn’t really hear it. I did that for a couple of years, and finally I got rid of the radio. I began a regular practice, for the first time in my life, when I was about forty.
But by that time I was sort of on the way down, in a way. And then I did a job with Lester Lanin in London, and I met a guy there — I knew him was I was nineteen or twenty. He became rich: his father died. Max, his father, was not too smart, and he couldn’t come to a decision: he didn’t know how to make a decision. So his father, who was a lawyer but a Mob lawyer, he was powerful with a lot of connections those days, so he put Max on the Supreme Court. He couldn’t make a decision. That was his life’s work. So I met this guy, and stayed at his house for a while, and then I stayed in London and made a record there. I have two left, of those records. The other stuff I don’t have any copies of.
Then I had an accident. I’m not sure of the timeline now. I was hit by a car, and broke both my legs and my pelvis. My ankles were messed up. I was in the hospital for about three months. When I came out, I couldn’t really move around, so I didn’t work for a couple of years. But I was lucky, again, because they just had passed a law in Albany, and if you had an accident, they called it “no fault insurance,” and gave you fifty thousand dollars and services. So I was in the hospital, and they would send me a check once a month to live on. So I didn’t work for a couple of years, but I was taken care of.
I came out, and I wasn’t working very much at all, so I called Marty Grosz. I knew him from years ago. We had worked together, in a bar someplace. Not in New York, someplace else. I forget where it was. And I called him, and we made a record. [THE END OF INNOCENCE.] And it got a great review from John S. Wilson, the Times music reviewer. He wrote a really good review of it, not in the paper, but in an international magazine. So I sold about a thousand records. People wrote in. One guy sent it back to me because he didn’t like it. So I sent him back his ten dollars. [I complimented Ephie on the record.] Well, thank you. But I hadn’t worked for three years before that. Again, I was lucky it came out OK. [I reminded Ephie that he and Marty had recorded before, in 1951.] Oh, those records! Those records were nice! Those were really good. I was really happy with those records. I’d forgotten about that. I don’t have any of that stuff, but somehow they turned out to be really good. Frank Chace was nice. Yes, I liked the way he played. Years before, Marty and I had a summer job together. He was just learning how to play and I was learning also. And I never paid him for that record, THE END OF INNOCENCE. He did it for nothing.
I will offer THE END OF INNOCENCE — a glorious duet — in a future posting.
I was in England for ten years, and I did a record there. [Two: NEW YORK SURVIVOR and THE STRUGGLE.] Well, that was close to the end of my career. After my accident, I didn’t do too much. I hung around for a while, and everything got slowed down to nothing. My wife got sick, she got Parkinson’s. So I got a job — I was lucky again — working for Catholic Charities, playing piano for Alzheimers people, various venues, different bosses, for almost twelve years. They just closed down, in March, because of the virus. So I was lucky, I was working all this time, until right now.
So now I’m in one room, I’m hiding out, and I’ve got an electronic piano. I guess you’d say I’m an old-fashioned piano player. Pretty much old-fashioned, with a couple of things thrown in, contemporary. And a couple of months ago, in February, before the virus became widely known, I made a record with a trombone player from England, Malcolm Earle Smith. I hadn’t played in a while. My playing was — I don’t know how to describe it. Except on the last two pieces, there I kind of relaxed. I was careful — I was too careful, so I don’t know about that record. I have a couple of copies. Some people liked them, and some people I sent them to didn’t like it at all.
Ephie at the piano, briefly but evocatively:
[I also mentioned Inigo Kilborn, one of Ephie’s musical colleagues, to him.] Inigo heard me playing in a club in England, and wanted me to come down. He was living in Spain then, he went from London to Spain, he was retired. He wanted me to play in clubs, and I wasn’t working much, I still didn’t have an embouchure, and I still didn’t know how to play. I put him off and finally he gave up.
One of the people I sent the record to was a guy in Sweden. He sent me a letter, that he loved the record, and he wanted me to play all over Europe, he had contacts in clubs all over Europe. And I couldn’t do it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe I could play one day or two days, but I’d fall apart. I fell apart, here and there, when I was playing. So I didn’t answer him, and he came to New York and then he called me. He wrote me another letter, and he called me and called me, but I didn’t answer the phone. That was the end of that. I couldn’t have done it. It would have been wonderful for my future, my present, but I couldn’t do it. So that was that.
Then, little by little, I faded away, until I got this job. This job saved my life, this piano job. That’s it.
So that’s my story up till now. And here I am. I’m practicing every day, trying to play a little more contemporary, make the chords closer together. Not so old-fashioned. So I’m working on that a little bit, but I’m not working at all now.
I’m just old. And that’s my story.
Ephie at the piano, Malcolm Earle Smith, trombone:
[Ephie had delivered almost all of what you read above in a diligent narrative, and I had not wanted to interrupt him, to distract him. But now, after forty minutes, I thought I could ask some — perhaps idle — questions. I told Ephie I’d seen him onstage, at Alice Tully Hall in 1974, with Bob Greene’s “The World of Jelly Roll Morton.”]
Oh! I forgot about that. That was great. He played like Jelly Roll Morton, and he started a band, a Jelly Roll Morton band. We played all those songs, and I could really do that. I was good at that. I could really blast out. The record doesn’t show that, but we traveled all around the country, and we had standing ovations on every job except one. I don’t know exactly why that one. But that was easy for me, easy and natural. It paid well, and it was fun. Those were happy moments in my life.
I was with Kai Winding — four trombones. It was a tour. We started out someplace — I can’t remember where it was but it was a restaurant. We were above the eaters, so we couldn’t play too loud, and we were close together. And for some reason I played just great — just wonderful, all the way along. and he was talking about making a tour with just the two of us. The job ended, and we had a three-day layoff, and then went into the Little Mirror, a place in Washington. There was an echo, we were spread out, it was loud, I lost what I had in that previous gig, I never found it. I looked for that embouchure for years and years and never got it back. We made a record with Kai Winding. I made a lot of records with different people, but that one was OK. That turned out nice.
[I asked Ephie if he could tell me about people — heroes of mine — he’d encountered, from the Stuyvesant Casino and Central Plaza, on.] There was one guy, Jerry Blumberg[a Bunk Johnson protege on cornet and a pianist]. He was wonderful. He got one job someplace, and hired that famous pianist from the Thirties, James P. Johnson. I played one night with him. That was interesting. He was old, but he still played OK. I never worked with Sid Catlett, but I saw him play. I played with Frankie Newton a couple of times. He was fun to play with. Very easy to play with.
When I was in Boston, I was with Pee Wee Russell. He had his own pianist. It wasn’t Wein, and Red Richards came later. There was another guy [Teddy Roy] who I didn’t know, but had played with Pee Wee for years and years. And he had a book, with all the chords in it, which he didn’t need. Every tune that was called, he’d open up the book. He never looked at the book, but the chords were there. He was sort of tied to that.
Ruby Braff was a fantastic player. Nobody ever played like him. He didn’t play like anybody else. He had phenomenal technique, and he used it in very personal ways. A wonderful player. He had his personal problems, like we all do. Sometimes, we were playing someplace, and he didn’t feel he was playing right, or he wasn’t doing justice to what he was doing, someone would come up to him and say, “Ruby, you sounded wonderful,” he would say, “Aaahhh, what do you know?” and dismiss it, insult the guy who liked him. He felt vulnerable all the time, but a great player. And later on, he played with Benny Goodman. He couldn’t read, but Benny would put him at the end of the line of trumpets, and once in a while call upon him to play. He did that for a while.
Did you know Johnny Windhurst? I did one job with him and Ed Hubble on trombone, and I played piano, and Ed Phyfe on drums. He was a wonderful player also.
I didn’t hang out with anybody in Boston. I wasn’t a hanger-on. I went right home after the last tune we played. And I don’t want to hear any of my old stuff. The only records I have are the ones I made in England, THE STRUGGLE and NEW YORK SURVIVOR. THE STRUGGLE is a terrible record, but the other one turned out good.
I played for six-eight months with Roy Eldridge at Jimmy Ryan’s. He was playing trumpet then — with the mute, not ebullient, but great. Those records with Dizzy are really wonderful. At one point, I was on staff with ABC for three years, subbing for one of the jazz guys. Dick Dreiwitz is such a sweet man, and his wife Barbara, who plays tuba. For a while I was playing ball games with them — they had a Dixieland band. Between innings, we’d walk up and down the aisles and play. People used to throw stuff in the tuba — peanuts, papers, everything — so the tuba players put a pillowcase over the bell. People aren’t naturally nice, you know. Some are, some aren’t.
I’m 92, and I hope I don’t have too many years left. So far, I’m OK.
At that point, we thanked each other, and I assured Ephie he was safe from me. But in the next few days, the phone rang again, as Ephie remembered some other stories:
Ephie played about six weeks at the Cinderella Club with pianist Bross Townsend and a bassist, not Peck Morrison, whose name he didn’t remember. He thought that cornetist Hugh McKay played really well on the 1951 Marty Grosz records and wondered what happened to him. [Does anyone know?] He saw Vic Dickenson once at some uptown Manhattan gig and thought he was wonderful. When working in San Francisco with Wild Bill Davison, he found out that Jack Teagarden was playing in Los Angeles and took the bus to see him. But this was when Jack had quit drinking and Ephie thought he sounded dull.
Another postscript: an extended list of Ephie’s performance credits, which are staggering:
Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Eddie Condon, Roy Eldridge, Bud Freeman, Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Zoot Sims, Lennie Tristano, Teddy Wilson, Kai Winding and Willie the Lion Smith. He has also played with a variety of rock and pop bands including The Bee Gees, The Four Tops and Englebert Humperdink, and has worked for Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, Woody Allen and Norman Mailer.
Ephie spent much of the 1990s working in London, during a period in his life when he felt trapped in New York. During that stay he met and played with a number of British musicians as well as becoming something of a mentor for many of them. He also played at a number of society parties with the world renowned orchestra headed by veteran bandleader Lester Lanin. The musicians included: Dick Morrissey, Alex Dankworth, Huw Warren, Tim Whitehead, Martin Speake, Mike Pickering, Steve Watts, Julian Siegel, Chris Gibbons, Andrew Jones, Carl Dewhurst, Dave Whitford and Jean-Victor de Boer. He recorded two albums whilst in the UK: New York Survivor and The Struggle (both released on Basho Records)
Although he stopped playing trombone in 2010, Ephie continues to lead an active musical life in back in New York, playing piano in care homes. Still an inspiration to his friends and colleagues, his passion for music is still as strong as it was decades ago.
Taken and adapted from Ephie’s profile page at Jazzcds.co.uk
Blessings and thanks to Ephie, to Dick Dreiwitz, to Inigo Kilborn, to Malcolm Earle Smith, who made this informal memoir of a fascinating man and musician possible.