Tag Archives: rare photograph

“BEST WISHES” FROM THE DUKE

The appropriate sentiments, three ways:

and a photograph of the label:

But wait!  There’s more!  The sounds:

In Mark Tucker’s THE DUKE ELLINGTON READER (89), we find these words about the 1932 composition.  When Ellington visited England in 1933, he said, “Since I have been in England I have composed a new number entitled Best Wishes, which was played and broadcast on June 14 (1933) for the first time.” Ellington also stated that he had dedicated the song “the title not the lyrics,” to Britain, that the tune would give British listeners “a better insight into the Negro mind.”

That would be enough well-wishing for any post, but no . . . here is more evidence, this time of a visual sort:

an autographed news photograph from Ellington’s visit to England and his broadcast for the British Broadcasting Company, with Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsol, Juan Tizol, and Tricky Sam Nanton:

a close-up of the Maestro’s signature:

As I write this, the photograph is still up for bids; here is the link,

The seller’s copy, too intriguing to edit:

Up for bidding: Duke Ellington is a legend -the man who raised Jazz from niche entertainment to a worldwide phenomenon, and a real art form. This photograph was taken in the London BBC studios during a broadcast in 1933. Times were hard in the United States, but the Ellington orchestra toured England and Scotland to great fanfare and success; they would follow it up next year with a tour of the European mainland, popularizing jazz (or as Ellington refered to it “American music”) to a much larger worldwide audience. The photograph is autographed by the man himself, signed “Best Wishes, Duke Ellington”. What an opportunity, if you are a fan of Jazz in any of its forms!

Postscript: the bidding ended a few minutes ago, and the photograph sold for $67.00, which to me is not an exorbitant price.  I didn’t bid, if you need that detail.  Best wishes to all!

May your happiness increase! 

HUSK O’HARE’S PEACOCK STRUTTERS, JULY 1926

eBay continues to amaze.  Any comments from the hot cognoscenti?

“MUSICALLY YOURS” on eBay

Two more surprises from the national museum / flea market / antique store / attic:

Minimum bid $100 . . . .

Minimum bid $6500.  It is a lovely picture, though. 

Thanks to diligent JAZZ LIVES scout David J. Weiner for pointing the way!

SIDNEY CATLETT, TRIUMPHANT

Two of these photographs are new to me — they are objects of desire in eBay bidding skirmishes.  But here we can admire them without having to skimp on groceries. 

Presumably they date from the early Forties and come from the estate of John C. Brown of Baltimore, Maryland.  Brown (so the eBay bio says) was a jazz drummer into the Fifties, associated early on with Jack Teagarden; later a popular concert promoter and jazz writer.  Other photographs for sale depict Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Slick Jones, Jo Jones, Benny Carter, Eddie Duchin, Billy Eckstine . . . .  

But Sidney Catlett, short-lived and magisterial, is our subject here. 

The first photograph is a famous one, a still from one of Louis Armstrong’s Soundies, circa 1942.  The second is less familiar: Teddy Wilson’s sextet at Cafe Society, circa 1944: WIlson, Benny Morton, Emmett Berry, Ed Hall, Sid, Johnny Williams. 

But this one is the masterpiece, I think. 

As a composition, it’s not flawless; the empty space to Sidney’s left suggests it was less posed than captured.  But I imagine that the photographer was moderately hemmed in by the situation.  The setting seems a concert stage; (s)he may have been using natural light (I don’t catch the reflections one associates with a flashbulb) — thus the portrait has a candid character to it and Sidney seems caught unaware, in motion. 

Sidney’s mouth is half-open, as if he was making an emphatic sound in tune with his drums; his eyes seem half-focused, as if he was in a rhythmic trance.  But his face seems peaceful and youthful: could this be from the late Thirties? 

I know I have drum scholars in my reading audience — Hal Smith, Mike Burgevin, Kevin Dorn, Jeff Hamilton among them — what does anyone think about Sidney, the landscape, and his set? 

I love the cymbal holder on the right, Sidney’s ring, the way he is holding one brush quite firmly and the other is caught in mid-stroke, an accent off the snare. 

And I would wear that necktie myself. 

A wonderful moment in time, and we can imagine the floating, urgent sound he created: how much energy his image can still create, one hundred years after his birth.

 

EDDIE CONDON’S, 47 WEST THIRD STREET, TUESDAY NIGHT

Found on eBay!  I see Eddie, Pee Wee, Bobby Hackett, George Wettling, Bud Freeman, Wild Bill Davison, George Brunis, and other brilliant stars shining in the jazz firmament or simply sitting in on a Tuesday night at the club. 

Lions and tigers and jazzmen, oh my! 

And others with sharper vision will identify the clarinet trio, I know.

And, for those sensitive to semantics, the item title was ORIGINAL JAZZ PHOTO PEE WEE RUSSELL AUTOGRAPH BIG BAND — which would have horrified both Condon and Russell, among others. 

The photograph is labeled with the name of the club and its address — as well as the telephone number: GRamercy 3-8736.  I wonder who answers that telephone now.

P.S.  For better or worse, I was outbid on eBay, thus I am feeling mixed disappointment and financial relief.  I console myself by thinking that the new owner must love it as much as I do. 

It’s a holy picture in my religion.

IT COULD ONLY BE VIC DICKENSON

Spending too much time at the computer results in a stiff neck and eyestrain.

But these long obsessive hours in front of the monitor or laptop bring rewards I wouldn’t have imagined.  An eBay seller has found and is offering for sale ($400.00) the scrapbook or photograph album of a singer, Lucille Hall (or Lucille Halle) who worked on the West Coast with, among others, Leon Herriford, Charlie Echols and his Dixie Rhythm Kings, appeared alongside the Mills Brothers.  I had never heard of her, and doubt that many people have.

But the first picture in her scrapbook is a beautiful publicity shot of her playing trombone (which I can’t know for sure if she did) to the right of a wholly recognizable trombonist, one of my heroes, who spent some years in California, perhaps 1944-7.

It was worth the stiff neck and eyestrain to see this:

The little statuettes (jazz Oscars, more or less) are Vic’s Esquire Awards. 

The link to the eBay site is http://cgi.ebay.com/African-American-Photo-Album-Jazz-night-club-singer_W0QQitemZ320474157913QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item4a9dbf9359

SHARP AS A TACK

Through the good offices of Swing Era scholar David Weiner, whom I’ve known since the mid-Seventies, and the indefatigable Will Friedwald, I’ve become a member of a Yahoo group, “Toast of New York,” or ToNY, whose members swap information, music, film clips, and questions about the period online.  The other day, saxophonist and Lester Young disciple Loren Schoenberg came up with this delectable photograph. thebluedevilssaxophonesection1932withlesteryounginthemiddle-390x488

It’s taken from the website SWING FASHIONISTA http://www.swingfashionista.com. — lovely and fascinating.   

The photo itself comes from a Ken Burns book on jazz (I will not embark on the expected Burning here) and it depicts the saxophone section (Theo Ross and Buster Smith) of the Blue Devils — led by the Blessed Walter Page — greeting the new member, Lester Willis Young, in 1932.  There are not that many pictures of Lester as a young man before the Count Basie band came East, so this one is a rare pleasure.  And it pleases me to imagine him as a young man who didn’t drink too much and was happy to play his horn, not the saddened Pres we read of, late in life, drowning his very real sorrows in cognac.   

But what pleases me at the same time is the beautiful linen suits these musicians are wearing.  In the Black argot of the time, a badly or poorly-dressed person might be “raggedy as a bowl of slaw”; someone stylish would be “sharp as a tack.”  Lester, even though he seems slightly diffident, a bit shy for the camera (without his horn to hold on to) is SHARP — those shoes, that three-piece suit, the pocket square.  And that pipe!  Who knew?

Of course, clothes alone don’t make the man — it matters more than anything that it is Lester Young in the center — but the combination of man and suit and pipe, captured a bit stiffly in a photographer’s studio,  is something to cherish.