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 Epiphonatic channel 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.
May your happiness increase!