Although I have very little patience for detective fiction and mystery novels (except for the witty ones by Josef Skvorecky), I savor the mysteries that jazz is full of. Why didn’t Frank Newton record for a major label after 1939? What happened to James P. Johnson’s recording career after the Twenties? And there are mysteries of influence: what Bing Crosby recordings did Louis know when he entered his “crooning” period? And how did Irving Kaufman feel about singing — with the utmost sincerity — a song called “My Wedding Gown”? Where are the kinescopes of the Eddie Condon Floor Show? Ernie Anderson told a story of a private recording session featuring the remarkable trio of Bobby Hackett, Harry “the Hipster” Gibson, and Sidney Catlett: where did the records go? And more . . . .
But today’s mystery is called WHO ARE THEY? All of this came about when I learned that jazz film scholar Mark Cantor had located a photographs from a short film made for television in 1948 featuring the Adrian Rollini Trio. Rollini, a heroic multi-instrumentalist, had given up the bass saxophone, on which he had no equals. He then concentrated on the vibraphone, forming a trio with a guitarist and bassist.
Mark says that he originally thought the guitarist in this picture might be Frank Victor, the bassist Sandy Block, but no longer thinks this. He would like to know if anyone recognizes the guitarist and bassist below. As they say in Britain and Ireland, I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue, but I thought some of my very hip readers might. All I can say about these three musicians is that I admire their sharp suits and neatly folded handkerchiefs. Here they are:
Of course, not all fine jazz musicians or studio musicians are famous, their faces instantly recognizable. The mysterious picture evokes a departed past where every town and metropolis had a host of players who could read the charts, swing, and improvise. It’s still true in New York City — one of the delights of going to clubs is hearing someone wonderful whose name I don’t know — and I get to say, politely, “Damn, but you can play. Why haven’t you got a raft of CDs?” But I digress.
If anyone thinks they know the identity of the bassist or the guitarist, please let me know and I will pass the information along to Mark. And if, perchance, you’re listening to one of the Rollini CD reissues still available while you read this (on Jazz Oracle and Retrieval), our collective pleasure will be doubled and redoubled.