I don’t quite know how “Wolfgang’s Vault” tapped into the great store of recordings made — presumably for the Voice of America — for the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival, but the second neatly-wrapped present has arrived. What interests me are two sets: one featuring the master, Jack Teagarden, with his working band of the time (Don Goldie, trumpet; Henry Cuesta, clarinet; Don Ewell, piano; Stan Puls, bass; Ronnie Greb, drums). Aside from delightful work from Ewell — in ensemble as well as solo — and a very happy Teagarden, the band itself is workmanlike rather than inspired. But for ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, a medley of ROCKIN’ CHAIR and BODY AND SOUL, and a closing SAINTS, Teagarden got to add his great friend and colleague (they had been recording together for more than twenty years) Bobby Hackett, who plays splendidly. Goldie, a very competent lead trumpeter with marvelous facility but less imagination, chooses to play a chorus or two of trades with Hackett, which perhaps a wiser man would have avoided. But Hackett has BODY AND SOUL to himself — two and a-half exquisite minutes, after which Teagarden says, “Wonderful! Bobby Hackett! The most beautiful trumpet in the world. Just trumpet from heaven.” And although I feel sorry for Goldie, I wouldn’t argue with Teagarden’s praise. SAINTS, taken too fast, closes the set. Goldie’s second try at a Louis Armstrong imitation is a liability; Ewell’s rocking stride and Hackett’s soaring solo more than make up for it.
Three days earlier, the Gene Krupa Quartet had performed at Newport, with pianist Ronnie Ball, Lester Young-inspired tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Eddie Wasserman, and bassist Jim Gannon. Wasserman is rather off-mike, but that allows us to hear Krupa, in enthusiastic form, work his way through SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, a medium-tempo WORLD ON A STRING, a slow LOVER MAN, and a twelve-minute STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY. Again, this set is primarily notable for Krupa — fiercely himself wherever he was, which is something to admire, even amongst jazz writers eager for “innovation” and “development.” Krupa did attempt to go with the fashion of late-Forties bebop (the musical equivalent of the berets and dark glasses his musicians wore for photographs) but he did play much the same way in 1972 — when I saw him last — as he had in 1938. Why? Because it sounded good, as it does here.
Finally, there’s a set from July 3, 1959, featuring Phil Napoleon on trumpet, Harry DiVito, trombone, the wondrous Kenny Davern on clarinet, the still-active Johnny Varro on piano, Pete Rogers, bass, and Sonny Igoe, drums.
I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to this set, but the combination of Davern and Varro — or Davern and anyone — is enough for me.
Although I would assume that the estates of the artists aren’t receiving payment for the dissemination of their music, at least more people are getting to hear it — pushing away the day when no one knows who Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, or Gene Krupa is. (Not “was,” mind you.) Wolfgang’s Vault is also featuring other concerts from this edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, including Dizzy Gillespie . . . rarities coming to the surface for us to hear! What’s next? I have my fingers crossed that someday the concerts from the first years of the Festival will surface: I’ve been reading about those lineups for years. Someday, Wolfgang?