Tag Archives: Washboard Sam

SEISMIC SWING FOR WASHBOARD SAM: CARL SONNY LEYLAND, MARTY EGGERS, JEFF HAMILTON, and PATRICK SKIFFINGTON at MONTEREY (March 8,, 2014)

The life story of “Washboard Sam,” born Robert Brown (singer / songwriter / washboardist) is melancholy and seems all too familiar: early fame, influential recordings, a short life — 1910-1966 — and burial in an unmarked grave.

WASHBOARD-SAM-1931

But his music lives on.  Here is a brief but successful musical tribute performed at the 2014 Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay. At the head of this compact swinging band is the inimitable Carl Sonny Leyland, piano / vocal, with Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

For this trio of selections, Carl invited the young washboardist Patrick Skiffington to join in, to give the music its proper shaking and rattling quality.

The washboard often has been looked down on in jazz but when it’s played well, it can drive a band (think of the hot records by the Washboard Rhythm Kings circa 1931-33).

Young Mister Skeffington knows his craft: as an ensemble player, he listens; he varies his dynamic range, and he’s a true addition to the band, his sounds and rhythms steady and varied. He’s been on the scene a bit, but JAZZ LIVES takes pleasure in welcoming him officially.

I wonder if I might see a quartet set by this band at a California festival?  An idea whose time might well have come.  For the moment, enjoy these three performances.

I apologize to those viewers who wanted to see Patrick in all his glory. It didn’t happen during this set — he is mostly hidden — but hearing is believing.  Next time, perhaps I will choose a better vantage point.

And thanks as always to Carl, Marty, and Jeff, who always create solid vibrations of the finest kind.

MY BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT:

SHE BELONGS TO THE DEVIL:

THE LEVEE CAMP BLUES:

May your happiness increase!

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RHYTHM SAVES THE WORLD: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CARL SONNY LEYLAND at DIXIELAND MONTEREY JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY (March 3, 2012)

When the Reynolds Brothers assemble onstage, I know great things are going to happen.  They haven’t let me down yet.  The superb musicians who want to sit in with the Brothers are living testimony to their musical wizardry.  But you don’t have to take my words for it. 

It happened again at the 2012 Dixieland Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay, when the hot pianist / singer Carl Sonny Leyland dropped by to join the Brothers on the afternoon of March 3, 2012.  The Reynolds Brothers are Ralf (washboard and traffic control); John (vocal, guitar, whistling); Marc Caparone (trumpet); Katie Cavera (string bass, vocals).

It wasn’t a national holiday, but it felt like one from the first notes.

Gather ’round that samovar, children — DARK EYES:

That’s the day when I’m with you!  Summon up the shades of Bix, Eddie Lang, the Keller Sisters and Lynch, if you please, for SUNDAY:

Sonny offers Washboard Sam’s LEVEE CAMP BLUES:

A very pretty version of I’M GONG TO SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER — not an email, and with no help from Sir Paul McCartney, no, no:

If your romantic activity consists of writing love letters to yourself, then Katie’s question — posed at a rollicking tempo — would certainly be appropriate — DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?:

Real affection doesn’t require wearing the digits off one’s Visa card — thus, I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE at a nice Louis tempo, after John’s late-period Django architecture.  What a good singer he is!

PEPPER STEAK is really a close cousin of I’VE FOUND A NEW BABY — with beef, peppers, beans and cabbage making up a truly hot lunch:

What could follow that?  How about a boogie-woogie ST. LOUIS BLUES with habanera seasonings?:

We’re always thinking of you, MARGIE — even at this stomping eight-to-the-bar tempo:

We needed something tender, ethereal after that — so John whistled his own sweet version of DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME, a song with history before Mama Cass visited it:

And to close — a thoroughly elevated version of BLUE ROOM, with memories of Hot Lips Page and the 1932 Moten band:

If the Nobel Prize people ever come to their senses and institute the Nobel Prize for Rhythm, I know the people I’ll nominate.  Wouldn’t you?

May your happiness increase.

CENTRAL HEATING, 1933

One of the best things about being deeply immersed in Hot Music for a long time is that there are always surprises. 

No one with a full-time job, no one who wants to see the sunshine, can listen to everything — although some of my friends try. 

And one forgets!  So even though I know I heard these records perhaps twenty years ago (from a Tax lp called AMERICANS IN EUROPE), when I revisited them today they were delightful and new.  There’s the romping piano of Freddy Johnson, the soaring trumpet of Arthur Briggs, the clarinet of Peter DuConge, the tenor saxophone of Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, and the singing of Louis Cole, midway between theatrical and unbuttoned.  And the rest of the band is swinging along mightily, apparently without any effort. 

This was a “mixed band” of Americans and Europeans, recording in France on July 8, 1933.  The recordings are good blindfold tests for your listening friends who believe that Europeans didn’t learn how to swing until . . . just recently? 

The band personnel is Bobby Jones, Theodore Brock, Arthur Briggs, trumpet;  Billy Burns, trombone; Peter Duconge, clarinet / alto; Alcide Castellanos, alto;  Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, tenor; Freddy Johnson, piano / arranger; Sterling Conaway, guitar;  Juan Fernandez, string bass; Billy Taylor, drums;  Louis Cole, vocal.

I am impressed by the vivid, fluent soloing by players who seem to have absorbed all the influences and synthesized them into cohesive, personal styles: Louis pops up here, but so does Jabbo Smith; I hear Bigard and Hawkins and Hines in equal measure.  And the arrangements!  Again they sound seamless, with touches of Ellington, Calloway, and Moten . . . imitating no one conspicuously. 

Here’s SWEET GEORGIA BROWN:

And the side I like even better (did this song ever have lyrics or was it always a scat extravaganza . . . a French version of IKEY AND MIKEY?) — a performance that gives new meaning to Aesop, FOXY AND GRAPESY:

I couldn’t play either side just once: I hope you find them equally intoxicating, including the stomping string bass playing of Juan Fernandez. 

And we have someone who goes by the sobriquet “danishjazz” on YouTube to thank for all this: he’s been collecting 78s for 25 years, and has shared even more of his treasures on YT — including Milton Brown and his Brownies and Washboard Sam — singing WHO PUMPED THE WIND IN MY DOUGHNUT, which might be one of those questions to avoid in polite society.  But his collection leans towards the Hot and the Obscure . . . so do take a look and a listen.  He also maintains a website, LITTLE BEAT RECORDS, full of intriguing items for sale: littlebeatrecords.dk.