The RED ONION JAZZ BAND: Dance Off Both Your Shoes in HI FI
Jim Heanue (cnt) Dick Brady (tb) Joe Muranyi (cl) Hank Rose (p) Mike Steig (bj) Bill Stanley (b, tu) Bob Thompson (drs, leader)
NYC; September, 1954
Is It True What They Say About Dixie? (3:46) (Caesar – Lerner – Marks) (tu)
Susie (2:57) (Nasser – Kahn)
Beadle Um Bum (3:22) (traditional)
I'm Nobody's Baby (2:52) (Davis – Agar Sandy)
Yellow Dog Blues (4:09) (W. C. Handy)
Too Much Mustard (3:46) (Cecil Macklin) (tu)
Why Do I Love You? (2:56) (Hammerstein – Kern)
Songs of the Island (5:00) (Charles King) (tu)
Oriental Strut (3:19) (Johnny St. Cyr) (tu)
Mr. Jelly Lord (3:38) (Jelly Roll Morton)
Red Onion (4:10) (traditional)
Sobbin’ Blues (3:08) (Kassel – Berton) (tu)
There's more to the title of this album of traditional jazz by the Red Onion Jazz Band than meets the eye of the casual browser in record bins. Besides the colorful name of the band and the reference to the high fidelity technique that was used in the recording there's that significant phrase: "dance off both your shoes."
Most traditionalist groups, and the ROJB is no exception, like an audience that dances to the music. From experience they've found that the music comes out better that way. From the viewpoint of the dancer, Dixieland, New Orleans, Traditional or Revival (call it what you will) has always been just right for dancing - the beat is so clear and insistent that it's a shame to just sit and listen. From the earliest days of jazz to just last night one of the chief functions of jazz has been as a dance music. This doesn't make other types of jazz less valid; there is room for as many different approaches as there are people to listen to music. The ROJB, however, has found that the most effective, naturally swinging tempos - be they fast or slow - are those to which people will get up and dance. Besides the inherent ease of such tempos, the dancing of the audience develops a sense of rapport between the band and the dancers. Some of the most relaxed jazz I've ever heard, or played, has been performed under such conditions. So, it's hoped that you'll take the invitation and dance right out of your shoed to this happy jazz.
The Red Onion Jazz Band's name, in case you wondered, pays tribute to the Red Onion Jazz Babies (a group with which the young Louis Armstrong played) and also to an antique New Orleans cabaret that has long been torn down.
The ROJB's activities have always centered around New York City, ranging from Pennsylvania to upper New York States and Connecticut in its work, which has included jobs in clubs and at colleges. Surprisingly, this area doesn't really have very many jazz bands that are seriously interested in developing styles based on the pattern set by Oliver, Morton, Louis or the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. The only glaring exception has been the magnificent group that Wilbur DeParis has had for so many years now at Jimmy Ryan's last outpost of jazz on New York's 52nd Street. Wilburs's group has had a great influence on the Red Onions during many smoky Monday nights when the two groups alternated sets at Ryan's.
The Onions started out by playing standard repertoire that included such chestnuts as Tiger Rag, The Saints, High Society, etc. The style of performance was what could be called "mouldy." Yet, by the time this album was made, this style had developed into one that was unique to the group; though still in the traditional vein, the sound and book had taken an original turn.
Is it True What They Say About Dixie, I'm Nobody's Baby, Why Do I Love You and Song Of The Islands are examples of tunes that generally are not associated with Dixieland; yet the ROJB successfully transformed them into pleasant vehicles for their "good time" style. Susie is a pop favorite from the early twenties that Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines made famous as a jazz record. The Condon crowd play it every once in a while but it can be considered a rarity in the world of jazz. Mr. Jelly Lord, Oriental Strut, Sobbin' Blues and Yellow Dong Blues are all, more or less, jazz standards of the flapper era - You'll note that no particular attempt has been made at slavish copying of any recorded versions of these tunes.
Too Much Mustard first came to the collective attention of the ROJB when the DeParis band was heard doing the tune. The song dates from the Spanish-American War. Unlike Wilbur's band, the Onions play the two interlude sections, something that probably nobody else in the world daes. The happy-go-lucky Beedle UmBum is in the Shake That Thing tradition. The Onion version is quite original, as you'll see if you compare it with the original McKinney's Cotton Pickers recording of the number.
About The Musicians:
Tall, prematurely graying and talented Jim Heanue has chosen as his instrument the cornet and as his musical language the tongue of white New Orleans jazz. His ear is uncanny and his flair for melodic improvisation undeniable. He also writes poetry and has edited his own magazine. He is currently (early 1958) active on the West Coast. Trombonist Dick Brady plays in the facile Luo McGArrity-out-of-Teagarden manner. He is a veteran of the big band wars. Hank Ross' keyboard touch in the traditional idiom is somewhat reminiscent of Wally Ross. This is purely coincidence: Hank plays this way as a matter of his own style. He's facile reader and has studied formally, as well as with the late Pete Johnson. I've never heard anybody play rags with a finer touch or greater sensitivity. Mike Steig is the nephew of the cartoonist Williams Steig. He's young, in his early twenties, and plays banjo and guitar equally well. Bill Stanley plays tuba as if he had been born with the instrument. He now works the studios and is featured at the Radio City Music Hall. He and Hank Ross achieve a perfect blend when it comes to agreeing on chords and rhythm. Bob Thompson plays drums and washboard and leads the Red Onions. He idolizes the sounds of the Oliver band of the twenties and the West Coast revivalists. During the day he functions as an assistant professor on behavioral psychology at Columbia University.
-- JOSEPH MURANYI
(Annotator Maranyi, as he moderstly does not point out, is also musician Muranyi has served in executive capacities with two large record companies, and is a student of jazz and its history. As an indication of the range of his interests and tastes, at the time of this recording he was studying with modernist Lenny Tristano.)
(Selection 3 & 4 on Side 1, and $& 6 on Side 2, have never preciously been issued. The other eight number were released on a 10-inch LP on the Empirical label, but are presented here for the first time in 12-inch LP form.)
Other Riverside LPs by young jazz groups in a traditional vein include –
At the HI-FI Jazz Band Ball: DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS (RLP 12-259)
Dxieland in HI-FI: DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS (RLP 12-210)
Whoopee Maker’s Jazz: Carl Halen’s GIN BOTTLE SEVEN (RLP 12-261)
Gin Bottle Jazz: GIN BOTTLE SEVEN (RLP 12-231)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve )
Issued by arrangement with Empirical Records
Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design)
Engineer: DAVE JONES
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.