LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG and Her Orchestra
Lil Hardin Armstrong (p, vcl on Clip Joint) Bill Martin (tp) Roi Nabors (tp) Eddie Smith (tp) Preston Jackson (tb) Al Wynn (tb) Darnell Howard (cl) Franz Jackson (cl) Pops Foster (b) Booker Washington (drs) Eddie Smith omitted on Clip Joint. Boogie Me is by piano and drums only.
Recorded in Chicago; September 7, 1961
Royal Garden Blues (5:45) (C. & S. Williams)
Red Arrow Blues (4:27) (Franz Jackson)
Muskrat Ramble (6:30) (Kid Ory)
Boogie Me (2:47) (Lil Armstrong)
Clip Joint (4:40) (Lil Armstrong)
Basin Street Blues (4:54) (Spencer Williams)
Eastown Boogie (6:19) (Lil Armstrong)
Bugle Blues (3:49) (Count Basie)
LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG is, without a doubt, the most vivacious jazz performer I have ever come across. Her youthful appearance and personality make it very difficult indeed to believe that she is the same person who occupied the piano stool of King Oliver’s famous Creole Jazz Band in the early ‘20s.
On this album, her first in many years, Lil is surrounded by nine old friends, all possessors of remarkable musical abilities. This, the third release in a series recorded by Riverside during September, 1961, was originally planned to feature Lil with two different groups of veteran jazzmen. The first band arrived on was schedule, but technical difficulties kept us from completing an Earl Hines session, which had started that morning, until 4 PM. By that time the second group had arrived! Our decision was to record both together as one big band. The result was some of the most exuberant, spontaneous Dixieland jazz I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
Although Lil’s story is best told in her own words (as on the documentary album “Satchmo and Me” – Riverside RLP 120), these notes would hardly be complete without a brief sketch of her fabulous and colorful career. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1903, Lil studied at Fisk University a classical concert career in mind. But while still in her teens, she moved to Chicago. Her mother was not very pleased with Lil’s first job there – demonstrating music in a sheet-music store – but she was even more displeased when, in 1920, little Miss Hardin joined the band of King Oliver for what was to be the start of her famous career in jazz. Lil stayed with the Creole Jazz Band, for about four years. 1924, she married the band’s second trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. She recalls many white musicians such as Hoagy Carmichael and Bix Beiderbecke coming down to the Lincoln Gardens to hear the Oliver band, but she could never figure out why they would be interested. “We didn’t pay the music much attention,” he once told me, “until you people started making jazz important.” Lil recorded extensively during the ‘20s, first with the Oliver band for Paramount, Gennett and Okeh (many of these recordings are now available on Riverside RLP 101 and RLP 122) and later with Armstrong’s famous Hot Five. During the ‘30s, after a divorce from the famous trumpeter, Lil free-lanced around New York, accompanying singers and heading her own studio bands. During early ‘50s Lil spent four successful years in Europe. She is also a prolific writer, having written many of the old jazz classics such as Struttin’ With Some Barbeque and Hotter Than That. Just For A Trill, a ballad that has enjoyed wide popularity recently through recordings by Ray Charles, Peggy Lee and Kay Starr, was written by Lil in ’32 and recorded by her in ’36. This album includes three Lil Armstrong compositions, most notably Clip Joint – which she wrote in ’39 but had never recorded before.
About the rest of the band; Trumpeter BILL HARTIN hails from Birmingham, Alabama where he was born in 1916. In ’32 he left his hometown to join Zach White’s band, then moved to Kansas City, where he played with Julia Lee and Benny Moten. Today he plays with Al Wynn’s band occasionally and spends the rest of his time driving a cab. EDDIE SMITH is a permanent member of Earl Hines’ band. LEE ROI NABORS, the third trumpeter, is making his recording debut here. Born in 1916, in Mississippi, he started on piano at the age of seven but switched to trumpet while in high school. He has been playing ever since and trumpeter Howard McGhee recalls how Nabors used to jam with all the visiting musicians. “I was with the Andy Kirk band in the ‘40s,” McGhee recalls, “and Roi would always stake us somewhere after we were through. Man, he could wail!” In spite of encouragement from McGhee, Vic Dickenson, Jonah Jones, Buck Clayton and numerous other transit musicians, Nabors remained in obscurity in the mid-West and he is now working as a laboratory technician in Chicago.
PRESTON JACKSON was born in New Orleans but moved to Chicago in 1917, the year the famed Storyville district was close. In ’20 he was playing with Richard M. Jones and taking formal lessons from Roy Palmer (who at that time lived in the Jackson home). He has played with pianist Teddy Weatherford at the Dreamland Café, Dave Payton at the Regal Theatre, Erskine Tate at the Michigan Theatre and Carroll Dickerson at the Sunset and Grand Terrace. On records he has been associated with Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Noone, Johnny Dodds, Natty Dominique ad others. Today he seldom plays but spends most of his time operating his own produce business. Trombonist AL WYNN moved to Chicago from his native New Orleans in 1920, at the age of 13. His first job was with Earl Hines, and he also traveled and recorded as a member of singer Ma Rainey’s Georgia Band, and toured Europe from ’28 to ’32 with Sam Wooding. The ‘30s found Al playing with Carroll Dickerson, Jimmie Noone, and briefly with Fletcher Henderson. During the ‘50s he held the trombone chair in Franz Jackson’s band. Al Wynn’s Butbucket Seven, the Dixieland group he has lately been leading around Chicago, was also recorded for this “Living Legends” Riverside series. A FRANZ JACKSON LP is also included in the series (and his background will be dealt with in detail in the notes to that album). DARNELL HOWARD is currently a member of the Earl Hines band. Born in New Orleans, he started his musical career as a violinist in W. C. Handy’s orchestra, has been associated with Hines off and on since the late ‘20s and has also played with King Oliver and Junie Cobb. GOERGE “POPS” FOSTER is another from New Orleans. He has been active professionally since 1906. After several years spent playing tuba and bass drums in some of the famous marching bands of New Orleans he became a member of Charlie Creath’s riverboat band which eventually led him to Chicago. After a full life of much musical activity, Foster has finally settle down on the West Cost as a regular member of the Earl Hines band. BOOKER T. WASHINGTON was born in Memphis in 1901. After stints with local Memphis bands during the mid-‘20s, Booker came to Chicago where he has played with, among others, the bands of Miff Mole, Al Wynn and Johnnie Lane.
The following listing of the order of solos should prove helpful in identifying individual players. Royal Garden Blues opens with ensemble played by two alternating front lines: Eddie Smith, Preston Jackson and Darnell Howard leading off, followed by Nabors, Wynn and Franz Jackson. Then follow solos by Martin, Lil Howard, Smith, Preston, Nabors, Wynn, Franz and Washington. Franz Jackson is heard first on his own Red Arrow Blues, after which Bill Martin states the theme with ensuing solos by Franz and Preston, followed by a series of breaks played by Martin while Eddie smith takes over the theme. Muskrat Ramble gets the same treatment as Royal Garden Bleus, with the two front lines alternating and then solos by Martin, Lil Booker, Howard, Smith, Preston Jackson, Nabors, Wynn and Franz Jackson. All join in on the ensemble (and, as indicated by Lil’s remark at the end of the take, none of the musicians knew they were being recorded!). Bugle Blues is kicked off with bugle calls by trumpeters Martin, Nabors and Smith in that order. Then follow breaks and solos by Nabors, Howard, Preston, Martin, Franz, Wynn, Smith, Booker and Pops Foster. On Basin Street Blues Wynn plays the intro, Preston the first solo, then we hear Franz, Preston, Martin and finally Wynn. Eastown Boogie, named after a bar in Milwaukee, where Lil played in ’42, features Lil, Howard, Smith, Preston, Nabors, Wynn, Franz, Martin, Foster and Booker in order while Clip Joint features a wonderful vocal by Lil and some exciting growling by Nabors, who also takes the trumpet solo.
This album is part of an extensive group of recordings of traditional jazz as it is played today, made by Riverside in Chicago during September, 1961, and issued under the general series title, “Chicago living Legends.” The musicians featured here can also be heard in the initial albumin this series, which is an overall survey of the current Windy City scene.
CHICAGO: The Living Legends (RLP 389/390; Stereo 9389/9390 – a two-LP set)
Produced by CHRIS ALBERTSON
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Cover photo by STEVE SCHAPIRO
Recording Engineer: RICHARD COHN
Recorded at “The Birdhouse”
RIVERSIE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, New York