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FRANZ JACKSON’S Original Jass All-Stars

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Bob Shofner (tp) John Shomas (tb) Franz Jackson (cl, vcl on Sister Kate) Rozelle Claxton (p) Lawrence Dixon (bj) Bill Oldham (tu) Bill Curry (drs)

Recorded in Chicago; September 5, 1961


  1. Shimme-Sha-Wabble (5:03) (Spencer Williams)

  2. Blue Thursday (4:21) (Franz Jackson)

  3. Riverside Blues (5:26) (Oliver – Jones)

  4. Yellow Dog Blues (4:45) (W. C. Handy)


  1. King Porter Stomp (5:04) (Jelly Roll Morton)

  2. Sister Kate (6:07) (A. J. Piron)

  3. Colonel Bogey March (3:57) (Kenneth Alford)

  4. Bugle Blues (4:50) (Count Basie)

   Although none of the musicians heard on this album hall from New Orleans, the style in which they play is one more commonly associated with that city than with Chicago. One might say that they represent the earliest era of Chicago jazz – that very early 1920s period when the Windy City scene was dominated by migrants from New Orleans. Musicians were pouring into town then from other parts of the South and the Midwest as well, but the center of attraction was King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Many musicians adopted the New Orleans way of playing, while others (mainly the local white musicians) failed in their attempts to do so, thereby – as you might put it – unknowingly developing a new jazz idiom that was later to become known as “Chicago Style.”

   That newer style eventually pushed the older vein aside in Chicago, so that it was a rather radical idea that veteran clarinetist FRANZ JACKSON had hen he decided, in the mid-‘50s, to form a band that would carryon the old, New Orleans-derived tradition. He gathered together a group of like-mined musicians, all sharing his enthusiasm and love for classic jazz. Aside from the Earl Hines band (which can be heard on another album in this “Living Legends” series), this was the only working traditional band we encountered during our recording venture in the Windy City. (And Hines’ is a traveling group that just fortunately happened to be appearing in Chicago when we arrived there.)

   Franz and his colleagues can be heard regularly at such places as The Red Arrow and Jazz Limited. It was at the latter club that I first heard the band, and as I walked into the room I was greeted by a wonderful BOB SHOFFNER trumpet solo on Riverside Blues, and old tune from the King Oliver repertoire. The relationship between that title and the name of this label is purely coincidental, but I immediately put the number on my mental list for the band’s recording date – for, as soon as I heard them, there was no doubt in my mind about recording the Jackson group. No current picture of traditional jazz in Chicago could be complete without them.

   Jackson was born in Rock Island, Illinois. He studied clarinet and tenor sax while in high school and later book up composition and arranging at Chicago Musical College. Before finishing high school he had joined the Carroll Dickerson orchestra at the famed Grand Terrace Ballroom. After four years with Dickerson, in 1936, he went with Jimmie Noone’s band. In the late ‘30s he played with Roy Eldridge and Fletcher Henderson, then joined Fats Waller for a year and, in 1942, was in Earl Hines’ big band. His wide experience also includes stints with Cab Calloway and Benny Carter. Franz is prolific composer, many of whose works have been performed and recorded by various bands. This album includes his Blue Thursday, and he can be heard playing his Red Arrow Blues with Lil Armstrong’s orchestra on another LP in this “Living Legends” series.

   Bob Shoffner, born in Bessie, Tennessee, in the year 1900, started playing trumpets on the riverboats operating out of ST. Louis, mostly with Charlie Creath’s almost legendary band. “We played together in Creath’s band in 1916,” Pops Foster has recalled, “and, he sounded very much like Joe Oliver.” Shoffner was one of the many whose idol was King Oliver, and a dream became reality for him in 1925 when he started a two-tear job as second trumpet with Oliver’s Dixieland Syncopators. Today, when he is not working as a member of Franz Jackson becomes a member of Shoffner’s marching band. Bob still-brilliant horn solos effectively throughout this album.

   John Thomas has played with Louis Armstrong and with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. Bill Oldham, who has written two symphonies, came to Chicago from Chattanooga in 1919 and played in various brass bands. His career also includes two years (1933-35) with Armstrong, a year with violinist Eddie South, and studies at the Chicago Conservatory that earned him a bachelor of music degree. Bill Curry has been playing professionally since 1916. His background includes a stand at Chicago’s Arcadia Ballroom with Darnell Howard’s band and road tours with both Ethel Waters and James P. Johnson.

   Banjoist Lawrence Dixon spent fourteen years with Sammy Stewart’s band, one of the long-lived territorial bands of the Midwest. He played with Fess Williams and Dave Peyton for the opening of the celebrated Regal Theatre in Chicago in the early ‘20s, remaining there for two years and following that with six years at the Grand Terrace as part of the Earl Hines band. Rozelle Claxton, youngest member of the group, was born in Memphis in 1912. He also played the Grand Terrace, with Walter Fuller’s band, and prior to that had been a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s Chickasaw Syncopators and Eddie South’s band. Claxton, who holds a master’s degree in music, has also played in New York theaters with Roy Eldridge and Lucky Millinder.

   These, then, are the members of Franz Jackson’s Original Jass All-Stars, all well-seasoned n jazz and with a rather unique combination of musical experiences that goes far beyond the traditional style in which, by their own choice, they perform here. They have made themselves into something of a current institution in Chicago, and have built a large following that clearly demonstrates a need and a demand for the kind of music that they play – making them another wonderful example of the continuity and variety of jazz today.


   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)

   Other albums in the series include –

A Monday Date: EARL HINES and his Band (RLP 398; Stereo 9398)

LIL ARMSTRONG and her Orchestra (RLP 401; Stereo 9401)

SOUTH SIDE BLUES: Mama Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery, others (RLP 403 ; Stereo 9403)

   (A similar series of albums is available on Riverside under the general title: “New Orleans: The Living Legends.”)



Recording Engineer: BARRETT CLARK

Mobile unit assistant: DICK COHN

Recorded by NEAL CEPPOS (Plaza Sound Studios)

Album design: KEN DEARDOFF

Cover and back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO


235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York

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