AL WYNN and his Gutbucket Seven
Al Wynn (tb) Bill Martin (tp, vocals on Side 1, #1 and Side 2, #3) Darnell Howard (cl) Blus Moten (p, Side 1, #1, 2; Side 2, #1,3,4) Blind John Davis (p other three takes and vocals on Side 1, #3 and 4) Mike McKendrick (g) Rovert Wilson (b) Booker Washington (drs)
Chicago; September 5, 1961
1. Ice Cream (4:05) (traditional/ arr. by Al Wynn)
2. Someday Sweetheart (8:10) (J. and B. Spikes)
3. How Long Blues (3:57) (Leroy Carr)
4. Honey (3:45) (Simons – Gillespie)
1. Bourbon Street (6:53) (Paul Barbarin)
2. The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise (4:28) (Lockhart – Seitz)
3. In The Evening (2:44) (Williams Broonzy)
4. Nobody’s Sweetheart (5:56) (Schoebel – Erdman)
French jazz critic Ander Hodeir once observed: “It is enough to hear the playing of a white-haired jazzman like Sidney Bechet to know that he has remained as young at heart as those who stamp with excitement while listening to him”
This comment came back into my mind time and time again during the recording of these “Living Legends” albums. The musicians featured in this series may lack some of the technical facility of their younger counterparts but they posses a wonderful quality that, in this writer’s opinion, more than makes up for any other lacks. That quality is “spirit”, for here are musicians who thoroughly enjoy playing, who are themselves as entertained as the listener. It is an infectious spirit that has jazz written all over it. These are seasoned performers with vast experience behind them – coupled with an extremely youthful spirit that still seems to make everything they play sound fresh and new.
All this is particularly relevant to the music of AL WYNN and the veteran “youngsters” who romp their way with him through eight selections on this LP. It is indeed hard to believe that this is the same Al Wynn whose trombone once was an integral part of Ma Rainey’s Georgia Band but it is a fact, proof of which can be found on Riverside RLP 137, Wynn took up study of the trombone in 1918. He had a distinct advantage over most of his contemporaries in that his parents were able to afford private music teachers for him. The Wynn family soon moved to Chicago where, young Albert made his professional debut with Ma Rainey’s band in 9122. Until 1928 he led his own band and recorded frequently – with Ma Rainy for the Paramount label, and with his own studio groups for Okeh and Vocalion. In ’28 he played for brief periods in the bands of Charlie Creath, Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, then joined Sam Woodings orchestra for a three-year European tour which took him through Germany, France and Spain. Wynn remained in Europe until late in ’32, worked briefly in New York, and then returned to Chicago, where he joined Jimmie Noone’s band at the Apex Club. Except for a brief 1934 stint with Caroll Dickerson’s band, and two years with Fletcher Henderson band, Wynn remained with Noone until 1940.
After a period of relative inactivity, Al returned to prominence in ’56 with Franz Jackson’s Original Jazz All-Stars (represented in this series on RLP 406; Stereo 9406). He has since played with various bands as well as leading his own groups in the Chicago area.
About the rest of the band: Trumpeter BILL MARTIN came to Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama, via Kansas City, where he played in Zach White’s band as well as with singer Julia Lee and the Benny Moten band. Today he spends most of his time driving a cab in Chicago with time off for various stints with Al Wynn’s band. IRA (“BUS) MOTEN hails from Kansas City, where he joined his brother Bennie’s band on accordion and piano in ’29. He recorded with the Moten band extensively, often alternating on piano with Bill “Count” Basie. On this album he alternates with pianist BLIND JOHN DAVIS, who is best known for his accompaniments to blues singer Lonnie Johnson on a series of 1946 recordings. Here Davis is also heard as a vocalist on two selections. DARNELL HOWARD’s clarinet has graced the bandstand with Earl Hines at regular intervals since the late ‘20s and a more detailed account of his career can be found in the notes to Earl Hines’ album in this series (RLP 398,; Stereo 9398). Completing the band’s rhythm section are the almost-legendary MIKE McKENDRICK, whose banjo and guitar can be heard regularly in Chicago with pianist-singer Little Brother Montgomery (with whom he appears on RLP 410; Stereo 9410); bassist ROBERT WILSON; and Memphis-born drummer BOOKER WASHINGTON, who came to Chicago during the mid-‘20s and is today one of the most active drummers on that city’s traditional jazz scene.
The eight tunes the group performs here are all well-known pop and jazz standards. (There might, however, be some confusion as to the third selection on Side 2, where the band begins by playing Evenin’, a tune by trombonist Harry White; but Bill Martin’s vocal later changes it to Big Bill Broonzy’s In The Evening - which is an altogether different number!)
This was the first set of recordings made at “The Birdhouse” during our stay in Chicago. It literally rocked that home of modern jazz, and if you receive it half as well as did the many Chicagoans who witnessed the actual recording, this writer will be more than satisfied.
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, ad issued under the general series title, “Chicago Living Legends.” The musicians featured here can also be heard in the initial album in this series, which is an overall survey of the Windy City scene -
CHICAGO: The Living Legends (RLP 389/390; Stereo 9389/9390 – a 2-LP set)
A similar series of albums, recorded in January, 1961, has been issued under the general title, “New Orleans: The Living Legends.”
Produced by CHRIS ALBERTSON
Recording Engineer: BARRETT CLARK
Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York