WILD BILL DAVISON featured with the All-Star Stompers
“Wild Bill” Davison (tp) Jimmy Archey (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl) (on #1, 2 and 4) Edmond Hall (cl) (on #3, 5-8) Ralph Sutton (p) replaced by James P. Johnson on #4 only) Danny Barker (g) George ‘Pops’ Foster (b) Warren ‘Baby’ Dodds (drs)
New York; 1947 (#1 and 2 on July 26; #3 on September 6; #4 on June 21; all of Side 2 on September 13)
1. Eccentric (J. Russell Robinson) (2:19) July 26, 1947
2. Tishomingo Blues (Spencer Williams) (2:43) July 26, 1947
3. Clarinet Marmalade Shields-Ragas) (4:11) Sep. 6, 1947
4. Trombone Preaching Blues (Jimmy Archey) (3:40) June 21, 1947
5. Can't We Be Friends (Swift-James) (3:05) Sep. 13, 1947
6. Skeleton Jungle (Nick LaRocca) (3:13) Sep. 13, 1947
7. Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll (C. and S. Williams) (3:26) Sep. 13,
8. It's Right Here for You (Perry Bradford) (4:21) Sep. 13, 1947
WILD BILL DAVISON, who seems to blow his horn out of one corner of his mouth as some men smoke a cigarette (but with a good deal more vigor than any smoker you ever saw), is the leading spirit in the proceedings on this LP. This is a most accustomed role for Wild Bill, who has been a leading jazz spirit in and around the New York area ever since he first charged into town in 1940.
He can usually be counted on to get an extra burst is placed in first-class company, the result is almost inevitably something to warm the hearts and stir up the adrenalin of anyone even faintly partial to Dixieland-type activities.
The numbers that make up this album were played on four different Saturday afternoons in the late 1940s, by as skilled a batch of practitioners of the tradition-based jazz idiom as you could hope to find. These occasions were part of a series of broadcasts that marked just about the only known surrender of network radio to live, unadulterated jazz in large doses. The series, known aptly enough as "This Is Jazz" and put together by Rudi Blesh, was presented for the better part of a year over the Mutual Broadcasting System. Eventually, presumably for such petty reasons as the absence of sufficiently daring sponsors, radio rid itself of live jazz and returned to its normal ways. Radio appears not to have been noticeably enlightened by the experience; it remains as tough as ever to find jazz, of any school, being created over the airwaves or on TV.
Nevertheless, there were these few rare moments during which it was possible to hear such as Davison, Ed Hall, Albert Nicholas, Pops Foster, Baby Dodds and the like right in your own living room (as the saying goes). And since the shows were retained on acetate discs, it has been possible to convert to records these examples of hard-driving, free-swinging and exciting latterday Dixieland.
To call this music "Dixieland" is, of course to ride along with the usual tendency to lump together under that heading the current playing of practically everyone who has been involved with jazz since the 1920s and thereabout, plus the work of their younger colleagues. Actually, what is heard here hasn't too much connection with the earlier, white-jazz forms that bore that name. But since "Dixieland" is consistently used nowadays as a catch-all term, it can be employed accurately enough to describe a group like the All-Star Stompers, who represent a wide variety of jazz backgrounds. You find here New Orleans veterans Hall, Nicholas, Dodds and Foster; Harlem jazzmen like James P. Johnson and Jimmy Archey; a comparative youngster like St. Louis-born pianist Ralph Sutton; and Davison, a midwesterner of the white Chicago school. Other broadcasts used still other men, but all had in common their long-standing and basic affection for the continuing pattern of traditional jazz (though, to be sure, none of them would find it necessary to rationalize in such words what is their natural way of playing), as well as the fact that most of them worked together quite often -- at clubs, in concerts, and at record sessions.
The resulting style can admittedly sound a bit weary and routine at times (for example, when you drop into some half-empty club on a Tuesday night). But on its best days (such as these 1947 Saturdays), it can be among the most happy and happy-making music imaginable.
As noted at the start, one major reason for the pleasure of the going-on is the presence of the very urgent horn of Wild Bill. By now a New York jazz landmark, he is actually something of a late-comer to the scene. History tells us that Davison was born in Defiance, Ohio, early in 1906, that he was first a banjoist and then a fairly ricky-tick cornetist in various soggy midwestern bands, but that soon enough he heard Bix and then Louis and was straightened out once and for all. But it can be a long way from Defiance to the big-time. Bill seems to have been sidetracked into places like Detroit, into theater pit bands and genuinely corny outfits like those of Chubb Steinberg and Benny Meroff. His few early recordings are with those bands, and a couple of them are notable for Davison's valiant efforts to make it sound like jazz. He did get in with the Chicago boys briefly, though late, and is unfortunately remembered in that connection largely because he happened to be driving Frank Teschemacher to work at the time of the auto accident in which Tesch was killed. After that, it was mostly Milwaukee, where he led a small jazz group for several years before finally deciding to come on to New York. His success there was first sudden and then continuous, most notably during an almost-permanent stand at Eddie Condon's Greenwich Village club.
In addition to the omnipresent drive of Wild Bill, these tunes - which are mostly standard, though not overworked, items - display some beautifully fluid clarinet by Nicholas on three numbers and Hall on the others, with the latter's deft solo on Clarinet Marmalade particularly outstanding. Trombone Preaching Blues is largely turned over to the gutteral tones of Archey. Jimmy Johnson is the pianist for this one; Ralph Sutton on all the others. Ralph, who has worked most frequently as a solo hand in recent years, takes a stand-out chorus on Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll, and demonstrates his abilities as a rhythm-section man throughout, laying down a precise beat (generally a 4/4 beat) in company with such firm old hands as Foster, Dodds and Danny Barker.
(Three of these selections - Jelly Roll, Skelton Jangle and Trombone Preaching Blues - are preciously unissued. The others, though not available for some time, were first issued as singles on the Circle label.)
Riverside’s Contemporary Jazz Series offers a wide variety of Dixieland and traditional-style performances.
Including such LPs as:
Lu Watters 1947 – Yerba Buena Jazz Band, with Turk Murphy, Bob Scobey, Wally Rose, bob Helm (RLP 2513)
Bob Helm’s riverside Roustabouts (RLP 2510)
Sidney Bechet, with Bob Wilber (RLP 2516)
George Lewis (RLPs 2507 and 2512)
Yank Lawson’s Dixieland Jazz, with Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, James P. Johnson (RLP 2509)
Gene Mayl’s Dixieland Rhythm Kings (RLPs 2504, 2505)
LP produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.