San Francisco Style
LU WATTERS and BOB HELM
LU WATTERS YERBA BUENA JAZZ BAND (Side 1): Lu Watters (tp) Bob Scobey (tp) Turk Murphy (tb) Bob Helm (cl) Wally Rose (p) Harry Mordecai (bj) Dick Lammi (tu) Bill Dart (drs) (Vocal on Beale Street Blues by Murphy)
San Francisco; August 16, 1947
BOB HELM’S RIVERSIDE ROUSTABOUTS (Side 2): Everett Farey (cnt) (on #1, 3, 4, 7 only) Bob Helm (cl) Hank Ross (p) Bill Stanley (b) Bob Thompson (wbd) New York; October 8, 1954
1. Cake Walking Babies From Home (3:19) (Williams-Smith-Troy)
2. Antigua Blues (3:04) (Lu Watters)
3. Beale Street Blues (3:04) (W. C. Handy)
4. Chattanooga Stomp (3:10) (Oliver-Picou)
5. Jazzin’ Babies Blues (2:48) (Richard M. Jones)
6. Snake Rag (3:17) (Joe Oliver)
1. Riverside Shake (3:27) (Bob Helm)
2. Back Side o’Town (2:11) (Kees-Helm)
3. Doin’ the Plymouth Rock (2:17) (Bob Helm)
4. How’m I Gonna Do It (When I Don’t Know What You Grave? (4:54) (Kees-Helm)
5. I Don’t Want Any More (3:04) (Kees-Helm)
6. Seagull Strut (2:43) (Bob Helm)
7. Daybreak Blues (3:54) (Kees-Helm)
Ever since Lu Watters’ Yearba Buena Jazz Band first came into being in 194, San Francisco has quite properly been recognized as the physical and spiritual home of a revolutionary old-yet-new style that celebrates the enduring vitality of early jazz. The Watters band, of course, initiated the now amazingly widespread rebirth of interest in music that carries on the old New Orleans tradition – a revival currently spearheaded by, among others, groups led by such Watters alumni as Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey. . .
These Yearba Buena selections are taken from a 1947 “This is Jazz” broadcast, and are among the most exciting items in that unique series, which marked the only notable (though relatively brief ) jazz invasion of network radio to date.
The Bob Helm numbers are 1954 studio recordings, made when he was appearing in New York for the first time, during an Eastern tour by the Turk Murphy band. They represent the fulfillment of Riverside’s long- standing ambition to record the brilliant San Francisco clarinetist.
These two groups of selections have previously been issued only on separate 10-inch Riverside LPs, and are combined here for the first time.
The Yearba Buena message was that the music called ragtime and the music called jazz were things worth keeping. King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band built the road in the very early 1920s. Jelly Roll Morton paved the surface. Lu Watters and the Yerba Buenas established a community on the road and gave it new life. They did not, as many critics say and as any fool can see, simply copy or add nothing to the works of the past. They were not, as many other critics say and many other fools can see, the ultimate in musical perfection. Musical styles need not be outmoded any more than they need remain unchanging. Each of the many kinds of jazz in the traditional and modern idioms were born of a particular time and social outlook, but they do not end with the time and outlook. In every age man finds new ways to enjoy himself and new things to create. These add to the cumulative library of living. They should not be preserved for the sake of worshipping antiquity, but rather for the sake of adding to the ways from which each man may choose his own path.
The Yerba Buena Band bore the mark of Lu Watters more brightly than that of any of its members or any San Francisco and the Pacific Coast, where the merry qualities of Western bands were not yet lost. The band’s members were picked for their ensemble musicianship and it is here that they excelled. In jazz there is hardly a more important skill, or one requiring more sensitive cooperation, or one in which so many other bands have failed. The Yerba Buena concept prevailed even into the so-called solo instrumental passages. If one instrument was featured for a time, the rhythm section was not an accompanying background but simply a smaller ensemble.
The year 1940 marked the birth of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band and 1951its demise. In its time it knew the talents of innumerable West Coast jazz stars – men like Benny Strickler, Clancy Hayes, Ellis Horne, and Paul Lingle – but it is in terms of the eight-man team heard here that history best remembers it. At the time of this broadcast these men ranged in age from 29 to 36. Each had many years of diverse musical training and experience behind him and in the jazz of Lu Watters and the Yerba Buena band each found an at least temporary meeting of minds that fostered an unique and influential musical phenomenon. Watters is in retirement now, a living legend and to many people (including this writer) a sharer of the throne occupied by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke. Scobey now leads a famed band of his own; Murphy in 1954 featured Helm and Rose in perhaps the greatest jazz band of its day, and had Lammi with him in a later group. Wally Rose had also achieved status as the present master of the precise and scholarly art of ragtime piano playing.
Notes by BOBERT L. THOMPSON
Bob Helm’s skill as a jazz artist is no secret to the very many followers of the New Orleans – derived style that had its beginnings with the Yerba Buena band. Bob was part of the original hard core of that band; he was with Watters again during the post-was period at the Dawn Club and Hambone Kelly’s; since 1951, both with the Turk Murphy band and on his own in the San Francisco area, Helm has continued to demonstrate his right to be considered the clarinetist of this school of jazz.
Born in July, 1914, Helm has been a working musician since boyhood. He has played with a variety of bands, large and small, including a three-years stay (1943-46) with the 80th Infantry Division Band. When the Yerba Buena re-formed after the war, Helm was very much on hand, with his warm tone and complex, imaginative phrasing among the most rewarding and satisfying elements in that group.
His talents as composer and arranger are probably not as widely known, for many of his tunes are in a somewhat different vein than the Watter-Murphy mainstream. (None of the originals on this LP had preciously been recorded.) Also, although Helm has been prominently featured on many sides, he had never before had a session of his own, one on which he was the main focus of attention. For such reasons, this record date shaped up as an important and long overdue event.
The supporting cast for this occasion included and outstanding representative of the “second generation” in San Francisco jazz, Everett Farey being only in his mid-20s and having been exposed to the Watters band at any early age. (At the time of this recording, he was a member of the Murphy band.) The rhythm section, which features the forceful beat of Bob Thompson’s washboard, is made up of young New York musicians who have by choice followed in the footsteps of the San Franciscans, and who were notably enthusiastic about the opportunity of playing with Helm.
The compositions, written over a several-year period (1947-54), all carry a strong flavor of the happy, rhythmic, easy-flowing jazz of Chicago’s South Side in the 1920s, a style associated with early jazzmen like Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Blythe. But the long, clean, highly melodic lines of this music, and the often-intricate voicing of the five parts, are clearly the products of Helm’s own inventiveness and taste.
Notes by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Other 12-inch Riverside albums of recent recordings in a traditional or Dixieland vein include:
JOE SULLIVAN: New Solos by an Old Master (RLP 2-202) – 5-star rating in Down Beat
RAGRIME! – Tony Parenti’s Ragtime Band and Ragpickers Trio (RLP 205)
GEORGE LEWIS New Orleans Jazz Band and Quartet (RLP 12-207)
DIXIELAND in HI-FI: Gene Mayl’s Dixieland Rhythm Kings (RLP 12-210)
WILD BILL DAVISON: Sweet and Hot (RLP 12-211)
RALPH SUTTON; piano solos, with George Wettling, drums (RLP 12-212)
Produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Gene Gogerty
Side 1 re-mastered, 1956, by Reeves Sound Studios
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.