CONRAD JANIS: Dixieland Jam Session
Side 1; and Side 2, #1: Dick Smith (tp) Conrad Janis (tb) Tom Sharpsteen (cl) Bob Wilber (ss) Ralph Sutton (p) Danny Barker (g) Pops Foster (b) Freddie Moore (drs, vcl) NYC; January 23, 1951
Side 2, #2-5; Elmer Schoebel (p) replaces for Sutton, omit Wilber and Foster. Other personnel the same. (Vocal on Eh La Bas by Danny Barker; Down by the Riverside by Freddie Moore)
NYC; June 7, 1951
1. When the Saints Go Marching In (8:49) (traditional)
2. See See Rider (6:08) (traditional)
3. High Society (5:53) (Williams – Piron)
1. That’s A Plenty (6:39) (Lew Pollack)
2. Willie the Weeper (3:19) (traditional)
3. Eh La Bas (3:32) (traditional)
4. When You and I Were Young, Maggie (2:48) (Butterfield – Johnson)
5. Down by the Riverside (3:26) (traditional)
The old songs (as has been said on more than one occasion) are apt to be the best songs. This would seem particularly likely to be the case in the world of Dixieland jazz, where over the years a very substantial number of tunes have become quite firmly implanted in the repertoire and staple items to just about every musician on the premises on any given occasion.
On the one hand, it is true, this runs the risk of over-usage: there are old warhorses that have been played until there seems little likehood of anyone persuading any further ounces of freshness out of them. But, on the other hand, there are those tunes that have the stamina and the basic structural values to enable them to retain their vigor and appeal.
Numbers like That’s a Plenty, High Society and The Saint certainly belong to the latter category. They have been on the jazz scene most prominently for a good long time, and it’s hardly conceivable that there is a jazz club or a concert hall that has been exposed to Dixieland that has not had its rafters shaken by them more than once. But it’s under “jam session” conditions that they can really come into their own. There the ingredients are a group of musicians who begin by being basically on the same musical wave-length, performing under informal and at least semi-private circumstances (most of the selections on this LP, for example, were recorded in a particular spacious living room). And when they can get to work on tunes with which they are all solidly familiar, all concerned can settle down, without any particular fuss, strain or special preliminaries, to the kind of relaxed and rousing performances that can be heard in this album.
CONRAD JANIS, who heads the proceedings here, is a young man of varied talents. He has been a highly successful tailgate trombone has been heard by enthusiastic audiences on both coasts and in a good many places in between in the relatively few years since he began combining music with acting. Born in New York City in February, 1928, he was first a self-taught guitarist (although his professional performing on that instrument was limited to his appearance in the Broadway play “Dark of the Moon”). In 1949 he began trying his hand on trombone. The following year, while in Hollywood, he recorded a few sides with a group of local enthusiasts with whom he had been playing, and entered the amateur jazz band record contest being conducted by The Record Changer magazine. The judges, leading jazz writers and critics, made their decision solely on the basis of recordings submitted. The competing bands were not identified. But the tabulations showed that almost all had cast their votes the same way: for the Janis “Canal Street Stompers”!
This success led Conrad and the other two members of his front line, clarinetist Tom Sharpsteen and Dick Smith on trumpet, to venture to New York to try their luck in the jazz world. The band that Janis had put together at the time of these recordings, in 1951, included a solidly experienced rhythm section to support the youthful exuberance of the horns. George “Pops” Foster is on bass, a veteran who has been on the job continuously ever since New Orleans days. Guitarist Danny Barker also began his jazz career in the Crescent City, was with such big bands as Cab Calloway’s and Benny Carter’s during the 1930s, but has been firmly back in the small band Dixieland fold ever since. Drummer Freddie Moore also has proper traditional-jazz credentials (including a stint with a King Oliver band) and has also been a driving force on the East Coast Dixie scene since the ‘40s.
On four of these selections, the jam session feeling is emphasized by the presence of two distinguished guests. Bob Wilber, noted protégé of soprano sax virtuoso Sidney Bechet, was at this time regularly engaged in much the same sort of jazz activity as Janis: leading a band that combined youth with experience in creating first-class traditional-style jazz in New York, New England and thereabouts. Ralph Sutton, St. Louis-born master of jazz piano in the classic early vein, has been featured as both soloist and band member on numerous recordings and in clubs from coast to coast. On the last four numbers, the pianist is Elmer Schoebel, originally a member of the pace-setting New Orleans Rhythm Kings of the 1920s. Schoebel had been out of jazz since the mid-30s, working mostly as a pop arranger, but with the coming of the ‘50s had returned to his first musical love by hooking up with the young-old Janis group.
Joining together to turn out extended versions of a varied collections of jazz standards, blues and even a couple of real oldies (Maggie and Down by the Riverside), these several skilled performers demonstrate once again the great pleasures that lie in happy, unpretentious Dixieland jazz.
(These selections were originally issued on the Circle label, the first four numbers as “Jammin’ at Rudi’s, No.1” and the remaining four as by “Conrad Janis and His Tailgate Band.”)
Riverside offers a great variety of albums by current performers in the Dixieland and traditional jazz veins. Among these are:
12” LPs –
JOE SULLIVAN: New Solos by an Old Master (RLP12-202)
RAGTIME! – Tony Parenti’s Ragtime Band (RLP12-205)
GEORGE LEWIS: New Orleans Jazz Band and Quartet (RLP12-207)
DIXIELAND in HI-FI: Gene Mayl’s Dixieland Rhythm Kings (12-210)
WILD BILL DAVISON: Sweet and Hot (RLP12-211)
RALPH SUTTON; piano solos, with George Wettling, drums (RLP12-212)
San Francisco Style: LU WATTERS’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band and BOB HELM’s Riverside Roustabouts (RLP12-213)
Creole Reeds: SIDNEY BECHET and ALBERT NICHOLAS (RLP12-216)
10” LPs –
Young Men with Horns: BOB WILBUR’S (RLP 2501)
DIXIELAND RHYTMH KINGS (RLPs 2504, 2505)
New Orleans Encore: NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND (RLP 2503)
The ‘Stride’ Piano of DICK WELLSTOOD (RLP2506)
GEORGE LEWIS (RLPs 2507, 2512)
YANK LWASON’S Dixieland Jazz; with Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, James P. Johnson (RLP 2509)
WILD BILL DAVISON (RLP 2514)
SIDNEY BECHET, with Bob Wilber (RLP 2516)
Notes by Peter Drew
Cover designed by Gene Gogerty
Re-mastered, 1956, by Reeves Sound Studios
Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.