NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM KING (VOLUME 2)
TIN ROOF BLUES
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Friars Society Orchestra (Side 1; and Side 2, #1,2): Paul Mares (tp) George Brunis (tb) Leon Rappolo (cl) Jack Pettis (sax) Elmer Schoebel (p) Lew Black (bj) Steve Brown (b) Ben Pollack (drs)
Richmond, Indiana; August 29 and 30, 1922
New Orleans Rhythm Kings (Side 2, #3-5): Paul Mares (tp) George Brunis (tb) Leon Rappolo (cl) Mel Stitzel (p) Frank Snyder (drs) Richmond; March 12 and 13, 1923
(Side 2, #6): Charlie Pierce (p) and Pollack (drs) replace Stitzel and Snyder. Glen Scoville (sax) Lew Black (bj) Steve Brown (b) are added, Richmond; July 18, 1923
Eccentric (2:42) (J. Russell Robinson)
Farewell Blues (2:31) (Rappolo – Schoebel – Mares)
Discontented Blues (2:35) (Myers – Schoebel – Miller)
Bugle Call Blues (2:12) (Snyder – Pettis – Brunis)
Panama (2:29) (William H. Tyers)
Tiger Rag (2:20) (Original Dixieland Jazz Band)
Livery Stable Blues (2:33) (Lopez – Nunez – Lee)
Oriental (2:30) (Myers – Schoebel)
That’s a Plenty (2:30) (Lew Pollack)
Tin Roof Blues (2:54) (New Orleans Rhythm Kings)
Maple Leaf Rag (2:24) (Scott Joplin)
Mad (2:34) (McHugh – Heath)
This album provides a good sampling of the legendary New Orleans Rhythm Kings, a group of young white musicians who played in Chicago in the early ‘20s. The N.O.R.K. were influenced by one set of jazz tradition and, in turn, they influenced the founders of another, standing as a sort of pivot point: the link between Negro jazz and white, between New Orleans and Chicago. These recordings also serve as a valuable document of the great delicacy of phrasing and extremely pure but limpid clarinet tone of the legendary Leon Rappolo, the much underrated trumpet playing of Paul Mares and the powerful tailgate trombone of George Brunis.
“The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, more than earlier New Orleans bands and more than the Negro bands, introduced jazz to the North Side youngsters and Chicago dance musicians.” This is jazz, fact, pointed out by many historians of the music; this particular quote is from John Steiner’s contribution to a 1959 anthology of jazz writing (“Jazz,” edited by Nat Hentoff and Albert McCarthy), in which he goes on to recount a specific but extremely typical example of the Rhythm Kings’ early impact. “Pianist Murph Podalsky relates that on a spring afternoon in 1921, when he and clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow … were walking in the 2000 block of Division Street, they were overwhelmed by a wave of vigorous sound unlike anything they had ever heard. “We had heard the Original Dixieland Jazz Band records, but this live jazz was something else!” the band they heard was rehearsing in a pool room … and included … Paul Mares, George Brunis and probably Leon Rappolo and Steve Brown. “This immediately converted both of us.”
The jazz played by the “N.O.R.K.” definitely was “something else” (particularly when compared with the recordings of other white groups of the same period) and there is a great deal more to the music re-issued here than just its historical significance. But that significance was vast, for there were many who, like the two men noted above, were “converted” by it.
It is sometimes difficult to remember that, basically, all jazz stems from the music of the Southern Negro, for there often seems to be a confusingly wide gap between white and Negro versions of traditional jazz material. But the Rhythm Kings can serve to clarify the picture; more than any other single group they form a link between two extremes. To the youngsters who started to play in Chicago in the early 1920s – Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Teschemacher; and men like Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland and many others who remain active “Dixielanders” today – jazz began with the N.O.R.K. (There is a reasonably well-authenticated legend that pinpoints the jazz origin of the famed Austin High School Gang to the afternoon they first heard, on a soda-parlor nickelodeon, one of the recordings included on this LP, the N.O.R.K.’s Tin Roof Blues – a story strikingly similar to the one recounted by Steiner.)
For the nucleus of the Rhythm Kings, jazz had begun even earlier than at high school age, back in their home town of New Orleans, when the Negro music of that city’s celebrated Storyville district was at its peak. By 1920, when they went up to Chicago to play, King Oliver and Johnny Dodds and other New Orleans greats who had similarly migrated were inaugurating a new “golden era” of jazz in a new setting. His music and these men were the models on which Paul Mares, George Brunis and Leon Rappolo patterned themselves. Thus the N.O.R.K., influenced by one tradition and influencing another, stand in a unique position at one of the most important of jazz crossroads.
PAUL MARES was born in 1900. But 1919 he was playing on Mississippi riverboats, and late in 1921 he opened at the Friars Inn in Chicago as leader of the Friars Society Orchestra (the original name for the N.O.R.K.), playing in a driving style admittedly derived from that Oliver. After 1925, Mares retired from music for a decade, and although he did record four “Friars Society” sides in 1935 (with entirely different personnel), never really resumed an important jazz role. He died in Chicago on August 18, 1949. JOSEPH LEON RAPPOLO was born on March 16, 1902, in Lutheran, La. At 14 he ran away from home to join a vaudeville show, and shortly thereafter came to New Orleans, where he joined the Brunies Brothers; band. Descended from a line of highly-regarded concert musicians, Rappolo had the advantage of formal musical training at a time when jazz musicians were largely self-taught and technically limited. Rapp’s clarinet style combined the style of the New Orleans masters with brilliant technique and wonderful free spirit, but band health (probably abetted by marijuana) cut short his career in 1925, and he remained in a sanitarium until his death on October 5,1943. GEORGE BRUNIS came to Chicago from New Orleans in 1919. As a youngster he had worked with “Papa” Jack Laine, father of the white Dixieland style, and with trumpeter Abbie Brunies (he was George’s brother – the trombonist dropped the “e” of the original family name as a master of numerology). Brunis was the first of the basic three to leave the N.O.R.K., beginning a twelve-year association with Ted Lewis in 1923. At this writing, George at the age of 60 remains one of the most dynamic forces in the small-band white jazz known as Dixieland; his horn is a loud, often bawdy, always tailgate weapon that reaches out and socks the listener with as much impact and energy as when he was driving through the ensembles of his earliest recordings – a bit of continuity that serves to emphasize what a very young music jazz still is.
It would be inaccurate to claim that the N.O.R.K.’s music was anything like “pure” New Orleans. For one think, the line-up included some Northerners, including a saxophonist, Jack Pettis (reputedly added as a commercial touch, to satisfy a club-owner’s notion of what would look good on a bandstand). But certainly the three key members of the group knew and understood the music; they had fire and drive and a grasp of the basic jazz beat: Mares’ Oliver-styled work, including liberal use of mute effects; Burnis’ deep, husky tailgate; and Rappolo’s sensitive, melodic clarinet, showing much awareness of the blues. Best of all, they could play together in the truly integrated fashion that is the heart of traditional jazz.
Their first record date seems to have been at least partly due to the location of Friars Inn. This was a tough cellar restaurant, typical of the places where the big money hung out and jazz flourished in Chicago, and it just happened to be around the corner from the Starr Music Store. The Starr Piano Co. was the parent outfit of the Gennett label; Fred Wiggens, then a manager of the store and later to be head of Gennett’s “sales and artists division,” heard the band one night in the Spring of 1922. His enthusiasm led the group to pack themselves into a big and decrepit old touring car for a trek to the Richmond, Indiana studios on August 29th of that year. On that and the following day they cut eight tunes, using the Friars name, and in March of ’23 they cut eight more, this time as the N.O.R.K. With the exception of Mad (which stems from the group’s third date, in July ’23), the selections in this album are all taken from these two sessions.
In the band’s few years at the top they recorded a total of only 24 Gennett sides. Thus this album and a previous LP (which includes four selections with Jelly Roll Morton on piano) make up a complete document of a most important chapter in the history of recorded jazz. The earlier Riverside re-issued album is –
N.O.R.K.: New Orleans Rhythm Kings, with Jelly Roll Morton (RLP 12-102)
A discographical note:
These 12 selections are arranged in consecutive master number order. The original Gennett label and master numbers are as follows: Eccentric (mx.no. 11178) was on Gennett 5009; Farewell (11179 C) was coupled with Oriental (11185) on Gennett 4966; Discontented (11180 A)/Buggle Call (11181 B) were Ge 4967; Panama (11182 B)/tiger Rag (11183 C) were Ge 4968; while Livery Stable (11184) was never issued by Gennett. That’s A Plenty (11353 A)/Tin Roof (11359 A) made up Ge 5105; Maple Leaf (11358 B) was on Ge 5104. Mad (11552) was on Ge 5221.
(The slight surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes; it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities.)
LP produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and BILL GRAUER
Notes by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and CHRIS ALBERTSON
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Remastered, 1960, by JACK MATTHEWS (components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED late.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.