COLLECTOR’S ITEMS (VOLUME 2)
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
JOHN WILLIAS SYNCO JAZZZERS
Down in Gallion (2:24) (John Williams)
Goose Gease (2:35) (John Williams)
WINDY RHYTHM KINGS
South African Blues (3:14) (Junie Cobb)
Piggly Wiggly (2:51) (Junie Cobb)
KING MUTT AND HIS TENNESSEE THUMPERS
Maxwell Street Stomp (3:12) (Unknown)
Good Time Mama (3:14) (Miller)
CLARENCE JONES SOCK FOUR
I’ve Got It All (3:14) (Walker – Wilson)
‘Mid the Pyramids (2:48) (Unknown)
This is the second of Riverside’s LPs bearing the title Collector’s Items,” a name signifying that the early recordings included in these albums are, in their original form, exceedingly – you might even say excessively – rare. A true collector’s item is often also of interest because (in addition to its basic musical worth), there is considerable mystery or room for debate regarding so fundamental a matter as exactly who created the record in the first place.
A jazz record can achieve extreme rarity in several ways: if comparatively few copies were manufactured and sold to begin with (if the record company was small one or the artists not well-known); or if, even though a fairly large number were sold, no one felt the need to guard them against breakage, wear, just plain being thrown away by the unappreciative, or other normal ills to which records are susceptible. Small wonder, than, that after a quarter of a century, no more than a handful of copies of such records (sometimes only a single, treasured one) are known to be in existence.
Riverside Records’ entire Jazz Archives Series seeks to provide today’s listeners with some of the finest of rare early jazz, with emphasis on both the neglected works of noted performers and the musically and historically important recordings of relatively obscure jazz artists. The Collector’s Items LPs are an answer to the problem presented by some of the rarest of such records – those made by an artist or a band who failed to record often enough to make it possible to devote a full LP to their work. An album like this one seems the only way to make available very good and very scarce selections that have never been heard (perhaps never even heard of) by most listeners, and that otherwise never could get to e heard.
It is rather typical that we can be sure of the identity of only one musician on all the numbers reissued here, Clarence Jones. Since record companies never bothered to keep lists of musicians who worked for them until comparatively recently, the whole subject of personnel must remain far from an exact science. Rumor (sometimes conflicting rumors), conjecture, circumstantial evidence, what the sound of a record seems to indicate, and the sometimes less-than-infallible memories of musicians as to who played with whom one day some twenty-five years ago – such is the material which must suffice. Often, as with the records that make up this LP, there’s hardly even that much to go on.
Fortunately, it’s quite possible to set aside such problems and concentrate on the music, which in this case is a variety of highly enjoyable examples of small-band Midwestern jazz styles of the ‘20s.
(Collector’s Items, Volume 1 – RLP 1017 – features selections by Richard M. Jones Jazz Wizards, the Parham-Pickett Apollo Symcopators, Clarence Williams’ Orchestra, and Tiny Parham and his Forty-five.)
JOHN WILLIAMS SYNCO JAZZERS: unknown personnel (Paramount 12457 – master numbers 4187-2; 4188-2). Chicago; 1926
Like most of the selections here, these present almost complete enigmas to discographers. It has long been conjectured that this is the same John Williams who went on to play in the Andy Kirk band, and that this outfit may have been the nucleus of that Kansas City group. But jazz authority John Hammond, who has been collecting Paramount records since they were new releases and is probably the most knowledgeable of American collectors regarding this label, is highly dubious of this theory. An Aletha Robinson, who was Paramount’s recording director during the late 1920s, is sure that, although Kirk’s Williams and his wife (pianist Mary Lou Williams) did pass through Chicago at about this time, they did not record for the company. So – although these sound a lot like Kansas City – most probably some other, unknown source must be credited for the driving banjo, the blues-tinged trumpet, and the other elements that make these numbers stand up as still-fresh examples of fine, swinging jazz.
WINDY RHYTHMKINGS: unconfirmed personnel (Para 12770 – master numbers 21255-1; 21256-1). Chicago; 1929
Orin Blackstone’s excellent discography, Index to Jazz offers as the personnel for these recordings; Jimmie Cobb (cnt) Junie Cobb (cl) Ernie Smith (sax) Jimmy Bertrand (drs) unknown (p) but that’s far from the late word on this puzzling date. His data may be supported by the fact that Junie Cobb wrote both these tunes – and when a session from this period features originals written by a musician who could have been on the date, it’s often a rewarding clue to the personnel. But the value of these compositions as clues is lessened by the fact that they have been recorded on other occasions, and the sound of this band makes this suggested personnel seem less than a fully satisfactory answer to many listeners. John Hammond notes the fact that he ahs tried these numbers, without much success, on various jazzmen who knew Chicago in the late ‘20s (men like Earl Hines and Omer Simeon doubt the Cobb line-up, but have no specific alternatives to offer) and that recently Benny Goodman has suggested that it might be a white group. Surely this is a very different sound than that of any small South Side band that comes to mind; the piano in particular seems hard to attribute to any Negro musician of this period. The band name is of course no help: these are the only side bearing this name, and so it’s either a pseudonym or a pick-up to some interesting, hard-pounding, but probably permanently mysterious jazz.
KING MUTT AND HIS TENNESSEE THUMPERS: unknown personnel (Gennett 6796 – master number GE 14794; and Gennett 6844 GE 14793). Richmond, Indiana; early February, 1929.
Here are a pair of items so rare that no collector we’ve ever heard of has even known them under their right name. At best you may find them listed in a discography as by “Frisky Foot Jackson and his Thumpers” – which is actually just a Champion reissue (it was common practice for Gennett to issue identical masters on its subsidiary label under invented band names). The Gennett ledgers disclose the “real name,” which of course sounds unreal and unfamiliar enough itself. Unless you can take their word bout coming from Tennessee, here’s yet another instance where absolutely nothing is certain except the obvious musical fact that this was a wild and happy crew of jazzmen.
CLARENCE JONES SOCK FOUR: Clarence Jones (p) other unknown ) Para 12716), Chicago; 1928.
Clarence Jones was one of many talented but now unremembered South Side musicians, Aletha Robinson recalls him as a jovial, stout, soft-spoken man and a highly skilled arranger. Throughout the ‘20s he led a large pit band at the Owl Theater. This group is a unit drawn from that band, Jones never recorded with his full orchestra and probably made only one other side with this small group. Mrs. Robinson notes that he was a man with rather unique musical ideas, but that he had the reputation of being “difficult to record.” Although these small-band sides couldn’t allow much of his arranging skill to show through, they do seem more disciplined and the work of more musically-educated performers than most South Side jazz.
surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitation 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.
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical design by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GARUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.