MUTT CAREY PLAYS THE BLUES
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
Thomas (Mutt) Carey (tp) Hociel Thomas (p, vcl)
San Francisco; August 30, 1946 (All except #3 previously unissued)
1. Gambler's Dream (3:02) (Hersal Thomas)
2. Muddy Water Blues (2:27) (Hociel Thomas)
3. Go Down, Sunshine (2:50) (Hociel Thomas)
4. Advice Blues (2:59) (Hociel Thomas)
5. Barrel House Man (3:24) (Elzadie Roinson – Will Ezell)
6. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out (3:00) (Jimmy Cox)
Three sounds - a trumpet in the hands of a New Orleans man, the voice of a Chicago woman, and the haunting chords of a piano - come very close to summing up all the beauty, pathos and impact to the blues. These are the sounds that are combined here, in a collection by two highly talented jazz artists that is worth of being ranked high on any list of blues recordings you might care to compile.
Much of the effectiveness of these numbers would seem to lie in the way in which they make use of the essential elements of the blues, and of only these essentials. The blues is a form of music that has been around for a long time, reaching into the dim past before there was anything known as "jazz." It has been sung by countless men and women, has been played by an almost endless variety of instrumentation, ranging from a battered guitar or piano to a full orchestra, and of course it has been absorbed (in all manner of ways, both sincere and distorted) into the general stream of popular song. But the picture that the term, "the blues," almost automatically brings to the minds of so many who know and love this music is identical with that which Mutt Carey and Hociel Thomas create here: the deep, rich, eloquent tones of a Negro woman singing about the bitter and the sweet of life as she knows it: the firm backing of a solidly blue piano; and, matching the voice, the equally expressive richness of a single horn piecing the night.
This LP enables MUTT CAREY, for the first time, to take his place in a formidable line of blues horns. It is not at all surprising that trumpet men who have played in the original New Orleans tradition have consistently done the most remarkable job of playing the blues. Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Tommy Ladnier... Such men as these have, in many clubs and on many records, filled to perfection the dual role of the blues horn: driving and leading and supporting a singer, and with musical concepts stemming from their own understanding of the blues and the way of life it expresses, also embellishing the basically simple melodic structure Tom Carey was very much a part of the New Orleans tradition. He played at dances and in cabarets with Kid Ory's band and in parades with the Imperial Brass Band in the years before the first World War. He was even in Chicago as early as 1917 - but he was not there a half-dozen years later, when that city began to become a center of prolific recording activity. By that time he had joined Ory in Los Angeles, and he chose to remain on the West Coast for most of the rest of his life. As a result, his recording activity in the 1920s was limited to a few early and quite rare Ory sides, and he had no opportunity to appear with any of the great blues singers.
Actually, Mutt's activities during the '20s and '30s left him virtually unknown to almost all jazz fans. He was, among other things, a real estate man, secretary of A.F.M.Local 767, and a Pullman porter during World War II. Even though, he continued to play during much of this time - with Ory, as leader of his own dance orchestra, and even organizing brass bands for parades - it was not until the sudden traditional-jazz "revival" of the mid-1940s that he (like many other veteran jazzmen) was able to become more than just a vaguely recalled name in the small print of the more complete discographies.
Finally, at this 1946 session, he was able to demonstrate his command of the blues. It was to be his only opportunity: two years later, on September 3, 1948, he died in his sleep, of a heart attack, at the age of 56. Obituaries tend to make everyone seem to have been a paragon of all the virtues, but there was no exaggeration involved when critic Bill Russell, writing in The Record Changer, eulogized him as a man of great "modesty...friendliness and good humor, (with) no place in his disposition for bitterness." The origin of Carey's nickname of "Mutt" is uncertain - in appearance, he was a ruggedly handsome man - but there's no doubt as to why he was most often called "Papa Mutt."
HOCIEL THOMAS was only moderately well-known in Chicago in the years when that city was seemingly overflowing with talented blues singers. That in itself could appear striking proof of the high level of the art at that time: if the woman who sings so movingly on these 1946 numbers was presumably a good 'average' performer in the '20s, then certainly an extremely high standard prevailed then. A member of a thoroughly blues-steeped family (the near-legendary pianist, Hersal Thomas, was her brother; singer Sippie Wallace her aunt), Hociel recorded on several occasions in the mid-20s, most notably a handful of sides - now quite rare collector's items - with a group that included Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds. Among them was Gambler's Dream, which she recreates here. Her other selections are largely personal variations on fairly standard blues themes, plus a version of Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, a number firmly associated with Bessie Smith, but one which Hociel proves quite able to handle on her own.
The session that produced these blues was part of Rudi Blesh's mid-1940 program of recreating early jazz (although only one of these 6 numbers was ever released by him). It surely accomplishes that aim - and more. Here is the voice of Hociel Thomas - not as powerful as that of Ma Rainey or Bessie, but close to them in expressiveness and emotional impact; and the horn of Mutt Carey - firm, filled with a bittersweet beauty, and using a mute in a way that suggests Carey's old friend King Oliver. The vivid and authentic blues sound they were able to create, as recently as 1946, is surely far more than a mere museum piece. Warranting comparison with some of the finest efforts of the '20s, it indicates strongly that this is music that can transcend the narrow boundaries of its original time and place, that has a still-vital meaning and appeal.
Outstanding blues singers and the greatest blues trumpeters can be heard on several other Riverside “Jazz Archives” LPs, including:
LOUIS ARMSTRONG Plays the Blues (RLP-1001)
KING OLIVER Plays the Blues (RLP-1007)
TOMMY LADNIER Plays the Blues (RLP-1044)
MA RAINEY, Volume 1, 2 and 3 (RLPs 1003, 1016, 1045)
The Folk Blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson (RLP-1014)
IDA COX (RLP-1019)
THE GREAT BLUES SINGERS (Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Chippie Hill) (RLP-1032)
This LP produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N. Y.