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RLP 1051

Eight examples of big-band jazz of the ‘20s

Jazz Archives #1000(10”) 


The California Ramblers: personnel includes Red Nichols, Bill Moore, trumpets; Tommy Dorsey, trombone; Jimmy Dorsey, Arnold Brillhardt, Freddie Cusick, Bobby Davis, Clarinets and saxes; Adrian Rollini, bass sax; Irving Broodsky, piano; Tommy Fellini, banjo; Stan King, drums; Ed Kirbey, leader. New York; probably 1924 – 26


  1. Sidewalk Blues (Jelly roll Morton)

  2. Clementine (Creamer – Warren)

  3. Up and At ‘Em (Pettis – Goering)

  4.  Syockholm Stomp (Pettis – Goering)


 5. Third Rail (Vern de Mars)

 6. When Erastus Plays His Old Kazoo (Spier – Coslow – Fain)

 7. Cheatin’ On Me (Yellen – Pollack)

 8. I Ain’t Got Nobody (Graham – Williams)

   These notes should probably, in all fairness, begin present-day Dorsey band, or even for the Swing these brothers and their respective groups played so notably in the late 1930s. There’s nothing of that sort in this collection. But there is instead something that should appeal equally to several categories of listeners: to those with a musical or historical appreciation of the jazz of the earliest big white bands; and those who feel nostalgic fondness for the way things sounded way back in the 1920s. And, certainly not least, to those somewhat younger appreciators of Tommy and Jimmy with a normal curiosity about the way their favorites sounded in the days when they were eager youngsters from Pennsylvania, first making good in the big time.

   In a sense, this LP is a companion volume to Riverside’s previous re-creation of California Ramblers recordings: Jazz of THE ROARING TWENTIES.* The time is the same – this mid-1920s; the band has basically the same personnel. But there’s one significant difference in emphasis to be noted. The first LP did have very substantial chunks of jazz breaking through, but it was primarily a collection of dance music, of some of the celebrated, now-standard popular tunes of that era – as played by a dance band which happened to include some outstanding jazzmen.

   Here the shoe is largely on the other foot. Jelly Roll Morton’s Sidewalk Blues, which gets things started here, can serve ad the keynote. For these numbers have been selected as representing the work of this band on occasions when playing hot was a primary consideration (which very often also turned out to be occasions when two young men named Dorsey, rather recently arrived from Scranton, Pa. were very much in evidence). While none of the other tunes on the LP have achieved anything like the jazz immortality of the Morton blues, only a couple can be termed out-and-out pop songs. Such items as Third Rail and Stockholm Stomp were very probably intended for just the purpose they fulfill here – to let jazz-hungry musicians blow of quantities of nearly – ‘straight’ dance material.

   This sort of jazz is of course quite different in construction and in sound from other forms of jazz of the ‘20s. It is also far from identical with what these men played in the small bands with whim they often recorded during this period (for examples of that, listen to Jimmy Dorsey and Red Nichols on Riverside RLP 1048: RED NICHOLS and MIFF MOLE, or to Tommy Dorsey on the two Rhythm Jugglers numbers on RLP 1050: BIX BEIDERBECKE, Volume 2). It is jazz as played by one of the early big bands, depending on multiple saves ad set arrangements. But this LP demonstrates that it was a music capable of great vigor and excitement – at least when played by a band as full of talented young jazzmen as these Ramblers.

   Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey have, separately and together, run through quite a gamut in their more-tan-three decades in music, which adds a good deal of fascination to this glimpse of their early style. Jimmy’s clarinet, perhaps surprisingly, seems instantly recognizable here, even though he has hardly been playing in this loose-limbed way in recent years. Tommy’s tones, on the other hand, are far guttier far close to the traditional role of the trombone in jazz, than the legato style with which he won his later fame. Also quite noticeable here is the Bixian horn of Red Nichols (and Bill Moore, far less well-known, but almost impossible to distinguish from Nichols on Rambler’s records) and the fluid bass sax of Adrian Rollini – which was actually the core around which this band’s style was built.

   The band itself was basically shaped by the presence of just such young musicians as these: more-than-competent craftsmen, caught up in the excitement of being, of living, in the rip-roaring ‘20s, and of being clearly and rapidly – despite their youth – on the rise towards the top of the music world. The California Ramblers were one of the most important of the jazz-impregnated dance bands of the “Jazz Age.” They played for several years at the Ramblers’ Inn, a roadhouse just outside New York City that was their own place, and they made an almost uncountable quantity of records, under a variety of names, for several labels of the period. (Those reissued here were made by “The Golden Gate Orchestra.”)

   The exact personnel of the band at all times during the span of years covered by these recordings has never been completely compiled to the full satisfaction of discographers. But Wallace T. (“Ed”) Kirkeby – who organized and led the group and derected all its recording sessions – has dug into his memory and provided us with an authoritative reconstruction of the line-up.  Further assistance came from the ate Harry Crawford, noted jazz collector (and probably the best informed as to record dates incolving Red Nichols), who was responsible for the programming of both this and the ROARING TWENTIES album. Although a few other musicians passed briefly into and out of the group, the listing give above can be taken as just about as close to fully-accurate ‘basic personnel’ for these numbers as you can get. Most importantly, of course, there is the aural evidence provided by the horns that cut through here and vividly announce the presence of these young up-and-coming jazzmen.

   This material is reissued by special arrangement with the original producers. 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.

   Produce by Bill Grauer. Notes by Orrin Keep News. Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical design by Gene Gogerty.

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NOTE:  RLP-1051 produced by Bill Grauer. Notes written by Orrin Keepnews.

Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical design by Gene Gogerty.


418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.

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