MUGGSY, TESCH and THE CHICAGOANS
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
In eight outstanding examples of early Chicago jazz
Charles Pierce and his Orch. (#1,2,5,7,8): Muggsy Spanier (cnt) Dick Feigie (cnt, on #1,2 only) Frank Teschmaker (cl) Charles Pierce, Ralph Rudder (saxes) Jack Read (tb, on #5 only) Dan Liscomb (p) Stuart Branch(g) Johnny Mueller (b) Paul Kettler (drs) on #7 and 8 – Charlie Altiere (cnt) Morry Bercov (cl) replace Spanier, Teschmaker Chicago; Oct.-Nov. 1927
Jungle Kings (#3,4) Spanier (cnt) Teschmaker (cl) Mezz Mezzrow (ts) Joe Sullivan (p) Eddie Condon (bj) Jim Lannigan (tuba) George Wettling (drs) Red McKenzie (vcl) Chicago; Nov. 1927
Frank Melrose (#6) piano solo with unknown rhythm section Chicago; 1929
1.China Boy (2:24) (Winfree-Boutelje) (Para 12619)
2.Bull Frog Blues (2:57) (Billy Pierce) (Para 12619)
3.Friars Point Shuffle (2:56) (Condon-McKenzie) (Para 12654)
4.Darktown Strutters Ball (2:32) (Brooks)
5.Nobody’s Sweetheart (3:06) (Kahn-Erdman-Meyers-Schoebel) (Para 12616)
6.Whoopee Stomp (2:41) (F. Melrose) (Para 12764)
7.Sister Kate (2:57) (A. J. Piron) (Para 12640)
8.Jazz Me Blues (3:01) (Delaney) (Para 12640)
By and large. It started with the precocious group known to jazz legend as “The Austin High Gang.” They were a handful of Chicago high school boys – the shy, owl-faced Frank Teschmaker was one of them – who just happened to hear a New Orleans Rhythm Kings record (so the story goes) on an early juke box in a soda fountain, one day in 1922. From that moment, the music had them in its clutches. They played it around town, first for fun and then at dances and at clubs, and almost unexpectedly found that they were professional musicians, and that it was a life’s work.
It wasn’t by any means the Austin High gang all by itself, of course. They mixed in with a lot of others, all of them playing jazz in much the same way and doing much the same thing: working at dance halls and speakeasies all over town; getting together with the Negro musicians after hours as often as they could (on the job, the color line was pretty firmly drawn, like it or not); playing with or listening respectfully to the already slightly-awaresome Bix Beiderbecke.
After a while it became apparent that their music was different from the New Orleans brand. Out of that source material, as filtered through to them by way of a variety of sources (the N.O.R.K., Bix, the Chicago Negroes), they had founded a whole new school of jazz. When people got around to calling it by a formal name, and dissecting it in books and record-album notes, it became known (obviously enough) as “Chicago style,) or – to distinguish it from what was going on over on the South Side – “white Chicago style,”
The music they all played does much to support the claim that jazz is greatly shaped by its immediate environment. Just as New Orleans jazz is clearly the music of street parades and of Storyville, just as the bop of the ‘40s was to reflect the tensions and complexities of its period – so does this Chicago jazz belong, unmistakably, to the Windy City and the Roaring Twenties. It was the era of bathtub gin and tough speakeasies and Al Capone; Chicago was a hardboiled nightlife town, its mood dominated by tough-guy hoods. The boys lived high and hard in those few years’ playing time in which they first evolved their own jazz style. And so the music comes out hardboiled, sometimes harsh and driven, always with a tremendous vitality.
The first three tunes here are actually the very first recorded examples of the Chicago style. They are, in many respects, definitive. All the Chicagoans knew a fellow named Charles Pierce, who happened to make his money by being a butcher. Pierce also happened to love jazz, played fair saxophone, and spent his money on what might be called subsidizing jazz bands. It was a Pierce band, with Muggsy and Tesch in it, that recorded for Paramount in the Fall of 1927, and cut China Boy / Bull Frog Blues (Para 12619) and Nobody’s Sweetheart (Para 12616). The records caught the music when it was very young, and at perhaps its highest peak. The sound that comes through here is fairly close to Negro jazz in its on-the-beat rhythms and sharply defined notes, but it has a new “swing” and an aggressiveness that is all its own.
This is equally apparent on the two Jungle Kings numbers of probably just a month later: Friars Point Shuffle and Darktown Strutters Ball (Para 12654). This was one of several outstanding early record dates arranged for by the late Red McKenzie (primarily noted for his tissue-paper-and-comb “blue bowing”). Years later, this sort of lineup would undoubtedly have been billed as an “All Star” band; at that time, it was just a casually collected bunch of good, solid, local jazzmen.
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate and Jazz Me Blues (Para 12640), on the other hand, do not star anyone you’re very likely to have heard of, which only goes to prove a point. For years these Charles Pierce records were assumed to be fine examples of Muggsy and Tesch: early discography was pretty haphazard; it sounded enough like them; no one ever claimed otherwise. Eventually it was confirmed that they cornet and clarinet were just two other guys. To some experts (who never noticed the difference until they were told about it), this may alter the value of the recordings. To most listeners, it should merely indicate that your ear can often be a better guide than any Who’s Who in Jazz. This is good music, even though neither Altiere nor Bercov rates even a footnote in the histories of jazz.
Finally, take note of Frank Melrose. He is of this era, but played more often with the South Siders than with the whites (mostly under such names as “Kansas City Frank” and “Broadway Rastus”). A friend and pupil of the fabulous Jelly Roll Morton, he is a closer link than most to the sources of “white Chicago”; his playing helps explain the alterations of style, helps bridge the gap. For such reasons (and also because it is a fine piano solo), his Whoopee Stomp (Para 12764) – so exhuberant that it keeps bringing forth shouts from his rhythm men – certainly deserves inclusion here.
This material is reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner. For some of these selections, unplayed originals were made available through the courtesy of John Hammond from his private collection. 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 more faithful reproduction of tone qualities.
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover y Paul Bacon
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, N.Y.