JAZZ OF THE ROARING TWENTIES
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
eight recordings of the music of the Charleston Era
As originally played by THE CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS: Loring “Red” Nichols, Bill Moore (tp) Tommy Dorsey (tb) (possibly replaced by Miff Mole on #3) Jimmy Dorsey, Arnold Brilhardt, Freddi Cusick, Bobby Davis (cl, saxes) Adrian Rollini (bass sax) Irving Brodsky (p) Tommy Fellini (bj) Stan King (drs) “Ed” Kirby (leader) New York 1924-27
Charleston (3:36) (James P. Johnson)
Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (3:47) (Lewis-Young-Ray Henderson)
Miss Annabelle Lee (3:27) (Clare-Pollack)
Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley (4:14) (Meyer)
5.Manhattan (4:06) (Rodgers and Hart)
6.The Flapper Wife (2:54) (Burton-Rupp)
7.Keep Smiling at Trouble (3:31) (Jolson-De Sylva-Genster)
8.Sweet Man (3:34) (Turk-Pinkard)
Straight out of the Roaring Twenties come these bouncing, swinging, exciting records. They bring with them a fascinating, authentic glimpse of a remarkable chapter in American life – and for many listeners they’ll bring a full share of memory and nostalgia.
With the first frenetic notes of Charleston, you are plunged into a half-hour excursion back on time: back to the days of bobbed hair and hip flasks; knee-length skirts and racoon coats; open galoshes, yellow slickers, Stutz Bearcats; flappers and sheiks. The music on this LP is no mere recreation of the era: it is the mid-Twenties – the songs of the period, as played by one of its top dance bands (which included some first-class jazzmen), recorded then and revived now in all their original verve and spirit.
Some of these songs are from the Broadway musicals that were packing them in then. The ever-popular Manhattan made its first appearance in the “Garrick Gaieties,” the 1925 revue that launched the young song-writing team of Rodgers and Hart. Keep Smiling at Trouble was first sung by Al Jolson (who gets partial credit for the lyrics) in his 1924 hit. “Big Boy.” Note also that Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley is partly the work of a successful young songsmith named Billy Rose.
These and most of the others are the sort of tunes that are likely to be revived, in some brand-new version, every so often. Here they are played exactly as you (or your parents) first heard them while listening to the wind-up phonograph in the living room, or while prancing on a dance floor bordered by potted palms, or sitting at a table sipping strange Volstead Act beverages from a tea cup.
This was a boisterous, wildly exuberant age, with dance music to match. It had its share of “fast” girls, who Charlestoned madly to numbers like these before slipping off for petting sessions with young men boasting pomaded hair and a general resemblance to an Arrow collar ad. It also had its share and more of banality and corn – such as is achieved here by the vocal refrain of The Flapper Wife. But it could quickly rescue itself from such sentimentality with a furious burst of action, just as that song and others do with the hot choruses that follow the vocals.
Those choruses serve to emphasize that it was this music that gave The Jazz Age its name. And it was the group you hear on this LP, more than any other, that set the jazz-age jazz-brand pace. They were best known as the California Ramblers, although they made records under a wide variety of names, for just about every label then in existence. Neither Californians nor rambler, they held forth for years at their own celebrated roadhouse – the Ramblers’ Inn – just outside of New York City. They included some of the most talented musicians of the period, several of whom were to go on to considerable fame. (Red Nichols was to become New York’s top jazzman of the era with his Five Pennies: Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, of course, had ahead of them the glories of stardom in the later hey-day of Swing.) Although they perform as a dance band, playing the popular songs of the day, there is a very decided overall jazz feeling here, and considerable room left for hot solos.
The exact line-ups of the Ramblers’ very many records during this span of time have never fully been pinned down by discographers. But Wallace T. (“Ed”) Kirkeby – who organized and led the group, and directed all its recording sessions – has dug into his memory and provided us with his authoritative reconstruction of the band’s roster. A few other musicians passed briefly into and out of the group, but his listing, as given above, can be taken as a basic personnel, primarily for the 1924-25 period, when almost all of these eight tunes were recorded.
As for the soloists; it is almost certainly Nichols’ vibrant, Bixian horn that breaks loose on such numbers as Sweet Man and Manhattan; on some of the others it is Bill Moore, who could sound very much like Red. Young Tommy Dorsey can be heard playing in a manner most unlike his later famous “sweet” tones; and brother Jimmy can easily be spotted on Clap Hand and others. Throughout the LP, in solo and ensemble, there is the very recognizable sound of Adrian Rollini’s bass sax, which actually served as the core around which the band’s style was built. And there are others, too, much less well known but all playing the music with the great zest that characterized this early big-band jazz.
You may want to listen to these records to enjoy the spirited early efforts of these jazzmen, or to recall the days when you, too, could do a mean Charleston. You may just want to hear, perhaps for the first time, the authentic musical sounds of the good old days when Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey were champions, when Lindbergh was just getting around to crossing the Atlantic, and the stock market hadn’t yet gotten around to crashing. Whatever your reasons, there’s enjoyment here for all. And if you feel an irresistible urge to get up and dance, don’t let it worry you. That’s what this music is for…
This material is reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner. 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 tone qualities.
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Robert J. Lee
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, N.Y.