Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
WITH THE NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM KINGS
Friars Society Orchestra (#1-4 and #7) Paul Mares (tp) George Brunis (tb) Leon Rappolo (cl) Jack Pettis (ts) Elmer Schoebel (p) Lew Black (bj) Steve Brown (b) Frank Snyder (drs) Richmond, Indiana; August 29 and 30, 1922
New Orleans Rhythm Kings (#5, 6 and 8)
Mares, Brunis, Rappolo, Mel Stitzel (p) Snyder Richmond, Indiana; March 12 and 13, 1923
1. Tiger Rag (2:22) (O.D.J.B.)
2. Bugle Call Blues (2:15) (Snyder – Pettis – Brunis)
3. Panama (2:32) (WilliamsH. Tyers)
4. Farewell Blues (2:27) (Rappolo – Schoebel – Mares)
5. That’s A Plenty (2:33)(Williams – Creamer)
6. Tin Roof Blues (2:57) (New Orleans Rhythm Kings)
7. Discontented Blues (2:37) (Meyers – Schoebel – Miller)
8. Maple Leaf Rag (2:27) (Scott Joplin)
It is sometimes difficult to realize that jazz is really a very young music - and, for that matter, in the entire pattern of American life - in the crowded decades that separate the present from the by-gone New Orleans and Chicago settings in which the earliest jazz developed. But, if you feel a need to be strikingly convinced that the beginnings of recorded jazz do not belong to a dim legendary, "hardly-a-man-is-now-alive" past, take note of the case of Gorge Brunis:
Today, Brunis is one of the most dynamic forces in that small-band white jazz known as Dixieland: his horn is a loud, often bawdy, always tailgate weapon that reaches out and socks you with tremendous impact, that can provide a raucous, yet solid, under-pinning for any group with whom he plays. Subtract about three decades, and you find the very same Brunis, sounding perhaps a shade more energetic (if that's really possible), ferociously driving his forceful trombone through the ensembles of some of the very first jazz records ever made: these eight early-1920s numbers by the historic New Orleans Rhythm Kings.
It's also difficult at times to remember that, basically, all jazz stems from the music of the Southern Negro. There is often a very wide, even confusing, gap between white and Negro versions of more-or-less traditional jazz material. Here again, the N.O.R.K. can be used to clarify the picture; more than any other single group, they serve as a link between two extremes. Right up to the present, one important strain in white jazz has been made up of the gang who began to play in Chicago in the ‘20s. And, as far as the original nucleus of these young Chicagoans – the Austin High group – was concerned, jazz began for them with the N.O.R.K. According to reasonably well-authenticated legend, you can pin it down to the day those high school boys first heard, on a soda-parlor nickelodeon, one of records on this LP: the N.O.R.K.’s Tin Roof Blues. As for the nucleus of the Rhythm Kings themselves, jazz had begun for them at an even earlier age, back in their hometown. When Leon Rappolo, Paul Mares and Brunis were growing up, the Negro music of Storyville was at its peak; greats were beginning a new “golden era” of jazz in a new setting. This music and these men were their models, so that the N.O.R.K., influenced by one tradition and influencing another stands in a unique position, at one of the most important of jazz crossroads.
There is, of course, a great deal more to this music than just its historical significance. The jazz itself, and the men who played it, are worth considerable attention. First there‘s George, most famous member of the horn-playing Brunies family (the “e” was in the original family name; George’s dropping it was a matter of numerology – for a while he even did away with the final “e” in his first name). He began in one of the many bands organized by “Papa” Jack Laine, the father of the white Dixieland style, in New Orleans; he was still a very young man when he and Mares came up to the Midwest area (by way of a stint on the riverboats). Rappolo, descended from a highly-regarded line of ‘legitimate’ musicians, had played with both of them as a boy back home, and joined them for a Chicago job at the Cascades Ballroom. From there they went on to the Friars Inn and to considerable fame.
It would be inaccurate to claim that theirs was anything like “pure” New Orleans-style jazz. For one thing, the line-up included some Northerners, including a saxophone, Jack Pettis (reputedly added as a commercial touch, to satisfy a club owner’s notion of what would look good on the bandstand). But certainly the three key members of the group knew and understood the music; they had fire and drive and a grasp of the basic jazz beat. Brunis’ tone was always in the deep, husky tailgate vein; Mares admittedly patterned himself on the best available master – King Oliver – including liberal use of mute effects; “Rapp” played a sensitive, but melodic clarinet, with much awareness of the blues and much emphasis on the lower register. Best of all, they could play together in the truly integrated fashion that is at the heart of traditional jazz.
Their first record date seems to have been at least partly due to the location of Friars Inn. This was a tough cellar restaurant, typical of the places where the big money hung out and the jazz flourished in Chicago, and it just happened to e around the corner from the Starr Music Store. The Starr Piano Company was the parent outfit of the Gennett label: Fred Wiggens, then a manager of the store and later to be head of Genett’s “sales and artists division,” heard the band one night in the Spring of 1922. His enthusiasm led the group to pack themselves into a big and decrepit old touring car for a trek to the Richmond, Indiana studios in August of that year. They cut seven tunes then, using the Friars name, and eight more the following March. It is from among these definitive examples of their style that this LP has been compiled. The band, as a unit, had only a few years of high and hard living: for Rappolo there was also, apparently, marijuana, and then two long, tragic decades in a sanitarium to close out his life.
But in ’22 and ’23 it was a good life and – as these records show – very good , free-and-easy, and lastingly important jazz.
Note for discographers: Most of the Friars Society selections belong to the first day of the N.O.R.K.’s initial two-day recording session of August 29-30, 1922.
They were original issued with the following label numbers and in parentheses, master numbers: on Genett 4966, Farewell Blues (11179 C); on Ge 4967, Discontented (11180 A) /Bugle Call (11181 B); on Ge 5009, Panama (11182 B) / Tiger Rag (11183 C), with only this last tune having been made on the 29th. That’s A Plenty (11353 A) was Ge 5105, and was recorded on March 12, 1923; its original coupling, Tin Roof (11359 A), and Maple Leaf (11358 B), which was on Ge 5104, were both made on the following day.
The slight surface noise 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
Note by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Robert J. Lee
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, New York