“X” VAULT ORIGINAL ALBUM LIST
JIMMY YANCEY: BLUES AND BOOGIE
Yancey Stomp (BS-044006-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
State Street Special (BS-044007-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
Tell 'Em About Me (BS-044008-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
Five O'Clock Blues (BS-044009-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
Yancey's Bugle Call (BS-053438-2) (Jimmy Yancey)
Death Letter Blues (BS-053437-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
Crying In My Sleep (BS-053436-1) (Jimmy Yancey)
35th and Dearborn (BS-053439-2) (Jimmy Yancey)
Piano solos by Jimmy Yancey, Vocals on B-2, 3 by Yancey.
Recorded in Chicago; side A) on October 25, 1939, side B) on September 6, 1940
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
It is risky to call any one person the "father" of a particular jazz style, but there is more than a little significance in the fact that the man whose blues piano style is to be heard here was best known as "Papa" Jimmy Yancey.
Yancey was a key figure in the incredible, free-wheeling, all-night "rent parties" that flourished on Chicago's South Side throughout the 1920's. He was playing boogie-woogie long before men like Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons went on to make it something of a national institution, and they leaned a great deal from him - as did just about every other blues piano player of his day, But fame, other than the strictly local variety, never touched Papa Jimmy. His life remained on a rather even keel - which is surely a surprising thing to be able to say about any jazz musician. But this would seem to have been at least as much a matter of choice as of his being "neglected". Yancey had had his show-business career early. Born in Chicago, he began as a vaudeville singer and dancer at the age of six; in 1913 he retired from the stage. He spent most of the rest of his life in
Apparently, he just picked up the art of blues piano-playing rather casually (there is no reason to believe that he had any formal piano training, although very probably he had some help from his brother Alonzo, an accomplished ragtimer). He played primarily for his own entertainment, although he often sat in at the South Side joints frequented by the many jazzmen who were his friends. He made his living, during most of that time, as part of a very different sort of "national institution": for almost two decades, beginning in the late '20s, Yancey was a grounds-keeper at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox.
Strangest of all, Jimmy Yancey in his hey-day was never recorded: not in the days when he was pounding out his Five O'Clock Blues to signal the end of an all-night party; not when Chicago was center of jazz recording activities and just about every Negro piano player in town was being put on wax by one of the "race" labels. It's hard to tell exactly why. But he was apparently a shy, introspective man; perhaps, not considering himself primarily a professional musician, he didn't care for the idea, for the formality of a record date. So, when he was enticed into the Victor studios in the Fall of 1939, and again in 1940, it was almost the first time that the remarkable, barrelhouse, boogie woogie-tinged blues of this master artist were put on record...
Terms like barrelhouse, blues, boogie woogie, which tend to be used indiscriminately, can get rather confusing. This is music that has several different facets, and since it is a largely unwritten and always informal brand of jazz, there is rarely and sharply defined separation between types to help clarify matters. Basically, barrelhouse is the overall name; it refers to the sort of saloon where the liquor was served straight out of kegs. Boogie woogie is a thread that runs strongly through it; actually a definite and distinctive technique (involving the repetition of ascending and descending bass figures with the left hand, while the right hand works out its blues variations), it is nevertheless clearly a form of the blues. Early blues piano playing also belongs to the tradition - the sort that a man would pound out by himself, perhaps shouting some verses as he did so (as Yancey does here), as distinguished from the milder king of playing that served as more formal accompaniment for a singer. In short: any kind of rugged and powerfully rhythmic piano jazz that sounds as if it belongs in some low-down joint. It can be fast or slow, joyous or sad, and any master of the style could run the full gamut of its variations, inevitably including at least one flashy personal "show piece" such as Yancey's Bugle Call.
Barrelhouse piano appears to have originated largely among the Negro workers in the early-century turpentine camps of Texas and Mississippi. The men who crated and developed it were, to oversimplify just a bit and put things very bluntly, musically illiterate. And it is exactly this "limitation" that is the main source of its originality and power. Jazz critic Williams Russell has most accurately described it as "music constructed out of the piano keyboard rather than a harmony book," and characterized by “a most refreshing disrespect for all the rules." That, if you add a footnote about the special impact of his remarkable, unequalled rolling bass, can serve as the perfect definition of Yancey's blues.
Chicago, St. Louis and thereabouts, in the 1920s, was the time and place of this music's highest development. It was played by formidable pianists with picturesque name: Cripple Clarence Lofton, Romeo Nelson, Cow-cow Davenport, and Pine Top Smith (who of course played the number that belatedly gave boogie woogie its name). But perhaps the greatest of them all was Jimmy, who was hardly ever a full-time musician, but who commanded all the power and the beauty of rough-hewn blues piano in a way that few have even approached.
A Discographical Note for Collectors:
The original Victor master numbers of these recordings (all preceded by the letters “BS”), in the order in which they appear here, are: on Side 1 – 044006-1, 044007-1, 044008-1, 044009-1; on Side 2 - 053438-2, 053437-1, 053436-1, 053439-2
REX STEWART AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Mobile Bay (053609-2) (Rex Stewart – Duke Ellington)
Linger Awhile (053610-1) (Harry Owens – Vincent Rose)
My Sunday Gal (053608-1) (Duke Ellington)
Without A Song (053607-2) (Rose – Eliscu – Youmans)
Subtle Slough (061343-1) (Duke Ellington)
Some Saturday (061342-1) (Rex Stewart)
Poor Bubbler (061345-1) (Rex Stewart)
Menelik - The Lion of Judah (061344-1) (Rex Stewart)
REX STEWART AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Rex Stewart (tp) Lawrence Brown (tb) Harry Carney (brs, as) Ben Webster (ts) Duke Ellington (p) Jimmy Blanton (b) Sonny Greer (drs)
A) recorded in Chicago; Nov. 2, 1940 & B) Hollywood; July 3, 1941
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
This Rex Stewart band is a "Duke Ellington unit", A label that has described a number of different small groups over the past few decades, and that in this case denotes a strikingly imaginative, unusual and exciting band.
There are, of course, a good many varieties changes through which the big band has inevitably passed since the 20's, there has always been the separate and special kinds of jazz shaped by small recording groups like these. Like the others, this one - although it bears the unmistakable stamp of the Duke's approach to jazz - represents, in several significant respects, a self-sufficient side excursion from the main Ellington stream.
One of the unique virtues of these numbers is a feeling of extra-special relaxation: for men long-trained in the disciplined patterns and exacting section work of the Ellington bands, record dates like these must have had about them an atmosphere something like being let out of school for a while. Not that these boys had any dislike for the school - Sonny Greer had been with the Duke from the start, Harry Carney almost as long, Stewart and Lawrence Brown since the early 1930s - but this was something different.
The tunes are in the Ellington vein; the Duke himself is on hand; yet the difference is noticeable enough. One of the essential features of the full-band music is in the arranged interplay within and between sections; in these records, with small-band instrumentation, this is of course absent (although some of these numbers achieve a much fuller sound than many a much larger cluster of horns ever managed). In its place is a great deal more freedom for a soloist to move around, a great deal ease (of what would at least seem to be the "lean back in your chair" and "don't worry too much about reading the music" kinds).
What gets to be the heart of the performance is another well-established Ellington trademark, here expanded to the point where it becomes the main consideration. This is the matter of giving the soloist his kind of music to work with. It may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but it is a technique that has escaped the attention of most creators of arranged jazz (or else has been quite intentionally ignored by them). It is much easier and more customary to take material that suite only some purpose of the leader or the arranger, and to require the soloist (whether or not he may be allowed to improvise some or all of the actual notes of his chorus) to fit himself onto their strait-jacket. It's easier; it just doesn't often happen to sound as good as what takes place on this record.
Rex Stewart is the nominal leader here and, therefore, much of what is played is the sort of jazz that has for so long been identified with him: the sharp, pattering attack, sometimes savage, sometimes comic, with its remarkable half-valve effects; and the liberal addition of a blues feeling to the normal quota of Ellington sophistication. Stewart is a horn man whose references are certainly of the best: he began with obscure small groups around New York in the early '20s (an early photos shows him with one four-piece band bearing the name "Bobby Brown's Society Orchestra"), and then went into Fletcher Henderson's band early in 1929. In a sense he was a replacement for Louis Armstrong, since in the few months between Louis' departure and Rex's coming the trumpet section had only two men. He spent the first years of the 30's with another of the major names in early Negro big-band jazz: McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Then in 1934 he joined the Duke for what was to be a very long stay.
Lawrence Brown, with his big, broad, staccato-but-smooth tones; Ben Webster, also a Henderson alumnus and at the time a leading exponent of the Coleman Hawkins style of tenor saxophone; Harry Carney and Sonny Greer, two of the steadiest (and therefore, inevitably, comparatively overlooked) props of the Ellington foundation; Jimmy Blanton, the brilliant and short-lived bassist, who in retrospect must be judged one of the pioneers of "modern" jazz - these, plus the Duke himself, formed the line-up. They played Ellington-with-a-difference, and they really made it move. The result vary from the tricky and smoothly integrated effects of Subtle Slough to the free-flowing rides of Mobile Bay and Linger Awhile (these last two being unreleased "takes" that are very much looser and quite different from the versions originally issued, as if in specific proof of the non-regimented nature of sessions like these). The starting Menelik, with Rex's horn moving from low, savage growls to wild soarings, is a previously unissued number, as is the melodic Poor Bubber.
. Although this music is not very old, as jazz goes, it is a kind that has disappeared and perhaps almost been forgotten by now. Possibly this is because it didn't fit into any single major groove: not really the same as the more ambitious and intricate "big" Ellington sound; not Swing, although it certainly swings ; not modern jazz, although it has what could be called early elements of that in it. But, whatever you can or cannot call it, its special virtues - its verve and imagination and the relaxation of strongly disciplined musicians on a "day off" - are certainly qualities that jazz can always use and that are very much worth keeping around.
A Discographical Note for Collectors.
These records were originally issued on Victor’s Bluebird label, and their master numbers (Side 1 preceded by the letters “BS”, Side 2 by “PBS”), in the order in which they appear here, are: on Side 1 – 053609-2, 053610-1, 053608-1, 053607-2; on Side 2 – 061343-1, 061342-1, 061345-1, 061344-1.
BEN POLLACK AND HIS ORCHESTRA
featuring BENNY GOODMAN and Jimmy McPartland, Jack Teagaden, Glenn Miller
BEN POLLACK AND HIS CALIFORNIANS
(on He's the Last Word)
Harry Greenberg (cnt) Al Harris (cnt) Frank Quartell (cnt) Glenn Miller (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Gil Rodin (as)
Fud Livington (ts) Vic Briedis (p) Lou Kessler (bj) Harry Goodman (tuba) Ben Pollack (drs)
Chicago; December 17, 1926
(on Waitin’ for Katie and Memphis Blues)
Jimmy McPartland (cnt) Al Harris (cnt) Frank Quartell (cnt) Glenn Miller (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Gil Rodin (as)
Larry Binyon (ts) Vic Bridis (p) Dick Morgan (bj) Harry Goodman (tuba) Ben Pollack (drs)
Chicago; December 7, 1927
(on Singapore Sorrow versions)
Jimmy McPartland (cnt) Al Harris (cnt) Glenn Miller (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Gil Rodin (as) Bud Freeman (ts)
Vic Bridis (p) Dick Morgan (bj) Harry Goodman (tuba) Ben Pollack (drs, vcl) strings added
New York; April 6 & 26, 1928
BEN POLLACK AND HIS ORCHESTRA
(on Buy Buy For Baby)
Jimmy Mcpartland (cnt) Al Harris (cnt) Jack Teagaden (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Gil Rodin (as) Larry Binyon (ts)
Vic Bridis (p) Dick Morgan (bj) Harry Goodman (tuba) Ben Pollack (drs) Belle Mann (vcl)
New York; October 15, 1928
(on Bashful Baby)
Jimmy McPartland (cnt) Ruby Weinstein (cnt) Jack Teagaden (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Gil Rodin (as) Larry
Binyon (ts) Vic Bridis (p) Dick McPartland (g) Harry Goodman (tuba) Ray Bauduc (drs) Burt Lorin (vcl)
New York; July 25, 1929
BEN'S BAD BOYS
(on Yellow Dog Blues)
Jimmy McPartland (cnt) possibly Jack Teagaden (tb) Benny Goodman (cl, sax) Vic Bridis (p) Dick McPartland (g)
Harry Goodman (tuba) Ben Pollack (drs)
New York; January 2, 1929
A) 1. Waitin' For Katie (41342-3)
2. Buy Buy For Baby (47742-3)
3. Yellow Dog Blues (49674-2)
4. He's The Last Word (37261-3)
B) 1. Singapore Sorrows #4 (43540-4)
2a Singapore Sorrows #2 (43540-2)
2b Singapore Sorrows #3 (43540-3)
3. Memphis Blues (41343-1)
4. Bashful Baby (53949-2)
When he stated out, a lot of musicians around Chicago who didn't even know his name referred to him as "that kid in short pants who plays clarinet." He was in his very early teens when he began playing professionally, and so slightly built that he must have seemed even younger, but Benny Goodman was able to overcome the 'Child prodigy' label and, of course, went on to be remembered for many other things than the fact that he held his first union card at the age of 13. It's hard, though, to avoid touching on the short-pants legends: like the one - substantiated by Benny - about Bix Beiderbecke trying to kick him off the bandstand before the first set, because he couldn't believe that his was a working musician, not just some kid fooling around up there. But Benny was very much a musician, right from the start.
The records in this collection offer proof of this. They are among the first that Goodman made, with the band that really gave him his start. He wasn't much over 17 when he cut his first solo (on He's the Last Word ) and barely 20 when he made his last side with this group, Bashful Baby , in 1929. Although it's perhaps possible to find intimations of his later, Swing-era tone on these numbers, this was a very different-sounding Goodman. He had started as an admirer of Ted Lewis (he quickly got over that, but his first job, at age 12, was playing Lewis imitations at a local vaudeville theater); more importantly, he had been impressed by Frank Teschemacher (although Benny never really fitted into that "wild" Austin High Gang style) and by the classic Negro clarinet style of Jimmy Noone. Also, he has said that he consciously modeled his early tone (and stance) on that of Leon Rappolo, of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Goodman never really sounded too much like Rappolo (whose restrained style has been described as "fugitive," and who ended his days in a sanitarium), but in one sense this may have been a most decisive influence. The story goes that Pollack first noticed Benny because of the way he sprawled in his chair, almost on the small of his back, as he played – almost exactly ht way Pollack's formed band-mate, Rappolo, had done.
Ben Pollack had left the security of his father's fur business a few years earlier, to take over as drummer with the Rhythm Kings, who were the idols of the young Chicago jazzmen. When that group broke up, Ben tried, with a measure of success, to work something like their comparatively smoothly syncopated style into the format of a later band that would also be able to play arrangements and non-jazz dance tunes (and thereby get more jobs) - but that would still allow freedom to its soloists. He is to be credited with forming the first large (eleven men plus, on occasions, some strings) jazz band, and in
1925 was in California with the nucleus of such an outfit. And when he sent Gil Rodin back to Chicago to round up some more talent and some dates, one of the men he had in mind was "that kid in short pants."
The 16 year-old Goodman joined Pollack on the West Coast. About a week later, a young trombonist named Glenn Miller was hired; shortly thereafter, the band returned to Chicago, also adding Benny's brother Harry. There was the expected scuffling around for work, then some hotel and ballroom jobs, and eventually, in December, 1926, their first record dates for Victor. They worked steadily and recorded again, but it remained the usual diet - no great success and lots of one-night stands - until Pollack added Jimmy McPartland and Bud Freeman and went to New York, where he opened early in 1928 at the Little Club, on Broadway.
The New York period turned out to be a very good one for Pollack's men - including a long run at the Park Central Hotel and a good many record dates, sometimes by smaller units under different names (the strictly non-serious, "jazzy" Yellow Dog Blues is an example of this). Jack replacing Miller, and bringing a touch of the Harlem style that had so strongly influenced him. And although their records were largely arranged and far from wildly hot, Pollack stuck to his original idea often enough, allowing his brilliant young soloists a free hand. As illustration of this, take the preciously unissued versions of Singapore Sorrows, with their widely varying solos (No2 and No.3 here include only these concluding solos).
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer,Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
JIMMY LUNCEFORD AND HIS CHICKASAW SYNCOPATORS
JIMMY LUNCEFORD AND HIS CHICKASAW SYNCOPATORS (on Side 1, #2 & #3)
Willie Smith (sax) Edwin Wilcox (p) Moses Allen (tuba) unknown (two tp, two tb, two sax, g, drs). "Preaching" on In Dat Mornin' by Allen
recorded in Memphis; June 6, 1930
JIMMY LUNCEFORD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Eddie Tomkins (tp) Sy Oliver (tp)
Tommy Stevenson (tp) Henry Wells (tb) Russell Bowles (tb) Willie Smith (sax) Earl Carruthers (sax) Joe Thomas (sax) Edwin Wilcox (p)
Al Norris (g) Moses Allen (b) Jimmy Crawford (drs) Vocal on Leaving Me by Wells; on Breakfast Ball by Oliver
New York; January 26 and March 20, 1934
Of the six New York, 1934, recordings, the last one on each side was made on March 10; the others on January 26.
A) 1. White Heat (BS-81324-1)
2. In Dat Mornin' (BVE62599-2)
3. Sweet Rhythm (BVE62600-1)
4. Swingin' Uptown (BS-82218-2)
B) 1. Jazznocracy (BS-81325-1)
2. Chillun Get Up (BS-81326-1)
3. Leaving Me (BS-81327-1)
4. Breakfast Ball (BS-82219-2)
These are the first recording of a band that was to be one of the most important influences of the Swing era. It began under the same sort of circumstances as countless other groups that have attempted to invade New York and make their mark in show business: a group of youngsters, fresh out of high school, formed into a band by a leader
barely older than the others but full of ideas. Encouraged by the fact that a major record company had asked them to make two sides in their home town, and had actually released them, Lunceford and some of his more ambitious young musicians left Memphis and headed for the big name. Success was neither automatic nor quick, but unlike a great many others they finally reached it. As it turned out, it was a very good thing that they did, not only for them and their audiences, but for just about every other band of the 1930s, few of whom could honestly claim not to have borrowed some faced of their ensemble or solo sound.
The two basic qualities of Lunceford jazz were, from the start, the seemingly unlikely combination of power and precision. . Sheer power could probably be called the most consistently under-rated of the many qualities that can make a band exciting, important, or just plain good to listen to. That fault may lie with musicians themselves; there have always been bands that could blast away at an audience until it became down-right unpleasant, which is enough to give this whole way of playing a bad name. But mere volume is not synonymous with power, although it's easy to confuse them. This is something that Lunceford would seem to have understood from the start: the necessity for control and restraint; the value of contrasts; the vital importance of keeping things precise and crisp, so that pounding it out with full force never becomes merely a loose and sloppy splaying out of raw sound.
It was obviously important that the Lunceford organization be able to play together - and also that they be able to remain together, which is one virtue of the early jazz bands that had been pretty much abandoned to the pressures of the music business by the 1930s. Of the group that came up from Memphis with Jimmy and the men he soon added in New York, his entire rhythm section, plus Willie Smith on alto, Joe Thomas on tenor, and trombonist Russell Bowles were to stay with him for almost his entire career. But this seems more an indication of their musical unity than its cause, for the characteristic precision and controlled section work are almost as apparent on these recordings - their earliest - as they ever were.
The two 1930 Chickasaw Syncopators' numbers perhaps show the roughness and nervousness you'd expect of youngsters making their debut, with their ex-athletic instructor waving the baton, but they have a verve and power the clearly indicates the style that was to come. Four years separate these from the next Lunceford recording session - a fact that tells it own story. The early '30s were no time to be starting out in any business; they played in and out of New York with no great success, and there must have been times when the idea of returning home to Memphis seemed most attractive. But the initial group clung together, and then the first big break came – an engagement at the Cotton Club, in Harlem, where Duke Ellington had scored his first major triumphs just a few years earlier – they were ready to make the most of it.
Although they had dropped the name of "Syncopators," it remained a most apt description. Relentless syncopation was at the heart of the Lunceford sound; it is accurate, but undoubtedly misleading, to call this "two-beat" jazz. The solid rhythmic emphasis (alternate weak and strong beats to each measure) are in the early jazz tradition, but the results are hardly the same. It is, therefore, more important to note that Sy Oliver had joined the band and had begun to work on the first of his celebrated arrangements, which were to be responsible for a great deal of the excitement and drive of this group and of all of Swing. Breakfast Ball (which includes a characteristic vocal by Sy) and Swingin' Uptown are vivid demonstrations that it hadn't taken this arranger long to hit his stride and to settle into his influential way of shaping a tune. Perhaps even more typical of the Lunceford power are the two Will Hudson arrangements, White Heat and Jazznocracy (anybody remember Techocracy?), flashy and effective numbers played at a pace that makes them prime examples of the importance of control and musical discipline to this group - it's painful to think of what less well - organized outfits could (and on occasion did) do with such material.
Oliver and Willie Smith are outstanding soloists here; Jimmy Crawford lays down an impressive beat; on Chillun Get Up a vocal group from the band offers the first taste of the singing style that was to become one of their trademarks. But above all, it is the power of the orchestra as a company's files is an old notation of a recording session that was cancelled because "band lacked customary vim and vigor" (it's explained that they'd been up too late playing the night before). Quite obviously this was absolutely the only time that they could ever have been accused of lacking these qualities in abundance.
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
BENNIE MOTEN'S KANSAS CITY JAZZ VOL.1
BENNIE MOTEN'S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA
Ed Lewis (cnt) Lamar Wright (cnt) Thamon Hayes (tb)
Harlan Leonard (as) Jack Washington (as, brs)
Woodie Walter (ts) Bennie Moten p) Sam Tall (bj)
Abe Bolar (tu) Willie Hall (drs)
Chicago; December 13 & 14, 1926
A) 1. Kansas City Shuffle (BVE 37234-1)
2. Yazoo Blues (BVE 37235-2)
3. Midnight Mama (BVE 37238-1)
4. Missouri Wabble (BVE 37239-2)
BENNIE MOTEN'S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA
Ed Lewis (cnt) Lamar Wright (cnt) Thamon Hayes (tb) Harlan Leonard (as) Jack Washington (as, brs) Woodie Walter (ts) Bennie Moten p) Leroy Berry (bj) Walter Page (tu) Willie McWahington (drs)
Chicago; June 11 & 12, 1927
B) 1. New Tulsa Blues (BVE 38669-2)
2. Pass Out Lightly (BVE 38672-3)
3. Ding Dong Blues (BVE 38673-2)
4. Moten Stomp (BVE 38674-3)
The usual thumbnail sketch of the history of jazz starts with New Orleans, and tells us that the music eventually came straight up the river to Chicago, and from there to New York and all over the place. This standard and over-simplified version is, of course, wrong on many counts; one of the most important inaccuracies is that it just about overlooks Kansas City. And, as this selection of recordings of the early music of Bennie Moten's band very clearly show, you should never overlook Kansas City.
The most significant role of the Mississippi in the jazz picture was not as a pathway for any sudden flock of northbound migrants the day after Storyville (which was New Orleans' redlight district and also the principal home of jazz there) closed down, but as the route of the riverboats. The earliest spreading of the influence of traditional New Orleans jazz came in the first decades of the century, when these excursion steamers made their way to St. Louis and beyond, and often went west along the Missouri River from just above St. Louis to Kansas City. The bands on these boats played all kinds of music (including sweet dance tunes and music suitable for the calliope) but many great jazzmen - including Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, Roy Palmer - made these trips often, and their hard-driving ensemble style struck fertile soil in Kansas City.
It was a city almost ideally prepared to be a home for jazz: a river town, with a local government that for many years made it just about a symbol of all that was free-wheeling and wide-open. And it was exposed to more than just the New Orleans jazz influence. There was a rough, barrelhouse piano style, that had developed among the Negro workers in the turpentine camps of Mississippi and on the docks of Galerston, that was later to become famous as "boogie woogie", and that was to be heard in the dives of Kansas City at roughly the same period as that of the riverboats. Above all, this was a city with a large Negro population, who supported several big dance halls and ballrooms and whose demand for a strong, heavy, rhythmic beat undoubtedly influenced the styles of the bands that played at places like the Paceo Ball room and Fairyland Park.
The unquestioned leader among the bands of Kansas City was Bennie Moten's. A group of mid-western musicians who had joined together in the early '20s, their initial allegiance to New Orleans-style jazz was not to prove very abiding. In late years (particularly when Count Basie took over its leadership after Moten's death), the other influences took over, and the band them went on to make a name for itself in the Swing Era of the late '30s and to provide a rather clear-cut bridge into the realm of bop.
Nevertheless, the primary motif in these recordings is an ensemble jazz that is identifiably close to the "traditional" pattern and that, particularly on a Jelly Roll Morton rune like Midnight Mama, has a starling resemblance to the sound of Morton's Chicago groups of about the same time. The instrumentation remains close to the traditional New Orleans line-up, with only the three-man sax section as an apparent concession to their function as a dance band. It should be noted, of course, that the term "dance band" is a broad one, and that almost all jazz has been, in one way or another, music for dancing - although, in retrospect, it's easy enough to forget that point. The general distinction to be made is between those bands who played as they saw fir, enabling the audience to more-or-less-dance to their music, and those later groups who, usually performing in night clubs and ballrooms, saw dancing (of a more formal and standardized kind) become the main thing. The whole sound of a "big band" tends to be shaped for dancing, and you could eventually say that the musicians were there merely to make the dancing possible - a secondary, restricted role hardly conducive to strong, creative jazz.
This conclusion does jump ahead of this story somewhat. Moten, playing for an audience that wanted to stomp, not to bounce – could hardly have left this as an extreme problem. Yet the contrast between the two sides of this collection does indicate the changes that were to come. In what could only have been a deliberate move, Moten had replaced his entire rhythm section in the six months between two trips to Chicago for recording dates. He was seeking a different sound, and he had begun to find it. The change, of course, was not yet a radical one: New Tulsa Blues and Moten Stomp are quite close to the band's earlier records. But in the novel (at the time) "chase choruses," involving first the two cornets and then two saxes, in Pass Out Lightly ; in the scatting and humming that accompany the kazoo on Ding Dong Blues ; and in the way the band's ensembles begin to work towards a unified "section" sound, there is a strong hint of things far different from (though by no means necessarily inferior to) New Orleans. The addition of Walter Page is almost symbolic, even though he had not yet switched from tuba to string-bass, for Page was to be one of the main factors in producing the distinctive beat of the Basie band. And in the work of all three new rhythmic men there can be heard the beginnings of the rhythmic pulse that was later to evolve into the heavy emphasis on repeated riffs, the best-known trademark of Kansas City jazz.
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Garuer,Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
EDDIE CONDON'S HOT SHOTS
MOUND CITY BLUE BLOEWRS
Red McKenzie (blue-blowing) Glenn Miller (tb)
Pee Wee Russell (cl) Coleman Hawkins (ts)
Eddie Condon (bj) Jack Bland (g) Al Morgan (b)
Gene Krupa (drs)
NYC; November 14, 1929
A) 1. Hello Lola (BVE 57145-3)
2. One Hour (BVE 57146-3)
MOUND CITY BLUE BLOWERS
Red McKenzie (blu-blowing) Jack Teagarden (tb) Eddie Condon (bj) Jack Bland (g) Frank Billings (drs)
NYC; September 25, 1929
A) 3. Tailspin Blues (BVE 56151-1)
4. Never Had A Reason To Believe In You (BVE 56152-3)
BOYD SENTER AND HIS SENTERPEDES
Red McKenzie (blue-blowing) Mezz Mezzrow (ts) poss. Meckey Bloom (tp) others unknown
NYC; November 25, 1929
B)1. Copenhagen (BVE 57032-5)
EDDIE CONDON'S HOT SHOTS
Leonard Davis (tp) Jack Teagarden (tb, vcl)
Mezz Mezzrow (C-melody sax) Jappy Caldwell (ts) Joe Sullivan (p) Eddie Condon (bj) George Stafford (drs)
NYC; February 8, 1929
B) 2. That's A Serious Thing (BVE 48346-2)
3. I'm Gonna Stop Mr. Henry Lee #1 (BVE 48345-1)
4. I'm Gonna Stop Mr. Henry Lee #2 (BVE 48345-2)
The title of this collection derives from the name of only one of the groups included here - but this doesn't keep it from being thoroughly apt. "Hot shot" is a term that applies quite well, both as description of the unique form of jazz to be heard in these numbers (and on just about no other records) and as a descriptions of the slick, bow-tied Mr. Condon. Eddie was a dominant force in the whole Chicago-based school of jazz, and he is the dominant force behind these records - which can be at least partly described as special variation from that school.
It would of course be drastic oversimplification to call this collection "Chicago jazz", even though many of the most celebrated Windy City names are among the personnel on hand. It is, rather, a hybrid that sprang into being briefly and flourished happily in New York, in a few recording sessions and a lot of informal jam sessions. It takes elements of white Midwestern jazz and adds liberal doses of the Harlem touch, creating an unclassifiable and unforgettable good-time mixture. But its story must begin with Chicago, and should begin with that force named Eddie Condon.
In many respects Condon typifies Chicago jazz. He was among the first of the natives of that city to turn to the strange, exciting new music that the Negro bands (and a few white groups) had brought North from New Orleans. Along with a large group that at times included many of the men who appear on this record - Mezzrow, Sullivan, McKenzie, Russell, Krupa - he was right in the middle of the action in the hardboiled days of speakeasie and Al Capone. With bathtub gin and tommy-guns providing the local color, it's no wonder that this brash young crew produced an aggressive and sometimes harsh brand of jazz, still close to traditional Negro music in its on-the-beat rhythms and sharply-defined notes, but with distinct individuality and a toughness all its own.
Along with many members of the Chicago jazz mob, Condon moved on to New York in the late 1920's. This was to become the gang's home base: the jobs were there; the center of the record business was there; and so was just about any kind of musician you'd care to play with. Also, Condon was to take over and embellish a helpful trait of his side-kick, Red McKenzie, and become quite noted as a getter of jobs and organizer of record dates.
In those late'20s, Condon was in the forefront on the ex-Chicagoans who very effectively, if briefly, established a strong liaison between white and Negro jazz. The Negroes with whom they recorded, however, were musically quite different from the men who had influenced them in Chicago. These were members of the Harlem bands-trained in orchestras whose styles were uncompromisingly "hot", but whose pioneering use of arrangements was eventually to be recognizable, in retrospect, as the first big step towards Swing. George Stafford, who provides a remarkable beat on the Hot Shots numbers, and trumpeter Leonard Davis were at this time featured with Charlie Johnson's Orchestra at Small's Paradise, while Coleman Hawkins was in the midst of building his great reputation with the Fletcher Henderson band.
Jack Teagarden stands a bridge between the two apparently divergent styles that are joined here. Although prominent in the Chicago-based "Dixieland" tradition, he has always been far closer than most of his colleagues to the Harlem vein of jazz and has often recorded with Negro and mixed groups. (It's worth nothing that at this time he and the brilliant Henderson trombonist, Jimmy Harrison, were busily engaged in mutually influencing each other's styles.) In a somewhat different way, Mezz Mezzrow (or, as it eventually came to be spelled: Mezzrow) is also a key figure in this hybrid music: a Chicagoan by early training, but always by choice very close to the Negro jazz idiom. He not only fits well into the Hot Shots sided, but turns up (along with the omnipresent Red McKenzie) on the Boyd Senter Copenhagen - which is much closer to "pure" Chicago than anything else here - to give it a swinging, non white intonation.
There are additional noteworthy aspects to these records: the "blue-blowing" of McKenzie (tissue-paper-covered comb, played in trumpet-imitation style); and rare solos in a hot and guttural vein by Glenn Miller, a far cry from his later music. And there are the subtle, but definite, differences between the two versions of I'm Gonna Stomp Mr. Henry Lee to illustrate the way in which improvisation was worked into the framework of unwritten but specific "head" arrangements that they used.
But surely the most significant feature of this music is its exciting fusion of the pushing, brash sound of the Chicagoans and the lift and beat of Harlem jazz - a loose-jointed and leaping combination that seems to indicate the underlying unity of all jazz. And, as well, these records are valuable for their own sakes: highly enjoyable performances that recreate a by-gone era of -you might say- hot-shot jazzmen and hot-shot jazz.
This reissue produced and notes by Bill Grauer, Jr. and Orrin Keepnews
JOHNNY DODDS' WASHBOARD BAND
JOHNNY DODDS' WASHOBOARD BAND
Natty Domonique (cnt) Honore Dutray (tb) Johnny Dodds (cl) Lil Armstrong (p) Bill Johnson (b) Babby Dodds (wbd)
Chicago; July 6, 1928
A) 1. Blue Washboard Stomp (BVE 46066-1)
4. Weary City (BVE 46064-2)
B) 1. Bull Fiddle Blues (BVE 46065-1)
4. Bucktown Stomp (BVE 46063-2)
JOHNNY DODDS TRIO
Johnny Dodds (cl)
Lil Armstrong (p) Bill Johnson (b)
Chicago; July 5, 1928
2. Blue Blarinet Stomp #1 (trio) (BVE 46055-1)
3. Blue Piano Stomp (trio) (BVE 46056-1)
B) 2. Blue Clarinet Stomp #2 (trio) (BVE 46055-2)
JOHNNY DODDS TRIO
Johnny Dodds (cl) Lil Armstrong (p) Bill Johnson (b)
Chicago; February 7, 1929
B) 3. Indigo Stomp (trio) (BVE 48869-2)
Johnny Dodds is one of the greatest figures in the entire history of jazz, and to those who know and love this music he must be mentioned in the same breath with Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and a very few others. But - although it may pain the deep-dyed jazz fan to admit it - he is famous only within a relatively narrow circle.
He had no trace of flamboyant personal show-manship (possibly the only quality a great performer should have that he did lack), so he left behind no material from which legends could be spun; he has been dead since 1940; and the last decade of his life was one of very meager recording activity for those who continued to play in the traditional jazz vein. Few of his records are currently available, and he seems to be remembered chiefly for his association with Armstrong. But if his fame is limited, it surely makes up in intensity for what it may lack in breadth. There is special aura about the name of Johnny Dodds, and there's no reason to settle for less than the blunt, dogmatic statement that he was the foremost of New Orleans clarinetists.
There is considerable evidence in support of this statement – not the least of which is to be found in this Dodds collection. Johnny first mastered the art of the clarinet back in New Orleans, and became a major force on Chicago's South Side in the 1920s, when just about everyone was making records, and just about everyone, seemingly, wanted Dodds. He had come North to play with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, that most celebrated of traditional jazz groups, and in the half-dozen years that followed he went on to record perhaps two hundred sides: with Armstrong, with Morton, with picturesquely named groups of his own such as the Footwamers and Black Bottom Stompers, with backcountry "jug bands." Some of these are among the most important of jazz recordings; all of them are honest, exciting jazz; and all bear the stamp of Dodds' inimitable tone and of his unique, heavily blues-tinged jazz feeling.
Dodds had learned from the early Creole masters; he learned well; and he did not stop with even the considerable amount they could teach. His tone was always rich, round and unforced; he had perfect command of his instrument and his astonishingly wide vibrato was always fully under control. Subdued or fiercely hot; chopping swiftly through intricate, crowded phrases or gliding easily through smooth, soaring glissandos; sweet or rough - there was no facet or mood of the clarinet's vast range that escaped him. The immense variety of his performances is one of his most remarkable qualities, but since he is best known for a comparatively limited number of performances with the biggest names of his era, his versatility tends to be underestimated. Certainly most people are apt to be unfamiliar with the informal, deceptively effortless kind of jazz to be heard on this recording.
These selections are a distinct departure from the closely-woven ensemble patterns of the strict New Orleans style of a band like King Oliver's. Johnny, Honore Dutray, and the three members of the Washboard Band's rhythm section had been together in the Oliver group five years earlier (which indicates one source of the remarkable unity and understanding of each other's music that can be felt here). But in the intervening years, they had inevitably begun to move away from the Oliver style, to evolve something of their own. Primarily, this was a product of their new environment: the Negro district of Chicago's South Side, that was, in the '20s, the home of many highly skilled and jazz-steeped musicians. It was a style largely developed in back rooms and in small dives, where a man could play just about as he wanted, with no striving for effects that would please "outsiders". Relaxation is its keynote; it is free and easygoing, swift but totally
unfrenzied, with a solid rhythmic base.
Like so many Chicago small-band records of the late '20s, these show the influence of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, of the sound of Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. And, Above all, these records provide a unique showcase for the talents of Johnny Dodds
Particularly in the four trio numbers, where he carries off with ease the difficult assignment of bearing the entire melodic burden, Dodds' warmth and grace, his understanding of the blues, his mastery of the clarinet's lower register and - far from least - his sense of humor and obvious enjoyment of what he was doing, are all shown perhaps to better advantage than on any others of his many records.
The two versions of Blue Clarinet Stomp (from masters recorded on the same day) emphasize the basically improvised nature of this material. Both have the same general framework, including the deceptive opening by the conservatory-trained Lil Armstrong. But Dodds crates, in effect, two quite different solos on the same theme. There are other noteworthy performances here: the effective and imaginative washboard-pounding by Johnny's young brother Warren (invariably known as "Baby"), and the rough, forceful cornet tones of Natty Dominique on the full-band numbers (both the unorthodox instrument and the unpolished style being, in themselves, practically definitions of the term "South Side jazz"); and the vigorous string-bass plucking and bowing of Bill Johnson, particularly on the trio numbers.
But the true "stars" of this collection are, first, Johnny Dodds and, second, the enthusiastic and unpretentious South Side style itself - this now almost - forgotten form of improvised small-band jazz that, while it lasted, added something new and flexible and exciting to the dimensions of traditional jazz.
This reissue produced and notes by Bill Grauer, Jr. and Orrin Keepnews
ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JASS BAND (VOL.1)
ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JASS BAND
Nick LaRocca (cnt) Eddie Edwards (tb) Larry Shields (cl) Henry Ragas (p) Tony Sbarbaro (drs)
NYC; February 26, 1917
A) 1. Dixie Jass Band One-Step (B 19332-3)
2. Livery Stable Blues (B 19331-1)
NYC; March 25, 1918
3. Skeleton Jangle (B 21700-2)
4. Tiger Rag (B 21701-3)
NYC; June 25, 1918
B) 1. Sensation Rag (B 22044-2)
2. Bluin' The Blues (B 22041-3)
3. Mournin' Blues (B 22043-4)
NYC; July 17, 1918
4. Clarinet Marmalade (B 22066-2)
This history of recorded jazz begins, quite literally, with these selections by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (or, to be precise, and use the earlier spelling on their first record labels: Jass Band).
Very specifically, it begins with Livery Stable Blues. Made in New York, probably on February 24, 1917, it was originally issued as one side of Victor 18255 and bears a master number that marks it as having been made just before its coupling, Dixie Jass Band One-Step which, however shares first honors, having been issued as the "A" side of the record. (Actually, there is some doubt as to the exact historic date: apparently the band was in the recording studio on both the 24th and 26th, and still-existing data fails to indicate conclusively which day's work produced the "takes" that were released, although the fact that Livery Stable is marked as take member 1 makes the earlier date appear more likely.)
So much for documentation, which is clearly important in this case, but which can also be a bit misleading. The "O.D.J.B." was of course not the "first" jazz and, not even among the first white jazz bands, nor yet the first to bring this music out of New Orleans and up North. It struck forcibly, with an impact that made the group an overnight sensation, led to recording contracts, and set a musical pattern that was to influence all white jazz that followed it, on down to the current small-band style that (although it sounds very different) still bears the name "Dixieland."
To anyone hearing them for the first time, these 1917-18 records, with their fast, staccato rhythm, probably will seem jerky and stiff; and the fact that they were acoustically recorded (even though remarkably clear and we-balanced for their day) adds to the feeling of strangeness. But the unfamiliar, "raggy" tempos serve to emphasize that this early white jazz - although undoubtedly largely shaped by the music of the New Orleans Negroes - had a tradition all its own.
"Papa" Jack Laine, the first figure is white jazz, had formed this Reliance Brass Band as for back as 1892 and had a "Ragtime Band" before 1900. Laine's music was distinctively that of the marching bands and of ragtime, and these are the two most notable features of these early O.D.J.B. records. There is syncopation here (basically, in New Orleans, you "ragged" a tune by syncopating it), although it is far from the smoother, often saccharine-smooth, sound that the word later came to denote. And there is a striding effect and a 4/4 beat that clearly points to a marching-band derivation.
The Original Dixielanders were actually the second generation, but they were firm disciples of the truly-original school. Eddie Edwards, Henry Ragas, young Tony Sbarbaro (who later shortened his name to Spargo) and Dominick J.(Nick) LaRocca had all played either with Laine or with bands stemming from his, and all were seasoned Dixieland stylists by 1916 when, with Alcide ("Kid Yellow") Nunez on clarinet, they first went up to Chicago to follow up the initial success of Tom Brown's "Band from Dixieland," which had made the northward trip a year earlier. Brown's group (Lainne alumni, of course) have, incidentally, been credited with the first use of the term "jass." One story has it that jealous Chicago musicians applied the word to non-musical meaning in the city's red light district - but that public curiosity turned it into a formidable drawing card, so that Brown billed his outfit as a "Jass Band."
To O.D.J.B. had some success in Chicago, completed their personnel by trading Munez to Brown for the younger, highly promising Larry Shields, and moved on to New York when Brown, whose group had just disbanded, suggested them for a job offered him there. The job was at Reisenweber's, at Columbus Circle, a celebrated club since the Gay
Nineties. Their success was immediate, sensational, and historic.
Not the least of their achievements, and possibly the most lasting, is that the basic repertoire for today's Dixieland style - Original Dixieland One-Step (a later title for Dixie Jass Band One-Step), Tiger Rag, Clarinet Marmalade , and many others - was created, and first defined on records, by the O.D.J.B.
There is much in the O.D.J.B.'s music that indicates their links with the Negro jazz of their home town: the direct, comparatively unembellished lead punched out by LaRocca; Edwards' forceful "tailgate" trombone smears; Larry Sheilds' full and fluid clarinet tones. Shields was undoubtedly the outstanding musician of the group; and when he reached a peak, as in his solo on Tiger Rag (which has become the accepted way to take this particular clarinet chorus), he must be raked with the very best. Ragas died in 1919, and acoustical recording permits only glimpses of his sensitive piano style; but they impressive fragments. Sbarbaro's drumming is effervescent but effectively consistent. Add it all up and it becomes quite evident - despite an unfamiliar and rather crudely recorded sound; despite the occasional doses of the "novelty effects" of the era (which might as well honestly be labeled "corn") - that the Original Dixieland Jass Band was quite worthy of the honor that, as it turned out, was handed them when they made their first recordings.
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
JELLY ROLL MORTON'S RED HOT PEPPERS (VOL.1)
ELLY ROLL MORTON AND HIS RED HOT PEPPERS
George Mitchell (cnt) Kid Ory (tb) Omer Simeon (cl) Jelly Roll Morton (p) John St. Cyr (bj) John Lindsay (b) Andrew Hilaire (drs)
Chicago; September 15, 1926
A) 1. Black Bottom Stomp (BVE36239-2)
4. The Chant (BVE36241-3)
B) 1. Steamboat Stomp (BVE36285-3)
4. Smoke House Blues (BVE36240-2)
JELLY ROLL MORTON AND HIS RED HOT PEPPERS
George Mitchell (cnt) Darnell Howard (cl)
Barney Bigard (cl) Kid Ory (tb) Omer Simeon (cl)
Jelly Roll Morton (p) John ST. Cyr (bj)
John Lindsay (b) Andrew Hilaire (drs)
Chicago; September 21, 1926
A) 2. Sidewalk Blues #2 (BVE36283-2)
3. Sidewalk Blues #3 (BVE36283-3)
B) 2. Dead Man Blues #1 (BVE36284-1)
3. Dead Man Blues #2 (BVE36284-2)
Ferdinand (Jelly Roll) Morton is now to be recognized as one of the most remarkable forces in jazz, a man to whom the usually loosely- flung-about term "genius" can be applied with considerable accuracy. As pianist, arranger and composer of truly jazz melodies, as organizer and leader of so remarkable a band as the Red Hot Peppers, and just about the most flamboyant, colorful and exasperating personality imaginable - in all these ways he has left his mark on the music that he played from the days of his New Orleans childhood.
Now, more than a decade after his death, it is safe enough to make such an appraisal of Moton's contribution to jazz. During his lifetime, you were apt to find that any comment would seem too moderate to some, and unjustified praise of an over-rated braggard to many others. For Jelly stirred up violent reactions: his sweeping claims that he "invented jazz in 1902" or that "all styles are Jelly Roll style" were not calculated to with him friends, even though, if you analyze and explain such remarks in context, there is more than a little symbolic truth in them.
For Jelly Roll was a major and highly influential, figure in jazz, as a piano-playing "professor" in Stoyville brothels, back in the days when New Orleans style was first taking definite shape; thus he certainly was among those who "invented" it. And he was thoroughly familiar with just about all the many musical threads that went to make up the traditional jazz pattern: from childhood on, he heard and played the blues, the stomps, and ragtime on the streets and in the honky-tonks of New Orleans, and he also absorbed a substantial share of the French and Spanish influences so important in early jazz. All
this was part of his heritage; so that when Morton, as a solo performer or as the driving force in a band, exhibited his mastery of the combined product, all styles indeed were "Jelly Roll style."
But Jelly would not have appreciated any such explanations of his blunt, uncompromising boasts. This was true almost from the start; it was most strikingly true when, after a period of youthful wandering that had carried him through the South and as far as California, Jelly Roll turned up in Chicago in the early '20s, ready to really break loose. He recorded a bit, including some notable piano solos, but it was not until 1926 on records just how broad and deep was the scope of his musical understanding and his creative abilities.
Twice in September of that year Morton went into the recording studios in Chicago's Webster Hotel with a band of his own choice, producing the numbers that comprise this collection. His choice included Edward "Kid" Ory, possibly the greatest of the deep-down, tailgate trombonists ever since early New Orleans days; Omer Simeon, another product of the home-town of jazz and one of the finest of its many fluid-toned clarinetists; George Mitchell, a driving, firm cornet man who played very much in the then-omni-present Louis Armstrong vein; and a strong rhythm section that knew both the original New Orleans beat and the large- and small-band Chicago variations on it. At the second session, two additional clarinet players of major stature, Barney Bigard and Darnell Howard, were brought in to help achieve the desired effect. A second, unidentified, cornetist was apparently also added. (Jelly, it should be noted, was no man to scorn any device that seemed to fit his purpose, and on this second day it turned out to include a real steamboat whistle and simulated traffic noises, as well as some touches of dialogue.)
Probably no jazz records have been more thoroughly written about and dissected by critics than these. The attention is fully merited. These performances can surely be called, without reservation, some of the greatest jazz ever played. This is complex, intricate music (the musicians reputedly did not play from written scores, but each numbers was preceded by perhaps half-hour of studying the tunes, deciding on the placement of solos, memorizing the basic arrangements). It is the definitive answer to anyone who would claim that jazz is deficient in counterpoint or in depth of musical structure. It is a remarkable combination of improvisation and arrangement, playing and the expressive use of solo voices that had become more the rule in Chicago.
The inclusion of two different "takes" of two of the numbers permits one to judge just how much here was the work of the individual players and how much the result of the dictatorship of Mr. Jelly Lord. The inevitable conclusion would seem to be that, above all, this is a case of "Jelly Roll style." There are differences to be noted between each version of Dead Man and of Sidewalk , but in these, as in all the selections, there is so much that is unmistakably stamped as Jelly's own: the intricacies, the phrasing, the lilt that should be called "swing" despite the semantic confusions that term can cause by now. These are all talented musicians, but nevertheless sound, is Morton's. This is the mark of his greatness, and of the greatness of the records - the proudest accomplishments of deservedly proud man.
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
BACKGROUND OF JAZZ VOL.1 / THE JUG BANDS
DIXIELAND JUG BLOWERS
prob. Henry Miles (vln) Clifford Hayes (vln, sax) Hess Frundy (tb) Cal Smith (bj) Dan Briscoe (p) unknown (jug)
Chicago; June 6, 1927
A) 1.Southern Shout (BVE38636-2)
4.National Blues (BVE38635-2)
Chicago; Dec. 10, 1927
A) 2.Banjoreno (BVE37223-2)
3.Boodle-Am Shake (BVE37220-1)
MEMPHIS JUG BAND
unknown (kazoo) (hca) (g) (jug)
Memphis; Feb. 24, 1927
B) 1.Stingy Woman Blues (BVE37942-1)
2.Newport News Blues (BVE37944-1)
3.Sun Brimmers Blues (BVE37941-2)
Memphis; Sep. 11, 1928
4.Overseas Stomp (BVE47008-1)
In recent years, considerable attention has been focused on the African origins of American jazz. The how and how much of African influences and direct carry-overs will undoubtedly continue to be investigated and debated for quite some time, particularly since anthropologists and musicologists in more than a few universities have now begun to be fascinated by the intricate mystery of the roots of jazz.
One important obstacle to proper documentation of such studies has been, inevitably, the scarcity of actual recordings that can serve to illustrate and substantiate theory. In some areas from which slaves were first brought to this country, time has apparently stood almost still; field recordings there can show source music in something very much like "pure" form. But in the half-century since jazz first took definite and recognizable shape, life in America has moved and altered at great speed. Even by the early 1920's, when jazz first began to be recorded to any appreciable extent, the music had taken strides that made it far from easy to connect it directly with Africa, or to see just what role should be assigned to that continent in sorting out the many different influences on jazz: some European, some perhaps entirely attributable to white and Negro American patterns of life, others undoubtedly African.
There are records that can be considered as the look-for "missing links" in the picture. But they are extremely rare; it has been many years since they were readily available, and they tend to be overlooked by, or perhaps to be unknown to, even the serious student of jazz. This is unfortunate for more than one reason- as the music of these jug bands should clearly indicate.
For these numbers are not at all like any dry history lesson you ever heard. More than anything else, they are strong, exciting, imaginative, uninhibited, highly rhythmical jazz performances. But even the "legitimate" instruments here are used in comparatively primitive fashion, and prominently include is such non-standard equipment as kazoo and jug. It seems to call for no great stretching of the imagination to find the ancestors of some of these in the instruments used in the tribal music of West and Central Africa.
Take the jug itself, the key instrument in these groups, which is usually of the familiar earthenware variety. One anthropologist, Alan P. Merriam of Northwestern University, has noted great similarities in playing technique between it and the menda , a clay jug to be found in the Congo: "The player blows into the mouth of the menda , producing a deep tone, on the accented beats; on unaccented beats he draws in his breath sharply, producing a high, clear tone." The American Negro's quite early use of the banjo may be attributable to its similarity to African stringed instruments, including one made of animal skin stretched across a wood frame. The violins that are played here in strictly "alley fiddle" style may be traceable back to African violins that were long ago derived, in turn, from the Arabian rebec; and even the kazoo, played entirely by breathing into it, may be related to the side-blown gourd of tribal music.
It would of course be misleading over-simplification to carry such comparisons too far, and to present these records as anything like pure "Africanism". Although they reflect backgrounds of jazz, they are themselves, in a sense, anachronisms. Far from being among the earliest of records, they were made in the late'20's, when a number of bands much like these were playing for Negro audiences. But these musicians appear to have been influenced only slightly by the more conventional jazz bands of the day. Essentially, they are playing the music of their fathers’ and grandfathers' generation, on the same instruments and in the same style. The indications are that they were descended from slaves and freed slaves who went into the rural, "backwoods" areas of the deep South, and there retained much of their earlier ways of life. They played primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky, far from what are generally regarded as the beaten paths of jazz; they may have been no more than part-time entertainers. If they came into the big cities to play and record at times, they nevertheless resisted being absorbed to any great extent into the main-stream of 1920's jazz, and thus their stomps and blues remain far closer than most to being classifiable as source music, as a survival of the pre-jazz music of a less "Americanized" people.
Little is known of the identities of these men. The probable personnel listed for the Dixieland Jug Blowers is based on the belief that this group was at least in part made up of members of Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers (a conclusion reached partly through aural evidence, partly because members of the Stompers are credited as composers of Jug Blowers tunes, and also because Hayes is known to have directed at least some Jug Blowers recording sessions). And it's interesting to note that their Banjoreno tosses in a strong dose of a very different pre-jazz source, with a banjo style (featuring no less than three banjos) that is clearly linked to minstrel-show music. The Memphis Jug Band is even less identifiable, although they are known to have made a substantial quantity of recordings, beginning with the date that produced three of the members here.
This reissued produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
Fletcher Henderson and His Connie’s Inn Orchestra
Featuring Coleman Hawkins and Rex Stewart
St. Louis Shuffle (Jack Pettis – Thomas Waller)
My Sweet Tooth Says I Wanna (Young – Clare – Stept)
Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On (West – McCafrey – Ringle)
Singing the Blues (Lewis – Young - Conrad)
OH, It Looks Like Rain (E. Y. Harburg – Milton Coots)
Strangers (Charles O’Flynn – J. Fred Coots)
Sugar Foot Stomp (W. Melrose – J .Oliver)
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
FLETCHER HENDERSON and His Orchestra (Side 1, #1 and #2)
Russell Smith (tp) Joe Smith (tp) Tommy Ladnier (tp) Charlie Green (tb) Jimmy Harrison (tb) Buster Bailey (cl) Don Redman or Don Pasquall (as) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Fletcher Henderson (p) Charlie Dixon bj) June Coles (tu) Kaiser Marshall (drs) NYC; April 27, 1927
CONNIE’S INN ORCHESTRA (Side 1, #4; Side 2, #1 and #4)
Russell Smith (tp) Bobby Stark (tp) Rex Stewart (tp) Benny Morton (tb) Claude Jones (tb) Russell Procope (as) Harvey Boone (as) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Fletcher Henderson (p) Clarence Haliday (g) John Kirby (b) Walter Johnson (drs) NYC; April 29, 1931
On Side 1, #3; Side 2, #2: Edgar Sampson (as) replaces Boon, vocals by Dick Robertson NYC; July 31, 1931
On Side 2, #3: J. C. Higginbotham (tb) may replaces Jones. Vocal by John Dickens NYC; March 10, 1932
Few men have had as far-reaching an effect on the ever-changing structure of jazz as the late Fletcher Henderson. As an indication of the great changes in jazz emphasis he lived through and helped to bring about, note that in the early 1920's he frequently accompanied the foremost Negro singers of the day (Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Ma
Rainey); while in the late '30s, Henderson arrangements were among the most important elements in the success of Benny Goodman's band and were, therefore, greatly responsible for the coming of the Swing era.
Henderson, and the many highly talented performers who worked with him during the '20's and '30s, played a key role in the gradually shifting emphasis from small-band, improvised music to big orchestra and complex arrangements. His was not a "big" band to begin with: when Henderson played the Club Alabama, just off Broadway, in 1922, he had ten men-hardly any more than the eight with whom, for instance, King Oliver was playing in a strictly traditional vein in Chicago at the same time. But between these two concepts of jazz there lies, eventually, a world of difference.
Instrumentation provides an immediate clue to that difference: those two added men were both on saxophone, making a total of three (two on alto, one of them doubling on clarinet; one tenor). It was a "section", and that of course is one of the key words, one of the fundamentals of big-band music. By the time of the records that make up this collection, it was firmly established that a band like this also included at least three trumpets and two trombones. Added to the four rhythm instruments, this meant a dozen or more men swinging in unison.
That unison called for the use of steadily more complex arrangements, and for increasingly precise teamwork. The change was eventually a vast one, but it was gradual. The first two numbers here, though far from being very early Henderson, give some indication of this. Recorded four years before the other selections, and with a largely different personnel that included several members of Fletcher's earliest groups, they have a rough power and a looseness that by 1931 was just about gone, traded in for a much smoother, though hardly less driving effect.
There are undoubtedly many ways of explaining the differences between traditional jazz and this big-band Harlem music of the Henderson variety. But more than anything else, it is a kind of music that develops when you play at big dance halls and clubs with fairly fancy floor shows, when you provide the size and the sound that such circumstances demand. Henderson's was a dance band, above all. He played with regularity at the Roseland Ballroom in mid-Manhattan from the beginning of the '20s through 1935; as the '30s started, he was a fixture at Connie's Inn. This celebrated club followed the Harlem nigh-life pattern of the times: like the Cotton Club and others, it was primarily for the white tourist trade from downtown and out-of-town, and its shows ran to rather spurious "jungle" and "plantation" motifs.
But there was no question about the authenticity of the music. This was no compromising form of jazz. What have by now become standard and stale arranging tricks and cliches were fresh, daring ideas then. And even though, in giving a full picture of the Henderson band of that era, this collection includes a few admittedly non-memorable popular songs and dated vocals, these only serve to emphasize the remarkable talents of some of these musicians. Note how Coleman Hawkins, a major figure in the band almost from the moment he joined it in 1924, rescues a tune like Strangers. His brilliant – and typical - solo shows off his full, sweeping tone and makes it easy to understand his absolute influence over an entire generation of tenor men. Rex Stewart adds the impact of his sharp, vibrant horn; and in more than one instance there is a collective "star", as the rocking, driving sound of the sections - the sax section in particular - indicates the vitality and musical value of Fletcher Henderson's special contribution to jazz.
One section calls for particular comment: the rather strange adoption by this band of Swinging the Blues in exactly the arrangement used by Bix Beiderbecke with Frank Trumbauer four years earlier. Their motives are unknown: they could include imitation, emulation, or even (as in the sax section's unison rendering of Tram's C-melody sax solo) a touch of satire. Stewart does not succeed in sounding much like Bix in taking his choruses, which is far more interestingly to the point than if he did; in the differences of tone and attack and feeling there is something like a brief summation of the divergence of two of the main paths along which jazz has moved.
A Discographical Note for Collectors.
The original master numbers of these recordings, in the order in which they appear here, are: on Side 1 – BE 38196-1, BE 38497-1, BRC 70142-1, BRC 53067-2; on Side 2 – BRC 53069-1, BRC 70140-1, BSHQ 71938-1, BRC 53066-2.
WINGY MANONE, VOLUME 1
WINGY MANONE and His Orchestra
(on Side 1, #2 and 3; Side 2, #2 and 3)
Joe (Wingy) Manone (tp, vcl) Matty Matlock (cl, sax) Joe Marsala (cl, sax) Eddie Miller (cl, sax) Conrad Lanoue (p) Hilton (Nappy) Lamare (g) Artie Shapiro (b) Ray Bauduc (drs)
NYC; April 9, 1936
(on Side 1, #1 and 4; Side 2, #1 and 4)
Wingy Manone (tp, vcl) Murray Williams (cl) Tommy Mace (as) Eddie Miller (ts Conrad Lanoue (p) Carmen Mastren (g) Artie Shapiro (b) Sam Weiss (drs)
NYC; May 8, 1936
1. Panama (BS 101578-1)
2. Swingin’ at the Hickory House (BS 101302-1)
3. Tormented (BS 101198-1)
4. Hesitation Blues (BS 101574-1)
1. Basin Street Blues (BS 101573-1)
2. Dallas Blues (BS 101199-1)
3. Rhythm Saved the World (BS 101301-1)
4. Sing Me a Swing Song (BS 101575-1)
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
Wingy Manone turns out to be a surprisingly difficult personality to pin down in cold print - which may well be one of the most revealing things that can be noted about him. "Volatile" might be a good word for him, although you'd have to realize that he'd probably never admit to knowing what you're talking about. (In Wingy's Hollywood period, no less than Louella Parsons once noted his strong facial resemblance to Mephistopheles. According to Wingy, "It was three months before I found out that was just another word for 'devil', and all that time I thought she was cussing me.")
Difficulties can start with as simple a matter as the spelling of his name. It originally had a double "n" in the middle, and he's supposed to have altered it on the advice of a numerologist, at the same time changing the ending of his nickname to "Wingie." But, just to be inconsistent, that drifted back after a while to the current spelling.
It's not much easier to find a suitable label for his brand of jazz. Take the example at hand: any analysis of the free and easy jive that's served up in this album calls for taking into consideration a rather extensively varied collection of facts about Wingy and the men he has listened to and played with:
Joe Mannone was born in New Orleans, in 1904, and grew up there, a bit too late to be part of the early jazz hey-day of that town, but early enough for him to recall King Oliver and such near-legendary cornetists as Buddy Petit and Kid Rena as his first idols, and to have heard some of the pioneer white Dixieland musicians. He had already started to learn the trumpet when, at age 10, he lost most of his right arm in a streetcar accident. So he simply began to learning all over again with his left, a stoic touch that must be balanced against the predominant picture of Wingy as jiving, wildly exuberant character.
He spent much time in Chicago in the 1920s, where he began a long friendship with Louis Armstrong (he reputedly had known Louis as a kid in New Orleans, but only to throw rocks at). Satchmo's influence on the Manone trumpet and vocal style is too apparent and freely admitted by Wingy to need much comment. In Chicago, and later New York, he hung out with most of that large, amorphous group best identified as the Eddie Condon school of jazz. He found Jack Teagarden in Texas and brought him up to New York. He even put in stint in vaudeville, accompanying Blossom Seeley. The background is well-mixed, and to it probably should be added a further touch of the others Wingy knew in the late '20s in New York: Red Nichols, Eddie Land, the Dorseys.
Wingy appears to have had little trouble absorbing all these influences; besides, he was busily engaged in making his own special personality felt in the jazz world. He had begun to be in demand for record dates and, particularly after a few successes (such as his
celebrated mistreatment of the 1935 pop hit, Isle of Capri), was given a free hand in picking the men he worked with. This underlines the fact that on the record date from which this collection has been selected the personnel included several men borrowed, for recording purposes, from the Bob Crosby band: Eddie Miller, Ray Bauduc, Nappy Lamare, Matty Matlock.
The group fronted by the younger Crosby, which actually stemmed from the Ben Pollack band, was doing much to keep alive the spirit of two-beat Dixieland. Their approach was also colored at times, as these records indicate, by the first signs of the coming of Swing. But for a jazzman like Manone (whose training was entirely is small bands and who claims never to have gotten around to learning to read music), Swing never meant, either ten or later, the big-orchestra style. For the most part, it meant a greater emphasis on the solidly swingy beat that had always come naturally to a buoyant soul like
Wingy, and more use of arrangements for ensemble work (with solos still left more or less open for free improvisation). And it also meant the emergence of one New York side street, formerly the home of some of Prohibition's better jazz speakeasies, as "Swing Street".
The "jam session" style of 52nd Street really got rolling in 1935 and '36, with the first of Wingy's many engagements at the Hickory House (a bar fully noted in one of the tunes here). Most of the other musicians on these records were usually to be found with Wingy then, prominently including Joe Marsala, who had given up truck-driving in Chicago and come on to New York largely at his urging. The main elements here, then, are Bob Crosby-ish Dixie and 52nd Street Swing, plus of course the ingredients that go to make up Wingy's personal style and special approach to all the things. And Manone is clearly, the common bond that holds the mixture together with considerable (even surprising) cohesion as well as spirit. The tunes played here seem to reflect this situation, being almost evenly divided between jazz standards and the jivey songs Wingy rendered so well.
... So, for, the initial problem of finding a proper descriptive label for the music, the best solution appears to be just to call it by Wingy's name. It's nothing less than the jazz-and-jive that belongs to Manone, that he puts out so uniquely and so well.
MEZZ MEZZROW'S SWING SESSION
MEZZ MEZZROW AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Max Kaminsky (tp) Renald Jones (tp) Chelsea Qualey (tp) Floyd O’Briwn (tb) Mezz Mezzrow (cl, as) Benny Carter (as tp) Bud Freeman (ts) Wilie (The Lion) Smith(p) John Kirby (b) Chick Webb (drs)
New York; May 7, 1934
BS82392-1 Old Fashioned Love “X”LVA-3015
BS82393-1 Apologies -
BS82394-1 Sendin’ the Vipers -
BS82395-1 35rh and Calumet -
MEZZ ,MEZZROW AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Sy Oliver (tp) J. C. Higginbotham (tb) Mezz Mezzrow (cl)
Happy Caldwell (ts) Sonny White (p) Bernard Addison (g)
Pops Foster (b) Jimmy Crawford (drs)
New York; June 14, 1937
BS010569-1 Blues in Disguise “X”LVA-3015
BS010570-1 That’s How I Feel Today -
BS010571-1 Hot Cub Stomp -
BS010572-1 The Swing Session’s Called to Order -
Mezz Mezzrow (born Milton Mesirow) has certainly had what any cliche expert would call a "checkered career." It's a story of some highs and more lows, of battles with himself, with others and with his music - a story that he himself has told in great detail and
apparently considerable frankness in an autobiography, Really the Blues, that was a best seller a few years back. It seems to boil down to the story of a man for whom jazz, and the way of life that went with it, has always been both something of an obsession and a constant reminder of many of the most disturbing complexities and conflicts of American life.
Much of this isn't difficult to find in his music, if you look for it. It should be noted, of course, that you don't have to look for it: you can, if you prefer, skip the significances and settle for enjoying some highly exciting and rather hybrid music. It draws most of its personnel from the big Harlem bands of the mid-1930s, plus some prominent white Chicagoans on the first four numbers. It combines what you'd expect from these tow sources with Mezzrow's own deep affection for traditional jazz and the blues, plus some touches of the special jazz sound of those years: a rocking beat and unison sound that might be called incipient Swing.
This music, like just about all jazz, can be taken in wither of two ways. You can accept it simply as a fascinating collection of musical notes, without paying much attention to its context. Or it can be looked upon both as music and as a revealing indication of the lives and times and environments of the men who create it. To take the latter approach is inevitably to recognize that jazz is basically a Negro music, that it is in many ways founded on the unique position of the Negro in this country, from the days of slavery to a present status that can hardly be called anything milder than "less than equal." For Mezz, of course, there was never much question about which view to take. He has often made clear his insistence on allying himself with the Negro jazzmen. His role in jazz might be described as a conscious effort to work out a personal solution to the problems involved in this approach.
Mezz is, self-admittedly, an extremist: at one point he decided to consider himself a Negro and went to live in Harlem. This, and a number of other complex internal crises, gave him - or led him to give himself - a hard time. In his book, he has specifically identified the first of the two record sessions reissued here as coming at a time when he was fighting his way out of a drug habit. It was, however, also one of his first opportunities to work with a band of his own choosing.
He had begun playing jazz as a tough kid in Chicago of the '20s, along with men like Frank Teschemacher, Muggsy Spanier, Eddie Condon and the rest of that brash crew that first absorbed its music at least in part from the Negroes who had come to Chicago's South Side from New Orleans. He had been on hand for the first notable Chicago-style recordings, but in the intervening years, as most of these musicians tended to move away from Negro-derived jazz and he felt ever closer to it, Mezz's musical concepts and those of his earliest colleagues became increasingly less compatible.
But his was no sudden split, and in many ways the May, 1934, session was a transitional one. Mixed-band records, though still fare from commonplace, were not too unusual by that time. But the use of mixed group that approached dance-band size and sound (with three-man sax and trumpet sections) was a decide rarity. Actually it was indication of Mez's ambition of about this time to play public engagements with very much this kind of outfit: on this date it meant combining men like Chick Webb and Benny Carter with white musicians - such as Max Kaminsky, Bud Freeman and Floyd O'Brien – who were closest to understanding both Negro jazz and Mezz Mezzrow. (O'Brien, a comparatively little-known trombonist with a substantial feeling for traditional jazz, was rooming with Mezztow then, and worked with him on the arrangements of the three original tunes written for the session.) Certainly the results here make strong case for the kind of music Mezz wanted to show the public, and make it easy to see why he felt most bitter when various difficulties (commercial ones according to some stories, race prejudice according to others) broke up a band of this sort very shortly after he formed it in 1937.
The numbers on the second side are from a 1937 session that Mezzrow probably didn't think of as "mixed" at all, since he was its only white musician. The music is largely in a relaxed, heavily blues-tinged vein that is timeless, and it seems most apt that the personnel includes the New Orleans bassist, Pops Foster. Such veterans of the big Harlem bands as Sy Oliver and Jimmy Crawford (then with Jimmy Lunceford), J.C. Higginbotham, and Happy Caldwell add a flavoring of their own brand of early Swing. The arrangements used - the last three are originals worked up for the occasion by Mezz and Edgar Sampson - help to make the net effect, once again, a fusion of various facets of jazz, the sort of fusion towards which Mezzrow has always scrambled and striven.
BACKGROUNDS OF JAZZ, VOLUME 2
COUNTRY AND URBAN BLUES
IDA MAY MACK
Ida May Max (vcl) acc. By K. D. Johnson (p)
Memphis; August 2, 1928
BVE45438-1 Wrong Doin’ Daddy “X”LVA-3016
BVE45442-2 Elm Street Blues -
BVE45450-2 Mr. Forty-Nine Blues -
BVE45451-1 Good Bye Rider -
acc. By K. D. Johnson (p)
Memphis; August 2, 1928
BVE45440-2 Fort Worth and Denver Blues “X”LVA-3016
BVE45441-2 Penitentiary Blues -
BVE45444-1 Fryin’ Pan Skillet Blues -
BVE45448-1 Got Cut All to Pieces -
Behind the earliest jazz lies the gradual development and fusion of a variety of musical forms and folk traditions - among them, the antiphonal tribal chants of West Africa; the work songs of slaves in Southern fields; the cries of street vendors. In the evolution of jazz, these were in effect the background of a background. For it was such elements as these that synthesized into the pre-jazz folk music known as "the blues."
Thus it can be said that it all began with the blues. Exactly where and when and how the parts first came together into something that could be recognized and labelled as blues will probably never be determined with any precision. But it was some place in the South, before the turn of the century - more likely in several places at about the same time. The habit of using roughly improvised song to express troubles or joys, or just a general usually more than somewhat bitter attitude towards money, sex, and similarly basic Negro population recently freed from slavery but still far short of equality. Jazz, of course, its original inspirations from a number of other sources as well, but the earliest blues forms, very much as they are sung here, provide one of the basic keys to any understanding of jazz and how it came into being.
The first blues singers probably moaned a single strain on a single theme, perhaps without accompaniment, or providing their own musical backing on a battered guitar. But a definite pattern soon developed: the words set into three-line stanzas that first stated the problem, then repeated it, finally carried it forward with a hope or a curse or with resignation. Invariably, the blues made use of familiar objects and situations, as in the variation on a frequently encountered "train blues" that Bessie Tucker sings:
Fort Worth and Denver came through here twice today,
M-m-m, m-m-m, came through here twice today;
Fort Worth and Denver took my good man away.
The pattern was rigid one, almost a ritual, and its music always the simplest of melodic strains, never varying greatly - most usually, though not inevitably, a 12-bar structure was used. But this has never seemed to restrict the blues, and certainly some of the most moving singing and accompaniment belongs to this tradition. For (as creators of folk-ballads have always done) the artists who built this vast body of music, while dealing with specific experiences, have always implied universal meanings - not just one girl whose man has gone, but the whole tragedy of love gone wrong; not merely one woman's bittersweet memories or hope of better days to come, but everyone's.
The term "blues" covers a lot of ground: from the great Negro entertainers singing for their own people to slick double-meaning lyrics designed for white audiences, or even the imitation-blues that turn up so often in current pop music. But, particularly in the early years, it could rather easily be divided into two main categories, which can be described as "country" and "urban." The division is largely, but not exclusively, geographical - primarily indicating a distinction between two kinds of approach and vocal style that are vividly illustrated by these two talented, if relatively obscure singers.
On the one hand there is the music of rural singers who were not necessarily stressing the role of professional entertainer (although many country girls came into the large cities of the South to sing in the side-street joints of their Negro districts). There is an earthy, almost savagely direct quality to the blues of a Bessie Tucker that seems to suggest the tribal music that lied in the dim past. Having learned her art in backwoods areas where there were few instruments, probably not even a piano, such a singer's voice instinctively moves into the gaps a horn might otherwise fill; even here, with a piano behind here, she does not alter this style. Bessie hums and shouts; her rich voice surges like a trombone. And her cry of distress is about as basic as it can get, as she tells of going to jail, or states simply and without melodramatics that she "got cut all to pieces about a man I love."
The tones of Ida May Mack are more "educated," precise and professional, although clearly such adjectives can be applied to her only by comparison. She is a city woman, a cabaret singer, quite accustomed to "proper" instrumental backing; her voice is somewhat higher-pitched, clearer - though certainly as intense. She is a stride away from the primitive towards the conscious entertainer; the strict 12-bar pattern is more readily apparent here; yet she remains well within the framework of the early, undiluted blues.
These are, of course, not among the very earliest of records. But they could just as well be, for there's scarcely a trace of any "modernization"; these are fitting representatives of the pre-jazz blues technique. They are also the work of artists of the first order - admittedly not quite the peers of such titans as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, but possessing the native ability to move any listener short of the most stone-hearted with the pathos and anguish of their songs.
It's noteworthy that, strangely enough, these two sets of basic variations on the early blues were captured at the same moment in time, under identical circumstances. On successive days in August, 1928, Ida May and Bessie, accompanied by the fine 'though totally obscure) blues pianist, made a quantity of records in a Memphis auditorium. First one sang a few blues, then the other -a capsule summation of this background music. Theirs is the real blues, long before it was softened or watered down. Tough and fundamental, concerned with the realities of life, it is perhaps the most important of the source materials that have led to the many-faceted art called jazz.
JEAN GOLDKETTE AND HIS ORCHEATRA
FEATURING BIX BEIDERBECK, TOMMY AND JIMMY DORSEY,FRANK TRUMBAUER AND EDDIE LANG
JEAN GOLDKETTE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Full orchestra including Bix Beiderbecke (tp) Ray Ludwig (tp) Fred Farrar (tp) Bill Rank or Spreigen Wilcox (tb) Tommy Dorsey (tb) Jimmy Dorsey (cl, sax) Frank Trumbauer (cl,sax) Fud Livingston (cl,sax) Doc Ryker (cl,sax) Joe Venuti (vln) Itzy Riskin (p) Eddie Lang (g) Howdy Quicksell (bj) Steve Brown (b) Chauncey Moorehouse (drs) Billy Murray (vcl)
New York; January 28 & 31, 1927
BVE37579-1 Proud (of a Baby Like You)
BVE37580-4 I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
BVE37583-3 I’m Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now
BVE37587-1 My Pretty Girl #1
BVE37587-2 My Pretty Girl #2
BVE40402-1 Clementine (from New Orleans)
BVE46097-3 That’s Just My Way of Forgetting You
BVE48617-3 My Blackbirds Are Bluebirds Now
No orchestra of its day, and perhaps as none at any time was able to combine "commercialism" and real jazz as successfully as did the star-studded group that worked for Jean Goldkette during the late 1920's.
Goldkette was undoubtedly not acting as an unselfish patron of the arts when he brought a number of rising jazz figures into his band during 1926 - Bix Beiderbeck and Frankie Trumbaurer, who had been working together in St. Louis; the Ventu-Lang team; on occasions, the Dorsey brothers. They were hired to turn a going concern into a more valuable commodity, but Goldkette appreciated jazz and clearly seems to have been blessed with the right instincts. He did not play in the band, and did not even front it consistently (the "director" for most of the recording sessions represented in this collection was Nathaniel Shilkret), but he understood how to make good use of the jazzmen on hand by spotting them as a smaller "hot" unit of the full band. And there was much room for honest and interesting improvisation in the solos on his records.
Other bands of this period might roughly fit the same description, but with important differences that actually help define the unique character of this organization. Ben Pollack's band, although it had some violins, many commercial intentions, and a good share of success, was never quite as big in size or as businesslike in approach. For all the non-jazz and corn he could call for, Pollack himself had begun as a jazzman, and had formed his band by gathering together a group of men all of whose backgrounds and musical inclinations were in jazz. Paul Whiteman, at the other extreme, reaped fame and fortune with something termed "symphonic jazz." He had stars aplenty, many of them lifted from the Goldkette band when it broke up - Bix, Trumbauer, Venuti, Land, the Dorsey all played with him at one time or another. But only on occasion do jazz performances by them seep through the lush arrangements of Whiteman records.
In Goldkette's orchestra, the jazz musicians were not anything like completely free souls, but neither were they orphans. Above all, it seems quite safe to say that they all sounds as if they were enjoying their work, Bix as much as anyone. He took relatively few solos on records with this group - one of them on Clementine – but there is no difficulty in hearing just how important this brilliant, short-lived jazz great was to this band during his year's tenure. Time and again his round, clear cornet tones pierce through the ensembles, adding tremendous lift and drive. Perhaps most remarkable is the excitement he adds to the ride-out at the end of Four Leaf Clover.
Another such Bix-driven tune is My Pretty Girl, also notable as one of the very few records featuring the vastly under-rated Danny Polo. A talented clarinetist who spent much time in Europe and was never well-known by American jazz audiences, Polo takes probably his finest recorded solo on this number. As it turns out, he took it twice, both times in a swooping, skipping style that traces back directly to his instruments' New Orleans origins, but with a distinctive variations that makes it well worth hearing both masters - for their own sakes and also for the way they indicate the leeway allowed soloists within the band's arranged framework.
Goldkette's stars eventually contributed to the band's downfall, largely through too many temperaments and too big, a payroll. The last two records here were made after their departure, and with an almost entirely revamped line-up. Of them, My Blackbirds Are
Bluebirds Now calls for singling out as, among other things, a classic example of how "experts" can tie themselves in knots. For years it was felt this couldn't be a Goldkette item; no matter what the label said, it must have been made by a Negro band, undoubtedly by McKinney's Cotton Pickers. But it's by Goldkette, all right - the recording files offer final proof of that. The confusion stems from the friendship between members of the two groups (for quite a white both had played in the Detroit area at the same time). They had traded arrangements on at least one occasion, and it was a score from the McKinney book that had been recorded by the white band that day. There are also still unconfirmed stories of their borrowing some of each other's men for recording dates, offered as explanation of the quality of the ensemble sound on many Goldkette sides. But if the whole situation "proves" anything, it is as a striking indication of just how much first-rate jazz a Goldkette band could produce – which is something this whole album helps to substantiate.
KING OLIVER'S UPTOWN JAZZ
West End Blues (Joe Oliver)
I’ve Got That Thing (Russell – Barbarin – Pichon)
Freakish Light Blues #3 (Luis Russell – Paul Barabrin)
Freakish Light Blues #4 (Luis Russell – Paul Barbarin)
Can I Tell You (Joe Oliver)
My Good Man Sam (Joe Oliver)
Sweet Like This (Joe Oliver – Dave Nelson)
New Orleans Shout (Joe Oliver – Dave Nelson)
This reissue produced and notes written by Bill Grauer, Jr., and Orrin Keepnews
KING OLIVER and His Orchestra
On Side 1:Joe (King) Oliver, trumpet; J. C. Higginbotham, trombone; Charlie Holmes or Albert Nicholas, alto sax; Teddy Hill, tenor sax; Luis Russell, piano; Will Johnson, banjo; Bill Moore, tuba; Paul Barbarin, drums. Vocal on #2 by Waller (Fats) Pichon.
(Recorded in New York; January 16 and February 1, 1929)
On Side 2, #1 and 2: Unknown personnel. (Chicago; February 25, 1929)
On Side 2, #3:King Oliver, Dave Nelson, trumpets; Jimmy Archey, trombone; Bobby Holmes or Hilton Jefferson, Glyn Pacque, alto saxes; Castor McCord, tenor sax; James P. Johnson, piano; Walter Jones, guitar; Sidney Castner, tuba; Edmund Jones, drums. (New York; October 8, 1929)
On Side 2, #4: Omit Jefferson; previous rhythm section replaced by: Don Frye, piano; Arthur Taylor, tuba; unknown steel guitar; Clinton Walker, tuba; Fred Moore, drums. (New York; December 30, 1929)
Joe Oliver is one of the cornerstones of jazz.
He was a "King" in New Orleans in the days of street parades and of the honky-tonks of the red-light district known as Storyville. In those days and in that city, the title was no idle boast or self-assumed honor. "King" meant just that: the people who listened or danced and, even more importantly, the musicians who played alongside him or completed with him for public acclaim, looked up to Oliver as the top man in his trade.
Then, in Chicago, he developed his Creole Jazz Band, which must be considered the greatest of all bands in the traditional idiom. It was with this group that Louis Armstrong, who had learned much from Oliver as a boy in New Orleans, made his big-time debut in 1922. The early '20s, which were golden years for jazz in Chicago, were equally golden for Joe; but towards the end of the decade, and in the Depression years that followed, he began a downward slide that was to end in poverty and death.
Armstrong has advanced the theory that Oliver waited too long before coming to New York for the first time, that when he finally hit the big town too many others had been imitating this music for long enough to take the edge off it. In addition, it was the beginning of the lean years for the music business, and Oliver had as much trouble as most leaders in holding a band together. But he still played with great fire and unequalled beauty; and he was in demand as an individual headliner. Thus it was, in effect, as a virtuoso soloist that he made the first six records here, in 1929.
This was an unaccustomed role for Oliver, whose first and last love was the tight-knit ensemble style of New Orleans jazz. The group he fronts here in the early-1929 members appears to have been made up of members of Luis Russell's band, and its style was that of the big Harlem orchestras of the period. Oliver obviously adapted himself somewhat to meet the requirements of these sessions, but he clearly lost nothing thereby. Actually, then, these records have the unique value of affording a rare chance to hear Joe's 'on its own' - as in the long and imaginative solos on numbers like West End Blues and the two differing masters of Freakish Light Blues.
There has always been some question as to how much of a role Oliver really played on these sides. He was 44 years old, and some have doubted that he could have been equal to the strenuous task of handling all the solo work here. Record companies kept little personnel data in those days, and it's unreasonable to expect musicians to recall accurately exactly who did what on a specific one of a great many records they made a quarter-century ago. So the point must be decided primarily on circumstantial and aural evidence. To many, including musicians who played with Oliver and heard him often, this sounds very much like the lyricism and the sharp New Orleans vibrato of the King, with a fluff or two (as at the start of West End) as 'proof' much more likely to indicate the start of his period of decline than to be the work of a younger imitator.
Published discographies tend to play it safe, listing both Oliver and Louis Mercalf (then with the Russell band) on trumpet. But the original reference sheets, which show exact instrumentation, note the presence of only one trumpet, indicating that the first six numbers here probably must be taken as all-Oliver or no-Oliver. Joe is named as having been on hand as "director." In addition, although these had all been thought to be New York recordings, the files show that one session took place in Chicago. Those numbers sound like a very different group (and the Russell band was doing no travelling then), with no real clues to its identity, although it has been suggested that it might just possibly be Earl Hines and part of his Grand Terrace Ballroom band. But the important circumstantial point here is the strong indication that Oliver, having no band of his own, was being asked front groups wherever he was. And it's hardly likely that he had gone to Chicago merely to lend his name and not his talents to these records.
The final two sessions were made with a group he formed late in '29 and held together for about a year. It has much of the big-band Harlem sound, although considerably influenced by Oliver's tastes. The inclusion of Dave Nelson, whose style is amazingly like Joe's, provides a provocative long, brilliant trumpet solos: try identifying who takes which. The main clue comes in the final ensemble, with its two-trumpet teamwork reminiscent of Oliver's earlier triumphs; listening to the lead horn here should how which sound is the King's and which the imitator's.
A great many other jazzmen have patterned themselves on Oliver, and have learned much from his remarkable horn. But in the years that followed, he ran into bad luck and bad health, until his heart gave out in 1938. His grave has never had headstone. But music like this points up the accuracy of a comment Louis Armstrong made a few years ago, which can certainly serve as an epitaph. "Joe Oliver," his protege said, "is still King."
A Discographical Note for Collectors.
The original master numbers of these recordings (all preceded by the letters “BVB”) are, in the order in which they appear here: on Side 1 – 49650-2, 4961-1, 49649-3, 49649-4; on Side 2 – 50523-1, 50525-2, 56757-2, 58340-1. Both ‘takes’ of Freakish Light were made on Feb. 1, 1929, as remarkes of a version cut on Jan. 16.
HARLEM IN THE TWENTIES,
VOLUME 1: THE MISSOURIANS
R. Q. Dickerson, Lamar Wright (tp) De Priest Wheeler (tb) George Scott, William Blue (cl, as) Andrew Brown (ts)
Earres Prince (p) Charley Stamps (bj) Jimmy Smith (tu) Leroy Maxet (drs)
New York; June 3, 1929
(all receded by the letters “BVE”)
53802-2 Market Street Stomp (53802-2) Vic 38067 “X” LVA-3020 (A-1)
53803-2 Ozark Mountain Blues (53803-2) Vic 38071 - (A-4)
R. Q. Dickerson, Lamar Wright (tp) De Priest Wheeler (tb) George Scott, William Blue (cl, as) Andrew Brown (ts) Earres Prince (p) Charley Stamps (bj) Jimmy Smith (tu) Leroy Maxet (drs)
New York; August 1, 1929
(all receded by the letters “BVE”)
53971-2 I’ve Got Someone Vic 38103 “X” LVA-3020 (A-3)
53972-2 400 Hop Vic 38084 - (B-3)
53973-3 Vine Street Drag Vic 38103 - (B-4)
53974-2 Scotty Blues Vic 38084 - (B-2)
R. Q. Dickerson, Lamar Wright (tp) De Priest Wheeler (tb) Walter Thomas (cl, as, brs) Andrew Brown (ts)
Earres Prince (p) Charley Stamps (bj) Jimmy Smith (tu) Leroy Maxet (drs)
New York; February 17, 1930
(all receded by the letters “BVE”)
59174-2 Swingin’ Dem Cats Vic 38145 “X” LVA-3020 (B-1)
59176-2 Prohibition Blues Vic 38120 - (A-2)
NOTE:“X” LVA-3020 “Harlem in the Twenties, Volume 1: The MISSOURIANS” reproduced and
notes written by Bill Grauer Jr., and Orrin Keepnews. cover: no information.
The band heard here can most readily be identified as the immediate predecessor of Cab Calloway's Orchestra. But as the sound that comes searing forth should demonstrate, too much emphasis on its later connection with the hi-de-ho singer and his jive would give the wrong impression.
For his is you, driving jazz - played by a group that had come out of the Midwest some five years before, but that still retained the unique musical flavor of that area. The members had made a name for themselves in Harlem (although that name, as will be explained, was not the one under which they made these records) and their music was obviously influenced by the jazz atmosphere that prevailed in uptown New York in the late 1920s. Nevertheless, they were, musically, still very much Missourians.
In large measure this can be attributed to the stability of their line-up. In five years there had been an unusual absence of change, the principal additions being Lamar Wright and Walter Thomas. Wright was from their native state and veteran of the Benny Moten band, which surely qualified him for membership in this group. For Moten's Kansas City Orchestra had been their principal early influence. The fact the most of these men were from St. Louis prevents the use of the standard label of "Kansas City jazz," but their music has a quality most reminiscent of Moten's and it seems from much the same background. St. Louis was, if anything, more of a riverboat town than Kansas City at the start of the '20s, and the music of the New Orleans jazzmen who played on those excursion steamers clearly had a strong effect on these young Missourians.
They were primarily a "show" band, rather than a dance orchestra, and had begun by playing the vaudeville circuits. Chicago, and its Balaban and Katz theaters, provided their first successes. They worked their way in the direction of New York, and it was always their intention to have a try at the big town. Late in 1924, when they were playing in the Buffalo area, there came a call to audition for the Cotton Club. Andrew Brown, who played tenor with the band from the start and on through most of the Calloway period, and who has provided much of the background information for these notes, still recalls their hesitation in accepting. They were a cooperatively run outfit, and it was only after determining that they had enough cash between them to hold out for a possibly fruitless week in New York that they decided to try it. They got the job, of course, and became the first group to be known as "The Cotton Club Orchestra," playing there as part of the show for a full two years. They left only in the Fall of 1927, when the management brought in a band led by young Duke Ellington.
They took to the road again, first with the road company of the Ethel Waters show,
Africana, then in theaters and briefly at a famous Chicago jazz club, the Dreamland Cafe. Late in 1928 they were back in New York and much in demand at such celebrated spots as the Savoy and the Alhambra. It was at this time that they first adopted the "Missourian" name: on the road they had continued to be billed as the Cotton Club Orchestra, but back in Harlem this was too confusing, and they took on their new name for the Savoy engagement. Early in 1930 they were back in the Cotton Club (replacing Ellington, incidentally) and it was at about this time that Calloway took over. The addition of Cab, who had been doing a single act until then, was apparently a booking agent's inspiration and it was obviously a sound idea. For, fronted by the scat singer, they moved into a whole new career.
Despite a measure of success and steady work, the band heard on records was an eager young group. Brown recalls that some of them were still learning their instruments and all of them were, in his words, "out for blood." Their jazz is the kind you get when a band is still alertly striving to establish itself and earn a reputation. This doesn't imply that they were pressing or tense: They were capable of the show, relaxed effects of Scotty Blues and Prohibition Blues as well as the racing pace of Market Street Stomp, although Brown refers to the two blues as indication that they had passed beyond some of their anxiousness into what might be called comparative "Coolness." He has also noted that the retention of their original Midwestern sound was largely intentional, although given as assist by their travels, which kept them from falling too much under the Harlem influence. They wanted to be identifiably different from other New York groups; they achieved that goal by sticking to their looser variation of a Motenesque sound, with heavy emphasis on their solid feeling for the blues.
Andy Brown has also cleared up some minor confusions regarding personnel. Most of the solo trumpet work here belongs to R. Q. Dickerson, although the occasional high- note passages are by Lamar Wright. It had long been thought that Reuben Reeves, who was featured in the early Calloway days, played on some of these records; actually, he joined the group near the end of its Missourian period, but apparently not in time for these record dates. Both men had a unique vibrato and sharply surging tone that were "typically Kansas City" - men who played with both say that only Reeves' somewhat "heavier" tone serves to distinguish between them. Walter Thomas, who joined the band for the last of the three sessions from which these eight numbers are selected - he takes the alto chorus on Prohibition - coincidentally bore the same name as an early band member who had died by this time, all of which may well have confused discographers a bit.