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Records Reviews -1
Louis Armstrong – Milestones of a jazz legend – box set of 10 (ten!) CDs containing the remastered music from 18 original LPs. Document ref LC – 12281.
I bought this collection for the session that Louis did with the New Orleans band the “Dukes of Dixieland” which – when I first heard it shortly after its original release – I didn’t then like. Now hearing it again realise that I was wrong! It’s great, Louis is on sparkling form and obviously enjoys playing with the energetic and highly talented local guys. This remarkable box-set is worth buying if only for that session but there are seventeen very fine others! What amazing value at around £17 in the UK. Here’s a list of a few of the other albums included – Satchmo Sings, Satchmo Serenades, Louis Armstrong plays W. C. Handy, Louis Armstrong ands Ella Fitzgerald (that’s anall-time classic of great joyful songs), Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong plays King Oliver, Louis Armstrong Sings the Blues – and of course many more. Verdict – superb music and recording quality – amazing price. A collection absolute ”must” – BH June 2020.
Vintage Jazz Rarities 1924 – 1936 from the John R.T. Davies Archives. Upbeat ref URCD 304.
Here are twenty important but obscure tracks of classic jazz dating from 1924 to the 1960s- that’s not unusual I know but…… I should explain what this CD is – when working with John R.T. in the 1950sand visiting his studio in Burnham, Buckinghamshire I commented on his huge collection of 78rpm records which he told me was even then some 8,000 strong, He was an avid collector of classic jazz, dance music and music hall artists like the legendary Scot Harry Lauder. He had records dating back to the late 1800s and as up to date as yesterday. The collection came into its own in the 1970s when record companies began wanting to release CD compilations of classic material from way back. And who had the largest and best archive in the UK? – R.T.Davies of course. So we began to be able to collect on CD all the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Seven, the best of Count Basie, Duke Ellington classics, the classic Eddie Condon Dixieland tracks from the 1930s and 1940s and soon through all the jazz classics. And John also produced many non-jazz collections. They are all still available and popular. Before he died from an incurable stomach problem John produced a limited edition CD of some of the rarest gems from his collection for his label Jazz Oracle – these he gave to friends and labelled “A Gift from the President”. His wife Sue gave me one after he passed. Now however jazz historian, trombonist and broadcaster Mike Pointon has produced a special edition of many of those tracks for public release. It’s on the Upbeat label and well worth adding to collections which have a historic jazz ingredient. There are superb rarities from Fletcher Henderson, Red McKenzie, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, King Oliver, Benny Carter and many more. The final two tracks are poignant they have John R.T. playing with two all-star groups – let’s not forget that as a musician he was a co-founder of the Crane River Jazz Band and a star of man others – and one of those final tracks “Peg O’ My Heart” is maybe the most emotional musical love poem on record – it’s a classic. You will enjoy this CD. BH June 2020.
Henry Red Allen and his New York Orchestra 1929-1930 – Two CDs – 43 tracks remastered by John R.T. Davies – JSP Records JSP4243.
I’ve acquired this for the library as I discovered that the copy I had that contained selected highlights – had corrupted itself and was no longer playable – it was though a copy made back in the 1960s and copies you should be warned – do not last indefinitely. The classic tracks like Feeling Drowsy, Patrol wagon blues, Biffly blues, Swing out – and others are all here on the two CDs also are tracks that Allen made with the fine vocalist Victoria Spivey. If the name Henry Red Allen is new to you, let me just explain that in his time he was second only to Louis Armstrong as a celebrated hot jazz trumpet soloist. Hear tracks like Biffly Blues and you’ll see what I mean. Allen was within inches of being as huge as Louis but just lacked that last small bit of improvisational genius which Louis had in spades. Sadly in later years Allen resorted to over blowing and raucous “blasting” to make-up for his last of musical imagination. But – in his day which was the 1920s – he was a “king” and that makes these two CDs a library”must”. BH June 2020.
Ken Colyer The Classic Years Vol. 2 Upbeat URCD189
Oh, what a joy to be given this CD to review. From the opening bars of ‘Happy Wanderer’, I was back in that booming Edwardian ballroom that was the centre piece of the infamous Eel Pie Hotel that was located on an island in the middle of the Thames at Twickenham, and where this session was originally recorded in 1957. The island could only be reached over a narrow footbridge that was guarded by two eccentric old ladies who demanded payment to cross and it was here that I was first drawn into wonderful world of traditional jazz – a music that somehow epitomised the spirit of post-war Britain when us baby-boomers were discovering what it was to cut loose from the drabness of the times.
The Colyer band was a regular feature at Eel Pie throughout the’50’s and 60’s and the line-up here with the guv’ner on trumpet, Ian Wheeler playing clarinet, Mac Duncan on trombone, John Bastable, banjo, with Colin Bowden and Ron Ward on drums and bass, was considered by many fans to be one of Colyer’s best. The man himself apparently loved playing on the Island, and he is quoted as saying that the Eel Pie Hotel was as close as anyone would get in England to the atmosphere of venues in New Orleans. Having heard many records made in the Preservation Hall of that great city I heartily agree.
This fine Upbeat release contains 20 tracks that show the band at its best, and if the sound (and sometimes, it has to be admitted, the playing too) is sometimes rough and ready, it only reflects the smoke-filled and cavernous dance hall with its dark alcoves and dangerously sprung dance floor where this music was created. Colyer was always committed to authenticity in the way he approached the playing of New Orleans jazz and for my money this is one of the band’s most genuine live recordings. Treat yourself to this fine Upbeat and just see if you can stop your feet tapping and even enjoy a little jazz jig around the kitchen table. Hundreds of us fans did just that on many a Saturday night on Eel Pie Island. Dave Puddy June 2020 – PS from BH – “the music on this CD is some of the most exciting I have heard for years – it’s a classic”.
Jacques Gauthe in New Orleans – Jacques Gauthe – clarinet and soprano sax, Reide Kaiser – piano, Emil Mark – banjo, Colin Bray – string bass, Taff Lloyd – drums. Jazz Crusade ref JCCD 32067 – available from Upbeat Records.
This CD is a superb record of a delightful ”salon” type session recorded in New Orleans by the late Big Bill Bissonnette. The main man here is of course expatriot Frenchman Jacques Gauthe – a celebrated chef by profession – who so loved New Orleans jazz and the playing of his hero Sidney Bechet that he emigrated to the city and integrated. Jacques was already of course a fine musician but somehow – being in the city – honed his skill to the point that he was acknowledged as a star. He led his own “Half Fast” marching band and played with many locals becoming something of an icon. This excellent session is a fine memento of the man who thank-goodness didn’t blow the insides out of his instrument as did his hero, so we get to hear his fine sense of improvisation and delicate handling of the blues. It’s glorious stuff and I’ll try to find a clip of him to follow this review so you can hear for yourselves. BH May 2020
Barnes-Bocage Big Five 1954 – American Music CD ref AMCD-141 – the five in question here are trumpet man Peter Bocage, clarinettist Emile Barnes, guitarist Homer Eugene, bassist Eddie Dawson and drummer Albert Jiles.
On first acquaintance with this session I thought it was recorded at an intimate “salon” type gig in someone’s home – but then to my delight discovered that this session took place in the legendary San Jacinto hall – a gem of a venue to any New Orleans jazz afficionado. This venerable hall had in its time heard some of the greatest jazz of all time. The session’s organisers had intended it to be private but – by leaving the doors open – they acquired a small but enthusiastic audience whose presence it’s soon obvious inspired our five. It’s superb unpretentious small dance hall music of the 1920s and 1930s with no histrionics, no ”blasting”, no race-track tempos, just gentle always fascinating music. Bocage is as ever the high-skilled ”professor” with a fine tone and subtle delivery but always with an innate swing that’s highly dance infectious. “Mile” Barnes plays some of the most understated clarinet I’ve heard since classic period Pee Wee Russell. It’s poetic, at times seemingly halting but always so original and unusual. The rhythm section is one of the most gently swinging and subtle – so excellent it’s work should be played to all our young jazzmen as an object lesson in how to create heat and drive without ever overshadowing the front line. This is a superb recording – a rare and precious relic of a golden bygone era. BH 2/20
Muggsy Spanier Rare and Unissued Recordings 1941-1952
Double CD with two extensive booklets of notes and discography.
Muggsy Spanier’s various bands and small groups contributed some of the greatest recordings in jazz – particularly those known as the ”Great Sixteen” – sixteen tracks! by his ”Ragtime Band”. Within this group of somewhat disparate sessions you can hear all the ingredients that made those sessions so great. They’re fiery at times, reflective at others but above all totally sincere. There’s a warmth to everything that Muggsy and his men do – an honesty that shines through. The wonderful tracks included here span all the emotions and are superbly worthwhile. Included with the two CDs are two excellent booklets of notes. These two should be in every serious collection. BH 1/20.
The Jack Teagarden Sextet – “Club Hangover Broadcasts April 1954” – double CD – Arbors ref ARCD 19150-51.
This is an excellent memento of a first class Teagarden band which we know was delighted to be at Club Hangover in San Francisco for a few weeks rather than being “on the road” playing a different venue every night. Featured with Teagarden are new (for that time period) discovery Jackie Coon on trumpet, Jay St.John – clarinet, Kas Malone – bass, Norma Teagarden (Jack’s sister) playing some very fine piano and Ray Bauduc – drums. Jack had been everywhere – big bands, small groups , partnering Louis in the first Armstrong All Stars and at the time of these broadcasts was one of the greatest. Fortunately for us club proprietor “Doc” Dougherty taped the shows in the club’s basement and that’s how we’re able to hear some classic easy-going, world class Dixieland from a time-warp 1954. It’s also fun to hear the two interval pianists Lil Hardin Amstrong and Don Ewell – both were on scintillating form and it’s fun to hear Lil’ for example play Morton’s “The Pearls”. Verdict on the two CDs – buy them while you can they’re just super and won’t be around for very long. BH – November 2019.
The Harry Allen – Joe Cohn Quartet – “Guys & Dolls” – Arbors ARCD19354.
With Harry Allen – tenor sax, Joe Cohn – guitar, Joel Forbes – bass, Chuck Riggs – drums. Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Ericksomn – vocals.
This is a hard album to write about because it combines jazzy show biz type vocals – excellent ones! – with very fine jazz and normally I don’t go for show-bizzy type vocals! So – I’m going to cheat by quoting what Michael Steinman – a professor of English at Nassau Community College and writer for many jazz publications – says of the album!. “These sessions”- he writes – “were a triumph of sounds, of teamwork, of joyous musicality. Savor the gratifying timbres of instrument and voice: the croon of Harry’s tenor, the seductive rasp of Eddie’s voice, the creamy texture of Becky’s, the cello-like magenta of Joel’s bass, Joe’s transluscent chords, the ocean swell of Chuck’\s snare drum rolls. Here Loesser is More,as this sextet revels in buoyant improvising on familiar but surprisingly rewarding melodies.” It’s a fine very listenable set of tracks that I think you’ll enjoy.
Bucky Pizzarelli with John Bunch and Jay Leonhart – Manhattan Swing – a visit with the Duke. Arbors ARCD19226.
A superbly relaxed little jam session with Bucky on superb form – in fact all three are. This is like having great jazzmen in your living room – priceless.
Jackie Coon – the joys of New Orleans. With Rick Fay – reeds, Connie Jones – cornet, Tim Gelden – trombone, Bib Molinelli – piano, John Loupe – bass, Charlie Lodice – drums, Richard Taylor – bass, Matt Perrine – sousaphone. ARBORS ARCD19119.
This excellent fourteen track CD was made in New Orleans in the wake of the Katrina hurricane disaster with all the proceeds from its sale going the Jazz Foundation of America’s musician’s hurricane relief fund. In their selection of tracks the guys here include local standards like “Winin’ Boy” and “Mahogany Hall Stomp” together with specials like “the Second Line” and “Joe Avery’s Piece”. It’s all great fun with both superb solos and ensembles helping the thing swing along. Frankly I was very surprised at just how goodthis all is having heard very little of these guys prior to this CD. It’s an ear-opener – a fine one too.
The Golden Age of Swing – Volume One – “20 Greatest Hits” featuring Lionel Hampton, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Barnet, Billie Holiday, Bob Crosby, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa and many more. Horatio Nelson Records ref DBMCD 3001.
I (BH) found this super CD listed in Avid Records Jazz listings along with two other volumes in this series – Volumes Four and Five which I’ll detail a little later. It appears though that there are Five in all – but the unlisted by Avid ones – Two and Three – can be found elsewhere. I found them offered on Ebay so bought them to make up the set.
Superbly re-mastered, the twenty tracks here are a treasure trove of great sides from the golden era of the “big bands”; those bands spawned by the social dancing craze of the late 1930s and into the 1940s. They usually started their lives as eight and nine men organisations but box-office and recording sales success enabled most to expand to twelve to eighteen men making them real powerful truly “Big Bands”. And they employed highly skilled arrangers, specialists and often bandleaders themselves, who could write clever orchestrations demonstrating the superb dynamics that became available with such large groupings – often including star soloists like trumpeter Harry James, drummer Gene Krupa, trombonist Tommy Dorsey and so on. There’s great musical excitement in these classic tracks – numbers like Stan Kenton’s foot stomping “Eager Beaver” and Bob Crosby’s exciting “South Rampart Street Parade” and not forgetting of course the fabulous rabble-rousing “Flying Home” by Lionel Hampton. At around £6 a real bargain.
The Golden Age of Swing Vol 2 – “The Late Night Album” – including tracks by Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Dick Haymes, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, John Kirby, Count Basie and many more. Horatio Nelson Records ref DBMCD 3002.
And here are twenty four more classics but in a more mellow late-night-ish mood like Lee Wiley’s soulful “You took advantage of me” and Bunny Berigan’s soul searing classic “I can’t get started”. Then there’s Glenn Miller’s classic “Sunrise Serenade”, Benny Goodman’s “Body and Soul” and more. Great stuff especially for late night seductions – ah I remember those – just…….
The Golden Age of Swing Volume 3 – “The Great Singers” – Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Anita O’Day, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer and lots more. Horatio Nelson Records ref DBMCD 3003
Twenty five more superb tracks beautifully remastered to produce really crisp what sounds like full frequency range recordings – quite unlike many reissues that have muffled-type sounds that come from poorly remastered collections. There are some well remembered hits from the past here like “Cow Cow Boogie”, “At Last”, “Stardust”, “Juke Box Saturday Night” and Billie Holiday’s soul-searching “The Man I Love” – classic tracks.
The Golden Age of Swing Volume 4 – “Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey” – twenty three tracks of the emerging Frank Sinatra with the great Tommy Dorsey band, the Pied Pipers, Connie Haines, Jo Stafford and the Sentimentalists. Horatio Nelson Records ref DBMCD 3004.
There are twenty three tracks of amazing nostalgia here – tracks that get lots of air-play even today – like “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “Fools Rush In”, “Stardust” “Without a Song” and who could forget Sinatra’s plaintive “This love of Mine”?
The Golden Age of Swing Volume 5 – “The Jive Album” – Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Harry James, Erskine Hawkins, Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, Fletcher Henderson, Jay McShann and several more. Twenty three tracks. Horatio Nelson Records ref DBMCD 34005.
What can I say? Except that this is some of the great infectious American music that helped turn me onto jazz and swing in the 1940s and onwards. These are classic tracks that we should all have in our collections – like Glenn Miller’s wonderful “Caribbean Clipper”, “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” by Count Basie, Gene Krupa with Anita O’Day’s “Thanks for the Boogie Ride”, Erskine Hawkins “Tuxedo Junction” – and that’s just a sample. Wonderful wonderful, classic foot stomping jazz. BH – May 2019.
The Ultimate Jazz Archive – a collection of four-CD sets of classic jazz and blues. There are 42 sets in all – 168 CDs. Released by Membran Music. (Two examples are pictured above)
I came across my first example of this series in the “sale” bin of a local record shop. Curious about the series, one thing followed another and more sets joined the collection. As they did and the quality appeared pretty consistent I researched the series. Unwilling to buy them at full price – imagine that could amount to over £1,000 – all that I’ve acquired have been “used” or “pre-owned” as is the new name for this sort of thing. But the quality has been excellent. I’ve found no flaws and all so far play OK. A few of the cases have had problems where the projecting “tines” that grip the centre holes of CDs have proved too brittle and prone to snapping. These cases I’ve replaced with cheap alternatives found on Amazon. I can give you the address of the supplier if you wish.
Now to the nitty-gritty; the detail that makes these sets of four CDs so attractive. Each set features four artists – one CD each. All the tracks appear to have come from LPs or 78s and have been re-mastered in good quality. And they’re all classic in their way which means that within this series you have a virtual history of jazz and blues. For me the attraction is that although my collection of over 2,500 CDs contains a virtual history of jazz there are many artists and tracks that are not included – but many of those are in this collection. Ok so there are going to be duplications – I know that – but I’d rather have that than miss “magic” tracks I might otherwise have missed. And the work of many artists is included here who have not been favoured with their work appearing in re-issue LPs or CDs – so now we get to have them. Ed Hall’s little band from the classic Blue Note label for example, Barney Bigard’s small band, Bobby Hackett with George Brunis and Pee Wee Russell. There are hundreds of great otherwise unavailable sessions here – Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, Coleman Hawkins small groups with men like J.C Higginbotham, Art Tatum’s Swingsters, Muggsy Spanier, Bud Freeman, Bessie Smith, Kid Ory, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong – the whole of jazz is here and some of it you won’t already have. Much of it I’ve been buying “pre-owned” and rarely paying more than £3 to £5 per set of four CDs. That must be one of the bargains of the year. It’s all there for you – all you have to do is search…..
Footnote – each set of four CDs contains a discographical booklet detailing who’s on each track, it’s length (useful for budding DJs!), the date of recording and its location. And as you look through the whole series you find that each group of CDs represents a time slot in our music’s evolution. Whoever created this series has done a monumentally brilliant job. To summarise – within this set of 42 sets of four there are therefore 168 CDs containing 3179 tracks of music dating from 1899 to 1956 together (if you buy the set) with two booklets each with 180 pages of artist biographies. Amazing. BH 4/04/18
Duke Ellington – at Fargo – North Dakota 1940 – Special 60th anniversary edition. Storyville Records ref 103 8435.
The fact that this very rare amateur recording of an Ellington concert even exists is down to two enthusiasts Jack Towers and Bob Burris. North Dakota residents they had acquired a portable disc recorder and hearing that Duke’s band was due to play a local dance asked the band’s agent “could they record it”. The office said “yes” but “get Duke’s agreement on the night”. The man himself not only agreed but helped the two site their machine and three microphones.
The result is two CDs of documentary recording that are a super piece
of jazz “verite”. It’s all here, Duke’s announcements, his explanations to
the audience of just how the band would play the gig, his exhortations,
grunts and exclamations as he demonstrates that he’s not only the
leader and main composer of the stuff being played but a very
enthusiastic jazz band leader too.
It’s super stuff. Part of the show is broadcast by a local radio station and you get the announcements for that too. In the band many of the great stars – Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance (his first gig with the band after he joined to replace Cootie Williams who had gone to the Benny Goodman orchestra), Rex Stewart, Juan Tizol who is announced as playing valve trombone – news to me!, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, Jimmy Blanton and more – it’s a hell of a line-up. The recording quality is a little below but rather than spoiling the enjoyment this adds to the honesty of the whole thing. It’s great to feel almost a part of this great band at its best – a real honour. Me it’s a Duke “must”. BH – 07-03-19.
PS – the same concert bar one track is also available in the Jazz Classics label but the Storyville release has a far superior booklet that provides a much superior background to the event.
Baby Dodds Trio – Jazz a La Creole – Jazzology GHB label ref BCD-50.
First released by Rudi Blesh and his wife Harriet Janis on their pioneering Circle label in the 1950s as both 78s and LPs, these are wonderful tracks both as important historic documents and also because they are absolutely superb musically.
For the record here’s Dodd’s Wikipedia initial biog – there’s lots more there – too much for our space here so – Warren “Baby” Dodds (December 24, 1898 – February 14, 1959) was a jazz drummer born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is regarded as one of the best jazz drummers of the pre-big band era, and one of the most important early jazz drummers. He varied his drum patterns with accents and flourishes, and he generally kept the beat with the bass drum while playing buzz rolls on the snare. Some of his early influences included Louis Cottrell, Sr., Harry Zeno, Henry Martin, and Tubby Hall. Dodds was among the first drummers to be recorded who improvised while performing.
He was of course – along with clarinettist brother Johnny – a founding member of the wonderful King Oliver Creole Jazz Band and from those days onwards was on heard almost anywhere good jazz was recorded – like on the wonderful Louis Armstrong Hot Seven sides.
And he was still going strong in the 1940s as evidenced by these sides. Several were recorded to demonstrate his drum techniques and these are a super insight into Dodds delicate but forceful technique that underpinned so many classic recordings. And then we hear him with several trios, quartets and quintets partnered effectively in the main with the delicate almost poetic sounds of Creole New Orleanian clarinettist Albert Nicholas together with a variety of rhythm men like Danny Barker on guitar and the great Pops Foster on bass. It all adds up to a superb set of highly listenable and enjoyable tracks that are a very valuable part of classic jazz history. Yes. BH 20-02-19
The Best of George Lewis – 11943-1964 – two CD set on the Jazzology group label GHB – ref BCD-559-560.
Produced by the highly respected jazz musician and historian Lars Edegran these two CDs are extracted from tracks recorded in period by Bill Russell for his American Music label and by a host of others like Tom Bethell, Joe Mares (pronounced Marays) and Dr. Edmond Souchon. Included here therefore are not only great classic tracks like the super hot quintet version of “Ice Cream” and the full band with Kid Howard on trumpet’s amazing “Climax Rag” of 1943 but also obscure recordings like the Paradox label LP of 1950 tracks like “Bugle Boy March”. There’s tons of great stuff here – lots that it would be otherwise very hard to locate – and of course there are a few duplications with stuff we have already. But this fine spread of tracks which vary from trios, quartets and full bands is still very worthwhile – first because it’s a wonderful panorama of the whole life of George – but also for the many tracks that are so rare and as far as we know not available anywhere else. Buy it – now!. BH 19-02-19
Paramount Chicago Jazz Bands 1923-1928. 20 Tracks by King OLIVER’S Jazz Band, Charles Pierce orchestra, Ollie Powers Harmony Syncopaters, Lovie Austin & her Blues Serenaders, Preston Jackson & His Uptown Band, the Dixie Four, Richard M. Jones & his Jazz Wizards. Black Swan BSCD-38 available from Jazzology – and surprisingly Amazon!).
This is a wonderful 20-track CD of lovingly restored historically important recordings from the Paramount label of the 1920s. Richard Bird of the Audiophile Studios in New Orleans did the brilliant restorations here and they are quite superb. The clarity of sound is of almost modern quality and he’s managed to remove most of the surface noise from the original 78rpm discs without detracting from the music. And the music itself is well worth buying this CD for. For example we not only get five newly restored examples of Louis Armstrong with the King Oliver band but among these are several “alternate” takes – i.e. second versions. And then there are the tracks that feature legendary New Orleans trumpet man Tommy Ladnier, several with another trumpet legend Shirley Clay and even a couple of tracks with a nacent Muggsy Spanier better known as a “Dixielander”. Then there are superb contributions by clarinet legends Jimmy Noone and Frank Teschmaker, Preston Jackson’s great trombone, Jimmy Blythe’s amazing piano and much more. This is an important CD making a major contribution to recorded jazz history.
Bunk Johnson “Rare & Unissued Masters Volume One 1943 – 1945 – American Music AMCD-139.
Bunk Johnson “Rare & Unissued Masters Volume Two 1943 – 1946 – American Music AMCD-140.
(sorry we can’t find a pic of the other CD AMCD-140!)
Available from Jazzology in New Orleans by mail order – (email@example.com)
When in the 1940s a group of jazz enthusiasts in the USA heard that in Louisiana there was one of the old jazz pioneers still living but unable to play, they decided to do something about it. Raising funds to help the new discovery they provided him with a new trumpet and arranged for Leonard Bechet – Sidney’s brother and a leading New Orleans dental surgeon – to make him a new set of teeth – the old guy’s had rotted away. Full of doubt they arranged to meet this man who claimed to have played with Buddy Bolden and taught Louis Armstrong. To their surprise and delight he could indeed “stomp me some” as he’d claimed in a letter – and later we learned he had played with Bolden but Louis denied having been taught anything by him. And – he had a fund of tunes the depth and spread of which left his listeners almost speechless. He recorded a few tunes with pianist Bertha Gonsoulin and then in New Orleans recorded these sides with what he later disparagingly referred to as “temporary” musicians. That condemnation, despite the fact that those sides are now recognised as pivotal jazz history. The band without Bunk Johnson – for he was the pioneer they’d helped back to his musical feet – later went on to become the world famous George Lewis Ragtime Band who themselves made jazz history.
You can read more about Bunk’s amazing rediscovery and subsequent controversial playing career in the several books focussed on him, but our subject here is the first significant recordings he made after that rediscovery. He’s heard here first haltingly with pianist Bertha and then in New Orleans with a form of brass band, then with what became the George Lewis band and finally playing piano and then talking about himself and his career. Almost all these tracks are previously unreleased and are some of the most exciting hot jazz I have ever heard. They are truly epic and set the scene for the jazz renaissance that continues to this day. The style is archaic but classic – genuinely original – spine tingly brilliant. And Bunk is revealed as one of the finest improvisers jazz has ever known. His ability to weave new melodies on the base chords of old tunes is quite staggering. He was indeed one of the greats and these CDs deserve to be in every collection worthy of the name. BH January 2019.
Live from the Manassas Jazz Festival 1969 and 1972. 1969 band – Bobby Hackett & Vic Dickenson with Maxine Sullivan, Wild Bill Davison, George Brunis, Tom Gwaltney, Eddie Condon, Bill Goodall, Cliff Leeman, Ellis Baker, 1972 band (The World’s Third Greatest Jazz Band!) – John thomas, George Palmer, Mason Thomas, Tom Niemann, Mary Erickson, John Roulet. Jazzology JCD-76.
As a lover of Eddie Condon bands playing live and all the work of cornetist Wild Bill Davison, this CD when listed was irresistible for me. And it lives up to its promise. The first band’s live session is excellent with Bobby Hackett on brilliant form, You can hear just why he was Louis Armstrong’s favourite – he’s both lyrical and hot – very reminiscent of the Beiderbecke era. And the others here too are all on good form with both trombonists in particular being excellent. Miss Sullivan’s work is a throwback to the 1930s but the excellent backing she gets here makes her contributions acceptable if not scintillating. The second band here jokily titled – The World’s Third Greatest Jazz Band – are worthy on this showing of challenging whoever the first two in the rankings are. All the participants – unknown to me – prove what a depth of fine Dixieland talent there is in the States but out of the spotlight! They are well worth the price of this CD alone and easily equal the efforts of their much starred “partners” in the Condon – Hackett band. Congratulations to Jazzology for releasing this gem. BH 19-9-118.
The clip below is from Manassas in a different year.
Tuba Skinny “Nigel’s Dream” – fourteen track CD on the band’s own label – available by mail order from the band’s web site – tubaskinny.com – or from the Louisiana Music Factory
The Tuba Skinny band was formed in 2009 and is now very much part of the international jazz scene. Although based in New Orleans, this year they also played in France and I believe several Scandinavian countries. As yet no-one has managed to get them to the UK which is sad but if we win the lottery we’ll do it! The band needs a little explaining. They’re a “street” band in that most of the year they play on New Orleans streets – frequently Royal Street in the French Quarter – but also occasionally indoors. The line up is somewhat different. For a start there are ten of them including vocalist – bass drummer Erika Lewis. Then there are two guitarists – one playing a “National” resonator which gives a “big” sound, a six string banjo man, washboard player, sousaphone, cornet, trombone, clarinet doubling sax and occasionally another sax man “sitting in”. It’s a big band with a big sound. The leader is a lady – the very attractive Shaye Cohn, granddaughter of tenor saxman Al Cohn. She’s very accomplished and a fine leader in a relaxed but positive understated manner. The band plays New Orleans jazz – a little like – in fact very like any one of the great Ken Colyer bands. In other words this is a very “honest” band. And leader Shaye is very much like Ken – understated but positive in manner and always giving a strong sometimes lyrical lead. Make no mistake this is a great band – an important one for our music because they’re maintaining and growing the real jazz as evidenced on this their latest CD. I’m not going to try to describe it – just hear one of their You-Tube tracks like the one below and you’ll know what you’re getting – phenomenal real 2018 New Orleans jazz – not a tourist pastiche. BH 13-09-18
Frog Spawn – “the fourth batch of red hot rarities, alternate takes, sleepers and unissued tests”. Frog Records DGF 85.
As well as writing about this super new collection of rare, unissued and test tracks I want to include a piece about the Frog Records quite remarkable story – and when reading it remember that in the 1950s I (BH) worked closely with John R. T Davies and others not only recording new (then!) artists like Acker Bilk – but also collecting and researching rare 78rpm records much in thr manner of the guys that inhabit this label.
For the moment however let’s say that this new collection of twenty six fine tracks, beautifully restored, contains some real gems. Tracks like the Friars Society Orchestra (New Orleans Rhythm Kings) “Livery Stable Blues” for the Paramount label, Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra’s “Missouri Wobble” test for the Victor label and Duke Ellington’s 1927 Victor label test of “Washington Wobble” – all these priceless rarities are typical of the work this label does. They find the unfindable (!), restore it and then include these findings in great sounding new CDs. And – for the last few years – they also published a yearbook-annual which itself contains yet another CD of great jazz and blues. So – for the moment do your collection and your ears a favour and buy this great CD which also has tracks by the classic early Fletcher Henderson orchestra, Jimmy O’Bryant’s Washboard Band, Tiny Parham and many more. Then you’ll be ready to peruse the label’s web site and expand your collection further! (BH 25-6-18)
Now however here’s the Frog Records story…….
Frog Records label was formed in 1994 by jazz collector/enthusiast David French and a group of collector friends hunting down the finest quality original recordings from around the world (mostly USA).
Two of the world’s leading sound restorers Charlie Crump and John R.T. Davies contributed greatly to the ‘second-to-none’ reputation that the label enjoys.
In 2004, the company was transferred to Paul Swinton who had already been responsible for the production and involvement in hundreds of reissues of vintage blues, jazz & other American roots music, but had never owned his own label.
New releases under his leadership run from Sam Lanin and the Memphis Jug Band to Johnny Dodds & The Washingtonians. Also in 2010 Frog introduced the (almost) yearly Frog Blues & Jazz Annual and by applying the same excellence and quality to the printed page that was being lavished on the CD catalogue, the Annuals quickly gained an almost legendary status with discerning jazz & blues collectors & critics throughout the world.
TODAY & THE FUTURE
Most of David French’s original team and contributors remain as part of the Frog Records ‘family’ today.
The goals and the label’s aspirations remain the same. Under the directorship of Paul Swinton with Frog’s H.Q. based in Fleet, Hampshire in Southern England, with a world-wide circle of 78rpm collectors and using the most sophisticated & up-to-date sound technology, we continue to produce the finest Jazz, Jug Band & Blues C.D. reissues that can be heard.
We are proud to say that most discriminating classic jazz listeners regard Frog as THE leading American roots reissue label and with upcoming plans for more rare and hot jazz issues, another Frog Blues & Jazz Annual, plus an exciting new dedicated blues subsidiary label “FROG TRUTONE“ we truly intend to ‘keep the flags flying’.
We are always pleased to hear from customers and welcome the chance to answer questions and discuss the magnificent music that we all love. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FROG TEAM September 2012
Frog Records was formed in 1994 by East London Jazz collector/enthusiast David French. The first release, Thomas Morris (DGF 1) was put together by French and a dedicated group of collector friends and gained enough favourable reviews and sales to warrant further issues.
Frog began working closely with what was generally acknowledged as two of the world’s leading sound restorers in Charlie Crump and John R.T. Davies and their exceptional work contributed greatly to the ‘second-to-none’ reputation that the label began to enjoy. The label went from strength to strength reaching to over half a dozen new releases per year that would include the critically acclaimed multi volumes and ‘complete’ recordings of Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orch., McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and the ‘Empress of the Blues’ Bessie Smith amongst others.
Tragically, Frog’s owner David French suffered a severe heart attack and died in early 2004, leaving his partner, ex actress Dawn Leppard, to expertly complete all the ‘works in progress’ but she soon realised that the mantle should be handed on to someone who could continue the high standard of new releases.
Her first choice was today’s owner, Paul Swinton, who at that time had already been responsible for the production and involvement in hundreds of reissues of vintage blues, jazz & other American roots music, but who had never owned his own label. Swinton enthusiastically ‘took over’ the running of Frog Records and incorporated the label as a limited company in November 2004.
New releases under his leadership ran from Sam Lanin and the Memphis Jug Band to Johnny Dodds & The Washingtonians. Also, under his editorship in 2010, Frog introduced the (almost) yearly Frog Blues & Jazz Annual and by applying the same excellence and quality to the printed page that was being lavished on the CD catalogue, the Annuals quickly gained an almost legendary status with discerning jazz & blues collectors & critics throughout the world.
TODAY & THE FUTURE
Most of David French’s original team and contributors remain as part of the Frog Records ‘family’ today.
The goals and the label’s aspirations remain the same. Under the directorship of Paul Swinton with Frog’s H.Q. based in Fleet, Hampshire in Southern England, with a world-wide circle of 78 collectors and using the most sophisticated & up-to-date sound technology, we continue to produce the finest Jazz, Jug Band & Blues C.D. reissues that can be heard.
We are proud to say that most discriminating classic jazz listeners regard Frog as THE leading American roots reissue label and with upcoming plans for more rare and hot jazz issues, another Frog Blues & Jazz Annual plus an exciting new dedicated blues subsidiary label FROG TRUTONE we truly intend to ‘keep the flags flying’.
We are always pleased to hear from customers and welcome the chance to answer questions and discuss the magnificent music that we all love.
The Best of – The clarinet Maestros. Julian Marc Stringle & Ken Peplowski. Merfangle CD ref MM817. Available from Julian’s web site but like me (BH) you could buy a copy from the man at one of his gigs a list of which is on his superb web site. www:julianmarcstringle.com
The CD is brilliant – full of both gentle and thrusting duets from these two who have to be the finest jazz clarinettists in the world today. They can be subtle, poetic, dramatic and at times lyrical and yet the two never clash, they always compliment each other and make beautiful music. They’re accompanied here by the super Craig Milverton trio with Craig on piano, Danny Suchodolski on bass and the multi-talented Nick Milward on drums. A wonderful CD that you’ll never grow tired of listening to.
Dick Hyman and Tom Pletcher (plus friends!) – “If Bix Played Gershwin” – Arbors CD ref ARCD12983.
The “friends” here include Dan Levinson on clarinet and C-melody saxophone, David Sager – trombone, Vince Giordano – bass saxophone, Bob Leary – guitar and banjo and Ed Metz Jr: on drums. Dick Hyman plays piano of course and Tim Pletcher cornet. The idea of the eighteen delightful tracks is that the band should recreate the sound and style of Bix’ groups like the Wolverines and see how it would all sound playing the compositions of George and Ira Gershwin and their collaborators like Buddy de Sylva. It’s a brilliant idea and for the most part it comes off producing an excellent listening experience. The brilliant arrangements are by Dick Hyman and they’re full of both invention and respect for the originals. If you sit back and suspend belief for an hour or so then you could imagine that you were indeed listening to Bix and His Gang or the Wolverines. Where it falls down slightly for me is that Tom Pletcher doesn’t quite capture the silvery purity and fire of Bix and the tunes don’t match up to the best that Bix recorded in his classic period. But for all that this is a superb collection with standout contributions by Dan Levinson on C-melody sax and the rumbustuous bass sax of Vince Giordano. I’d buy it for those two alone – and Hyman’s great piano work – oh go on – all of them!
The Warren Vache – John Aldred Quintet recorded live at Marians Jazzroom – Berne – Switzerland. Album title “Jubilation”. Arbors CD ref ARCD19369.
Years ago writing colleague Brian Mulligan and I plus wives took ourselves to Vienna to hear a travelling Wild Bill Davison tribute band that for some unknown reason was not coming to the UK. By chance the band stayed in the same hotel as us and we got to know trombonist John Aldred really well. Sadly the Wild Bill band was not that good but the bonus was that getting to known young (ish!) Mr. Aldred enabled us to make the acquaintance (on record) of Bill Aldred’s (Bill is John’ father!) classic band. But more of them another time. Here on this CD we have my Swiss “friend” John Aldred in an excitingly great live session recorded with cornet man Warren Vache and a fine rhythm section the star of which is pianist Tardo Hammer. There are tons of great intelligent dynamics at play here with some wonderful solos. This varied and fascinating programme is brilliantly conceived to keep the audience enthralled – and it does.. From “Old Devil Moon” to “Strike up the Band” this is brilliant – wonderful straight-ahead no nonsense jazz which doesn’t date. Buy it!
The Candy Men – Harry Allen’s All Star New York Saxophone Band. Arbors CD ref ARCD 19450.
Star jazz saxman Harry Allen always loved the sound of the four lead saxmen of the most famous Woody Herman “Herd”. You know – the one with Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn etc – the Herd which blew up many storms with numbers like “Four Brothers”, “North West Passage” and “Lemon Drop”. It was one of the most exciting big bands of the 1940s and 1950s. So he formed his own sax band with four fine tenor men and here they are in a fine swinging set which includes the famous Herman track “Four Brothers” – written incidentally by Jimmy Guiffre who was at one time a member of Herman’s band. This is a fine CD well worthy of a place in any good collection.
Original Dixieland Jazz Band 1943 & Joe Marsala & His Band 1944. GHB CD ref BCD-100
This fine twenty six track CD gathers together two sessions from the 1940s that have not been on CD before. Indeed I believe that many of the tracks are reaching enthusiast’s ears for the first time. Recorded originally for the World Transcription Service (for broadcast perhaps) these sides were acquired by Jazzology of New Orleans – whose label GHB is – and they commemorated the first jazz records of 1917 – those by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band – by releasing this batch of “revivals” or tributes to celebrate the centenary of those first discs – the first jazz on record. There are sixteen tracks by that ODJB revival band and a further ten by Joe Marsala’s band of 1944 who had also recorded for the World Transcription Service. Again many of these have not been previously released in any form. Both bands are brilliant. The first led by cornetist Wild Bill Davison – taking the part of the ODJB’s controversial leader Nick La Rocca – features two members of the original band. First is trombonist Eddie Edwards and second is drummer Tony Sbarbaro. Brad Gowans plays clarinet and Frank Signorelli piano. They all make a fair fist of interpreting the ODJB’s fire and sound but Wild Bill could never sound like anything other than himself and therein lay a load of trouble at the session that made these sides. Wild Willy hated the restrictions that the two original ODJB members and Gowans attempted to put on him and insisted for the most part of doing his own thing. The result is that the band is full of fire and fury – there’s lots of emotion – passion if you like and to my ears it’s a classic. Great stuff that fully captures the tension of the era. The second session here has Billy Butterfield on trumpet leading Lou McGarity – trombone, Joe Marsala – clarinet, Dick Cary – piano, Eddie Condon – guitar, Bob Casey – bass and George Wettling – drums. In other words it’s the Eddie Condon band of 1944. And the tracks they laid down that day are also very fine indeed. Full of fun, highly infectious rhythms and great playing. Inded this is more classic Chicago style jazz that it’s a great pleasure to own – and refreshing too to have Butterfield on trumpet. This is a fabulous CD to have in the collection.
Historian Dan Morganstern says in the liner notes to this record – that the ODJB were – “on the evidence of those first records…….outplayed (in strictly jazz terms) any other band, black or white, that made jazz-related records before and during their heyday”. How sad it is to read that this man – Director of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in 1983 – has such an unbalanced view that frankly is very much at variance with the facts. But – hear the music and make your own minds up. (BH 15-03-18).
“The Kings of Jazz featuring Kenny Davern live in Concert 1974”. Arbors CD ref ARCD 19267.
Brian Peeerles’ notes with this CD are so good that I’m going to quote a whole chunk …….
“Rarely in the last forty years have Europeans hard a touring American band that did not perform in its home country. In December 1974 Pee Wee Erwin put together a stellar eight-piece group that enthralled audiences in Iceland, Sweden, Germany and Great Britain. It never played in the States, nor unfortunately did it record commercially. However, several of the Swedish concerts were taped for posterity by Leif Karlsson and now, nearly thirty years later, Arbors Records has made it possible for the world to enjoy some of the scintillating performances by the Kings of Jazz. The Kings of Jazz resulted from the 1974 tour of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, led by Warren Covington for British agents Kennedy Masters. Erwin, Bernie Privin and Johnny Mince were all featured in the orchestra. During the tour Pee Wee Irwin and Eddie Kennedy became good friends, leading to Eddie giving Bernie a free hand in picking the group for the December tour.
“Erwin selected his seven men with the view to presenting not only outstanding soloists, but also a team that would perform as an excellent ensemble. He succeeded admirably and in the splendid “This Horn for Hire” (The life of Pee Wee Irwin as told to Warren Vache Sr), he recalled that musically it was one of the most satisfying tours he had ever undertaken. He also said that the compatibility of the people involved had made it extremely enjoyable. It was hoped that another tour would follow, but alas it never materialised.
“The hand-picked Kings were all long term associates of Pee Wee’s and in the case of Mince, also a friendship that went back to the early thirties when they were both with the Joe Haymes Orchestra. Mince, born in Illinois, left high school at seventeen to join Haymes and was with the band for about four years.” To paraphrase more of Peerless’ excellent story – Mince almost joined the Dorsey Brothers band when the two had one of their many spats but Tommy wisely arranged for him to join Ray Noble’s new orchestra where he met Pee Wee. Glenn Miller was also in the band as trombonist and arranger and at one point offered Erwin and Mince 20% each of his new orchestra as shareholders on a seven-year contract. They decided against signing with a new name and it took them years to live their refusal down!.
So much for history – what about this band live on stage? In a word they are excellent. Exciting, dynamic, full of bright ideas but yet disciplined as one would expect of men of such experience. That makes this CD a great joy as you hear the intelligent interplay between what becomes obvious is a group of friends having fun. There are super solos, dynamic ensembles and above all a sense that you’re not quite sure is coming next but – that it will be good – great even. Well done Arbors for releasing this material. Let’s hope there’s more where this came from.
Here’s the band’s full line up – Pee Wee Erwin and Bernie Privin – trumpets; Ed Hubble – trombone, Kenny Davern – soprano sax and clarinet, Johnny Mince – clarinet and alto sax, Dick Hyman – piano, Major Holley – bass, Cliff Leeman – drums. BH 03-03-2018.
Evan Christopher “Delta Bound featuring Dick Hyman” – Arbors CD ref ARCD 19325.
Creole New Orleans clarinettist Evan Christopher first attracted my attention when I saw him with a very mixed backing group at the Ascona Festival. He was very different to any of the – then – run of traditional jazz or swing clarinettists of the period. He had that certain ”something” – a magic – a feeling – an emotion that only a very few jazzmen have. Then I saw him twice with his Django inspired touring group “Django a la Creole”, bought several CDs of them and became a fan. He’s unique among contemporary New Orleans reedmen because as Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University in New Orleans says of him – that he “combines an ambitiously fresh perspective with respect for tradition……it’s not just the notes but the feeling behind them and the human connections that result that matter most in New Orleans jazz”. Without being hidebound to the tradition of say George Lewis or Pete Fountain or Ed Hall or Albert Nicholas – this man still exudes Laissez Lez les Bons Temps Roulez – the spirit of the city both in 228his subtle gentle tonal work and in his lyrical story telling. He’s never harsh, never extravagant but always almost hypnotic – yes – he’s that good – very special. On this CD he’s paired with the wonderfully sensitive and sympathetic pianist Dick Hyman and the two have superbly intuitive backing from Bill Huntingdon on bass and Shannon Powell on drums. They help make this a very fine CD indeed. Encore gentlemen. BH – 28-02-18.
Statesmen of Jazz 1994 – ten tracks by an all-star line up including Milt Hinton, Clark Terry, Joe Wilder, Benny Waters, Buddy Tate, Al Grey, Claude “Fiddler” Williams and Panama Francis. Arbors CD ref FJS CD 201.
This was – I think – the first “Statesmen of Jazz” recording session and took place in December 1994 in New York City. The one detailed below this write-up took place in 2003 when several of the stars on this earlier session had passed on. Let’s however discuss this one – the first. The idea of assembling bands or groups to play in what used to be called “jam sessions” was not new – musos themselves did it as often as the fancy and opportunity occurred. That’s for example how much of bop developed from after-hours sessions in New York clubs when guys frustrated by the rigid charts of big and studio (film and radio) bands let them to want to do their own thing.
Englishman Stanley Dance had hinted at this sort of thing with his Felsted label “Mainstream Jazz” sessions of 1958 and 1959, when he’d recruited men like Rex Stewart, Earl Hines, Cozy Cole, Buster Bailey, Dickie Wells, Coleman Hawkins and many more to a series of historic recordings which proved that there was a style of “after hours” middle of the road freewheeling but disciplined swing-jazz that should not be lost. He called it “Mainstream” and that idea, that music, lives on. The nine set of Dance produced CDs can be found if you search for it. Amazon’s current price for it is around £145.
And so this group of talented and energetic veterans, ranging in age from the early 90s to the middle 60s, here prove that great “modern” jazz need not consist of out of kilter dissonant nonsense but can swing, have fire and superb room for great improvisations. OK – so in style it dates back to many eras – mainly the 1930s and 1940s – what’s wrong with that? Nothing in my book, which is why I’m playing this set of tracks again and again with a patting foot and a big smile. It’s great stuff with superb hot and lyrical solos – s’wonderful – well done Arbors. BH -27-2-18. .
Statesmen of Jazz – A Multitude of Stars double CD – Arbors ref SOJCD 202.
I think we’ve all mused on the idea of our “dream” bands. You know – you win a lottery and can pick your ideal group for the night, and another for the second and so on. Well some enlighted soul at Arbors had just that idea in 2003 and over three days of recording in December put together a number of “dream” combinations that created the twenty-eight memorable tracks that now appear on two great CDs.
I’ll give you an idea of some of the people involved in a minute but first let me say that this is middle-of-the-road golden era jazz. It’s from the swing era – pre bebop and all that – so it swings – it has humour and soul and fabulous musicianship that I know I’ll want to play again and again. And that’s the test of a new CD when you buy it – isn’t it? Do you go back and play it again or just put it in the rack – forgotten like so many others?. Well – here’s an exception – this is a multi hear-again exception of two almost certainly classic CDs.
Here’s a sample of the cast Arbors assembled; a cast they then carefully formed into mini and major groupings to lay down tracks. The trumpets included Clark Terry, Ed Polcer, Joe Wilder and Warren Vache. On trombones were Benny Powell, George Masso and Wycliffe Gordon. The clarinets included Buddy DeFranco, Kenny Davern and Ken Peplowski whilst among the saxophones were Frank Wess and Red Holloway. The pianists included Jane Jarvis and Johnny Varro, Bucky Pizzarelli played guitar and Johnny Frigo was on violin. The bassists included Keter Betts and Jay Leonhart whilst on drums the session organisers could choose from Louie Bellson, Eddie Locke, Jackie Williams and Dennis Mackrel. Carrie Smith contributed the occasional vocal.
And so you get line ups like Davern and DeFranco on clarinets with a great rhythm section including Bellson, Pizzarelli, Varro and Earl May blowing up a storm with numbers like “Fascinating Rhythm” and “If I Had You”. Another has Joe Wilder leading Vache, George Masso and Houston Preston with a rhythm section and yet another has Clark Terry leading Wycliffe Gordon, Red Holloway and a great rhythm section with Terry using all the tricks in his book – you know – half valve – ultra staccato etc.
These are gems of CDs well worthy of your attention. They’re good value too. (BH 22-02-18)
Albert Nicholas and Herb Hall – “Clarinet duets with the John Defferary Jazztet and the Trevor Richards New Orleans Trio”. GHB Records New Orleans – ref GHB-64.
There are two separate sessions on this excellent CD, the first featuring New Orleanian Albert Nicholas with fellow clarinettist John Defferary (ex Chris Barber) and an excellent rhythm section. The second set also features Defferary but this time with another New Orleanian – Herb Hall (brother of Ed).
The first backing group includes Pat Hawes – piano, Paul Sealey – guitar, Bill Cole – bass and Trevor Richards – drums. The second backing group also has Trevor Richards but this time with Bob Barton on piano and Alyn Shipton on bass.
Both sessions here are superb. The first was recorded in 1969 by John R.T. Davies – the ace engineer and multi-instrumentalist – in his Burnham, Bucks studio which is excellent in all respects except for a slightly out-of-tune piano. The second set – that of Herb Hall – was recorded in London in 1981 and is on record for the first time. The Albert Nicholas tracks were originally issued on an LP.
Both sets have many magic moments with the two main men in each case dovetailing perfectly with each other. Both the New Orleanians have that typical Creole approach to their instrument playing at first what seems like a tentative, almost hesitant style. But that style is unique to New Orleans and comes from the string band and guitar jazz of the 1800s and “salon” gentle jazz. It’s a more subtle approach than has been developed in European and American jazz and may at first hearing appear effete. It’s not – it’s more gentle, more subtle than we’re used to perhaps but all the more welcome for that. There are many magic moments in both these sessions and if you love your jazz to have poetic depth, feeling and moments of great heat and passion then this CD is for you. I recommend it – it really is classic stuff. (BH – 22-02-18).
Alvin Alcorn’s “Gay Paree” Stompers & Harrison Verret’s Fern Dance Hall Band. American Music AMCD-65.
Recorded by amateur enthusiast and historian Ken Mills in 1962, these two sessions were made for his “Icon” label but not released at that time due to financial problems. Ken was one of an energetic band of passionate enthusiasts who trekked to New Orleans in the wake of the shock waves created by the Bunk Johnson-George Lewis first recordings of the 1940s and 1950s anxious to hear these original jazzmen for themselves. In particular they were keen to hear and record other surviving musicians that had been overlooked or just plain ignored by those almost certainly hypnotised by the Bunk Johnson legend. Ken Mills, Barry Martyn and others trawled the city and the surrounding area finding that Bunk and his band, far from being the only survivors of the birth years of jazz, were just the tip of an iceberg of talent. They set out to record and interview these early participants and creators and by so doing themselves set in motion what we now term the “Second Revival”. Over the last twelve months or so “Just Jazz” – the excellent traditional jazz magazine – has courageously serialised the highly controversial story of the second revival and its often warring personalities and recordings.
What that series has helped bring into being is a number of CDs recorded during that “second revival” and the record here is one of them. Both bands represent the music as it was at that time and how it had been for fifty years or more. Both are exciting – rough – relatively unsophisticated but playing the genuine music of the city with no commercial trappings. Even the venues are important. Alcorn’s band is heard in the Jeunes Amis Hall – a traditional dance hall and Harrison Verret’s was recorded at Preservation Hall. The Verret band is actually very much the George Lewis band of the day with Kid Sheik on trumpet.
But enough of that – both these sessions deserve much more to be written about them – they are that important. But they are “documentary” and if you have an interest in the evolution of our music they will add to your knowledge and appreciation. The clip below is from the CD. BH 07/02/18.
Some British Jazz Pianists – Gerry Moore, Billy Jones, Arthur Young, Geoff Griffiths, Max Darewski and Reginald Forsythe and Joe Bolton. Retrieval ref RTR79065.
Being something of a jazz historian, researcher and occasional educator it’s hard for me to turn down the opportunity to acquire records that chart the development of our music. And so it was when our local shop was closing down and had the inevitable sale, that I bought several CDs that were more documentary in nature than entertaining. This is one of them. It contains twenty four tracks of British pianists mostly playing what at the time they recorded – was termed jazz. A majority of the tracks date from the 1920s and 1930s but there are four by Billy Jones from 1945. In the main the guys play what sound very like straight-laced written scores with very little animation, emotion or real rhythm. It’s all rather mechanical but worth hearing because you can almost feel the real jazz trying to escape from its straight-jacket. But that’s the way it was. Jazz to our 1920s and 1930s musicians was in the main an alien form. One bandleader, when he wanted his men to improvise, used to tell them “play dirt”. There are exceptions here – the tracks by Gerry Moore really swing and have a looseness and freedom lacking from most of the rest. Billy Jones too – one time briefly a member of the original Dixieland Jazz Band – is also excellent but suffers from some stiffness. Still it’s all good documentary stuff but just who was the excellent Gerry Moore?
Wikipedia has this entry for him but it would be good to know more – Gerald Asher Moore (October 8, 1903, London – January 29, 1993, Twickenham) was an English jazz pianist. Moore spent the years 1922-1939 working freelance. (BH 02/02/2018)
Bucky & John Pizzarelli – “Generations” – Arbors CD ref ARCD 19345
This superb fifteen track CD is the result of a unique session where father and son Bucky and John Pizzarelli duetted just for the hell of it. It’s gentle but searching jazz with a wide variety of both moods, rhythms and tempos. Neither man tries to outdo the other except in very subtle ways making the whole listening experience like sitting in at their home studio whilst they both did their own thing. And that “thing” is brilliant – they are both masters of the jazz guitar art. Hearing this CD is a very special experience – a great one to be treasured. Thank you guys. BH 01/02/2018
Captain John Handy and his New Orleans Stompers – “All Aboard” double CD – GHB ref BCD41/42.
Recorded in West Haven, Connecticut in 1965 at a very live session this is a mixed band partially comprised of New Orleans “young” veterans together with a section of big Bill Bissonnette’s “Easy Riders” band of that era, plus one young Englishman in the shape of Sammy Rimington (clarinet). The others here are – Kid Thomas Valentine on trumpet, Jim Robinson – trombone, Capt John Handy – alto sax, Bill Sinclair – piano, Dick Griffith – banjo, Dick McCarthy – bass and Sammy Penn on drums. It’s a rumbustuous session which took place in front of an audibly well-lubricated audience. But that’s no problem because these guys, like most jazz musicians, are used to that! Everyone plays very well indeed especially young Sammy who at that time was more heavily influenced by George Lewis than he has been more recently. Kid Thomas is on fire, Big Jim is highly percussive – unusually staccato for him at times. Sammy Penn is noisy but brilliant, Captain Handy warms to his task and is never short of ideas – full of great driving phrases – he’s a one off – quite unique and brilliant. The others are all good and the result is twenty fine tracks of down-to-earth New Orleans jazz with lots of rough edges which don’t detract – they add to the realism – the authenticity. Above all they prove what a star Captain Handy was. One of the greats. The tag below should lead you to a You Tube video of “Ice Cream” from the sessions on these CDs.
John Handy – The Very First Recordings 1960 – American Music AMCD-51
In the early days of the so-called “jazz revival” in the UK the idea of saxophones within jazz bands was abhorrent. The so-called experts of the day – now long gone – claimed that genuine New Orleans bands didn’t have saxophones so therefore the Brit revival bands should follow their example and ban the saxophone. So vehement were some of the gurus of the day that banning the sax almost became a religion. We fans – jazz students I suppose – believed all this stuff and deprived of all but the few basic 78rpm records available in those days, which didn’t appear to feature saxophones, took it all to heart. Little did we know then that bands like the great King Oliver’s had saxophones. The classic “Snag It” for example has Stump Evans and Darnell Howard on both saxes and clarinets. The wonderful Sam Morgan band had them as indeed did many others. So – when the revival “experts” began to actually visit New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s they at first followed the same route. One consequence of this mental block was that they ignored the great John Handy – later known as “Captain” – one of the most propulsive and exciting saxophone talents the city ever produced. At the time of his “discovery” he only played part time but as history relates it was not long before he became a major figure in the second “revival”. From then on he became an exciting giant – one of the most driving and exciting the city has ever produced. All of which brings us to this CD on which we have the first recordings of John after his “discovery”. They’re important not just because of the opportunity to hear John’s emerging talent but also because they are some of the first recordings made in the building that later became known as “Preservation Hall. These are quite rough “documentary” recordings not really made or intended for commercial release. But – they are historically significant. With Handy on eleven tracks – variously – are Jimmy Clayton – trumpet, Dave Williams – piano, George Guesnon – guitar and banjo, Sylvester Handy – bass and Alfred Williams – drums. On a further three tracks recorded at virtually the same time are Louis Gallaud – piano, McNeil Breax – bass and the great Josiah Frazier – drums.
Evan Christopher, Koen de Cauter, David Paquette – “New Orleans Rendezvous”. GHB Records (part of the Jazzology New Orleans group). Ref BCD-442.
One of the most delightfully gentle and yet thrilling jazz CDs I have heard for a long time. Evan Christopher – the brilliant New Orleans clarinettist – usually tours the world with his own Django Reinhardt inspired group but is here heard to great effect with great new (to me) musicians. Koen de Cauter is a brilliant Belgian gypsy guitarist who fits perfectly with Christopher’s avowed formula of “sweet and hot” and sounds not unlike Django. Pianist David Paquette is an American who cut his jazz teeth in New Orleans, he then wandered a little but eventually settled in new Zealand. He was (is!) inspired by the great Roosevelt Sykes who spent many years in New Orleans. Bassist Mark Brooks is a local man who’s played with almost everyone from Fats Domino to Doctor John and the Preservation Hall band. Trevor Richards is from the UK and has had his own touring bands but settled in the Crescent City about 1966. He studied with Zutty Singleton, Cie Frazier and Freddie Kohlman and has created much American Music. He’s also a great jazz researcher. OK – so that’s the band – what’s it like? Gentle, lyrical, both hot but also sweet at times. This music is always listenable, fascinating with plenty going on and with lots of great solos from Christopher, de Cauter and Paquette all backed up by this great sympathetic rhythm section. A collection “must” if you love New Orleans jazz – note if Amazon don’t have this CD at a reasonable price you can get it from new Orleans.
Sarah Spencer’s Rue Conti Jazz Band – “Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler” – GHB Records ref BCD-334.
Tenor saxist Sarah formed this band in around 1989 and with various personnel shuffles it became popular and continued touring the clubs and playing concerts for some time. This set of tracks was recorded in 1992 and is a fine record of how the band sounded then. It’s a spirited set – typical of the leader whose booting tenor drove many pick up groups – and of course this – her own band. Among those featured with her here are the excellent Mike Peters on trumpet, Mick Burns – trombone, Mike Godwin – sousaphone and string bass, Ron Darby – drums and Andy Ford – banjo. The band’s main claim to fame was that they played New Orleans jazz in both the traditional styles but also in the city’s more modern manner including the unique “street beat” styles. So – I‘m suggesting that you try to get hold of this CD because this selection is one of the most original, exciting and rumbustuous I’ve heard from a British band in many years. It’s great foot-stomping stuff – a delight to the soul. I bought this CD in a shop’s closing down sale and it cost about £10. Jazzology of New Orleans originally issued it but it’s now deleted from their lists. Amazon list copies at vast prices but I suggest you hunt around for more reasonably priced copies – good luck hunting. Stop Press – Lars Edegran who now runs Jazzology – the parent company for he BCD series in New Orleans – tells me that he has the CD in stock and that you can order it from him direct. The address is – email@example.com
Adventures in New Orleans Jazz Parts 1 & 2 – Dr. Michael White and friends. Basin Street Records BSR 0502-2 & BSR 0506-2.
New Orleanian Dr. Michael White – a school teacher in that city by profession – is also an internationally feted and respected clarinettist and New Orleans jazz historian. With these two ambitious album’s recorded recently in the city he’s used his unique insight into the music to present twenty six highly varied tracks that not only include material from the traditional repertoire but also many recently popular tunes played in a New Orleans style. Bob Marley’s “One Love” is an example. Thus overall you get a picture of how the good doctor feels New Orleans jazz can and maybe should sound. And as he’s the expert on the ground playing with like guys who are also born and bred there then who are we to argue? Well – me for a start. Dr. White’s ideas of accepted rhythm styles (using the word style in this context to mean say Spanish or West African for example) to my ears are often awkward and uncomfortable. I’ll try to find such an example to go on the web site with this review. Much of the music on both CDs is very fine indeed but some tracks which use his “jigging” rhythms to me don’t fit at all. He wasn’t playing this style at all when I met him in New Orleans!
Overall the music here is a brilliant showcase of what genuine New Orleans men – the current generation – are playing. It’s today’s New Orleans and we should study it for the line back to the original is unbroken. White for example plays one of Johnny Dodd‘s old clarinets. I’ll stop rambling just for a moment to name check just a few of the all-star cast here – they include trumpet man Gregg Stafford (another school teacher), pianist Steve Pistorius, Detroit Brooks – banjo, Lucien Barbarin – drums, Wendell Brunious – trumpet and Kerry Lewis – bass and many more who dropped in to the sessions here and there. Ignoring the occasional quirky “ricky-ticky” rhythms (my house help Jane was dancing to them as I wrote this!), these are very fine CDs which may in years to come be appreciated as having been jazz landmarks. Definite collection musts!
PS – we sent copies of these CDs to our fellow researcher Bengt Johansson – a New Orleans jazz expert of standing and asked for his opinion of them – here’s what he had to say……
“I have many discs with Michael White, I think it’s well over 10 CDs, and I listen to several of them from time to time. If I was thinking about buying these two CDs in the Adventures series and had the opportunity to listen to them before the purchase, I would probably not buy them. These are no discs I will listen to regularly, probably only once or twice, then they will be standing on the CD shelf and collect dust.
Although White, who by the way is an excellent musician, surrounds himself with many well-known and talented cats (Stafford, Brunious, Barbarin, Pistorius, Thais Clarke et al), I still think that the music never clicks as I want it to do. But it is still interesting to listen to ”the roots”, that is the influences of West Africa and the Caribbean Islands.
However, there are still some numbers worth listening to several times: Careless Love, Basin Street Blues, Black Stick Rag, His Eye Is On The Sparrow and Take Me To The Mardi Gras (which almost sounds like it was performed by a brass band). (BJ – 06-03-18)
The Lee Wiley Collection 1931-1957. 3 X CDs – 70 tracks – www.acrobatmusic.net
When working in the wonderful record shop Dobells in the 1950s, there was a coterie of avid fans of Chicago and New York style Dixieland jazz. You know – the type personified by Eddie Condon and the gang that usually accompanied him – Wild Bill Davison, Jess Stacey, Bud Freeman and others. Universal – it seemed – among this crowd was a love of the work of the vocalist Lee Wiley. They would discuss her work endlessly but it all left me cold. Maybe they were just pleased to get a few bars of cornetist Max Kaminsky in the background of some sides, or pianist Fats Waller or Bunny Berigan. So I rejected their passion and moved on. Now however – all these years later there’s a boxed set of her 70 best sides so I thought I’d better see who was right way back in the 1950s! And – sorry chaps – she still to me sounds like no more than a highly stylised 1930s excellent hotel or black and white film cabaret singer – really! She’s nothing to rave about – probably never was. Sorry chaps…….
Fess Manetta – “Whorehouse Piano” – American Music AMCD 122.
It would be hard to get back any further into new Orleans jazz history than to hear a pianist who played in many of Storyville’s “Sporting Houses” like Mahogany Hall, Countess Willie Piazza’s House or Emma Johnson’s Circus House where even animals performed. But that’s what pioneer New Orleans researcher Bill Russell enabled us to do when he recorded Fess Manetta way back in 1957. OK so the old boy’s technique is a little “fumbly” compared with what it must have been in the 1910s when he was also not just a famous pianist but also a respected music teacher, but let’s face it when else did we get a get a chance to real a real cat house pianist like this and one who also played with the Buddy Bolden band! And on one track too he talks about that steam Kaliope – the strange keyboard instrument from the old stern wheeler the Capitol. That’s pedigree enough for me. Great stuff – roll out the asinthe and light a big cigar……let the good times roll.
John Kirby & His Onyx Club Boys – “The Biggest Little band in the Land” – Retrospective RTR4312.
We’re used to the use of hyperbolae in show business – you know the scene where everything and everyone is “wonderful, “the greatest” and so on. Well – for once the claims made for this compact band whose recorded work between 1937 and 1945 is gathered on this CD – is fully justified. It’s brilliant stuff cleverly arranged in the main by trumpet man Charlie Shavers who – it also transpires – is an excellent composer. It’s hard to believe as you hear the work of sidemen like Russell Procope, Buster Bailey, Billy Kyle and Claude Thornhill that this is variously only a six or seven piece. No wonder so many hotels wanted to hire them – they made a big sound but were relatively inexpensive. Oh – and by the way – the leader plays great bass. Give this CD an audition it contains some of the finest small band work of its era.
Buck Clayton Swings the Village – the Buck Clayton Swing Band live in Greenwich Village NYC. Nagel Heyer Records 5004.
When in late middle age star trumpeter Buck Clayton – ex Count Basie, Duke Ellington and many small bands – found he was having trouble with his lip he had it operated on. Sadly although there was an improvement it proved only temporary and Buck had to retire from playing. He had however always been an arranger and composer and now concentrated on working with the likes of Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Harry James. Much later in his career he formed the high-energy quality band we on this fine CD. They’re captured in exciting session at the Village Vanguard club in New York and it’s good that they were recorded for this is fine exciting stuff that makes for repeated hearings. Prior to his non-playing days Buck had become a stalwart of the “mainstream” – i.e. swing – jazz movement and the music here epitomises that era. It swings, it’s melodic but dynamic, the solos are good and the compositions feel “just right”. Among the excellent soloists are Warren Vache, Jerry Dodgion, Frank Wess, Joe Temperley and Dick Katz. I found this CD by chance – lucky me – it’s great stuff. BH.
Noon Johnson – Lemon Nash 1960 – “The Larry Borenstein Collection Vol 9”. 504 Records CD38.
Noon Johnson was a New Orleans jazz legend. He played the “Bazooka” – a sort of home-made instrument that looked something like an elongated traffic cone – see the CD cover illustration above. And he did this by humming or singing into it thus making a sound like that of a kazoo – or a large jug. It’s quite effective and Noon’s work is rhythmic and fun just like something out of the pre-jazz “spasm” street band era. With him here on the first one of the two sessions included are Lawrence Sam Rankins on guitar and the excellent Harrison Verrett on banjo. On the second session are rhe superb Creole George Guesnon on banjo, Sam Rankins – guitar, and the exciting Kid Thomas Valentine on trumpet. Lemon Nash – a New Orleans singer from way – way back also joins in on a few tracks and that adds yet more spice to this delightful gumbo which could only be from one place – New Orleans.
Percy Humphrey – “Bull’s Club 1972” – American Music CD ref AMCD124.
Some time ago writing about a George Lewis Band CD which featured Percy Humphrey on trumpet, I was scornful of his performance saying that he played strident “parade style” rather than fitting snugly within the band. Well – here’s his exoneration. On this session lovingly put together by enthusiasts Jane Julian, Tom Bethel, Bill Russell and Lars Edegran (the latter now running Jazzology the parent company of this label and many others) the great trumpet man is just that “great”. He leads but never dominates and wills the vastly underrated Albert Burbank on clarinet to prove how classic he really was, with a unique tone and delivery that dates to the previous century and the birth of “our” music. Jim Robinson on trombone is a giant – as ever – and the wonderful rhythm section of Charlie Hamilton on banjo, Chester Zardis string bass and the all-time classic Cie Frazier on drums help take this sound back to the beginnings. Indeed some of the locals listening to this session commented that this was the real old time music that they didn’t get to hear anymore. There’s a further session on this CD – six tracks recorded in 1954 – but its organisers were not as sympathetic to real New Orleans jazz and it’s not a comfortable bed-mate to the ten tracks that I’ve described above. It’s a New Orleans line up OK and led by Percy Humphrey but to my ears too strident and “touristy”. But there’s great piano by “The Bell Gal” Sweet Emma Barrett and amazing clarinet by Raymond Burke. It’ll do but the first ten tracks earn this one’s place in the collection.
Charlie Christian – “The Daddy of them All”. Double CD – Primo PRMCD6092.
This excellent 38-track double CD set highlights the work of the man said to be the first jazz guitarist – Charley Christian. You may argue the claim that he was the first but – there’s no doubt that he was the man who put jazz guitar on the musical map and defined the early style which helped the guitar emerge into the ranks of front line solo instruments. This CD highlights Christian’s work mainly with Benny Goodman small groups and shows him to be quite brilliant – a wonderful soloist. The highlight of this set is however the fact that all the tracks on the second CD are from broadcasts. They’re quite superb with the groups in scintillating form – and there’s a bonus – the final four tracks are from jam sessions at New York’s Minton’s club where bebop is said to have been born in after hours sessions. These rare and excitingly hot tracks are jazz gold dust because the musicians taking part (including variously Joe Guy, Don Byas, Kenny Clarke and Dizzy Gillespie) are not restricted by the usual constraints of a studio session. They can and do let it all hang out and Christian above all is absolutely brilliant – quite wonderful. These tracks are superb jazz gems well worth seeking out.
Horace Silver “Senor Blues” – The best of the Blue Note Years 1953-1960. Boxed set of ten (yes 10!) CDs.
This is a remarkable collection of the CDs that pianist Silver recorded with groups both under his own name and others – like Clark Terry, The Jazz Messengers, Paul Chambers, Milt Jackson, J J Johnson, Kenny Clarke, Art Farmer, Miles Davis – and many more. It’s classic both hard and soft bop laid down at a time when – to my mind – modern jazz was at its most creative and musically acceptable. The guys here were happy just to play hot and speak though their horns. They were wonderfully unpretentious in creating fabulously emotional and exciting true jazz and enjoying interacting with each other These sets are where tracks like “Opus de Funk”, “The Preacher”, “Doodlin”, “Senor Blues”, “Nica’s Dream”, “Solar” (Miles wrote that one), “Finger Poppin’” and “Strollin” were debuted and began their journey into jazz classicism. I can’t praise this set highly enough – please take it that here are hot jazz classics – lots of ‘em. Priced at around £15 this must be one of the bargains of the year.
Lightnin’ Hopkins – Four Classic Albums. “Lightnin’ Hopkins Sings the Blues”, “Blues in My Bottle”, “Lightnin’ Hopkins – Lightnin’ Hopkins”, “Walking this Road by Myself”. Avid Roots AMSC 1254.
The following is an edited “product description” from Amazon which saves me writing much of the same stuff. See further down though for my (BH) comments…….
“AVID Roots continues with its Four Classic album series with a re-mastered 2CD Second Set release from Lightnin’ Hopkins, complete with original artwork and liner notes. ‘Sings The Blues’; ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins’; ‘Blues In My Bottle’ and ‘Walkin’ This Road by Myself’. It is not surprising that in an extraordinary musical career that lasted over 50 years, Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins became the most recorded of all the legendary bluesmen. Primarily a country blues singer and guitarist from the old tradition that included Robert Johnson, he outlasted them all to become quite literally a living legend along with Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton, to name but a few. Lightnin’ became much better known when the blues revival hit the US and UK in the 1950s and ’60s. He had met Blind Lemon Jefferson at the age of 8 and that became a defining moment in his life. Hopkins went on to become his accompanist for a while. Just think of that for a moment? The history and the stories the man must have carried around inside his head! Lightnin’ had been trying to break into the recording business from the late 1930s but it wasn’t until the mid-1940s that he was discovered singing and playing in the streets in Houston and was signed to Aladdin Records of Los Angeles. Houston was to become his home base from then on. But of course, Lightnin’ had to earn money, life was very tough, especially for a black man in the USA. He became a prolific recording artist over the years and was one of the spearhead artists during the folk-blues revival of the early 1960s. Our four fine selections include his album “Lightnin’ Hopkins” which saw Lightnin’ return to his roots with just a guitar and voice. Our album includes the rare, and lengthy original essay booklet written by legendary blues writer Samuel Charters and re-tells a fascinating story of his search to find Lightnin’ amongst his perhaps rightly suspicious associates and family before finally tracking the great man down. What followed was music playing by Lightnin’ as he used to be heard, just by himself with his guitar, the results as you will hear, are stunning!”
It would be hard to get closer to raw blues origin – excepting the “field” recordings of Alan Lomax – than many of the tracks here – especially the set titled just “Lightnin’ Hopkins” which is pure raw uncommercial blues from the heart. That set alone with its track of reminiscences of Lightning talking to legendary blues researcher Samuel B. Charters is one of the greatest of all blues recordings. Many bluesmen sort of lost their originality as they went into the studios or even saw the recording equipment – a bit like we all do when we modify our language when in polite company – or maybe you don’t. On this set you get the feeling that Lightning didn’t. The tracks from the other three LPs that make up this set are equally enthralling helping make this one of the finest blues sets yet. It’s one for all collections – a library “must”.
Louis Armstrong – “Hotter Than That” – ten CD multi year compilation. Documents ref LC 12281.
A strange compilation that for no visible rhyme or reason couples in close proximity tracks from Louis’ early days with the Hot Five and Savoy Ballroom Five and Hines together with big band 1930s tracks, much more modern sides like “Cabaret”, “High Society” and “Hello Dolly”. It all makes for great entertaining casual listening because of the variety and the high quality of the chosen tracks but forget historic continuity! And there are many surprises – “Dippermouth Blues” played by a big band, “Sleepy Time Down South” with a huge string section, excellent live All Stars concert tracks like “Muskrat Ramble” and “Aunt Hagar’s Blues” and “The Saints”, many of which I don’t think I’ve heard before. In fact there are many surprises here – it’s all excellent entertaining stuff. For me this collection would be ideal as “in car” entertainment and priced at around £10 it’s a bargain.
Count Basie & his Atomic Band – Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958 – Phono ref B70245.
To sit close to the front line of this – the most dynamic and famous Basie band of them all – was a wonderful experience. I was privileged to do that several times when the band toured the UK and it was one of the best most exciting jazz experiences of my (BH) now 66 years in jazz. The quiet dynamics of this organisation were quite amazing. Without almost no directions from “Base”, as he was known to his men, they would work their way through the most complex, the most dynamic (that word again!) arrangements ever written for a big jazz band – maybe Ellington had one or two – too! And this band – the “Atomic” – so called after the seminal album of that name which featured an unbeatable collection of Neal Heft arrangements and the band member’s own compositions – was probably the best. Certainly their music – the music on these CDs – is classic jazz. Tracks like “Plymouth Rock”, “Whirtly-Bird”, “Shiny Stockings”, “Corner Pocket”, “April in Paris”, “Blues in Frankie’s Flat” and “Smack Dab in the Middle” with the superb band singer Joe Williams. So – these tracks recorded by the band during their season at Gene Norman’s Crescendo night, club for him and subsequently for his record labels, are a classic jazz milestone. They have a looseness that feels spontaneous – a joie de vivre that you almost want to bottle! To have this great band live and hot is wonderful. This set should be in every collection and at the bargain price they’re being offered at – i.e around £18 – you can’t go wrong.
Milestones of Legends – Jazz at the Philharmonic. 10 CD collection – Document LC 12281.
Entrepreneur Norman Granz was a marketing genius jazz enthusiast who staged his first “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert on July 2nd 1944 at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. To quote from the very fine liner note to this boxed set which we’ve just discovered – “At a time when jazz music evolved from Swing to Bebop, when the era of the big bands was fading out the soloists heading a quartet or quintet started to dominate the scene, Granz decided to make the best of this situation: he hired the finest rhythm sections possible, the giants among trumpet – and saxophone players and had them all perform together in a large auditorium instead if small intimate night clubs.
The looseness and informality of a typical after hour club jam session , which often had a contest for the best tenor player or trumpeter on the stand, was the core of this successful concert series in the 1940s. The audience’ enthusiasm was reminiscent of the beginning of the rock ‘n roll era and in fact the seeds were planted here. This ten CD collection offers the best concerts which Granz produced between the start in 1944 and the American ending of the annual American tours in later 1957, after which he continued the series in Europe and Japan. Some of these appear here for the first time on CD.”
This is indeed an amazing collection containing the major parts of many many concerts and all with giant jazz stars. Here’s an idea of just a few who you can hear playing live – Al Killian, Howard McGhee, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Willie Smith, Coleman Hawkins, Buck Clayton, Harry Edison, J.J. Johnson, Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Jo Jones, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Richard and many more of course. There’s great excitement here, some super battles and some soulful stuff too. It would be hard to find a better musical set of CDs anywhere. Wonderful classic stuff.
Woody Herman – “The Third Herd ‘Live’ 1952” – Portland Oregon dance date (CD1) – Stage show (CD2) – Acrobat label double CD ref 3083.
Regular readers of these pages will know that I (BH) am in love with “live” recordings – feeling that from them you get a more intimate – less artificial impression of artists and bands than from the more structured regime of a recording studio. These two CDs present us with a sound picture of the very fine travelling Woody Herman band of 1952 when it had to earn its living from a dancing and pop song loving audience. From the archive of the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Federation stored at Stanford University these recordings were largely forgotten until 2006. They’ve been finely restored and have an excellent quality and balance. The band and its soloists are great, classics of the period with the leader himself on clarinet, alto and voice (!) particularly being on top form. We get a full dance date on CD1 and full concert on CD2. Within the dance date tracks there are opportunities to hear the “Thundering Herd” swing-jazz band at its best with soloists like tenor man Bill Perkins, Stu Williamson – trumpet, Urbie Green – trombone, Nat Pierce – piano and Sonny Igoe – drums. It’s super to hear them live – a classic exciting sound of that long-gone era. The second CD’s dance concert music is more popularly oriented with lots of vocals but a fine highlight with four tracks by the great blues and soul diva Dinah Washington singing with the band. Verdict – two fine CDs reminding us of big band jazz era that will never be repeated – mores the pity.
THE Crane River Jazz Band with Ken Colyer: “Reunited – Live at the 100 Club” – previously unreleased. Upbeat Jazz ref URCD272.
A schoolboy in the late 1950s, I first heard the Cranes at Nottingham’s Jazz Club which I think was at that time in a room above the Rose & Crown pub. They were sensationally brilliant and little did I know then that they would inspire me towards a life in jazz. Up to that evening our jazz had been provided by the local Mick Gill Imperial Jazz band, by Harry Parry’s quasi Dixieland band on the radio and by records – 78rpms by Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong and many others. But the Cranes were something else! They didn’t have a definable style – they’d decided that themselves (see Pat Hawes band story within Cadillac Records superb Crane River Jazz Band CD ref SGC/MELCD202). But erstwhile moral leader Ken Colyer was a close follower of Bunk Johnson and the musicians who had not left the Crescent City in the 1920s and somehow his influence was helping the band towards a British version of that archaic but wonderfully exciting sound. The band developed a strong following not only in the UK but widely in Germany, Scandinavia and many other bastions of enthusiasm for New Orleans music. For – like it or not – that’s what their style developed into. An almost all ensemble highly rhythmic almost hypnotic listening and dancing experience completely different to any jazz being played anywhere else in Europe. Their music was unique. Superbly exciting, very well played with all the guys somehow, despite having no training and no rehearsals, all fitting with each other as if they’d been born to it. You think I’m exaggerating? Hear the tracks “Lord, Lords, Lord” or “Down by the Riverside” on this wonderful CD and see what I mean. They all play together as if they’d been doing it all their lives. There are no egos on display – just eight minds and talents working in harmony. I’ll stop waffling and just say that this collection of nine tracks is brilliant. And it’s one of the most rhythmic bands ever! – yes ever! The recording quality is slightly on the fuzzy side which spoils the vocals but that’s the only drawback here. Colyer – the “patron saint” of British traditional jazz is inspired – his playing an object lesson in heated yet emotional restraint. Oh yes.
Footnote – many of the Cranes became close friends and John RT Davies (trombone) and I together with Doug Dobell founded “77 Records” and were the first to record Acker Bilk, Bob Wallis, Pat Hawes and others. BH
Jack Teagarden – Earl Hines – All Stars in Concert – Manchester Free Trade Hall 1957 – Upbeat Jazz URCD258.
This is a quite delightful CD recorded live – probably off the “house” mikes – thus in slightly fuzzy fidelity (!) – of a superb concert from the Teagarden-Hines tour of 1957. With veteran dixieland trumpet man Max Kaminsky playing lead, the wonderfully experienced Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and the all-star rhythm section of Cozy Cole (drums) and Jack Lesberg (bass) the two headlining stars Teagarden and pianist Earl Hines are given perfect, dynamic when needed, support. All the band get their feature spots and all – honestly – are quite stunning. I was involved in the organisation and promotion of this tour and stood on stage behind the backdrop curtains on (can’t remember accurately!) I think several occasions and the music was a revelation. To hear after all the years of merely listening to jazz greats on record – these six blew not only my mind but those of collectively all who heard them. Here was true jazz from all-time great stylists – originators. Teagarden with that great tone and his inimical triple-tongued quips, Peanuts playing his showcase classic “Stealing Apples” as he had with Glenn Miller, Max on “Tin Roof Blues” proving that Eddie Condon had been right to make him his “lead” man on so many occasions. And then there was Hines with his unique near-genius extravagance on “Tea for Two”, Lesberg on “Lullaby of the leaves” and Cole on an amazing thirteen-minute “Caravan”. The concerts that this band played on tour way back were a watershed for young enthusiasts like me. At last we were meeting and hearing the real thing and they proved once and for all that we were right to have placed them in our mental halls of fame. This music thrillingly brought us a wonderful moment of truth which you can now share. It’s a unique part of jazz history. Well done Upbeat.
PS – this CD is only half the concert! The second half is coming on a further CD – whoopee.
Jack Teagarden – Earl Hines All Stars in Concert – Manchester Free Trade Hall Concert 1957 Volume 2 – Upbeat Jazz ref URCD273
This CD’s contents follow on from Vol 1 reviewed above – and the pleasure continues in abundence. The difference between the two halves – the two CDs – is that this one sees the band showcasing members more prominently. Earl Hines on “Honeysuckle Rose” for example manages to demonstrate his light delicate “touch” whilst still managing to be both dynamic and exciting – no easy task. Max Kaminsky is wonderful on “I’ve Found a New Baby” although the fact that this is his showcase is not noted on the sleeve! He’s also quite brilliant on “Strutting with Some Barbecue”. Clarinettist Peanuts Hucko has a couple of smooth and lyrical but hot solo spots and co-leader Teagarden excels on his favourite vehicle “St. James Infirmary”. The band numbers and ensembles are hot and exciting but disciplined – all great stuff. The recording quality is not Hi-Fi, indeed its slightly fuzzy in places but despite this drawback it doesn’t spoil the great pleasure of hearing some of jazz’ greatest talents “live” in action unfettered by studio restrictions. Thank-you Upbeat.
Eddie Bo and Chris Barber – the 1991 Sea Saint Sessions – ref LMCD203.
This is a quite brilliant CD of tracks recorded at a two day session recorded in New Orleans in 1991 and not double tracked, over-edited or overdubbed – but not released until now! Featuring Chris Barber with a bunch of local musicians varying in style from jazz through rhythm and blues and blues it’s superbly vital and refreshing. The best way to explain it is to reprint here the notes Amazon published to introduce the CD! My thanks to Amazon from whom of course the CD is available!
Edwin Joseph Bocage known as Eddie Bo was born in New Orleans on September 20th 1930. A singer and pianist schooled in jazz, he was best known for his blues, soul and funk output as a performer, arranger, composer and record producer in the city. Eddie worked with over forty different record labels in his time and incredibly, released more singles than anyone else from New Orleans except Fats Domino.
He worked with Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Guitar Slim, Johnny Adams, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown, Smiley Lewis, The Platters and more. It was while Chris Barber was playing with Dr John for a month in New Orleans during 1991 that a friend suggested that Chris should rent Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint’s “Sea-Saint” studio for a couple of days to cut Eddie Bo with some of New Orleans’ finest on the session.
Eddie jumped at the opportunity and rounded up some top guns, starting with Bobby Bland’s long-time guitar player Wayne Bennett. Born in 1931, Wayne had also played with an impressive bunch including, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites and many more.
Eddie had wanted electric bass and tuba over the two days and so in came Charles “Chuck” Moore and Walter Payton. An associate of the Neville Brothers and Allen Toussaint, Chuck had played electric bass on recordings with Guitar Slim Jnr., Rockin’ Dopsie, Marva Wright, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Zigaboo Modeliste and others. Walter, a stalwart of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Young Tuxedo Brass Band had also participated in the many classic New Orleans recordings including Lee Dorsey’s “Working In A Coal Mine”, Aaron Neville’s Tell It Like It Is” and Robert Parker’s “Barefootin'”. On the second day, Chuck got called to another session and but Walter stepped in and surprised everyone by playing bass guitar style on his string bass to great effect.
Then Eddie got the hottest drummer in town. Russell Batiste Jr., was just 26 years old on this session. He had joined the Funky Meters a couple of years earlier when they were reincarnated following the breakup of The Meters and was on fire over this two-day session.
New Orleans local “Alto Red” Morgan played Alto Sax and Chris Barber played Trombone. According to Chris they had no rehearsal and just made up their parts on the spot.
“The tapes remained in Chris’ archive until 2015 when he sent me a CD listening copy. The instantly infectious, pre-Katrina New Orleans funk exploded out of my speakers, transporting me to Crescent City for the best part of an hour and rendering me oblivious to the phone and occasional tentative taps on my office door. Now it’s your turn to step into the time machine.”
Malcolm Mills. Chairman. Proper Music Group Ltd. 2016
Red Nichols & His Five Pennies – Live at Club Hangover, San Francisco 1953 with interval piano by Meade Lux Lewis. Acrobatmusic ADDCD3090.
“Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols (May 8, 1905 – June 28, 1965) was a jazz cornet player, composer, and bandleader. Over his long career, Nichols recorded in a wide variety of musical styles, and critic Steve Leggett[ describes him as “an expert cornet player, a solid improviser, and apparently a workaholic, since he is rumoured to have appeared on over 4,000 recordings during the 1920s alone.”
That’s roughly what Wikipedia has to say about the man whose name is scattered so thickly across the lists of recordings made in the USA during the prohibition era, you could be excused for thinking perhaps that he owned THE national recording license! It’s not even that he was so brilliant that you just had to have him on sessions – he was just there – always! Quite often the sessions he was on were brilliant but above all he was a “fixer” – he was the man who had the connections that could get things done. And consequently he usually appeared in the very best company – Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden and more were regular fellow bandsmen. He earned top dollar and appeared just about everywhere, but as the twenties faded and big bands became the “in” thing, he just didn’t fit. For many years he faded away but within the post-war Dixieland revival he again found work. These two CDs represent the type of work and music he found success with.
In the early days Nichols admiration of Bix Beiderbecke’s tone and style led him – and he was not alone – to adopt a similar style. But he never had Bix’ heat, his full tone or his amazing flights of improvisation. By comparison Nichols was good but his playing was sterile – devoid of emotion and jazz drive. Here however, many years later in 1953, we have a unique opportunity to hear how that birth of jazz talent had survived the great Depression. Well it had but the years had not treated Nichols jazz sense kindly. Here he’s good but totally without any feeling for the music. His tone is pure but sterile, his ideas are flowery but without heat or emotion. To me (BH) he sounds for all the world like a brass bandsman asked to be a “dep” (deputy) for the night. He can read the arrangements and play the solos. He can even add little flowery bits which he thinks might pass for improvisation but he can’t play or sound like a jazz man! His band do though, they’re excellent with bass saxist Joe Rushton a standout. The other guys are super too – Bill Wood – clarinet, King Jackson – trombone, Walter Streets – piano and Rollie Culver – drums. Most of the numbers are arranged, much in the style of 1920s Bix led groups or Frankie Trumbauer or even The Wolverines. It all makes for enjoyable listening. Pity about the trumpet player though.
The two CDs here are taken from a series of broadcasts of seasons played at Club Hangover by “name” bands. Many of those broadcasts were recorded and those recordings acquired by the Ackerman Collection. In recent years they’ve been archived by the library of Stanford University in California and are now being released. In previous editions we’ve reviewed others in this series – namely the double CDs by Earl Hines All Stars and Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtime band. Yet to come is Woody Herman’s “Third Herd” from 1952.
The Tommy Ladnier Collection 1923- 1939 – Acrobat Music double CD.
Within the excellently restored 48 tracks here the story of a New Orleanian (he actually came from just across Lake Ponchartrain in Mandeville) whose career tracked much the same path as many others like Louis and King Oliver without ever reaching the heady heights of stardom. He did however achieve considerable success within the bands of others like Fletcher Henderson, Ollie Powers, Clarence Williams, Noble Sissle and with many blues singers like Ida Cox, Ma Rainey and Lovie Austin. Ladnier’s style was always a warm uncomplicated easy-to-listen to sound with his improvisations never seeking to startle or showboat. But the big tone and fine fund of tasteful ideas always mark him out as someone exceptional. It’s in the blues accompaniments that you hear the stripped down talent unhindered or restricted by big band constraints. He comes over as a sympathetic if not loquacious friend to his singers. And then – towards the end of his career in the 1930s – in a series of acknowledged classic recordings with the Dixie Stompers, Sidney Bechet’s Feetwarmers and the Mezzrow-Ladnier Quintet you hear the full glory of his great talent which maybe had taken all that time from his leaving New Orleans until then to fully blossom. And blossom it did – hear for example the one track here from that famous live concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938 – “I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate” – it’s a jazz classic. And finally here he backs the sexy soul singer Rosetta Crawford on three super tracks along with wonderful pianist James P.Johnson – joyful stuff and a fitting climax to a great jazz story.
British Traditional Jazz – At a tangent Vol. 8 – the New Orleans Style Bands –
Lake Records LACD- 348.
This is a very finely collated nineteen track collection of mostly excellent Brit style New Orleans jazz created by emerging bands in the period 1953 to 1963. And – it’s not all old stuff reissued! Nine of the tracks have never been released before. The Crane River Jazz Band with Ken Colyer and Monty Sunshine open the proceedings with three excellent tracks spoiled fractionally by the embarrassingly false “upper” accent of BBC announcer Hector Stewart – what a pratt he sounds. Still the band sounds authentic even if he didn’t! Following on is a rare track by the Christie Brothers Stompers – a group of escapees from the Humphrey Lyttelton and Ken Colyer bands which for a short time set London’s club scene on fire. Sadly they had George Hopkinson on drums – one of the most boring of all time. Still – even he didn’t quench the fire of Colyer and the two Christies – Ian and Keith. Then we have the very fine Monty Sunshine band with Chris Barber and the Mike Peters Band who were adequate but rarely more. Bob Wallis’ Storyville Jazzmen next prove that they were for a while Britain’s hottest ever and have Acker Bilk guesting on one brilliant number. The CD is next blessed by two excellent Ken Colyer Jazzmen tracks – this band being the classic line up with Ian Wheeler, Mac Duncan, Ray Foxley, Johnny Bastable, Ron Ward and Colin Bowden. Wonderful. They are followed by Pete Dyer’s quite good group with a young Sammy Rimington on clarinet and then Keith Smith’s brilliant Climax Jazz Band and the disc finishes with a New Orleans style marching brass band led by Mr. Colyer with Ken of course and among others – Keith Smith, Sammy Rimington and Barry Martyn. This is a fine CD – a historic document charting a portion of British jazz history but being anything but dull and dusty – no – this is full blooded right on great stuff. Well done Lake Records.
“…at the 100 Club –Johnny Parker & his Reunion Band with Ken Colyer” – Jazz Crusade (Upbeat) JCCD 3029.
Brilliant pianist that he was – I have a feeling that Johnny – a good friend way back – never really found his true milieu. He was a fine boogie pianist, a sensitive bluesman too, great within a Dixieland band but somehow frequently obscured by his surroundings. In the Humphrey Lyttelton Band – where he was for some years – he created for example that boogie piano sequence that is so unmistakable in the Beatles “Lady Madonna”. On this super CD he’s gathered together a band of friends to jam with Ken Colyer who – diminished by bad health – had given up band-leading. But the result is a magical set of ten numbers on which all the bandsmen defer to Ken’s unique take on what New Orleans jazz is. It’s the most gentle, low key but quite stunning set of tracks I’ve heard for a very long time. Along with Ken and Johnny are Graham Stewart – trombone, Alan Cooper – clarinet, Jim Bray on bass, Dave Evans – drums and for a couple of tracks Wally Fawkes on clarinet and Diz Disley on guitar. It’s as if they realised that Ken would not be around for much longer and that they should defer to his ideas of quiet gentle true New Orleans jazz which is mainly ensemble based with no egos on parade. And it works – they weave jazz magic – it’s just great – inspirational lovely stuff.
“Drum Face” – Zutty Singleton – the man, the music, his life in jazz Volume 1 of 2 – (Upbeat) Jazz Crusade JCCD-3114.
Zutty Singleton was at one time Louis Armstrong’s favourite drummer but then, as times and tastes changed, Louis had to make changes because Zutty’s style was just too entrenched in the New Orleans tradition. Hardly surprising in that he was a native New Orleanian! But those facts will tell you that Zutty was acknowledged as one of the finest pure New Orleans drum stylists. This CD – and its partner when released – chart parts of Zutty’s recorded history and include along the way some of the rarest of all jazz tracks. The opener for example is titled “Drum Face” and in it Zutty demonstrates all the facets of New Orleans unique style. Then there is a section of conversation between Louis and Zutty reminiscing about the days of the Hot Five and wonderful Savoy Ballroom Five when the two were regular partners – absolutely priceless. Then there are rare tracks by Charlie LaVere & his Chicagoans, Zutty’s own band with the amazing Vernel York on trumpet and Banjo Ike Robinson and his Windy City Five and then a Pee Wee Russell band and much more – all tracks with Zutty on drums of course. This is a truly historic collection of tracks that will sit easily in any collection in which there is a mini history of our music. Well done Jazz Crusade (now Upbeat in the UK) – we’re eager to hear Volume two!
George Lewis Ragtime Jazz Band – Municipal Auditorium, Congo Square, New Orleans 1951 & 1952. American Music AMCD-107.
I have always loved the music of the various George Lewis bands ever since it
evolved from the Bunk Johnson band of the early 1940s “revival”.
Many enthusiasts took that music to be a genuine reincarnation of the original
Early 1900s jazz and of course youngsters copied it – particularly the many editions of the
Ken Colyer band in England and Scandinavia. Nowadays we’re a little wiser
and appreciate that the Lewis band was heavily influenced by the Dixieland
of Chicago and New York. It was probably close to early jazz but not the
genuine article. Students looking for early New Orleans jazz would be better
advised to look at the 1920s recordings of bands like that of Johnny de Droit,
Fate Marable, Anthony Parenti, Charlie Love, Kid Thomas Valentine and the
Original Tuxedo Orchestra. They were much closer to the source.
But the George Lewis band was wonderful, one of the most exciting ever
recorded. Sadly this concert CD of theirs, although excellent in some regards,
has flaws. Percy Humphrey on trumpet leads the first five tracks from the
1951 concert and is out of his depth. He plays “parade” style – not small club
or concert band lead and Louis Barbarin on drums is far too loud and
insensitive. For the second concert (both were for the New Orleans Jazz
Club) Humphrey is more subdued and better suited to the ensemble style we
know so well. Maybe the fact that there was a second trumpet man in the
shape of Albert Walters helped. Whatever – the six tracks here sound much
more relaxed and genuine and that may have a lot to do with the fact that for
this set Lewis’ original drummer Joe Watkins joins the band. This time
there’s far less of the quite unnecessary faster over-excited racing tempo type
hysteria that spoiled some of the earlier tracks. In other words there’s enough
good stuff here if you need more George Lewis in your collection, but it might
be a good idea to hear the whole CD right through before you decide to buy it.
“Black Light” John McLaughlin – Mediastarz – Monaco.
“As a musician, composer, and bandleader, John McLaughlin’s vast contributions to contemporary improvisational music are only just beginning to be fully understood, appreciated, and absorbed by artists and enthusiasts alike. From Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti and his collaboration with Paco De Lucia, to his current band the 4th Dimension, McLaughlin’s music has extended across the boundaries dividing jazz, rock, and innumerable global traditions, encompassing a number of genres while emerging fully formed as his own, uniquely personal expressive medium.”
So wrote Amazon’s on-line product describer when faced with McLaughlin’s album “Black Light”. The album he’s describing is super – exciting – exhilarating sometimes but also very frustrating in parts. With the wonderfully talented guitarist McLaughlin here are his group “4th Dimension” – Gary Husband on piano, synth, percussion and drums – Etienne M’Bappe on electric bass and fretless bass – Ranjit Barot on drums and vocals plus of course Mr. Mclaughlin on electric and acoustic guitars plus synth guitar programme. Mclaughlin says “I have explored ways in music and recorded them with happiness. ‘Black Light’ has opened a portal that is neither Jazz nor Rock, nor Indian nor Blues, and yet all of these: it’s an open door.” Whatever this album is – and I wouldn’t like to put it into any music pigeon ho le except maybe jazz fusion- it’s full of great tonal contrasts, virtuoso improvisations, startling dynamics (especially from drummer Ranjit Barot) and really soulful emotions – hear the track “El hombre que sabia”. That’s dedicated to McLaughlin’s late friend Paco De Lucia with whom he was planning an album but Paco died before it could be completed. On it McLaughlin plays amazing acoustic passages – they alone are worth the price of the album. But it’s brilliant throughout even if the man himself sometimes falls into the modern jazz musician’s trap of trying at times to play 500 notes a minute whilst within that music “saying” too little. On slower stuff he’s one of the greatest but the fast stuff just becomes a meaningless blur.
Essential New Orleans Jazz – 50 original Dixieland Jazz Favourites on Two CDs. Not Now Music double CD – priced around £5.
I don’t usually buy “mix” CDs but they are good for parties or for “in car” play when you need something light-ish. And some like this one are excellent value having 50 well restored tracks. Not all are genuine New Orleans jazz – there are many Dixielanders here like the Bob Crosby Band and the Firehouse Five. But balanced against that criticism are many excellent tracks, some quite rare like trombonist J.C Higginbotham’s “Muggin’ Lightly”, Red Nichols “Whispering” and Bobby Hackett’s “Sweet Georgia Brown”. There are great classics like Bunk Johnson’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Steamboat Stomp” and some lesser known ones like Muggy Spanier’s “Dippermouth Blues” and a couple of Louis Armstrong classics too. It all makes for fascinating listening full of variety – happy stuff.
Ralph Sutton Trio featuring George Wettling – Definitive Records.
Of pianist Ralph Sutton that wonderful trumpeter Yank Lawson said “he’s probably the strongest two-handed pianist I’ve ever heard” and bassist Milt Hinton said “I’m glad to have passed through this life just to have met Ralph Sutton”. If you’ve read other reviews in this column you’ll have gathered by now that I (BH) love jazz piano. Well – Ralph Sutton comes near the top of my favourites. He was a member of that loose knit New York jazz bunch “the Condon crowd” and came to fame indeed through playing “interval” piano at the club. From there he graduated into the mainstream of the Dixieland world and was accepted at the highest level. He was born in 1922 and such was his natural jazz talent that within just over 20 years he was playing with the Jack Teagarden’s Big Band” and from there went on from to be part of the “World’s Greatest Jazz Band” and many others. Ralph really was probably the greatest exponent of the two-handed, ten fingers style of jazz piano. He combined stride with ragtime with swing with his own take on the whole thing. And this CD probably contains his best work. Taken from two LPs the eighteen tracks here are sheer pianistic joy. Half are with that tasteful drummer George Wettling and others are with Bob Crosby on bass and Buzzy Drootin on drums. If you have even a passing interest in jazz piano – buy this one. My almost perfect used copy came from Amazon for under £7. We’ll try to post a clip of Ralph in our new “Review” film clip section.
Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtime Band – Live at Club Hangover, San Francisco April-May 1953. Acrobat Records ref AVC991.
Elsewhere in this record review section you’ll find the review of an Earl Hines band double CD recorded like this one at Club Hangover and it’s interesting to compare the two particularly as when Spanier was not running his own band at this time he played with Earl Hines!. The club used to hire bands for a season and sessions were broadcast as much as an advertisement for the club as entertainment for radio listeners. Luckily many of the sessions were recorded and the tapes having survived they are now being restored and released on CD.
Muggsy had toured for many years but by the 1950s decided (he was born in 1901!) it was time to settle down. His new home was conveniently situated quite close to the club and that made accepting the gig much easier for Muggsy whose health was not at its best at that time. And for the month-long season he had a fine band able to play all the classics his popular Ragtimers had put their stamp on since the 1939 era when they’d first recorded them. Indeed sixteen of those tracks recorded for Victor (HMV in the UK) became known as the “Big Sixteen” and were – still are – regarded as great jazz classics. The style of those tracks – of this band indeed – is 1930s Chicago Dixieland which means mainly a repertoire of full on ensemble strong and brightly swinging tunes laced with expert solos. It’s happy music, uncomplicated and superbly professional. If I have a criticism it is to say that Muggsy set some of the tempos too fast for my ears which are tuned to the originals – see next review below. But it’s all excellent classic jazz that I hope you’ll enjoy. PS – we’ve included a video clip of Muggsy and his band in our new record Review video section.
Muggsy Spanier – The Essential Collection – double CD Avid label collection of remastered Spanier classics from 1924 to the 1950s.
We’re including a mention of this double CD here because it complements the one above. The collection here is of remastered original tracks from 78pm records dating back to Spanier’s first recordings in 1924 with the Bucktown Five and continuing through his entire career including therefore his very fine big band of the 1940s – so good it rivalled Glenn Miller – through his classic “Big Sixteen” records of the 1940s and to his “Jazz Band” of the late ‘40s and 1950s. It’s a pretty comprehensive set of 48 tracks of pure jazz gold. Sadly Avid don’t include with it the very comprehensive booklet that was included with their first release of this set, which included full band personnels and an article about Muggsy by his biographer Bert Whyatt. But there’s always Wikipedia’s quite good biography even if they do currently get his birth-date wrong!
Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau – “Drag’s Half Fast Jazz Band” – GHB Records New Orleans.
Release of this CD reminds me of the days in the early 1950s when New Orleans jazz historian and recording pioneer Bill Russell (in reality William Russell Wagner but he said there were enough Wagners in music already without him adding to the confusion!) began to record Bunk Johnson and others in New Orleans and release the results on his iconic “American Music” label. In the UK we sought these records with passion – 78 rpms at first – and paid premiums to get hold of them. To our small circle of enthusiasts these records represented the holy grail of New Orleans jazz – they contained music made by men who had in the main stayed in the city whilst others like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong left to seek fame and fortune in the wider world. Their music – we believed – was unadulterated pure New Orleans jazz. Far more pure than much that we had previously believed was the “real thing”. And of course the purity movement grew from there fuelled by events like Ken Colyer’s visit to the city and further records made and released by labels like “MONO” and ”Icon”. But that’s another story which maybe needs to be revisited.
Now though we’re listening to a new CD with two versions of Slow Drag’s band recorded in the 1960s – not long ago in jazz terms. Drag was of course George Lewis’ bass player (and Bunk Johnson’s and others) so he’s a direct and important link to the birth of jazz and we can take it that the jazz he had his bands create here was itself not too far from the music of the pioneers. The first band here was, as far as was possible in 1965, a recreation of the classic Lewis band with the exciting Fred Vigorito on cornet, Jim Robinson – trombone, Albert Burbank – clarinet, George Guesnon – banjo, Don Ewell – piano, Drag of course on bass and Big Bill Bissonnette on drums. The second band is of course that of George Lewis in 1961 with Kid Thomas on trumpet, Jim Robinson – trombone, Emanuel Sayles – banjo, Drag on bass and the great Sammy Penn on drums.
Both CDs are a great joy. Unadulterated true jazz from start to finish – no concessions are made here to commercialism. This rip-roaring toe tapping happy music is the real thing – an echo maybe but it’s as near as we can get and we should both enjoy and learn from it. Classic stuff.
Gene Harris – Live at Otter Crest – Concord Jazz CCD4945
When – some weeks ago – I was writing about another Gene Harris CD in this column a friend – seeing what I’d written – asked whether I’d heard Harris’ version of “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” from his Otter Crest night club residency because that he said was the finest Harris performance of all on record. I hadn’t at that stage, but now I have on this wonderful concert CD and he’s right. It is sensational – very exciting. Harris was obviously on fire that night in 1981 and really there’s nothing else to say except that this CD has six classic jazz tracks and I doubt whether we’ll ever hear more exciting, tasteful and creative jazz piano. Wow!” Wonderful.
Lars Edegran’s Palm Court Jazz All Stars – “Hello Dolly” – GHB Records New Orleans.
Featuring the leader on piano and guitar this excellent contemporary New Orleans band has the fine Gregg Stafford on trumpet, Kevin Louis on cornet, Sammy Rimington on clarinet and alto sax, Robert Harris – trombone, Richard Moten on bass and yet another member of the amazing Marsalis family on drums by way of young Jason. It’s a happy modern New
Orleans style session with Stafford’s bright and punchy trumpet and his vocals being one of the standouts for me. Almost everyone sings with guest Topsy Chapman turning in some breezy versions of old classics like ”Trouble in mind”. It’s a great pleasure to hear Sammy Rimington on clarinet and alto in a proper New Orleans setting – I remember him best with the Ken Colyer band and here all he learned there feels totally right. In fact for me he is the star of the session. They’re all excellent here, this is a genuine all-star band, but Sammy is becoming a world star not just a local one! This is happy stuff – just like you’d hear in New Orleans at the Jazz Café. You can see and hear the band in our video clips section.
Wiggs-Burke Big 4 – two CD set – American Music records AMCD133-134.
In February 1953, this announcement appeared in the New Orleans Jazz club’s magazine “The Second Line” – “Test pressings” and the first vinylite recordings of the Johnny Wiggs-Raymond Burke “Big 4” session for Paramount have just reached the Crescent City. They are wonderful ‘high Fidelity’ recordings made by Bill Russell for John Steiner, and it is our opinion that you have never heard Raymond, Johnny, Sherwood Mangiapane and Doc Souchon better.
The 10-inch LP really was remarkable, like some kind of New Orleans chamber music. It happened because producer John Steiner decided to record clarinetist Raymond Burke in what he termed “pianoless surroundings”, an idea inspired by the George Lewis Trio recordings (clarinet, banjo, and bass) made by his friend Bill Russell, who was living with Steiner in Chicago at the time, readily agreed to engineer the Burke sessions during one of his upcoming trips to New Orleans. This would take place at the home of Dr. “Doc” Edmond Souchon, a prominent and successful surgeon whose lifelong passion for New Orleans jazz dated back to pre-1920 scrip dances at Tulane University where he heard the great cornetist Joe Oliver. Souchon would play guitar, and on bass would be Sherwood Mangiapane, a solid player in the old style.
All of the foregoing words form the introduction to this set of two CDs in the “liner” introduction with the CDs. I’ve borrowed them because they perfectly explain the whole idea of the music on the CDs and give a hint that this music perfectly evokes the genteel “salon” style of entertainment that was in vogue at the turn of the last century – i.e. before radio and electrical recordings. The music is gently restrained and yet has that unique New Orleans passion and ambience that is possible in this music at slow and medium tempos and at restrained volumes. The two CDs are obviously reissues of much more than the material from the original LP and that’s because there was a second session and LP and also some unissued material that’s now been beautifully restored and is included. It’s archetypal and quite wonderful. Classic New Orleans jazz from a golden era.
Jon-Erik Kelso and The EaRegulars – “In The Land of Beginning Again” – Jazzology Records.
This wonderful quartet have a Sunday (8-11) residency at the Ear Inn in Spring Street, Soho, New York City – (better to get there early – the place is compact). Their jazz is timeless – not pigeon-holeable. In fact liner note writer Michael Steinman says “They are a Marvel of Nature, an expansive sonic orchestra that masquerades as a tidy improvising quartet. They model democracy in swingtime, where each of the four players is audible, recogniseable, playfully sharing musical half-truths”. He’s right because this is one of the most effectively creative warm and gentle jazz groups I have come across. The two leads, trumpet and clarinet have the same softly-softly aoproach, they complement each other perfectly. Neither ever tries to outplay the other instead listening carefully and then adding subtle content and colour when it’s called for. The bass and guitar too have the same methodology – so much so in fact that it’s unfair to write about them separately – they’re so much part of the whole. In my (BH) 65 or so years of studying jazz this is the most complete, unified quartet I’ve heard. The most pleasant and rewarding to listen to. They’re full of invention, colour and wit making the listening experience one to savour and repeat. Yes indeed – they’re that good. There’s a video clip of the group in our video clip section.
Gene Harris – Instant Party – Concord Records.
As a highly amateur jazz pianist I (BH) have always been in awe of all the great and even not-so great massagers of the eighty-eight (that’s the number of keys on a normal piano!). From Cripple Clarence Lofton’s Streamline Train through Meade Lux Lewis Honky Tonk Train Blues and on to Duke Ellington’s Happy Go Lucky Local and many others I think I’ve studied them just about all. And despite trying to keep an open mind I still can’t abide jazz pianists who try to get as many notes per minute as they can into a number – not all the time – just when they try to be musical machine guns. A prime example is Art Tatum – a genius – no doubt but what was he trying to prove? And Oscar Peterson on faster numbers – what’s that all about? My dislike of notes per second isn’t confined to pianists though. An instrumentalist trying to get in to the Guinness Book of Records for notes per second is for me an instant turn-off. But Gene Harris – the subject of this brief CD appreciation – is the very antithesis of those musical machine gunners I try to avoid. He’s a soulful jazz pianist who uses the whole keyboard to create great soundscapes – almost walls of sound that convey deep emotions. He’s never busy but is always creative, hardly ever losing sight of the melody he’s using as a basis for improvisation. In my library I already had several CDs of Harris, but always accompanying soloists like Scott Hamilton. The one under scrutiny here was bought because from its write-ups I thought it was all solo work. It is – almost – but the few tracks with saxmen Red Holloway, Ernie Watts and Stanley Turrentine don’t detract from the pleasure of hearing Mr. Harris on seven tracks just with his rhythm section which features the great Ray Brown on several tracks. Indeed it was Brown who persuaded Harris to come out of virtual retirement at one point, and to resume touring. I’m pleased he did because his association with Concord Records profited and produced some superb soulful work – of which this is a fine example. Here are ten fine examples well worth catching. I hope you enjoy them. PS – there’s a Gene Harris video clip in our video section.
The Earl Hines All Stars featuring Muggsy Spanier live at the Club Hangover, San Francisco, April-May 1957 – Acrobat Music double album.
The classic jazz bands visiting Club Hangover in the 1950s quite often broadcast and – with their agreement – those broadcasts were recorded. But many of those unique recordings have lain forgotten until relatively recently when they’ve been restored and now – thank goodness – released on CD. Here for example we have five slightly edited half hour programmes with Earl Hines great band of the period – a genuine all-star ensemble. Featured are Muggsy Spanier, Jimmy Archey on trombone, Darnell Howard on clarinet, Earl Watkins on drums and the wonderful Pops Foster on bass. Pops for example could not have a more gilded pedigree. In the music’s formative days in New Orleans for example he played with Jack Carey (the man who invented Tiger Rag) King Oliver and Armand Piron. Later he worked with Luis Russell and Louis Armstrong – he was jazz royalty as were of course Hines and Muggsy Spanier. So – here you have an all-star band of highly accomplished jazz musicians entertaining diners with programmes of popular jazz classics and all introduced by Hines who is – judging by his announcements – on his very best form anxious to please the patrons and through the medium of the radio trying to get more people through the doors! It’s a unique insight into the working environment of the band – most enjoyable. All the guys are in top form producing great foot-tapping jazz that defies age lines or musicologist’s pigeon holes. It’s great to hear Muggsy using his unique “Muggsy mute” away from the confines of his own band, and wonderful little Jimmy Archey giving out with that unique rasping propulsive trombone. Darnell Howard’s clarinet is lyrically Creole-toned and fits in beautifully. Hine’s piano is as ebullient as ever – he was one of THE great jazzmen able to play anything and improvise endlessly on a given tune. Earl Watkins on drums is fine – keeping good time. Pops Foster on bass – what can you say about probably the greatest bass man of the early days? Simply perhaps that he was a giant and here proves it being big toned and highly rhythmic driving the band along brilliantly. The best thing about these tracks is that they were recorded “live” with no studio interference or editing. What you hear is for real – great unadulterated jazz by great jazzmen. This two-CD set is a gem.
Simon Phillips Protocol – featuring Andy Timmons, Steve Weingart and Ernest Tibbs. This – one of the first jazz-rock-fusion albums I was introduced to – is one of the most exciting and fascinating I’ve yet heard. Full of great tunes, dynamic instrumental explorations and fantastic interplay between the four guys involved it has to be one of the best albums of recent years. Phillips himself is a consummate musician. Son of dixieland bandleader Sid, who at one time I believe had Kenny Ball on trumpet, he is capable of holding his own in many genres of jazz but thank-goodness after time away has here settled into his own original style-setting band. Partnered with Andy Timmons – guitars, Steve Weingart – keyboards and Ernest Tibbs – bass – the band produce the type of exciting pure instrumental outings that back in the day Pink Floyd began to create and explore but abandoned in favour of meandering angst-ridden lyrics. This is a stunning album full of great playing and with many surprises. Wonderful stuff.
Simon Phillips Protocol II – iankustik INAK9131 – to my (BH) tin ears this album is more reflective and laid back than the one above. There’s more space here to appreciate each instrument and its brilliant interplay with the others. And that interplay is nothing short of phenomenal – the sort of mutual understanding that only usually comes
after guys have been playing together for years. But here these four are more usually occupied with other artists – Steve Weingart for example could just as easily be found on keyboards with the likes of Eric Marinethal or Chaka Khan. Bassist Tibbs is just as at home with Phil Upchurch – indeed he’s a member of Phil’s band. Andy Timmons toured the world opening for Alice Cooper and Kiss and has sold over a million records worldwide. So when they get together with Phillips – who himself is always in demand and spent many years with Toto – it’s time to celebrate. And it’s that separation between being part of Protocol and other bands that means when they come to a Protocol session they have the spark, the freshness of invention, the creativity and originality to make something new happen. And that they do in great exciting and satisfying style. And finally – an aspect that might at first not be apparent. This is Phillips band – he’s a drummer – but far from dominating as many drummers do he plays his kit as an instrument – never dominating – always being an equal partner. He’s great as are his partners here and that makes this album memorable. Super listenable stuff. Bravo guys.
Scott Kinsey – Near Life Experience – abstractlogix.com. For some years now Scott Kinsey has been a leading member of the jazz fusion scene – a scene that was new and alien to me (BH) until I fell in with a West Wales group of enthusiasts some of who were – are – advocates of fusion. But now I’ve listened to and read about men like Michael Janisch’s Paradigm Shift, Kinsey, Simon Phillips and John McLaughlin and am now beginning to understand where these distinctive stylists with uniquely interesting harmonic sensibilities and complete new approaches to both their instruments, to synthesisers and to computers are coming from – and maybe (!) going to. In this fascinating album for example, Kinsey puts his voice through a vocoder and synthesiser producing entirely new and exciting soundscapes – adventures in highly rhythmic sounds the like of which I have not heard before. And – if musicologists more learned than I say that this is a new branch of jazz I can’t argue. Similarly if in 1917 I’d heard the Original Dixieland Jazz Band or King Oliver for the first time would I have been right to say that also was not jazz – for indeed what was and is jazz? We only think we know and can have informed opinions. Mine is that this is indeed new jazz – hard to listen to at length for the moment – but exciting and stimulating – thought and discussion provoking too.
Dixieland New Orleans – this album you can only get at the moment by downloading it from Amazon or by (as I did) buying a used copy from one of Amazon’s legion of reliable suppliers.
It’s a great collection of 24 tracks of the very best of both New Orleans and Dixieland jazz. For example you have Bid Beiderbecke’s superb “At the jazz band ball”, Bunk Johnson’s “When the saints”, Muggsy Spanier’s super band playing “Sweet Sue”, Louis Armstrong’s much neglected “Coal Cart Blues”, “That’s a plenty” given a workout by Wild Bill Davison and a load more. This CD is perfect for in car listening or background at a party. I paid less than £3 in English money for t
his record and that’s fine value. In case you are worried about the quality of pre-owned CDs from Amazon you need not be. You have a money back guarantee and in several years of buying CDs this way I have only had one poor quality record and that was exchanged within four days with no argument. So there you have it – a good source of out-of-print records and usually at great prices.
In this section we’re drawing attention to CDs we’ve just discovered for ourselves and which you might be interested in – we might even give them mini-reviews. Like – for example – this superb boxed set of ten CDs of Wayne Shorter (Cover above somewhere) with a variety of bands but mainly Art Blakey’s superb Jazz Messengers with the wonderful Lee Morgan. This is a great set of reissues which varies from driving hard bop to quite lyrical almost classical mood. A great set and great value for about £12 in the UK. Our example came from AW Jazz in Haverfordwest one of the – if not THE – finest jazz records shops in the UK.
Hot Stuff – “Early Jazz Revisited” – Hot Stuff is the name of the band here – one that’s new to me despite the fact that they were apparently formed in 1992. It just shows how of touch one can get when retirement to the hills beckons more than smoky home counties jazz venues. So who are they and what are they like? The band comprises Dick Charlesworth on reeds, Mike Pointon – trombone, Chez Chesterman cornet, Pat Hawes – piano, Jim Forey – banjo & guitar, John Rodber – bass and Rex Bennett – drums. Now to what they’re like – well – the avowed intent of the band when they formed was to create a new-ish style of jazz as far from the usual club hackneyed “trad” repertoire and playing formulae as possible. So – have they succeeded? Yes indeed – using a refreshing choice of material, vocals from most members and Charlesworth’s multi instrumental ability – they sound fresh and full of vitality. They here present a cracking set of tunes (on the Upbeat label) most of which haven’t previously been recorded by British bands in recent times. Good examples are tunes like Lil Hardin’s “Pencil Papa” and Hey Fat Mama by Jabbo Williams – great stuff worthy of regular playings. Well done Upbeat – more please.
This fine album is from the hard to get New Orleans label – “American Music” which seeks to present us with rare roots significantly important traditional jazz. This album in particular is important because it presents the newly emerged from obscurity trumpet pioneer in concert with the very fine revivalist band of Doc Evans and brilliant pianist Dion Ewell. The year was 1947 and Bunk – for years stuck in poverty without a horn or teeth – was now fully re-equipped and set on showing the world that although he had played in the late 1890s with one of jazz creators Buddy Bolden’s bands – he was up to playing with the best of the day. And we quickly see why he had earned the status of “legend”. He shows that he was and is capable of creating so many hot new melodies on top of old ones – the pure art if jazz improvisation – that he certainly ranked among the “greats”. The performances here are a rare treat – wonderful Bunk, fine band, excellent guest Don Ewell. Very collectible – and there’s a bonus – on the first track Bunk is interviewed and tells his life story – magic stuff. There’s a down side though – the original recordings were made on a portable tape recorder and lost for many years. Their quality was not to today’s standards but the shortcomings are worth putting up with.
Eddie Condon and the Barefoot Mob – the V-Disc Recordings (see rare example) – Submarine Records release ref 0842. During the 1939-1945 World War some bright spark in the American Government had the idea of making jazz and popular music 78rpm records, pressing them on flexible vinyl and shipping them together with lightweight clockwork record players to front line troops as a morale booster. The idea proved popular and many thousands were made with the musicians giving their services free. But this collection is not just of rare V-Discs but ones which were never released and several tracks are included which clearly were from highly informal runs through and discussions between the guys taking part. And what a star studded bunch they were – Wild Bill Davison, Pops Foster, James P. Johnson, Pee Wee Russell, Miff Mole, Joe Bushkin, Jimmy Rushing, Bobby Hackett, Cutty Cutshall, Peanuts Hucko, Edmund Hall, Ernie Caceres. Mr Condon of course and many more. These are fine tracks – great Dixieland.
When Louis met Bix – Andy Schumm and Enrico Tomasso – Lake Records LACD345
Reliable legend has it that in 1928 Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, which at the time had jazz stars like Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer in its ranks, was in Chicago as were the Louis Armstrong“Stompers”with – among others – Honore Dutray – and Earl Hines and Pete Briggs. The legend is – and we have Louis’ own word that it realy happened – that he took his band to hear the Whiteman orchestra and afterwards the jazzers among them jammed backstage for some hours. Louis said it was one of the best sessions he’d ever been part of. To cut a long story sideways Lake Records have very bravely – as part of their ongoing history recreation series – staged a reconstruction of that wonderful night. And it’s a huge success. With Andy Schumm playing a very creditable Bix style and the amazing Mr. Tomasso paying wonderful tribute to Louis’ style (and he was at one time an in-person student of the master!) aided by wonder reedman Matthias Seuffert, brilliant pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen plus Spats Langham, Nicholas D. Ball, Alistair Allan and Malcolm Sked – they create a great classic hot session. It really is super stuff which sounds like the original without being a direct antiseptic soulless copy. This all makes for wonderful listening over and over again.
Crescent City Piano Players – Earl Roach – Duke Burrell – Louis Gallaud – American Music Records
If you are familiar with the piano styles of New Orleans most famous keyboard men – Dr. John, Fats Domino or maybe even Alton Purnell with the George Lewis band then you ain’t heard nothing yet! The three more basic piano pounders here – the sort to be found almost everywhere in the city at one time – are simply two-fisted relatively unsophisticated guys out to entertain but without frills or gimmicks. They have simple but entertaining styles that follow the melody and are easy on the ear – making good barroom or hotel lounge jazz and a pleasant change from all the histrionics the more modern keyboard men get up to.
Bunk Johnson – rare and unissued masters – Vol One 1943 – 1945 – American Music Records
Brilliant Bunk is heard here in the earliest days after his rediscovery and now with new teeth and new trumpet provided by well wishers including Louis Armstrong. Bunk – in case you didn’t know – was a leading light in the earliest days of jazz and even played with the Buddy Bolden Band – Bolden being one of jazz’ creators. But Bunk fell on hard times with no horn or teeth. When rediscovered he was driving a truck in the rice fields if New Iberia. Now here he’s teamed with a bunch of local guys that eventually he hated as “temporary musicians”, but who cut with him some of the most important jazz tracks ever recorded. These are an example and superb they are too. Without doubt they are not far off being the sort of jazz that was played in the city in the earliest days. It’s exciting stuff – full of heat, dynamism and flights of fancy from our leading man who had a seemingly inexhaustible fund of improvisations. These are great hot tracks that bear study – and by the way the drummer Baby Dodds is the brother of clarinettist Johnny and was both King Oliver’s drummer and that of the early Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens.
Miss Lulu White’s Red Hot Creole Jazzband – devoted to the music of King Oliver – Stomp Off Records CD1370.
It appears that this CD is obsolete in that you can’t order it in the UK. But Amazon offer the facility to download tracks and the old USA-based site of the label itself appears to have the record in stock. All this is important in that this set of eighteen tracks is some of the hottest and most rhythmic I have ever heard from a European band. They are brilliantly played by an all-star group with the standouts being Matthias Seuffert on saxes and clarinet, Mart Maus and Tom Goosen on cornets, plus the distinctive sounding Alain Marquet on clarinet and Daniel Huck on alto sax. In all this is a ten-piece band but it’s all so well disciplined and organised that the feeling you get is that they’ve played together for years. The idea of the session of course was to recreate the music of the fabulous King Oliver band of the early 1920s plus that of the Johnny Dodds New Orleans Feetwarmers and Bootblacks. And oh-boy do they succeed – do they ever? It’s magical stuff from start to last – quite wonderful and one of my (BH) all time great favourite CDs.
John Novello – Threshold – released by Holographic. On this nine track dynamic and exciting jazz fusion romp John (Hammond B3 organ, piano and synthesiser) is joined by long-time collaborator Eric Marienthal on saxes, Eric McKain – percussion, Melvin Davis – bass and Randy Drake on drums. After moving to L.A. and playing gigs with high level pop and soul people like Ramsey Lewis, Donna Summer, Manhattan Transfer and Edgar Winter Novello began to be accepted in his own right as a new creator. Then with his own group Niacin recording on Chick Corea’s Stretch label his work began to attract wider attention. Now his reputation is soaring through work like this super collection of explorations where he gives full reign not only to his own interesting ideas but also those of Marienthal and in particular Randy Drake’s drums. It’s a fine album – full of dynamism.
Weather Report “8:30” – double CD – recorded during the band’s worldwide tour in January and February 1979. Personnel – Joe Zawinul – Keyboards, Quadra bass and Korg Vocoder. Wayne Shorter – Tenor and Soprano saxes; Jaco Pastorius – Drums and Bass; Erich Zawinul – Percussion; Peter Erskine – Drums and Percussion. This remarkable double CD set is said to be the most popular of all the many Weather Report recordings. Whether that is due to the presence here of their great popular hit “Birdland” or the fact that on these two CDs are to be found the thirteen tracks on which the band found the holy grail of jazz fusion – the unique formula where each member could do his own thing in virtual free form style but help the band maintain its unity as a band. Few if any other bands have ever achieved this satisfactorily and produced music that was listenable and made sense! One of the reasons that this band rarely achieved it was that it was almost always in a state of turmoil with this or that bass player or drummer being fired. On these CDs however the personnel was sort of static and the guys were really enjoying playing together. Indeed leader Zawinul said that here they reached their zenith. Certainly on most tracks they do create a dramatic and excitingly cohesive form that’s a a great joy to play with the volume right up. Two classic CDs for you collections – enjoy.
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings Vol. 1 – Jump, Jive and Wail – Ripple Productions – Boxed set of four CDs – sample covers above.
Recorded over a four year period from 1997 to 2000 these four CDs consist of two recorded live when the band was on tour and two being studio sets. This band with its fairly loose-knit personnel came about when Bill left the Stones to be more able to play his own choice of music and with his own choice of band-mates. And something that becomes apparent from the twelve CDs that we’re looking at here in the complete series is that Bill is a fine songwriter – something that was never apparent within the Rolling Stones – it’s a similar story to that of George Harrison. And – you might ask – why are we writing about Bill’s band at such length – surely they’re a rock ‘n roll outfit? Well – Bill significantly said of this band “I don’t jam with friends – I wanted to create a Band that could play any kind of music, from jazz¸ soul, rock, jump music, ballads, boogie woogie and anything else for complete variety in music, from any era….but being aware of retaining the spark and the magic of the original songs”. That’s a bold statement of intent that fits snugly with my (BH) ideas of good music – and having met and liked mild-mannered Bill when on tour with the Stones many years ago – I decided to acquire these boxed sets in the hope that after all these years our mutual ideas still clicked – they do which is why we’re here!
This is great happy – foot tapping music made by some of the finest people our scene has thrown up in the modern era. Included in the varying personnels in these four CDs for example are one of the UK’s finest blues guitarists in Albert Lee, the rocking organ of Georgie Fame, the soulful contributions of soul and blues singer Beverly Skeate, and then there’s Eric Clapton, percussionist Ray Cooper, drummer Graham Broad, Martin Taylor, Gary Brooker, Nick Payne, Andy Fairweather Low, Mike Sanchez, Peter Frampton and many more. As you go through the many tracks here you become aware that the cream of British rhythm music wants to be in on Bill’s sessions because they “click” and are fun. They’re not all jazz – but what is here rocks and is in the main superb. And those comments were inspired by set one of the three here – next I’ll delve in to the four CDs in set two!
Bill Wyman’s – The Kings of Rhythm Volume 2 – Keep on Truckin’. Set of four CDs.
“Flexible personnels” – that was Bill’s avowed intent when he formed the Rhythm Kings following the success of the almost ad hoc “Willie and the Poor Boys” band he had put together to raise money for various charities. This second boxed set of four CDs are almost all (there are a few by the “Bootleg Kings”) by the “flexible” Rhythm Kings and among the star-studded personnels this time are Albert Lee, Henry Spinetti, Ray Cooper, Beverly Skeate, Georgie Fame, Frank Meade, Martin Taylor, Graham Broad, Gary Brooker, Martin Taylor, Chris Rea, Andy Fairweather Low – that’s together with Bill Wyman of course. And the contents of three of the four CDs this time are predominantly studio recorded tracks with the material being from the general cannon of the blues, rhythm and blues, boogie and soul – the fourth was recorded live on tour in 2001. Live or studio they’re all super tracks for either listening with the right beverage (!) or dancing – indeed it’s hard to sit still when listening to this lot – they’re brilliant and the individual talents on display are world class.
The Kings of Rhythm Volume 3 – Tell You A Secret – set of four CDs.
The key to this super set is that three of the CDs were recorded “live” with the band on tour (2002-2004 & 2008) and the fourth (actually the first in the box!) is of studio stuff from 2004 with three live tracks tacked on the end as a sort of bonus. The mix here is much the same with the “flexible” personnel and a wonderfully eclectic choice of titles. For the first CD for example Bill explains in small type within the set’s booklet listing tracks and personnels – just why he chose that particular number. It makes for fascinating reading and if you ever needed proof of his dedication it’s there. Like beneath “Cadillac Woman” he writes – “chosen in honour of the great early piano player ‘Archibald’ who influenced every piano player that came after him in New Orleans”. Bill is a man who studies his music and cares deeply about it. Among the “flexible” personnels this time are Mark Knopfler, Andy Fairweather Low, Georgie Fame, pianist Axel Zwingenberger, Graham Broad, Albert Lee, Frank Mead, Mike Sanchez, soul singer Beverly Skeate, Martin Taylor, Gary Brooker and many more. The result is a glorious celebration of rhythm and blues with a little jazz thrown in. Great party tracks with superb solos from the likes of Mr. Lee or Georgie or Mike Sanchez – or just fine for sitting back and just-a-rockin’ – oh yes…….
PS – If you’d like to know more about Bill who will soon celebrate his 80th birthday go to his website – mbillwyman.co – and you’ll find a video clip of the band in our clips section.
Recently Discovered Late Vintage Colyer – Ken Colyer’s All Stars. Upbeat Records. Although it is over twenty five years since the death of Ken Colyer his music lives on through the devoted efforts of specialist jazz labels including the effervescent Upbeat. One of their latest offerings is a previously unissued live session from 1986 with a band including pianist Ray Foxley, Colin Bowden on drums and broadcaster and writer Alyn Shipton on bass. Ken Colyer’s health had been fading for a number of years during the 1980’s and he had stopped running his own band long before this. However, he had been guesting with various traditional outfits and this group includes several musicians that he’d played with during his halcyon days. Compared to those heady times of the 1950’ and 60’s Ken’s playing is here more subdued but he remains very much the inspirational leader with pianist Foxley and Mike Pointon on trombone providing the more spirited support. To his last Ken remained loyal to the traditional New Orleans ensemble approach to the music and here you’ll find some wonderful examples of this style of jazz. An interesting, and to my knowledge, unique example of Ken including a tenor sax in his band is when George Berry swaps his clarinet for the tenor sax on ‘Sing On’. Altogether this is a fine and rather poignant example of Ken’s later playing and several of the tracks are taken from the Upbeat DVD ‘Rare Colyer on video’. Details of these and other Upbeat CDs are available from www.upbeat.co.uk Dave Puddy
TJ Johnson in Retrospect – A Celebration of 30 Years in Jazz and Blues – Upbeat Records The jazz and blues singer TJ Johnson is not a name I’m familiar with – that is until this double CD retrospective of his music came my way. By the end of listening to two hours of classic soul and blues I felt as if I’d known TJJ all of my life such is his open and honest style of singing and piano playing. Go to his web site and read TJ Johnson’s story and you get a wonderful feel of the highs and lows in his life, all of which is reflected in the choice of songs on the two CDs. Love found, love lost and all shades in between are to be discovered here. This generous selection covers Johnson’s career from the late 1980’s after he left Max Collie’s Rhythm Aces up to his 2009 release ‘I’ve Got the World on a String’. Hard hitting blues are mixed in with swinging standards and soulful laments – I particularly enjoyed the classic One for my baby – and Johnson is accompanied by a succession of talented musicians including Adrian Cox on sax and clarinet, Emilen Legendre, drums and Dave Cottterill on guitar. My only disappointment is the lack of any songs obviously written by Johnson himself – I would guess he’s got a whole lot of material hidden away in his own soul and it would be good to have this expressed through his musical talent. Another great release from Upbeat, and details can be found on their website www.upbeat.co.uk. Dave Puddy