June 2024

On the Cover


Corte Swearingen Introduces a Ragtime Master to a New Generation

Like most pianists who have devoted their lives to ragtime and early jazz, they remember the precise moment—and maybe even the exact work—when they first heard the music that would strike a chord deep inside and change their lives forever. For American pianist Corte Swearingen, that moment came in 1978

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Olli Soikkeli: A Guitarist’s Journey from Finland to New York

Olli Soikkeli is from a family of nonmusicians. His parents, however, tried to interest his two older brothers in playing some instruments, but the only result was for a few years “a pretty crappy guitar’ gathering dust in the house. When the 12-year-old Olli showed interest in it, they quickly

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Lil Hardin Armstrong

Lil Hardin Armstrong: Profiles in Jazz

Lil Hardin Armstrong had a long career as a pianist, songwriter and occasional singer but she is chiefly remembered today for her work during a four year period (1923-27) when she often worked and recorded with her husband, Louis Armstrong. However that is a bit unfair for there was quite

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Michael Cuscuna and the Mosaic Records Legacy

There’s probably no better memorial to the legacy of legendary producer Michael Cuscuna than the release, expected in June, of a seven-CD set titled Classic Bobby Hutcherson Blue Note Sessions 1963-1970 on the Mosaic Records label. Music from eleven sessions is captured, featuring Hutcherson as both leader and sideman, charting

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Moonlighting By Name, Moonlighting By Nature

For many musicians, the jazz life is a constant struggle for survival. The pandemic has only made things more difficult, with venues going bust or booking only acts with broad appeal, attracting punters who will spend plenty at the bar. (Read: no jazz, no dancers.) But for some, playing gigs

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The Big Spider Back Jazz Festival?!

“Mommy, the Bix Beiderbecke jazz festival is coming up soon. . . can we go, please?” I pleaded with my fingers crossed. I had heard about this event for over a year, and it had particularly intrigued me because of my great interest in Bix Beiderbecke’s music and hometown. So,

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Ain't Cha Got Music?

Bennie Moten’s KC Orch 1931-32: The Birth of Swing

Jeff Barnhart: This month, commitments have swept Hal away and it took me about 20 seconds (actually, I’m exaggerating) to arrive at my desired substitute; he was happily available, and we’re repeating one element of our collaboration two years ago: once again, while Anne and I are performing in the

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Blowing Off The Dust

Helen Traubel Defends Popular Music

My grandmother used to say she couldn’t see because she had Cadillacs in front of her eyes. Well, it must be genetic because I’ve gone from Volkswagen Bugs to Ford Transit Vans blocking my vision. However, I recently received good news. I am eligible for cataract surgery in June that

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Recording Pioneers

Labor Unions and Phonograph Workers

Musicians who worked in phonograph studios in the acoustic era were basically forced to fend for themselves for pay. The Musicians’ Union as we know it did exist starting in 1896, but there were still many things to improve on it. What is interesting is that, during the acoustic era,

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My Inspirations

The Joel Schiavone I Knew

I’m writing this month’s column on my birthday in the UK in the shire of Derby (pronounced like “Barbie,” not like the hats worn by Laurel and Hardy) in Ashbourne Civil parish in a village called Kniveton in an AirBnB called “Upper Bank House.” I only mention this because for

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Quarter Notes

Jazz Fest in NOLA—Eight Days of Joy!

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival added an extra day this year to host the Rolling Stones on their third attempt to play the Jazz Fest. Prior Fests had them scheduled but between heart issues and pandemics, the Stones appearance was postponed until May 2, 2024. The typical Fest

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Irving Berlin at the piano, circa 1906.
Static From My Attic

Impartial Eclipse

As I write this, it is five days since my second eye surgery. In the plus column, this is the first time in nearly fifty years that I have been able to navigate without glasses. Even as a kid I faked my way through school, unable to see the chalkboard—which

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Ben Pollack drawing by Sara Lièvre
Jazz Birthday

Ben Pollack

Ben Pollack was born June 22, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois. He took up the drums as a teenager, inspired by jazz emanating from Chicago nightclubs. Pollack became a fan of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. He talked his way into the group to sit in and soon was the band’s

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Natural Gas Jazz Band
It Was a Gas!

It Was A Gas! Final Column

Final Column This is my final column because all the appropriate material has now been published. Nearly 50 anecdotes were published in 13 different monthly issues of this fine paper and I am sad that I can’t continue. However, I hope you now realize that experiencing 50+ years with a

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Ragtime Vignettes 

Felicity Rag (1911)

The C section of the Joplin/Hayden collaboration Felicity Rag (1911)—Mozartian in its gracefulness and simplicity—is probably my favorite section of any Joplin rag. The rest of Felicity Rag is quite charming, including the much-maligned bridge. These four consonant measures are a welcome respite from the music’s theretofore constant motion, before

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Jazz Travels

From The 2024 Templeton Ragtime Fest

The annual Charles H.Templeton, Sr., Ragtime and Jazz Festival at Mississippi State University in Starkville has, for the past ten years, begun with the Gatsby Gala fashion show, which makes it unique among music festivals. It fosters participation by students in an event that they otherwise might not know was

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Jazz Travels

From the NY Hot Jazz Camp & Gotham Jazz Fest

I spent the week of April 22-28 in New York volunteering at the New York Hot Jazz Camp at the Greenwich House Music School, which culminated in the Gotham Jazz Festival. I missed these two events last year due to having houseguests (at least, they were musicians), but I have

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Festival Roundup

The Festival Roundup June 2024

36th ELKHART JAZZ FESTIVAL (Elkhart, IN) – June 20-23 Since 1988, jazz legends and fans have gathered each summer at the Elkhart Jazz Festival which combines warm, intimate, small-town hospitality with the excitement of big-city jazz. Known as the Band Instrument Capital of the World, Elkhart companies employ nearly 2,000

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News and More

Palm Court Closes After 35 Years of Hosting Jazz in NOLA

In a Press Release dated May 3, 2024, Nina Buck, owner of Palm Court Jazz Café in New Orleans, made the following announcement: I am very sad to announce that Palm Court Jazz Cafe will permanently close its doors on June 2nd after 35 years of music, food and fun.

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One time, on Bandcamp

June 7th will be Bandcamp Friday this month and my hope is to send our readers to a website that all fans of hot jazz, ragtime, or swing, should be making a BIG part of their lives. The best of our music is self-produced, and even those handful of albums

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Miff Mole on ‘Singin’ The Blues’

To the Editor: The Feb 4, 1927 recording of “Singin’ the Blues” by Frank Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke is one of the most important and influential 1920s jazz recordings. It was added to the National Registry in 2005. The citation reads: “Saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer and cornetist Bix Beiderbecke created some

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Living to be 100

I never gave much thought to living to be 100 until I hit 90. Then I realized it was possible that I might live to be 100. Then what? Should I try to think of something clever to say when people ask what is my secret? Or should I just

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Off The Beaten Tracks

Hot Town Tuba Skinny CD Cover

Tuba Skinny • Hot Town

I’m enough of a hipster to wish I could dislike Tuba Skinny. To wish I could say they were overrated and their fame undeserved. To complain they drew attention away from more deserving acts. But while I can picture that act, steeped in cliches and substandard playing, Tuba Skinny is

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Jenavieve and the Winding Boys • sleepy time dream team

Many albums from New Orleans are recorded in houses in the 9th Ward, supplying a poetic mental image of the festivities, but this one actually feels like a home jam for the city’s street musicians. That’s appropriate as the Winding Boys got their start on Royal Street, and though you

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Crawfish Wallet• A Good Man Is Hard To Find

Crawfish Wallet• A Good Man Is Hard To Find

The first album I heard from Crawfish Wallet was their third, 2022’s Ti Flanboyan, and two years later I still play it on my walks with some regularity. They have that thing that grows on you and stays good. Dave Doyle reviewed their second album, I’m in NOLA for us

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Amber Rachelle & The Sweet Potatoes • Too Sweet

A New Orleans group without familiar players is always a nice find. I love how the city contains and continues to attract multitudes. Amber Rachelle & The Sweet Potatoes are as fresh as it gets. Forming around 2021, this debut album is from 2023, a year that also found them

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Nights at the Turntable

Nat King Cole • Live At The Blue Note Chicago

It is easy to divide the musical life of Nat King Cole (1919-65) into two. Prior to 1950, he was well known as a very talented swing pianist who also sang, most often with his piano-guitar-bass trio. After he had a giant hit with “Mona Lisa” in 1950, Cole (who

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Classic Jazz at Saint-Germain-des-Prés

JAZZ CLASSIC OF THE MONTH Two formerly rare ten-inch LPs were reissued on the single CD Classic Jazz at Saint-Germain-des-Prés which was released as part of Universal Music’s Jazz In Paris series in 2000. While the sessions are unrelated to each other, both feature an American veteran of the 1920s

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Charlie LaVere & His Chicago Loopers • His 25 Finest 1933-1951

Charles LaVere (1910-83) was a talented pianist, singer and songwriter who managed to stay busy through his entire career without ever becoming well-known. Born in Kansas, he studied music at the University of Oklahoma, became good friends with Jack and Charlie Teagarden, worked with Frank William’s Oklahomans, and freelanced on

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Cootie Williams • Concerto For Cootie – Selected Recordings 1928-62

Trumpeter Cootie Williams (1911-1985) will always be most famous for his association with Duke Ellington. He became Bubber Miley’s successor as Ellington’s plunger mute specialist during 1929-40 and, after a 22-year “vacation, he returned for another dozen years (1962-74). Williams had his own sound, could also play top-notch unmuted solos,

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Cliff Edwards • All The Hits and More 1924-40

In the 1930s, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire introduced and popularized dozens of songs that became standards. Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards (1895-1971) preceded them in a similar role during 1924-30. Edwards could sing sentimental ballads and was expert at selling songs, but he was also a pioneering scat-singer in his

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Ruth Etting • All The Hits and More 1926-37

Ruth Etting (1896-1978) was the female equivalent of Bing Crosby during her peak years. Like Crosby, Etting gave jazz feeling and relaxed phrasing to pop songs. While she was not as jazz-oriented as Crosby or her contemporary Annette Hanshaw, occasionally she showed that she could have been a major jazz

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More Albums

Amber Rachelle & The Sweet Potatoes • Two Sweet

I’ve had a lot of unsolicited CDs lately, which have made up the bulk of my recent album reviews. And while it’s always nice to get mail—and makes the task of reviewing records a little quicker and simpler—it does tend to skew one’s listening in a particular direction: towards older,

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The Rag Messengers and Friends • Romances aux étoiles

I’d like to say that Britain is the spiritual home of jazz in Europe: we produced enduring heroes like Humphrey Lyttleton, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, and Kenny Ball, plus bestselling bandleaders like Ronnie Scott and Ted Heath, extending the shelf life of that old-time trad and swing well into the

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Wally Fawkes and Ian Christie Sextet • A Private Session

While the names “Wally Fawkes” and “Ian Christie” are well-known in UK trad jazz circles, they are probably not so well-known in those here in the US. Wally Fawkes (d. 2023) was a “man of parts,” being a fine caricaturist under the pen name “Trog” (an abbreviation of ‘troglodyte,” in

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Syncopated Bookshelf

The Final Chorus

Claus Jacobi

Claus Jacobi, a reedman, arranger, scholar of jazz history, and for the last decade the music director of Mike Durham’s Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party died on April 23rd after a brief illness, he was 75. He led the Blue Roseland Orchestra from 1967 through the 80s. He released albums

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Bob Butters of the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band

Robert Bruce “Bob” Butters trombonist for the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band and other groups in the Ohio area passed away, he was 94. The following is an excerpt from his obituary as published in the Columbus Dispatch: Bob was a superb trombone player, and music, especially New Orleans Dixieland style

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Joel Schiavone

Joel Schiavone, founder of the Your Father’s Mustache chain of venues for banjo bands and traditional jazz, died on April 22nd, he was 87. Starting in 1961, with the Your Father’s Mustache name beginning in 1964, his venues, in eight major U.S. cities, Canada, England, and Belgium, helped to extend

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Michael Cuscuna

Michael Cuscuna, co-founder of Mosaic Records, passed away on April 20, 2024, he was 75. Already a jazz buff in childhood, by 14 he was watching Blakey, Miles, and Coltrane from the “peanut gallery” at Birdland. His interest in finding unissued jazz recordings led him to explore the archives of

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Table of Contents


Jazz Birthday of the Month: Ben Pollack, illustration by Sara Lièvre 

Static from my Attic, by Andy Senior 

Final Chorus, compiled by Joe Bebco 

My Inspirations: The Joel Schiavone I Knew, by Jeff Barnhart 

Jazz Travels: The 2024 Templeton Ragtime Fest, by Bill Hoffman 

Ragtime Vignettes: Felicity Rag, by Brandon Byrne 

Jazz Travels: NY Hot Jazz Camp & Gotham Fest, by Bill Hoffman 

Labor Unions and Phongraph Workers, by R.S. Baker 

Quarter Notes: Jazz Fest in NOLA—Eight Days of Joy!, by Shelly Gallichio 

Festival Roundup, compiled by Joe Bebco 

Profiles in Jazz: Lil Hardin Armstrong, by Scott Yanow 

Blowing off the Dust: Helen Traubel Defends Pop Music, by Larry Melton 

It Was a Gas: Weird & Wacky Sidelights with the NGJB, by Phil Crumley 

Strange and Weird Gigs I Have Known: The Army Years, by Bert Thompson

Ain’t Cha Got Music: Bennie Moten 1931-32, by Jeff Barnhart & Dan Barrett 


Doyle’s Discs, CD reviews by Dave Doyle 

Nights at the Turntable, CD reviews by Scott Yanow 

Stars of Jazz by James A. Harrod, reviewed by Scott Yanow 

Off the Beaten Tracks, CD reviews by Joe Bebco 

Corte Swearingen Plays Glenn Jenks, review by Aaron Robinson 

A Private Session by Fawkes & Christie, CD review by Bert Thompson 

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