Imagine being able to find within seconds all of the information that exists about the music on a particular 78, LP, or CD that you own. A good discography has all of the relevant information about a session including a list of songs, the recording date, the personnel and instruments played, the location, and the records on which the music has been released.
It must be a frustrating task to be a discographer, particularly of all of jazz, for new information and releases come out every day. In book form, even the best discographies become dated after a short period. Among the worthy efforts of the past were Charles Delauney’s Hot Discography in 1936, Brian Rust’s two volume Jazz Records 1897-1942, Jorgen Jepsen’s Jazz Records 1942-1980, and Walter Bruyninckx’s 90 Years Of Recorded and Blues which traced jazz history up until the late 1980s.
Tom Lord’s TJD Online tops them all. Lord has been at this business for quite some time. His discography was originally a 34-volume book series, then became a CD-Rom that was succeeded by a new and updated disc every few years. I have used my CD-Rom nearly every day during the past five years. But now, with TJD Online, Lord has solved the updating problem by making compiling and making available a gigantic online database that is updated on a daily basis.
TJD Online (more information can be found at www.lordisco.com) is available for $9.99 a month. It fully documents jazz from 1917 to the present time, and also includes ragtime and related sessions that date back to the 1890s. It is easy to use and one can quickly get a chronological listing not only of all of the sessions that a particular musician led but every date that he or she appeared on. If you ever wanted all 1,231 sessions that bassist Milt Hinton was on (dating from 1930-99), you can pull it up within moments. It is also easy to get a chronological listing of every version of a particular song including 2,385 versions of “Body And Soul” and “just” 2,126 of “St. Louis Blues.” There are over a million musician and tune entries with information on 35,000 leaders and 182,000 sessions.
And while TJD Online covers all eras and periods of jazz, those readers who are primarily interested in classic and trad jazz will not go away disappointed. Whether it is Sidney Bechet’s 176 sessions as a leader or Kenny Ball’s 161, all of the details are available. If you are a serious jazz record collector, TJD Online is essential.
JACK TEAGARDEN MEETS EARL HINES
In the fall of 1957, an all-star group filled mostly with Louis Armstrong alumni toured England. Co-led by trombonist Jack Teagarden and pianist Earl Hines, the band also featured trumpeter Max Kaminsky, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko (who would actually join Armstrong two years later), bassist Jack Lesberg, and drummer Cozy Cole. The band unfortunately did not make any studio recordings but was captured live in London on Oct. 5, 1957 and on seven songs from a Nov. 6 Paris concert (put out on an LP by the Magic Awe label).
The performances from Oct. 5 have been released in full on two CD by the Upbeat label called Jack Teagarden/Earl Hines All-Stars In Concert, Volumes 1 and 2. While eight of the 23 selections had previously come out on an album by the tiny Jazz Groove label, the sound has been improved in this much more complete collection.
All of the musicians have opportunities to be showcased, particularly on the first volume. The full group performs rousing versions of “Royal Garden Blues” and “Memphis Blues.” Earl Hines, who is in particularly excellent form throughout, is showcased on “Tea For Two” and a touching vocal version of “I’m A Little Brown Bird.” Peanuts Hucko shows why he was such a highly-rated clarinetist on “Stealing Apples” and “Autumn Leaves.” Max Kaminsky is in the spotlight on “Tin Roof Blues,” Jack Lesberg is featured on “Lullaby Of The Leaves” and Cozy Cole stretches out during his extended drum solo on “Caravan.” As for Teagarden, he is the genial host and makes warm if familiar statements on “Stars Fell On Alabama” and “Basin Street Blues.”
Volume 2 is actually slightly superior to the first disc due to the exciting group jams on “Original Dixieland One-Step,” “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque” and “That’s A Plenty” plus Kaminsky’s romp on “I’ve Found A New Baby.” There are also a fair number of features with Teagarden singing and playing “St. James Infirmary Blues” and Hines having four showcases including “Honeysuckle rose” and “Rosetta.”
The sound is pretty decent throughout, making it easy to enjoy the stirring playing by these immortal musicians. Upbeat, a top British jazz label, has many rewarding releases in its catalog with these two volumes being an excellent place to start.
Jack Teagarden/Earl Hines All-Stars In Concert, Volume 1 (Upbeat URCD 271, 11 selections, TT = 61:42) www.upbeatrecordings.co.uk
Jack Teagarden/Earl Hines All Stars In Concert, Volume 2 (Upbeat URC 273, 12 selections, TT = 53:56) www.upbeatrecordings.co.uk
GERSHWIN BY DOWLING AND HODGES
While waiting expectantly for the upcoming release of Richard Dowling’s multi-disc set of the Complete Scott Joplin (which will be put out by Rivermont), it is a good excuse to enjoy Gershwin, a collaboration with fellow pianist Frederick Hodges from a few years ago. On two pianos, Dowling and Hodges perform “Rhapsody In Blue,” the lengthy three-part “Concerto In F,” “I Got Rhythm Variations” and “Porgy And Bess Fantasy For Two Pianos.”
For three of the four pieces, Dowling and Hodges were confronted with arrangements of the classic Gershwin works for two pianos that were a bit inadequate in the second piano part. Hodges (on “Concerto In F” and “I Got Rhythm Variations”) and Dowling (“Rhapsody In Blue”) rewrote their part to more fully reflect what an orchestra would play behind the lead piano. In the case of “Porgy And Bess,” the 1951 arrangement by Percy Grainger, which covers all of the main themes from the folk opera, was considered up to the high standards demanded by the pianists.
Due to the new variations (which include an additional ragtime-flavored variation added to “I Got Rhythm”), these performances will be considered fresh and new even for listeners who have many versions of the works and can sing along with the themes. The performances are virtuosic, flawless and lively with both of the pianists displaying plenty of obvious affection for the rich melodies.
Gershwin (Rivermont BSW-2227, 4 selections, TT = 79:10) www.rivermontrecords.com
JAZZ CLASSIC OF THE MONTH
During the first years of the swing era, freewheeling jazz of the 1920s was considered out of vogue and old fashioned despite being less than 15 years old. Big bands were in and while there were numerous small groups, many could be considered miniaturized versions of orchestras. While there were exceptions, particularly Bob Crosby’s Bobcats (which featured the top soloists from Crosby’s orchestra), Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven (taken from TD’s big band), and the combos of Louis Prima, Wingy Manone, and Fats Waller, New Orleans-styled jazz seemed to be lost to history. Even Louis Armstrong was primarily heard with his big band.
Things began to change in the late 1930s with the recordings of Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtime Band (although that group soon broke up due to lack of work) and Eddie Condon for the Commodore label even if the New Orleans jazz survivors who had not left the Crescent City would still be undiscovered for a few more years. In San Francisco, trumpeter Lu Watters began to start an important movement. Bored with playing big band swing, Watters put together the Yerba Buena Jazz Band to revive and revitalize the music of the 1920s including most notably King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.
The Good Time Jazz label was very interested in Watters’ band and documented his groups during 1941-42 and 1946-47. All of these highly enjoyable recordings are on the four-CD set The Complete Good Time Jazz Recordings.
While King Oliver was a role model, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band had its own sound within the jazz tradition from the start. The 1941-42 band with Watters and Bob Scobey on cornets (they would later switch to trumpets), trombonist Turk Murphy, clarinetist Ellis Horne, pianist Wally Rose, both Clancy Hayes and Russ Bennett on banjos, Dick Lammi or Squire Girsback on tuba, and drummer Bill Dart sounded unlike any other group of the time. They must have seemed a bit prehistoric to fans of Count Basie or Glenn Miller. Watters and his musicians played 1920s pieces and jazz versions of ragtime with spirit and uncrowded but exciting ensembles.
Due to World War II, several of the musicians entered the military by 1942 although a wartime version of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band performed for a time in San Francisco. A six-song broadcast from Aug. 1942 that features the short-lived Benny Strickler on trumpet and both Ellis Horne and Bob Helm on clarinets is included in this box.
The band reformed in 1946 with Watters, Scobey, Murphy, Rose, Lammi, and Dart joined by Bob Helm and banjoist Harry Mordecai. That group is featured on the last 2 ½ discs of this box. The band sounds looser and more swinging than previously. In addition to the vintage material, they introduce such originals as “Minstrels Of Annie Street,” “Annie Street Rock,” “Big Bear Stomp,” “Emperor Norton’s Hunch, “Sage Hen Strut,” and “Yerba Buena Strut.” During that period, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band was not only responsible for helping to revive early jazz and the music of Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton but, through Wally Rose’s piano features, ragtime. While the group was nearing its end in 1948 when Scobey departed and the group reverted to three horns, and it was finished in 1950 when Watters retired, the legacy of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band lives on. A countless number of groups during the past 65 years have sought to emulate its sound and exuberant ensemble-oriented music.
This colorful box set (which contains an excellent booklet) contains all of the evidence one needs as to the power and joy of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band.
The Complete Good Time Jazz Recordings (Good Time Jazz 4GTJCD-4409, 94 selections, TT = 4:43:27)
In every issue of the Syncopated Times, this monthly column features reviews of CDs by classic jazz, 1920s and ‘30s, New Orleans jazz, Swing and Dixieland artists, covering both vintage greats and some of today’s top musicians. Be sure to send me a copy of your CDs (to Scott Yanow, P.O. Box 1220, Lake Hughes, CA 93532) if you wish to have your recordings reviewed. If you are a musician and need liner notes, bios or press releases, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition CHOPS, a series of 50 Jazz Trivia Quizzes totaling 1,000 multiple-choice and true/false questions covering all eras of jazz, is available from me as a PDF for $25 via Pay Pal at the same email address.