VINTAGE WEST COAST JAZZ
The Jazz Oracle label can always be depended upon to reissue and repackage excellent hot jazz from the 1920s.
Quite a few New Orleans jazz musicians moved to Chicago during 1915-25 in search of better work conditions, making Chicago the jazz center during 1917-27. However other areas of the United States were also important in the beginnings of jazz. Jelly Roll Morton (who spent much of 1915-22 in San Francisco and Los Angeles) and Kid Ory moved to California early on.
While Morton was not documented until 1923 when he was in Chicago, in Los Angeles Ory led the first African-American New Orleans jazz group ever to record. After cutting two numbers apiece accompanying vaudeville singers Roberta Dudley and Ruth Lee in April, 1922, the following month Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra recorded “Ory’s Creole Trombone” (taken faster than most later versions) and “Society Blues.” Those two numbers are the only ones that feature cornetist Mutt Carey in his younger years.
West Coast Jazz 1922-27 reissues those six selections along with hot jazz from Harvey Brooks’ Quality Four (ten performances including four alternate takes), Reb Spikes and other obscure bands. The Quality Four sides, dating from Feb. 1924, make the case that Paul Howard (later leader of the Quality Serenaders) was an important pioneering tenor-saxophonist, sounding more advanced at the time than Coleman Hawkins. Reb Spikes’ Majors and Minors fare well on two songs from 1927 but much rarer are two songs by Reb’s Legion Club 45’s along with titles from Dick Lucke’s Arcadians, Freddie Carter’s Orchestra, and the Lake Arrowhead Orchestra. Overall the musicianship is higher than that heard on many of the Midwest territory bands of the time, the solos are heated, and the ensembles are full of spirit, making this an enjoyable collection filled with rarities.
West Coast Jazz 1922-27 (Jazz Oracle BDW807, 26 selections, TT = 74:36) www.jazzoracle.com
THE BOSWELL SISTERS
Arguably the top jazz vocal group before the rise of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross in the late 1950s (with the 1930s Mills Brothers being the only close competition), the Boswell Sisters are still a joy to hear 70 years after their last recording. Connie, Vet and Martha Boswell were born in New Orleans, made their first recordings as kids in 1925, and hit it big during 1930-31. Much more jazz-oriented than the Andrews Sisters and virtually all of the sister acts, the Boswells frequently changed tempos twice during their recordings, mixed together tightly arranged ensembles with a bit of jamming, and had Connie take the lead vocals. They set a standard for hot jazz singing that has never been surpassed.
26 of their best recordings (dating from 1930-36) are on Let Yourself Go. The packaging could be better since the music is not in chronological order, the personnel listing are incomplete, and the recording dates are not included, but the music is quite rewarding. Highlights include “It’s The Girl,” “When I Take My Sugar To Tea,” “Dinah,” “Crazy People,” “Roll On Mississippi, Roll On,” “Shout Sister Shout,” and “Put That Sun Back In The Sky.”
All in all, this is a fine introductory collection to a vocal group that all hot jazz fans should be familiar with.
Let Yourself Go (Sounds Of Yesteryear DSOY2065, 26 selections, TT = 77:19) www.cityhallrecords.com
THE AGELESS CHRIS BARBER
Chris Barber, who is now 87, has been a major part of the British trad scene for over 60 years. While he recorded studio sides as a leader as early as 1951, it was three years later that he began leading a regular band that featured trumpeter Pat Halcox and clarinetist Monty Sunshine. Barber In Detroit, most of which is the only recording made during their initial tour of the United States in 1959, features the same classic frontline.
Originally a bootleg (the band did not know that they were being recorded), the dozen selections are from Feb. 22, 1959. The recording quality had originally been rough but is greatly improved on Barber In Detroit. The three horns, joined by banjoist Eddie Smith, bassist Dick Smith, and drummer Graham Burbidge, are in top form with the highlights including “Bourbon Street Parade,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” Duke Ellington’s “Saratoga Swing,” and “Panama.” To fill out the CD, producer Paul Adams came up with six previously unreleased selections from 1957-58 including three numbers from the band’s great blues singer Ottilie Patterson. Halcox would be a member of Chris Barber’s groups until he retired in 2008, guesting occasionally with Barber until his death in 2013. As usual on this formerly rare live set, he is one of the main stars.
Chris Barber, who now leads a larger ten-piece band, is still active. Barber In Detroit is only one of many rewarding sessions of his that has been released by the Lake label, a catalog well worth exploring.
Barber In Detroit (Lake LACD 351, 18 selections, TT = 76:19) www.fellside.com
THE UNIQUE WILD BILL DAVISON
A hard-charging trumpeter whose screams, roars, and growls on uptempo pieces and whose sentimentality during ballads made him instantly recognizable, Wild Bill Davison was such an extroverted musical personality that most other Chicago jazz trumpeters seem a bit bland in comparison.
Davison spent much of five years in Denmark although there were frequent visits to the U.S. during that time. The four-CD set The Danish Sessions 1973-78 contains some of the best recordings from that era that are owned by the Storyville label. Most of the first disc features Wild Bill as a member of Papa Bue Jensen’s band in 1974 with some other titles from 1977. The second CD showcases the cornetist with several different Danish bands including most notably that of trombonist Ole “Fessor” Lindgreen. The fourth disc is a Wild Bill with Strings session from 1976 while the third CD jumps back a couple of decades as Davison is heard leading bands in 1952 that broadcast on the Doctor Jazz radio series. Also featured on the latter disc are clarinetist Edmond Hall, trombonist Cutty Cutshall and either Ralph Sutton or Gene Schroeder on piano while Eddie Condon provides rhythm guitar.
Wild Bill Davison during his years in Denmark kept his trademark sound and style but stretched a bit as far as the repertoire went, sounding just as comfortable with swing standards and ballads as he did with Dixieland warhorses. The Danish sidemen are uniformly excellent (with tenor saxophonist Jesper Thilo being a standout whenever he appears) and Wild Bill obviously loved playing with them. The strings date found Davison both at his most expressive and using subtlety and space creatively.
This box set is rounded out by a DVD that has Davison’s appearance with Eddie Condon from a half-hour 1962 television show hosted by Goodyear Tires. Even with clarinetist Peanuts Hucko and Cutty Cutshall in the band, Davison (who has “Blue and Broken-Hearted” as his showcase) consistently steals the show.
The Danish Sessions 1973-1978 (Storyville 1088621, 62 selections, TT = 4:06:44) www.storyvillerecords.com
JAZZ CLASSIC OF THE MONTH
2003 was the centennial of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke’s birth. Celebrating Bix! is a very well-conceived tribute to Beiderbecke that Arbors released that year. Organized by Dan Levinson, Doug LaPasta, and David White, the project includes quite an all-star cast: cornetists Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, and Randy Sandke, Dan Barrett on trombone and cornet; trombonist Harvey Tibbs; Dan Levinson, Peter Martinez, Scott Robinson, and Jack Stuckey on reeds; pianist Mark Shane (with guest Dick Hyman taking “Clementine” as a piano solo); guitarists Howard Alden and Matt Munisteri; bassist Greg Cohen; Vince Giordano on bass sax and bass; and drummer Joe Ascione, plus Barbara Rosene, James Langton, and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings on vocals.
Throughout this project, the group (with arrangements by Peter Ecklund and Levinson) succeeds at doing a balancing act between recreated passages and new improvising. While aspects of the original recordings are brought back, the soloists often get the chance to come up with their own statements within the style. Using three cornetists on most selections is an inspiration for they play harmonized renditions of some of Beiderbecke’s famous solos and ensemble playing on such songs as “At The Jazz Band Ball,” “Riverboat Shuffle,” “Davenport Blues,” “Jazz Me Blues,” “Clarinet Marmalade,” “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans,” “San,” “Deep Down South,” and of course “Singin’ The Blues.” In addition, all of the horn players (other than Martinez) get solo space, including each of the cornetists. Barbara Rosene does very well singing in the period style on “Proud Of A Baby Like You,” “I’m Coming Virginia,” and “Singing The Blues” while the Manhattan Rhythm Kings liven up “Borneo” and “San.”
I’m sure that Bix would have loved to sit in with this group.
Celebrating Bix! (Arbors 19271, 19 selections, TT =76:54) wwwarborsrecords.com
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 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.
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