Ted des Plantes is an Ohio based multi-instrumentalist who has been involved with numerous traditional jazz groups in a career spanning 50 years. He has recorded profusely for Stomp Off, Jazzology and other labels since the early 1970s. At one time he also wrote for The Mississippi Rag.
Recently Ted noticed that some of the Stomp Off LPs on which he had performed had been out of print for decades, and some of the best had never made it to CD. Then he quickly realized that his own private collection of recordings contained material by artists he had worked with that was as good or better than anything currently commercially available. Those thoughts prompted him to acquire rights to several Stomp Off recordings and launch a label, TdP Productions, to release new and unavailable material.
He believes that this material deserves to be “out there” and his hope is that some of it will find its way to a new audience while appealing to those familiar with artists and their previous releases.
TdP Productions now offers six CDs. Two are from Stomp Off LPs that had never made it to CD. Both of those contain alternate takes and unissued tracks. The other four are collections of previously unavailable material featuring Ted des Plantes with a host of musicians between 1971 and 2018. All of the CDs appear in attractive and professional fold-out cardboard cases with liner notes describing the artists involved and circumstances of the recordings.
If these selections sell enough to justify it TdP Productions will re-issue more of Stomp Off’s LP only back catalog, additional compilations of private recordings, and a recording of Ted des Plantes with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Newly recorded CDs are also planned, one of originals with Ted des Plantes’ current band, and one featuring gospel music both familiar and obscure.
The balance of this column will be short reviews of the available offerings:
Powers’ Hot Four (TdP-1)
This album was culled from recordings of a Wednesday night residency at Arnold’s Bar and Grill in Cincinnati during the 1990s. Powers’ Hot Four was very often a three-piece consisting of Frank Powers on clarinet or tenor sax, co-leader Ted des Plantes on piano, and Gus Ross on drums. But frequently guests would sit in and of the 14 tracks here nine feature Mike Walbridge on trumpet. Walbridge is best known as tubist with Chicago’s Original Salty Dogs. Mike joined them only four times, on annual visits, but he fit the band so smoothly that the improvised playing under his lead sometimes felt pre-arranged.
Throughout the recordings des Plantes entertains on the keys in stride and other styles, but, as he says in the liner notes “never boppish”. I particularly enjoyed the interaction with Walbridge on “My Kind of Love”. Among the trio tracks “Froggiemoore Rag” stands out.
The mono recording is not as clean as on the other TdP releases but the instruments are well balanced and the enjoyment the musicians had, sometimes even playing for an empty house, shines through.
Chicago Rhythm “Live 1981-87” (Tdp-2)
Ted des Plantes says that he believes these recordings of his band, Chicago Rhythm, playing live are better than anything the group ever captured on their five LPs. I’m in no position to question his judgment, this is a very exciting and high swinging album.
The band was formed to honor the Jimmy Noone Apex Club Orchestra which had no brass in its front line. Though the repertoire quickly expanded this remained the signature of Chicago Rhythm until its last album which featured Bob Neighbor on cornet. Over the years the band went through personnel changes that highlight some of today’s best known time-keepers earlier in their careers.
Drummer Hal Smith played with the band while also, then as now, staying busy with other projects. His performance on “Oh Baby” in a hot trio with Frank Powers and des Plantes is an album highlight. Vince Giordano replaced original tubist Louise Anderson in 1987 and can be heard on the final ten of these 16 tracks on tuba, aluminum string bass, or bass saxophone. Giordano and Smith together on “Sugar”, despite a brief flaw in the tape, is worth the price of the album.
The four opening cuts are from the first public appearance of Chicago Rhythm in 1981. The trio performance mentioned above was from a mid-80s performance at the wasp club. The next two blocks of tracks, making up the balance of the album are from performances in 1987, the second being Giordano’s final appearance with the band before he went on to success in New York City. The logistics of living in different parts of the country and increasing demands for Hal Smith’s drumming became too much, after attempts to regroup the rest of the band parted ways with a goodbye concert at the 1988 San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival.
If you were lucky enough to hear Chicago Rhythm live or own their LPs you’ll want this little bit of jazz history. If you haven’t heard them now is your chance.
Ted des Plantes Vol. 1 Early on (TdP-3)
Ted des Plantes began playing professionally while serving in Germany in 1968, so this is the first of two CDs covering a 50 year career. The first recording on this album finds him on tuba in 1973, he evolved through several other instruments, including drums before becoming best known on piano.
Along the way he has played with numerous musicians, some with familiar names and many who have faded from memory. This 18 track album features him in 11 different groupings (including solo piano). On several of the early tracks he plays trumpet. Vol. 1 covers up to 1992, though Vol. 2 also contains some 1980s material.
The bands include the Down Home Jazz Band, Tummy Lint Syncopators, Ted des Plants and his Buddies, and the Dee Felice Sleepcat Band. Bandmates include Everett Farey, Dan Barrett, Hal Smith, Carl Halen, Vince Saunders, Lueder Ohlwein, Robbie Rhodes, Russ Whitman, Tom Barnaby, Bob Mielke, Frank Powers, and many others. Even the names I didn’t recognize I quickly discovered to have still been actively playing decades later which says something for their dedication.
I went through the trouble of listing the bands and names because they are the greatest draw for an album that is very diverse musically; from hot Dixieland to bluesy vocal jazz. It was my favorite the night I first buzzed through these six albums. With 20 years of career highlights to pick from, and a deep roster of players, it was bound to be good.
The first eleven tracks are from the ’73 to ’75 period. I found these the most interesting because it is a time not represented on the other TdP Productions releases. The titles in this section are also more refreshingly obscure than the standards, including “Dinah”, “Minor Drag”, and “Honeysuckle Rose”, that round out the album.
Ted des Plantes Vol. 2 From Then ‘Til Now (TdP-4)
The second compilation disc consists of unreleased material from the 1980s until literally “now”. Two tracks were recorded this year for the album. Stylistically it is as eclectic run of 15 titles placed in a comfortable rather than chronological order.
The earliest recordings find des Plantes with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1982. Each clocks in at or over ten minutes and, as you would expect, they are very enjoyable. He’s also heard in a trio with Leon Oakley and Bob Helm in 2000, and in a quintet with Frank Powers, Jeff Hughes, Danny Adler, and Gus Ross in 1995. More recently he appears with Eric Greiffhagen, Eric Sayre, and Jim Leslie (2011), Dave Greer’s Classic Jazz Stompers (2012, too many musicians to list), and for some of the hottest numbers, he appears with Les Rois Du Fox Trot of Paris France (in 2013, ditto).
He also makes a piano solo appearance, and on the newly recorded tracks, he accompanies himself on drums and tuba through the wonders of overdubbing. Of 15 tracks he has a credit or co-credit on four. The others lean to trad jazz standards like “Shimmy Sha Wabble” and “Tishomingo Blues.”In the liner notes Ted des Plantes politely lists several other groups he has frequently played with and tells them to not take their omission from the collection to heart. Selections were based on the availability of high-quality recordings that hadn’t already been issued elsewhere. While not as interesting as an artifact, the second compilation will please fans of any of the featured musicians, and listeners will appreciate the fidelity of the newer recordings.
Ted des Plantes’ Swe-Am Classic Jazz- Come On and Stomp! (TdP-5)
This album was first released on LP in 1986 as “Ted des Plantes’ Swedish-American Hot Jazz Collaboration” on Bob Erdos’ Stomp Off label. Now available for the first time on CD it contains as a bonus three alternate takes of the original album tracks and two takes of “Come on and Stomp, Stomp, Stomp” which wasn’t on the original album.
The LP was the product of a transcontinental meeting between des Plantes, the Louis Armstrong inspired trumpet and cornet of Bent Persson, and Persson’s frequent partner, reedman Tomas Ornberg. They are joined by Frank Powers, reeds; Jim Snyder, trombone; Jack Meilahn banjo and guitar; Hal Smith, drums; and Roy Tate, second trumpet. Tuba duties alternate between Tom Cahall and Mike Walbridge.
Arrangements were made for trio, hot five, and full band performances and the album was professionally recorded in studio over a week. The included liner notes on this, and indeed all of the TdP releases, provides an easy way to determine the musicians on a given track.
Stomp Off is known for the quality of their releases and this album was no exception. The tone is clear and balanced through out. The titles well chosen and the musicians well match. Underplayed classics are presented from classic era composers including Morton, Bechet, Oliver, and several from Lil Hardin Armstrong.
Ted des Plantes stands out at the piano on tracks like “Here Comes the Hot Tamale Man”, and Bent Persson’s playing is expressive and rich throughout. They make full use of the band, with Smiths drums adding a steady drive and the tubists building a powerful energy. A high point for me was “I Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man”. For those who appreciate virtuosity without showiness, and joyful noise without cliche this is an album worth acquiring.
Ted des Plantes’ Washboard Wizards- Shout, Sister, Shout! (TdP-6)
The Washboard Wizards were a studio band, fulfilling a shared interest Bob Erdos and Ted des Plantes had in the composer Clarence Williams. They never appeared anywhere live.
Over twenty years the Washboard Wizards released seven albums for Stomp Off. Six of them were made widely available on CD but the first, Shout, Shout, Shout!, released in 1987, lingered in obscurity as the LP era began its hiatus. By re-issuing the album now Ted des Plantes hopes to correct the record and make available some of the Wizards’ best work, and indeed the album they were created to make. Though the band would later expand its repertoire, this album sticks to material recorded by Williams.
Williams utilized washboards on many of countless recordings he produced in the 20s and 30s, inspiring the band’s name. Hal Smith holds the board through this album, only finding his way to a drum set on one track and once there utilizing only the snare’s rim and a cymbal. He’s joined by John Otto and Larry Wright on reeds, Leon Oakley on cornet and Jack Meilahn on banjo. It’s a fun group.
Of these six releases this one has the most fire, and it is all in that washboard. It maintains a table taping drive that pushes the front line into clear focus. Williams is an endless fount to draw from, the album tends to the carefree novelty feel rather than his more melancholy numbers, with the exception of “Anytime”, which is a favorite of mine. Larry Wright rakes a hot turn on Ocarina for “Somebody Stole My Gal”. “I can’t Beat You Doin’ What You’re Doing to Me” makes the best use of a rare vocal. The album proper ends with a swinging “Shout, Sister, Shout!”.
Taking advantage of the extra room on a CD six bonus tracks are included. They were recorded in 1987 by The Three Dueces, that is Ted des Plantes, Frank Powers, and Hal Smith. It is a quick change of pace down to piano-focused trio music, and even a solo piano track, but as they add up to a whole extra album side I won’t knock their inclusion.
To purchase CDs check or money order may be sent to “TdP Productions”, 7150 Liberty Grand Dr., West Chester OH 45069. $15.00 per item, add $2.00 postage first two; $1.00 per item three & up. International postage $6.00 first two, add $1.00 each additional. Availability for online purchase is forthcoming.