Friday, April 28, 2017

The Bechet-Spanier Big Four - H.R.S. Sessions 1940

The H.R.S. Records label
The H.R.S. Records was an independent jazz label founded in 1938 as a devision of Steve Smith's Hot Record Society. Like Milt Gabler's Commodore Records, the H.R.S. Records produced new recordings with contemporary artists and reissued earlier recorded jazz from other labels, the 78 rpm discs were distributed from Smith's record shop in Midtown Manhattan, N.Y. and by mail order. The H.R.S. recorded 124 performances in 25 sessions between August 1938 and September 1947 before the company closed, some years ago Mosaic Records reissued all 25 sessions in a box-set (- unfortunately out of print)
Mosaic Box MD6-187

Sidney Bechet
At two sessions March-April 1940 clarinetist/soprano sax player Sidney Bechet  and cornetist Muggsy Spanier joined forces in some remarkable and memorable recordings for the H.R.S. Records in a quartet setting labeled Bechet-Spanier Big Four.
Muggsy Spanier
The two remaining members of the quartet were guitarist Carmen Mastren 
Carmen Mastren
and double bass player Wellman Braud 
Wellman Braud (courtesy Mosaic Images)
The first session by the Bechet-Spanier quartet was scheduled at March 28, 1940 and produced four recorded titles (see disc info below)
Excerpt of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
China Boy was recorded in two takes, but only mx 2776-1 was issued. Below I'll insert uploaded examples from YouTube of the recordings from the March 28 session, here is first Four Or Five Times


Next was recorded Sweet Lorraine 


Up the Lazy River by Carmichael was next


Finally, China Boy finished the March 28 session


The second session by the Bechet-Spanier Big Four was scheduled April 6, 1940 and again produced four recorded titles (see disc info below)
Excerpt of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
Three takes of That's A Plenty were recorded, only mx 2802-3 was originally issued. Below is inserted the music from uploaded YouTube videos of the four titles from the April 6 session, here is first If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight 


Next was recorded That's A Plenty, here's the originally issued version


H.R.S. 2003_ Squeeze Me
Squeeze Me was recorded next inclusive a tasty full chorus guitar break by Carmen Mastren


Finally, the last title recorded at the April 6 session was Sweet Sue, Just You 


The music recorded at the two sessions for H.R.S. Records by the Bechet-Spanier Big Four quartet has for a long time belonged to my favorite recordings of small band jazz. The chamberish atmosphere of the sessions does definitely not exclude hot playing by both reed and horn which mix perfectly supported by a solid rhythm provided by guitar and double bass. Classic jazz!
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Jo
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Folke Eriksberg - Swedish Jazz Guitar Pioneer

Folke Eriksberg
Folke Eriksberg (1910 - 1976) was a pioneer in Sweden playing jazz on guitar, a skilled accompanist and chord style soloist. Until 1937, the year he turned 26 of age, he was called Eriksson in surname and then officially Eriksberger, his artist name was therefore an abbreviation. Born in Södermalm, Stockholm, he received guitar lessons from his mother, but in the 1920s he would rather play banjo. In 1926 he gained his first professional engagement, and 1928-33 he joined Frank Vernon's orchestra, from 1929 as a guitarist. In June 1934, he moved to Barcelona in Spain, where he worked in several orchestras, and at some point he had met and played with Django Reinhardt. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he returned to Stockholm in September 1936 and joined the Seymour Österwall Orchestra the next two years.
Sonora Swing Swingers
Folke Eriksberg was the obvious guitarist when studio groups in the thirties were put together to make discs under the name (Sonora) Swing Swingers. Here's an example of one of this studio ensemble's many recordings, I Never Knew recorded 1937


Dreaming Guitar, guitar solo by Folke Eriksberg
Eriksberg also recorded some discs in his own name, including some solos, and he was featured on discs with Thore Jederby, Alice Babs, Hasse Kahn and many others.
Svenska Hotkvintetten
Folke Eriksberg was a regular member of the Swedish Hot Quintet (Svenska Hotkvintetten) 1939-42, where he contributed solid accompaniment besides excellent chord solo spots while Sven Stiberg was the main single-string soloist. You have the opportunity to listen to a selection of recordings by this ensemble at YouTube, here - - The quintet was mainly a studio ensemble and the members had regular engagements in other orchestras, Eriksberg was with Sam Samson's orchestra at the same time. You can hear him in a short solo statement towards the end of Samson's recording of Ellington's Lost In Meditation 1939


In 1941-43 Eriksberg played with Thore Ehrling, and in 1943-44 he participated in Gösta Törner's dixieland-influenced ensemble. After that he ended up being a jazz and dance musician.
Eriksberg with Epihone acoustic guitar
Folke Eriksberg clung to the acoustic guitar, when power-boosted instruments began to become modern in the 1940s. For eleven years he had an engagement at the Blancheteater in Stockholm together with pianist Herbert Steen. In 1954, he finished his professional musician career, but late in life he made a come back, and in 1975 he recorded an LP.
LP front (1976)
Folke Eriksberg is said to have participated in about 3500 recordings during his career. Unfortunately, his solo work is not accessible at YouTube, but to end this small profile of a pioneer Swedish jazz guitarist I'll insert a recording by Thore Jederby's orchestra featuring vocalist Cecil Aagaard and a short hot chord style solo by Folke Eriksberg - Rhythm Is Our Business from 1941


The above info is excerpted from the Swedish periodical Orkesterjournalen, here 
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Jo
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem, Paris 1935

Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem (Paris, c.1935)

Freddy Taylor
Freddy Taylor was an American tap dancer, singer, trumpeter and entertainer, who had come to Paris with the Lucky Millinder orchestra during the band's 1933 tour of Europe. Taylor stayed in Paris and soon formed his own band, which he named Freddy Taylor & His Swing Men From Harlem. At the same time Taylor was running his own club at Montmartre and often left the band on its own while he worked as a soloist throughout the Continent. In Paris Taylor recorded as a vocalist with Django Reinhardt and the QHCF in 1936 - these sides belong to his most well known, scholars of the QHCF recorded legacy probably will mention Nagasaki, Georgia On My Mind and I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby as core examples, all recorded 1936. However, Freddy Taylor also recorded with his own group, the Swing Men From Harlem, in March 1935.

Ultrphone AP-1489_Blue Drag
The two sides recorded by Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem in March 1935 contain Blue Drag (mx 77285) and  Viper's Dream (mx 77286), released on a 78 rpm disc by the Ultraphone label, Ultraphone AP-1489. Discographical listed personnel of the band as follows: Freddy Taylor (dir,vo,tp), Charlie Johnson (tp), Arthur “Chester” Lanier (cl, as, bars), Fletcher Allen (cl, ts), Oscar Alemán (g), Eugène d’Hellemmes (b), William Diemer (dm).

The recorded music on both sides features execellent moments of 1930s Euro-American swing with great contributions by the reeds, only Blue Drag has vocal by Taylor. These sides are also notable and worth mentioning regarding Oscar Alemán, although he does not solo in this session. These two sides are the first recorded sides featuring Oscar Alemán in a regular jazz setting, and if you listen carefully, you can hear his contribution as a solid rhythm guitar player behind the soloists - Alemán's prefered instrument at the time, the metal body National tricone guitar is audible as a propelling drive of the rhythm section.
Oscar Alemán (1930s)
You may listen to the recording of Blue Drag by Freddy Taylor and his Swing Men From Harlem at You Tube, here
Ultraphone AP-1489_Vipers Dream
The flip side of Ultraphone AP-1489 had the recording of Viper's Dream, you may listen to it at You Tube, here
Excerpt of Brian Rust's Jazz discography (click to enlarge)
According to info in standard discographies like Brian Rust's Jazz & Ragtime Records (see excerpt above) and Tom Lord's ditto another session from March/April 1935 featuring Freddy Taylor and his Swing Men From Harlem was recorded, however, only test recordings of the four performed tunes exist. These are Mama Don't Allow It, Blue Drag, Swanee River and How Come You Do Me Like You Do?. These test recordings have been a matter of discussion by collectors, especially regarding the question: Who was the guitar player to be heard soloing on Swanee River and How Come You Do Me Like You Do?. According to the standard discographies the guitar is played by Django Reinhardt (- with whom Taylor would record more sides in 1936), while other special discographies like Hans Koert's online Oscar Alemán discography have listed Oscar Alemán as the guitar player, see here 
Django Reinhardt c.1935
Now the question about the participating guitarist has come up once again thanks to the latest update of Jan Evensmo's Oscar Alemán solography March 2017, available here
Excerpt of Jan Evensmo Oscar Alemán solography
Evensmo holds that "... there is not doubt that OA is on guitar" (see above) and he may be right, of course. I have made my statement 9 years ago in the discussion referred at the Oscar Alemán blogspot, here and I still hold that the participating guitarist is Django Reinhardt. Well, I may be wrong, of course, but readers of this blogentry may have an opportunity to judge for themselves by listening to the two actual test-recordings with guitar solo. - To end this, here is the link to the recording of Swanee River uploaded at You Tube. And finally here is the link to the recording of How Come You Do Me Like You Do? at You Tube.
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Jo
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Allan Reuss - An Extraordinary Jazz Guitarist

Allan Reuss (1915 - 1988)
Allan Reuss was an American jazz guitarist, who spent most of his career in the famous big bands of the swing era or as a studio musician. He was born in New York City in 1915 and began playing professionally as a banjoist at age 12. He took lessons and learned guitar from George Van Eps, who recommended Reuss to Benny Goodman. Reuss took over Van Eps' chair in Benny Goodman's orchestra in 1935 and played with Goodman on and off until 1943. He also played with Paul Whiteman's String Wing (1939) and joined Jack Teagarden's orchestra 1939-40. Next Reuss was with Jimmy Dorsey (1941-42) and Harry James (1942-43). At the same time he was a frequent session musician in the recording studios in New York until 1945, when he moved to Los Angeles. Here he continued as a studio guitarist and played with  Arnold Ross, Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter a.o. After 1946, he was less frequently on jazz dates, but he took part in occasional reunions with Benny Goodman a.o. and continued studio work in hundreds of various recordings during the 1950s and 1960s as an anonymous musician.
Promo photo 1936
Allan Reuss was an extraordinary guitarist who formed the foundationin in the rhythm section of the swing orchestra . His role was primarily to keep the rhythm going, which he did excellently, but from time to time he had a chance to show off his sophisticated chord style solo playing placing him in the top class of swing guitarists. Below I'll insert some examples of Allan Reuss' solos with various artists.
Benny Goodman
As mentioned above, Allan Reuss joined Benny Goodman and his orchestra in 1935 on the recommendation of George Van Eps. Benny Goodman recorded frequently and was on radio at the time, but only a couple of times Reuss got the opportunity to play solo. An example from November 22, 1935 is heard in If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight with the full Benny Goodman orchestra


Lionel Hampton
Reuss freelanced as a studio musician from 1937 and was engaged by a.o. Lionel Hampton to take part in some of Hampton's studio sessions for victor. From a session recorded April 26, 1937 Allan Reuss has a short elaborated solo in a version of I Got Rhythm, here titled Rhythm, Rhythm. Participating musicians are Buster Bailey (cl), Johnny Hodges (as), Lionel Hampton (vib), Jess Stacy (p), John Kirby (b), Cozy Cole (d) besides Allan Reuss (g)


Jack Teagarden
Reuss joined Jack Teagarden and his orchestra 1939 and stayed with him through 1940. During this engagement, Allan Reuss had the opportunity to record his own Pickin' for Patsy - his   highly sophisticated solo piece with big band. The piece was recorded in New York, May 5 1939 and sounded like this


Variations in Jazz, I Never Knew (Asch 350-3B), 1939
A rather special recording was made for Moses Asch's record label in 1939 featuring Allan Reuss as a member of a pick-up ensemble named Peck's Bad Boys. Reuss contributes some extraordinary solo work which alone is worth this special record


Coleman Hawkins
Allan Reuss moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1945 to continue as a studio musician. For some time he led his own trio, but there were no recordings made. He was engaged by Coleman Hawkins to take part in his recording sessions for Capitol February-March 1945 and did a couple of short solos, a.o. in Stuffy recorded February 23, 1945. Participating musicians are: Howard McGhee (tp), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Sir Charles Thompson (p), Allen Reuss (g), Oscar Pettiford (b) and Denzil Best (d)


Benny Carter
The last solo work by Allan Reuss to be presented here is from a session with Arnold Ross Quintet featuring Benny Carter (as), Artie Berstein (b), Nick Fatool (d), Arnold Ross (p) and Allan Reuss (g) recorded in Los Angeles, April 1946. Three takes of The Moon Is Low were recorded, below is inserted the version uploaded a You Tube to end this small presentation of Allan Reuss

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Jo
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Singin' The Blues - A Jazz Classic

Original sheet music (1920)
Singin' the Blues is a 1920 jazz composition by J. Russel Robinson, Con Conrad, Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. The song was released with lyrics by vocalist Aileen Stanley in 1920 on Victor 18703.


Frankie Trumbauer's Orchestra with Bix and Lang
In 1927, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra recorded the song as an instrumental for Okeh in New York on February 4th. The Trumbauer recording is considered a jazz classic, greatly contributing to Frank Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke's reputation and influence. Participating musicians are: Frankie Trumbauer (C-melody sax), Bix Beiderbecke (co), Bill Rank (tb), Jimmy Dorsey (cl), Doc Ryker ( as), Paul Madeira Mertz (p), Eddie Lang (g) and Chauncey Morehouse (dm)


An essay by David Sager gives an in-depth analysis of the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke recording, accessible here 

Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio
Here we will focus on a few other recordings of Singin' the Blues. First I like to point to the recording by Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio from 1928, which emulate the famous version by Bix and Tram. It is an example of Sol Hoopii's sophisticated steel guitar playing


In 1931, Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra recorded a version of Singin' the Blues, which re-arranged the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke version. Here the solo part of Trumbauer's C-melody sax is rearranged for the reed section, while Beiderbecke's solo is repeated by Rex Stewart's cornet


In 1939, Lionel Hampton recorded Singin' the Blues in his series of sessions for Victor. This version feature Benny Carter (tp), Edmond Hall (cl), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Lionel Hampton (vib), Joe Sullivan (p), Freddie Green (g), Artie Bernstein (b) and Zutty Singleton (d), recorded December 21, 1939 in New York


Finally, to end this small presentation of a famous jazz classic, here's a contemporary version from a live performance, which re-creates the famous Trumbauer-Beiderbecke recording. The recording was made August 4th 2011 by Andy Schumm and his Gang. Participating musicians were: Andy Schumm (co), John Otto, (reeds), Dave Bock (tb), Vince Giordano (sb), Leah Bezin (bj, g), David Boeddinghaus (p) and Josh Duffee (d) 

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Jo
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Novelty Piano

Original sheet music (1915)
Novelty Piano is a genre of piano music that was popular during the 1920s. A successor to ragtime and an outgrowth of the piano roll music of the 1910s, novelty piano can be considered a pianistic cousin of jazz, which appeared around the same time. Nola,  a 1915 composition by New York pianist Felix Arndt, is generally considered the first novelty piano hit.


Sheet music (1921)
Novelty piano came most powerfully to the attention of the public in 1921, with the appearance of Zez Confrey's Kitten on the Keys. The popularity of this piece quickly led to other Confrey works and inspired other artists to issue novelty pieces. The style remained popular through the end of the decade, at which time big bands were on the rise, player pianos were in decline, and the popularity of jazz continued unabated. Novelty piano slowly succumbed to, or was absorbed into, the new orchestral styles as the piano moved off center stage and took on more of a "support" role.


Although novelty piano has structural and stylistic similarities to the earlier ragtime form, there are also distinct differences. Ragtime was generally sold in the form of sheet music, so it was important to keep it simple enough to be played by the competent amateur. By the mid-teens, though, two new technologies had appeared which allowed the general public to hear music as performed by skilled musicians: the "hand-played" piano roll and the phonograph record. Novelty piano was developed as a vehicle to showcase the talents of these professionals, and was thus more often sold in the form of recordings and piano rolls than as sheet music. It was a new "turbo-charged" piano form, infused with chromatic piano roll flourishes, and influenced by the "modernistic" sounds of the art-deco twenties (which were themselves largely adopted from the French "Impressionist" pianists such as Debussy and Satie; "novelty" pianists tended to be highly classically trained, they were fully familiar with such "modern" pianists, and their fondness for complex chordal intricacies). (info extracted from Wikipedia, here
Zez Confrey (1895 - 1971)
As mentioned, Zez Confrey had a huge hit with his novelty ragtime composition Kitten on the Keys. Below I'll insert a few more examples of his most popular compositions. Here's first the 1923 Dizzy Fingers 


Original sheet music (1922)
Confrey had another hit with his Stumbling, here from the hand played piano roll by the artist


Another sheet issue of Stumbling
Confrey's novelty rags were also recorded by larger ensembles, for some time he had a contract with Victor to make recordings for the growing market of dance records. Here we'll end this small intro to the novelty piano tradition by inserting Paul Whiteman and his orchestra's version of Stumbling - a hit for the orchestra and with the dancing public


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Jo
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Centennial of The First Jazz Record

Dixieland Jass Band One-Step_Victor 18255-A
The recording of Livery Stable Blues and Dixieland Jass Band One-Step made February 26, 1917 for Victor in New York by the Original Dixieland Jass Band  were released as Victor 18255 on March 7, 1917 and is considered the first ever jazz record.
Livery Stable Blues_Victor 18255-B

 Tony Sbarbaro (dm), Edwin Edwards (tb), Nick LaRocca (co), Larry Shields (cl), Henry Ragas (p)
The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) was a band of white musicians from New Orleans. The band consisted of five musicians who had played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a racially integrated group of musicians who played for parades, dances, and advertising in New Orleans. ODJB billed itself as the "Creators of Jazz". It was the first band to record jazz commercially and to have hit recordings in the new genre. Band leader and cornetist Nick LaRocca argued that ODJB deserved recognition as the first band to record jazz commercially and the first band to establish jazz as a musical idiom or genre.

Henry Ragas (p), Larry Shields (cl), Nick LaRocca (co), Edwin Edwards (tb), Tony Spargo (dm)

Victor Records advert
Below is inserted the audio of the first jazz record to remimd us where it started - a centennial of recorded jazz.


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Jo
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