Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Chocolate Dandies - 1928 - 1940 Studio Ensembles

Don Redman
Taking their name from a show written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, a small group led by Don Redman recorded in the late '20s as the Chocolate Dandies. Redman also used the name for some McKinney's Cotton Pickers record dates. During the early '30s the name was picked up by other musicians, notably Benny Carter, who used it for a string of recordings he made with Coleman Hawkins, among others. Carter revived the name in 1940, again with Hawkins recording some small group jazz sides. - Below I'll insert some examples of recordings made by the various Chocolate Dandies studio ensembles.

Star Dust_Okeh 8668
Don Redman directed McKinney's Cotton Pickers in four titles recorded October 13, 1928 in New York for Okeh as Chocolate Dandies. Personnel included Don Redman (as,dir), Langston Curl, John Nesbitt (tp), Claude Jones (tb), Milton Senior (as,cl), George Thomas, Prince Robinson(ts,cl), Todd Rhodes (p), Lonnie Johnson (g), Dave Wilborn (bj), Ralph Escudero (bb), Cuba Austin (dm). Besides the shown Star Dust the titles included Paducah, Birmingham Breakdown and Four Or Five Times

Benny Carter
On September 9, 1929 another combination of Chocolate Dandies recorded two titles for Okeh in New York. Personnel this time included Benny Carter (as,voc), Don Redman (as,cl,voc), Leonard Davis (tp),  Rex Stewart (co), Coleman Hawkins (ts), J.C. Higginbotham (tb), Cyrus St. Clair (tuba), Fats Waller (p), Unknown (bj), George Stafford (dm). The recorded titles were That's How I Feel Today and Six Or Seven Times 

Dee Blues_Columbia 2543-D
December 1930, Benny Carter recorded two dates with a sextet of musicians drawn from Fletcher Henderson's orchestra as Chocolate Dandies for Columbia in New York. Personnel included Benny Carter (as,cl,voc,arr), Horace Henderson (p), Bobby Stark (tp), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Jimmy Harrison (tb,voc), Benny Jackson (g) and John Kirby (sb). On December 3 was recorded only one title, Goodbye Blues, but on December 31 were recorded Cloudy Skies, Got Another Sweetie Now, Bugle Call Rag  and the shown Dee Blues 

Blue Interlude_Decca 18255 A
Benny Carter recorded another session October 10, 1933 under the name of Chocolate Dandies, this time for Okeh/Decca. Personnel included Benny Carter (as,tp,arr), Max Kaminsky (tp), Floyd O'Brien (tb), Chu Berry (ts), Teddy Wilson (p), Lawrence Lucie (g), Ernest "Bass" Hill (sb) and Sidney Catlett (dm). Recorded titles besides the shown Blue Interlude were I Never Knew, Once Upon A Time and Krazy Kapers 

Krazy Kapers_Okeh 41568

Coleman Hawkins
Benny Carter was featured with Coleman Hawkins in a session for Commodore May 25, 1940 and recorded three titles under the name of Coleman Hawkins and The Chocolate Dandies. Recorded titles included Smack!, I Surrender Dear and I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me. Participating musicians were Benny Carter (as,p), Roy Eldridge (tp), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Bernard Addison (g), John Kirby (sb), Sidney Catlett (dm)
Smack!_Commodore 533 A


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Joe Pass - Solo, Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975

Joe Pass 1975 (photo courtesy Tom Marcello Webster, Wikipedia)
Joe Pass (1929 - 1994) is generally considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century. His sophisticated style of chord-melody, with an outstanding knowledge of chord inversions and progressions, extensive use of walking basslines, and melodic counterpoint during improvisation, opened up new possibilities for the jazz guitar and had a profound influence on later guitarists.
In addition to his ensemble performances, Joe Pass is regarded as an influential solo guitarist. His solo style was marked by an advanced linear technique, sophisticated harmonic sense, counterpoint between improvised lead lines, bass figures and chords, spontaneous modulations, and transitions from fast tempos to rubato passages. He would regularly add what he called "color tones" to his compositions, to give what he believed was a more sophisticated and "funkier" sound. He would often use melodic counterpoint during improvisation, move lines and chords chromatically or play melodies by solely shifting chords, and descending augmented arpeggios at the end of phrases. - As Pass made the transition from ensemble to solo guitar performance, he preferred to abandon the pick altogether, and play fingerstyle. He found this enabled him to execute his harmonic concepts more effectively. (info excerpted from Wikipedia, here
Joe Pass at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 (OJC CD, 1997)
Joe Pass recorded four studio albums of solo jazz guitar with the title Virtuoso for Norman Granz's Pablo label during the 1970s, these recordings are considered essential in demonstration of Pass' solo style. However, aside from studio recordings there were also released some live recordings of Pass' solo performances by the Pablo label, among them were the shown Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 recorded during two concerts on July 17 and 18. The LP issue was reissued on CD 1997 by OJC and is still available for purchase, here
There are eleven tracks from the solo live performance of Joe Pass at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 on the CD, mostly standards but also three Pass compositions (info, here). The performance at the two concerts July 17 and 18 was also recorded on video, below I'll insert a couple of examples uploaded at You Tube. Here is first Joe Pass performing Stevie Wonder's popular tune You Are the Sunshine of My Life 

Another video fragment from the same live performance has Joe Pass playing Ray Noble's The Very Thought Of You 

To end this small presentation of a magnificent jazz guitar solo live album, I'll insert the uploaded audio video from You Tube of Joe Pass' solo performance of Django Reinhardt's Nuages - enjoy!


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Friday, May 5, 2017

Bud Freeman - Some Recorded Highlights

Bud Freeman
Lawrence "Bud" Freeman (1906 - 1991)  was one of the most influential and important jazz tenor saxophonists of the Swing era. His smooth and full tenor sax style with a heavy robust swing was the only strong alternative to Coleman Hawkins' harder toned approach, until the arrival of Lester Young whom Freeman had allegedly influenced.
One of the original members of the Austin High School Gang which began in 1922, Freeman played the C-melody saxophone alongside his other band members such as Jimmy McPartland and Frank Teschemacher before switching to tenor saxophone two years later. Influenced by artists like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and Louis Armstrong, they would begin to formulate their own style, becoming part of the emerging Chicago Style of jazz. 
In 1927, he moved to New York, where he worked as a session musician and band member with Red Nichols, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Ben Pollack, Joe Venuti, among others. He then played with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra (1936-1938) as well as for a short time Benny Goodman's band in 1938 before forming his own band, the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra (1939-1940). Freeman joined the US Army during World War II and headed a US Army band. After the war, he returned to New York and led his own groups and kept a close tie to Eddie Condon as well as working with the likes of Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson and Jo Jones. He was a member of the World's Greatest Jazz Band between 1969 and 1970 and on occasionally there after. In 1974, he would move to England where he made numerous recordings and performances there and in Europe. Returning to Chicago in 1980, he continued to work into his eighties. - (info excerpted from this source, here)
Below I'll focus on some recorded highlights from Bud Freeman's career as a bandleader with examples uploaded at YouTube. - In December 1928, Bud Freeman recorded his own Crazeology for OKeh in Chicago. Musicians are: Johnny Mendell (tp) Floyd O'Brien (tb) Bud Jacobson (cl,as) Bud Freeman (ts) Dave North (p) Herman Foster (bj) Johnny Mueller (b) Gene Krupa (d) Red McKenzie (vcl)

Decca 18112B_ The Buzzard
Bud Freeman And His Windy City Five recorded some titles for Decca in New York, December 1935, among them were The Buzzard. Musicians are: Bunny Berigan (tp) Bud Freeman (cl,ts) Claude Thornhill (p) Eddie Condon (g) Grachan Moncur (b) Cozy Cole (d)

The same group also recorded Tillie's Downtown Now - another example of Bud Freeman playing the clarinet

In 1938, Bud Freeman formed a trio with Jess Stacy (p) and George Wettling (d), which recorded some hot swinging sides for Commodore in New York - among the recorded titles were I Got Rhythm

Bud Freeman trio also recorded a swinging version of Exactly Like You for Commodore

The Eel_Bluebird B-10386-B
In 1939, Bud Freeman formed his Summa Cum Laude Orchestra, an octet, which recorded some titles for Bluebird, among them Freeman's signature tune The Eel. Musicians are: Max Kaminsky (tp) Brad Gowans (v-tb,arr) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Bud Freeman (ts) Dave Bowman (p) Eddie Condon (g) Clyde Newcombe (b) Danny Alvin (d)

Bud Freeman and his Famous Chicagoans 1940
In 1940, Bud Freeman led another octet, which recorded some titles for Columbia. The ensemble consisted of: Max Kaminsky (tp) Jack Teagarden (tb,vcl) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Bud Freeman (ts) Dave Bowman (p) Eddie Condon (g) Mort Stuhlmaker (b) Dave Tough (d). Among the recorded titles were At The Jazz Band Ball

After the war, Bud Freeman recorded some titles for Keynote November-December 1945 featuring various band members. December 5 was recorded Honeysuckle Rose featuring Bud Freeman (ts) Joe Sullivan (p) Peanuts Hucko (cl) Carmen Mastren (g) Sid Weiss (b) George Wettling (d)

To end this small presentation of some recorded highlights by Bud Freeman as a bandleader, I like to point you to a live recording featuring Art Hodes (p) and rhythm with Bud Freeman from the TV program Jazz Alley - the program is in two parts

And here is part two of the Jazz Alley performance


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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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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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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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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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