Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Listening Session!

Three or four times a year, our friend Ed Reynolds hosts a Listening Session...a couple of other friends and I attended one the other night.

Ed's been collecting records since FDR's first term. He has some lovely pieces...all traditional jazz and swing. No bop or so-called "modern" jazz...but that's fine with us.

That's Ed on the right...the Mad Doughnut Man of Pennsylvania (Rich Lagerman, another regular guest, who hosts the Original Bandbox show on WRDV-FM) on the left...they're examining one of Ed's Champion 78s.

Anyway, the last couple of sessions had a new wrinkle added...Ed asks for a person's requests in advance...and plays them the next time around. The time before, our pal Ron's requests were played...a good deal of great traditional jazz with a good nod towards Satch.

This time was my turn. I deliberately asked for stuff that's not on the beaten path...for example, there is a Louis Armstrong cut in the list, but it's not the standard West End Blues or Potato Head Blues...I chose Muggles, one of my favorites (gee...I wonder why).

Here are a few highlights of the evening:

402220-A Muggles Louis Armstrong Orch OKeh 8703
Chicago, 7 December 1928: Louis Armstrong, trumpet; Frank Robinson, trombone; Jimmy Strong, clarinet; Earl Hines, piano; Mancy Cara, banjo; Zutty Singleton, drums. Satch's "pot" piece...some great slow, bluesy stuff...and then Pops storms in, doubling the tempo and tripling the heat before going back to the original tempo for a simple, eloquent chorus that swings its @$$ off.

Oh, there's apparently evidence that the banjoist's real last name was "Carr," but I'm going with the standard discographical entry this time around.

403522-B Copyin' Louis Jack Purvis OKeh 41404
NYC, 17 December 1929: Jack Purvis, trumpet; John Scott Trotter, piano; Gene Kintzle, guitar; Paul Weston, bass; Joe Dale, drums.

Here's a great side by the eccentric genius of the trumpet, Jack Purvis.


Kleptomaniac. Con man. Spent time in jail for robbery (and supposedly broke parole so he could go back to the prison band). Yeah, he was somewhat eccentric...

He could also be brilliant...check out his playing here! He's all over the place...a strange turn here, another odd lurch there...and it doesn't get much hotter. And he's not exactly "copyin' Louis" here either...he's inspired by Satch (who wasn't?), but he's very definitely in a class by himself.

There's a three-CD set of Purvis on Jazz's quite amazing. The cuts there feature pleasant dance bands or vocalists of the 1928-35 period...and somewhere in the record, WHAM! There's a Purvis solo...sticking out like a sore thumb. A hot sore thumb. And there's a huge booklet in the set, relating many of the legendary stories musicians told about this incredible guy.

Someone ought to write a screenplay about Purvis...maybe someone in the Jack Nicholson/Bruce Dern school could play him.

C5538 El Rado Scuffle Jimmie Noone Orchestra Vocalion 1490
Chicago, 3 February 1930: Jimmie Noone, clarinet; Joe Poston, alto sax; Zinky Cohn, piano; Wilbur Gorham, banjo; Bill Newton, bass; Johnny Wells, drums.

For years my favorite Noone side was Apex's still high on the list, but this track, along with its original flip side, Deep Trouble, really caught my ear a while back. Neither are played all that often either.

55847-2 Haunted Nights Duke Ellington Orch Victor V-38092
NYC 16 September 1929: Arthur Whetsel, Cootie Williams, trumpets; Joe Nanton, trombone; Juan Tizol, valve trombone; Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, reeds; Duke Ellington, piano; Teddy Bunn, guitar; Fred Guy, banjo; Wellman Braud, bass; Sonny Greer, drums.

There are so many great sides by Ellington from this period (shoot...any period Ellington is great!), it was hard to choose just one. I couldn't resist asking for this's unlike most of his pieces, and there's a good guitar solo by Teddy Bunn, who was sitting in for this session. It's also my guess that Bunn's presence is why the credit doesn't say "Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra." Bunn wasn't a regular band member, so he wouldn't have been at the club.

Note: I do have the 78 of this cut (2 copies, actually), but since I already have the CD version loaded on my hard drive, I posted the latter.

I also requested a couple of favorite vocals...

148849-3 True Blue Lou Annette Hanshaw Harmony 981-H
NYC 24 July 1929: Annette Hanshaw, vocal, with the New Englanders: Phil Napoleoon, trumpet; Tommy Dorsey, trombone; Jimmy Dorsey, clarinet; Frank Signorelli, guitar; probably Tony Colucci, guitar; Joe Tarto, bass; Stan King, drums.
It's a fairly common record, especially on Harmony's sister label, Diva (distributed through the W. T. Grant chain stores), but it's a goodie. Hanshaw injects just the right amount of pathos when she talks about the "poor kid." Lovely side.

Ed told us that he saw Annette sing with the Casa Loma band sometime around 1934. I wish there was a way for me to download some of his memories....there's precious little film of her in action. Here's the only clip I've ever seen: .

B-15714-A A New Moon Is Over My Shoulder Connee Boswell Brunswick 6962
NYC, 21 August 1934: Connee Boswell, vocal; Bunny Berigan, trumpet; Tommy Dorsey, trombone; Jimmy Dorsey, clarinet; Harry Hoffman, violin; Martha Boswell, piano; Dick McDonough, guitar; Chauncey Morehouse, drums.

Isn't this a pretty side? Again, it's something that doesn't get played all that often. And, yes, Ms. Boswell changed the spelling of her first name from "Connie" to "Connee." Supposedly it was easier to sign her name without the dot above the "i," but the change might have been related to numerology (I heard George Brunies dropped an "e" or two from his name for that reason as well).

Eventually we got around to listening to other stuff that Ed selected...I'm holding one of those items...a rather scarce Melotone. Sometimes records make me goofy (and that's fellow collector Rich Trahan in the background. He's not goofy....).

Yes, that's the blue eagle of the National Recovery Act (1933-35) on my of my favorite symbols of any era...thanks to one of my old pals for the neat shirt!

As good as the music is (and believe is great), the high point of these shindigs is around 9:00 when Dick brings out the most fantastic doughnuts and pastries, fresh from a Pennsylvania bakery.

The Entry of the Doughnuts is almost a hol(e)y ritual........and he brought an exceptionally tasty bunch of them this time around too...


From the sublime to the (unintentionally) ridiculous: A couple of weeks ago, the 78-L folks were discussing Geoffrey O'Hara, known for recording Native American songs and stories in 1913 (wax cylinders, of course). He made records of himself performing some of these songs. He also composed the standard K-K-K-Katy. has a batch of his records.

According to the Wikipedia blurb on O'Hara, he seemed to have stopped recording around 1928 to concentrate on teaching and composing.

Well, it seems O'Hara showed up on the syndicated Forget-Me-Not radio show in late 1930, performing his song Guns. It may have been moving in its time (only 12 years after WWI ended)...but it's badly dated now.

XE-35077 Forget-Me-Not, Show O, Part 5
NYC, ca. 6 November 1930: Geoffrey O'Hara, composer and vocal; studio orch.

Well, they certainly don't write songs like that anymore. I think the Geneva Convention prohibits it.

Well....that should do it for now......

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Answers to those quiz questions...

I've been fairly busy the last few weeks with various side projects and have neglected my blog. I'm working on a new entry, but it will probably be another week before I'm completely satisfied with it.

In the meantime, there were those two quiz questions from the previous posting...

Question #1 concerned the Mitchell's Christian Singers record released in Columbia's pricier Masterworks series (usually reserved for classical music). I said that there was a good reason for its placement there and added a (very) big clue: The next record in the series, Columbia 417-M was issued by "Sanders Terry."

Of course, that artist was Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry. And he and the MCS had just played Carnegie Hall a few days earlier. There was actually quite a flurry of recording activity, spawned by the first From Spirituals to Swing concert that John Hammond produced on Friday, 23 December 1938.

A glance at the Abrams database shows that the following Tuesday, the 27th (Christmas fell on Sunday that year, and would have been officially celebrated Monday the 26th), Brunswick/Vocalion recorded seven songs by Mitchell's Christian Singers (including two they performed at the concert), followed by two by Terry.

A few days later (the 30th), more stars of the concert, a trio of boogie-woogie pianists, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis came in for their session...recording a total of five titles (the two sides of Boogie Woogie Prayer were issued as takes 1 and 2 of the same matrix number). Two of these sides featured Johnson with blues shouter Joe Turner...this was the beginning of his long recording career.

A few days after that (6 January 1939), all three pianists recorded several twelve-inch sides for Alfred Lion, who was about to launch a new label called Blue Note. Perhaps you've heard of it.....if not, please crawl back under your log.

Question #2 dealt with a mystery cut...I asked what the featured instrument was, and what nationality the performer was.

Shalom correctly identified the mystery was indeed an ocarina...apparently recorded in Portugal (note the P matrix series)in the late 1920s. Here's the record again, but with a label scan and info intact:

P200 Fado Foguete de Lagrimas Antonio Martins Columbia 1058-X

It was hard for me to believe that the lowly "sweet potato" could be capable of such lovely music...I usually hear it in a quasi-country novelty setting.

To be fair, there's an interesting Ocarina Blog ( out there...and several other sites devoted to the instrument. I have a lot more respect for it now.....

Someday I'll get around to posting the Bernie Ladd sides...he and his ocarina recorded a couple of jazz-flavored pieces in the mid-1930s for Decca. the questions out of my (rapidly graying) hair. Hope to post again in a few days...