Saturday, October 20, 2018

Waxing Nostalgic:Blockbustin' Dixie

This was another early lp purchase by a young trumpet student and jazz fan.
It introduced me to New Orleans style Dixieland and the talents of Al Hirt,Pete Fountain and Bob Havens.

Al, I had seen on TV a few times.I was impressed by his awesome technique and showmanship,although I could see that taste wasn't one of his talents.
Pete,who I'd seen on the Lawrence Welk show , was always a natural,swinging player with shades of the  great Irving Fazola. We also get the bonus of his booting tenor sax with shades of hometown boys Eddie Miller and Lester Bouchon.
Another future Welk member was Bob Havens who was playing with Al in New Orleans when these
sides were made (1956).He had as much technique as Al,but knew how to ration it and there touches of the great Jack Teagarden.He became one of my favorite trombonists.

The Rhythm section is made up of three New Orleans pros-Roy Zimmerman,piano-Bob Coquille,
bass and Paul Edwards,drums. Along with Al and Pete,they put in time with such New Orleans
bands as the Dukes of Dixieland,Sharkey Bonano,Tony Almerico and George Girard.
Roy gets in a few short solos and sounds great.Coquille and Edwards give solid support with Edwards getting in some nice tags.

Despite the Bombastic tendencies of Al,the Band does use some nice dynamics and uses a cute trick
of jumping up a step on the A strain to Panama.
As mentioned Pete gets in some rollicking Tenor choruses on Washington and Lee. He also plays
some Tenor on Wolverine Blues,a nice cut that is ruined by Al' pyro techniques on the out chorus. At
least they come down in Volume on the reprieve.
Other highlights include a mellow tune,I'm Goin' Home,written by two New Orleans boys    Paul Mares, Pinky Vidacovitch and ex-N.O. Rhythm King,Mel Stitzel.
Pete gets to stretch out on Tin Roof Blues,always a great showcase for his Low Register improvisations.(he recorded a similar version with the Dukes of Dixieland,the previous year.)
He definetly listened to fellow homeboy,Irving Fazola.
Bob gets the feature on Blue and Broken Hearted with some of his Teagarden-ish licks on display.
At age 26,he was a mature soloist and in 1960 would join the Lawrence Welk show for a 12 year run.
Al's feature is Night and Day,where he goes into a Double-Timed exhibition of his great technique.
Not much jazz here,but some amazing Trumpet work!

Many years later,I can still enjoy this session that features three giants of their instruments playing
some great Traditional favorites along with the aforementioned features.
It's currently available on the CD, The Best of Dixieland-Al Hirt on Verve records.

Also heard is Jazz Me Blues, South Rampart St. Parade,Sugar,Dixieland One Step and Royal Garden Blues.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Waxing Nostalgic: Red Nichols-Meet the 5 Pennies

The wonderful cornetist and bandleader Red Nichols had many  highlights in his 4 decade career.
Starting with his great 1920s sides with Miff Mole,his later 5 Pennies sessions with future jazz
greats Benny Goodman,Jack Teagarden,Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa,his underated big band of the late 30s
and finally his return to the 5 pennies in the late 40s until his untimely death in 1965.

The 1959 film The Five Pennies starring Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong  ,  despite it's lack of factual bio and Hollywood-ized treatment of
Red's life did a lot to bolster his career in the late 50s.
This album,one of Red's many fine Capitol lps features songs from the film,old and original
played by Red and his augmented Pennies. This was one of my favorites of Red's Capitol lps as a young jazz fan.

First a look at the players surrounding Red and his still potent cornet.
First his regular 5 Pennies-clarinetist Bill Wood,a tasty Goodman type player who stayed with Red
over 10 years,Pete Beilman,trombone,a veteran of the Ted Weems band and many west coast studio groups. Bobby Hammack,a very talented pianist and arranger who worked with Red most of the 50s.
Drummer Rollie Culver,a tasty player with Red since the mid 40s and the Bass Sax of Joe Rushton who kept the tradition of Adrian Rollini-(on many of Red's 1920s sides.)

Now the talented ringers: Clarinetist/arranger Heinie Beau goes back to Red's 1939 big band and
did the arrangements and transcriptions of the originals. He was a fine clarinetist(starred with Tommy Dorsey 1941-3) and consumate arranger,adept at dixieland but also wrote charts for Movies and TV and Frank Sinatra. He did most of the arranging for the Five Pennies movie.
On Alto and Baritone is Wayne Songer,a top studio man who subbed with the Pennies on occasion
and has that singing Jimmy Dorsey sound,found on many of Red's 20s sides. Trombonist Moe Schneider,another top studio hand, member of the Pete Kelly's Big 7 and sub with the Pennies.
Red used the tympani of Vic Berton and mellophone of Dudley Fosdick a lot on his 20s sides.
Here Ralph Hansell handles all Percussion and Jackie Coon, an excellent West Coast trumpeter
chips in many tasty solos on the unusual mellophone (a bit like a valve trombone or alto horn).
Several of Red's original solos are scored here for 3 trumpets with Bob Goodrich (ex Bob Crosby) and the great studio man Mannie Klein added-Manny was on several of Red's original 20s sides.
Rounding out the rhythm are studio pros Allen Reuss,guitar and Morty Corb,bass.
And now-on to the Program.

Eccentric-The old New Orleans Rhythm Kings favorite borrows from Red's original 1927 version arranged by Fud Livingston..
Heinie Beau scores Red's original solo for the 3 trumpets and we also hear tasty solos from Wood
and Coon on mellophone.Red's longtime trombonist Pete Beilman also gets in a nice solo.

Allah's Holiday- Another early Nichols recording (1929)-sort of a Japanese Sandman sound-alike.
Joe Rushton leads the opening theme (a regular Nichols device going back to Rollini).
Red gets in a mellow spot with more from Joe and Wood's clean swinging clarinet. Red leads the outchorus and the coda has a neat Japanese touch.

Indiana-Another classic chart from the Goodman-Teagarden period(1929-30). Beau's chart pretty much follows the original by Glenn Miller.. Once again,Red's original solo is scored for the 3 trumpets.
We also hear Songer's clean,swinging alto along with Wood and Coon.

When the Saints go Marching In. In the film,this was a delightful vocal duet with Kaye and Louis.(with special material by Kaye's wife Sylvia Fine). The arrangement is by Red and Beau.
This version follows Red's 2 part Pennies arrangement( a la Battle Hymn). After an intro by Red
over sustained chords Bobby Hammack takes us into the bluesy slow section led by Red.
Rollie's drum rolls takes us to the uptempo section. The entire ensemble swing out followed by neat
trade offs between Moe and Pete on trombone,Songer and Coon,the clarinets of Wood and Beau,baritone of Songer and Rushton's bass sax. After a spot by Rolie's drums,Red leads the entire
group home with a neat walkoff coda.

Shim Me Sha Wabble -The Spencer Williams favorite was originally recorded in 1930 with
Teagarden,Goodman and Krupa. Beau uses some of the original Glenn Miller chart.
We get some of the Berton tympani touch up front. Red leads the ensemble and we get nice
solos from Songer and Coon ( a fine trumpeter who worked with Teagarden , Pete Fountain and recorded with
Matty Matlock-he got a lot out of the quirky mellophone). Red leads the ensemble over the Miller
riffs with some more tympani on the coda.

The Five Pennies-This is the movie's title tune written by Sylvia Fine.(Red had a 1926 original of the same title) We get a pretty Beau chart with Rushton on lead with nice spots by vibes(Hansell).
Red takes over on the second chorus with a pretty statement of the lead ending in a lovely cadenza
over the band chords. Very pretty record.

Bill Bailey-The old favorite was sung by Louis in a nightclub scene. Beau gives us a loose swinging
version. Highlights are Red's solid lead,solos by Wood and Songer and more tympani spots.

Lullaby in Ragtime- Another Fine original. In the film,Kaye,Louis and young Susan Gordon (as Red's daughter Dorothy) sing a round of Lullaby,Five Pennies and another Fine comp. Goodnight-SleepTight. This has nothing to do with Red but makes for nice listening.
Beau gives us a nice chart with some Bob Crosby style reed voicings, a nice chorus by Red over a
shuffle rhythm and spots for Songer,Coon,Hammack's celesta and the tympani.

Battle Hymn of the Republic. A fixture in Red's book since the mid 40s. Like Saints, this Red-Beau
chart has the two part tempo routine with Red leading off unaccompanied into the slow drag tempo
and Wood's clarinet. A drum roll brings us into the swinging passages.
Bobby Hammack has two swinging choruses. He was a great pianist and like Beau,a talented arranger. Old Time Radio has several of his own radio shows on CD-it's very tasty.
Red gets dirty for one chorus,then proud and strutting. We also get Pete and Moe alternating,
Wood's clarinet,Joe's bass sax and stops for Rollie. After a modulation Red leads two swinging
choruses with his last chorus scored for 3 trumpets including  his patented chromatic run on the coda.
In the movie, Red and Louis performed an exciting version in the nightclub scene and the song was
reprised during Red's climatic comeback scene.

Margie. Red's original was from 1928 and the original Fud Livingston chart is transcribed by Beau.
We start right off with Red's original solo played for 3 trumpets.Mannie Klein was on the 1928 record
and gets a tasty solo before Red takes over. Bill and Heinie split clarinet and there's a great guitar spot by Allan Reuss before Red leads the band home.

Red's Capitol albums all contain great music and that great Capitol sound..He started recording for them in 1944(78 sessions)
and also recorded in '45 and '50.
The LPs are the following:
In Love with Red (1955/6)-An augmented Pennies plus strings playing a more concertized program.
Hot Pennies (1956). The augmented Pennies playing many standard Nichols favorites.
Parade of the Pennies (1958). A similar setup and program.
At Marineland (1958)-Red's working six piece band in a collection of his regular program.
Meet the Five Pennies (1959).
Dixieland Dinner Dance (1959). The regular band plays a danceable program.
Dixieland Supper Club (1961). More danceable sounds.
Blues and Old Time Rags (1963).  Ragtime favorites featuring Bill Campbell,piano and traditional

It's a shame that Mosaic records(now defunct) never got to these albums-it would have made a great collection.
There is a nice Retrospective 2 CD set from the UK titled Both Sides of the Five Pennies.
Disc One has the clasic early Nichols from 1926-31 and disc Two highlights the Capitol years with
selections from Hot Pennies, Parade of the Pennies,Meet the Pennies and Dixieland Supper Club.

If you still have the original LPs,hang on to them.
Till our next Waxing Nostalgic.....

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Waxing Nostalgic: Hal Kemp-The Great Dance Bands of the 30s and 40s

This lp was another early purchase for a 9 year old Jazz and Big Band fan.
I had heard of Hal Kemp, but wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had purchased the Bunny Berigan
and Charlie Barnet lps in this series and was attracted to the cover artwork of leader Kemp standing in front
of his reed section.
As the album notes stated, the Kemp band was one of the most tasteful of the sweet bands. They started as
a college jazz band in North Carolina(like fellow bandleader Kay Kyser) and thru the years switched between sweet and swing styles.

The patented Kemp sound featured clipped brass and clarinet choirs(sometimes played into megaphones) Hal himself was a fine saxophonist and sometimes took over lead duties.
Pianist John Scott Trotter(later Bing Crosby's musical director) had a lot to do with the Kemp
sound. Other standout sidemen were drummer-singer Skinnay Ennis,reedman Saxie Dowell,
trumpeter Earl Geiger and trombonist Ed Kusby. Trumpeter Randy Brooks was with the Band in '39-40.
Ennis was one of the most popular sidemen with his breathless style of singing. He eventually
started his own successful  band.
Here are the selections on the album-A fine representation of the Kemp orchestra.

 Got a Date with an Angel (7/22/37)-The most popular Kemp selection. A pop tune from England tailored for the Kemp clarinets and clipped brass. Of course Skinnay Ennis' breathless vocal and the Band's vocal intro make this an instant classic. When Skinnay led his own band,this became his theme.

Heart of Stone (1/26/39) Recorded earlier for Brunswick,this features Bob Allen,the Band's straight singer. This is probably a Trotter arrangement with some of that octave piano and the clarinets featured.

Love for Sale (5/19/39) This has some of the Band's swing sound and a nice vocal trio by the Smoothies(known earlier as Babs Little and her Brothers). comp-Cole Porter,of course.

In an 18th Century Drawing Room (7/24/39 ). Raymond Scott's clever take off on a minuet shows
off the Kemp reeds and brass. The trumpets handle some tricky tongueing and there are plenty of
clarinet and flute spots. No Jazz but great musicianship.

Whispers in the Dark (6/1/37). A pop tune by Leo Robin from the film,"Artists and Models".(also featuring Louis Armstrong).
Bob Allen's vocal and the brass and reed figures give this the Kemp treatment.

FDR Jones (8/25/38). A popular omage to the great President(also recorded by Ella and Chick Webb). This features a fun vocal by Hal and his Swing-A-Roosters(probably the Band and the
Smoothies). More swing here with saxes instead of clarinets.

A Foggy Day(9/8/37). The Gershwin standard ala Kemp featuring some moody reed work,
clipped brass and Skinnay's distictive voice. The  pretty trumpet spot is probably Clyton Cash,
the successor to Earl Geiger.

Time on my Hands(5/19/39). One of my favorite Kemp charts,beginning and ending with a
moody descending line by the horns. The wonderful vocal is by Nan Wynn who sang with several
bands and did a lot of movie acting and vocal "ghosting". (see our post-Nan Wynn,"Is Everybody Happy?). There's also another nice sweet trumpet spot playing off the reeds.

Remember Me?(7/22/37) A cute HarryWarren tune tailor made for the Kemp brass and clarinets.
Skinnay gives a cheery vocal-he wasn't a jazz singer but handled a rhythm tune with ease. Also has
a nice growl trumpet spot and trombone by Kemp veteran Ed Kusby.

Let's Do It? (5/31/37). More Cole Porter and Smoothies. Another semi-swing sound for Kemp
with cute vocalizing by the trio,a nice sax soli led by Hal and a trumpet spot that sounds like Bunny Berigan(he was with the Band in '30-31) by Mickey Bloom.

Lamplight (7/22/37). Another one of Skinnay's signature tunes.(he used it with his own band).
A pretty ballad with nice band dynamics and Skinnay's pleading vocal.

Washington and Lee Swing(4/8/39). The old college favorite gets a nice lift by Kemp and boys.
Not a swing chart but has a Band vocal, nice saxes and a showy Brass outchorus.
(The band coda alwayseminded me of the last few notes of the "I Love Lucy" theme.

The Band was doing nicely with a mixture of sweet and swing in 1940 (they were a big favorite at College dances) when Hal was tragically killed in an auto crash in December of that year.
For a time Saxie Dowell,Bob Allen and Art Jarrett led the Kemp band and Skinnay continued to
feature his Kemp tunes with his Band.

Certainly one of the tastiest and musical of the sweet bands,the Hal Kemp Orchestra will always
occupy an important standing in the history of America's Dance Band era.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nan Wynn-Is Everybody Happy? (1943)

One of my favorite vocalists of the Big Band era was the lovely Nan Wynn (1915-71).
Nan not only sang for name Bands such as Hal Kemp,Raymond Scott and Hudson-DeLange but
she acted in films and had a busy career as a "ghost singer" for     Rita Hayworth in some of her musical films of the 40s.She was very lovely herself and got some lead roles in various musicals and comedies of the late 30s-40s. One of her best showcases is in Columbia's Is Everybody Happy?,a flashback film that
follows aspects of Ted Lewis' life while linking Ted's story with the two romantic leads. (Ted plays himself and sings a couple numbers at the start of the film).

Nan certainly had movie star looks- A Beautiful brunette with a curvy figure, she gets plenty of singing numbers playing" Kitty ",the girlfriend of Larry Park's character.
Nan could belt when she wanted to, but was most at home singing in a intimate voice-sort of a female Skinnay Ennis. One can hear the best of this style on Hal Kemp's Time on my Hands or her sides with Teddy Wilson in '39 and her own series of 8 sides for Vocalion (more on that later).

The story takes place in the pre WW1 days when Ted was starting his band. Kitty meets Ted and pianist Larry Parks and starts a romance with him. She gets to sing many wonderful standards-several with the verse. We hear Tell Me, Light of Silvery Moon ,I'm Just Wild about Harry, Am I Blue?,Cuddle up a little Closer, It had to be you, Long way to Tipperary and Pretty Baby.
 Nan also sings a Ruth Lowe composition,More than Anyone else in the World with Parks and gives a great rendition of St. Louis Blues in a corny but effective scene serenading a dying black friend accompanied by a choir.

Ted solves the problem of young lovers Bob Haymes(brother of Dick) and Lynn Merrick, and Nan and Larry appear at the end of the film as older characters.
Nan also had a good part in Warner Bros.' Shot in the Dark (1941) singing three songs. She has an excellent production number of Brazil in Columbia's Jam Session (1944) and has a plum role in Abbott and Costello's Pardon my Sarong (1943) playing a South Sea Island princess and singing two songs. Also check out her "Soundie" of Ain't Misbehavin' on Youtube. She never sounded or looked better. She overcame some medical issues to make a "Pop" comeback in the 50s then dissapeared from the music scene. More to come.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BIX- MCMLIX: Dick Cathcart

This Warner Bros. Lp has always been a Personal Favorite.
The album showcases the mellow and fluent trumpet of Dick Cathcart playing a program of Bix Beiderbecke-associated tunes. Warren Barker did the arranging and the instrumentation ranges from string and brass section backup to rhythm section.
Dick was the subject of an earlier post. His trumpet is best known for the various Pete Kelly's Blues
shows and movie and his 6 years on the Lawrence Welk show. He also did much studio work and graced the Bands of Ben Pollack,Ray McKinley and Bob Crosby.

The nice thing about the album is that it doesn't try to do note-for-note Bix recreations,although several Bix phrases are heard thruout the program by Dick and/or the orchestra.
Dick had a bit of Hackett,Butterfield and Bix to his playing but it was mostly Cathcart. He had great command of the horn but never showed off too much and his tone was pretty pure and mellow.
Here's a look at the tunes played:

Jazz Me Blues- The album gets off to a Brassy start with this classic introduced by Bix and the Wolverines in 1924,then reprieved by Bix and his Gang in '27.
Dick's horn is backed by a full brass section and there are some arranged Bix phrases by the brass.
Dick uses Bix's rolling break from '27 but it's mostly his pretty, darting horn in solo and playing off the brass.
Paul Smith also gets in a nice piano solo.

Ida- Not recorded by Bix but associated with Bix's colleague Red Nichols.
We open with a tasty intro with Dick dropping octaves followed by his flowing statement of the melody, complete with a few boppish touches.
After a Smith piano solo, Dick has a brief foray into the low register followed by some impressive chromatic runs before returning to the opening phrase as a coda.
A Beautiful piece of Trumpet work.

Mississipi Mud -Recorded by Bix in 1928 with Paul Whiteman and Frank Trumbauer.
The strings make their first appearance and the tempo is slow and pensive,not like the usual rollicking renditions.
Dick opens backed by Bobby Gibbon's guitar and then caresses the melody in a very Pete Kelly mood. There's a nice modulation to the final chorus with Dick's flowing lines leading to a coda with Dick quoting Bix's I'm Comin' Virginia coda.

In a Mist- Bix recorded his impressionistic piano piece in 1927 and Warren Barker combines the Brass, Dick's trumpet and the piano of Paul Smith in an excellent arrangement.
Dick weaves in and out of the ensemble ably playing parts written for piano. The Brass ensemble also coveres some of Bix's strains and Paul plays Bix's original coda.

Louisiana-Back to the rhythm section for a standard recorded by Bix in 1928 with Whiteman and his Gang.
Dick takes a solo intro backed by Gibbon's guitar before settling into a pleasant medium tempo.
Dick's horn is Bix-like but has nice fresh touches of his own. Smith and Gibbons have tasty spots before Dick does some pretty noodling home with a nice modulation on the coda.
Tasty Stuff.

Riverboat Shuffle-Hoagy Carmichael's classic was introduced by Bix and the Wolverines in 1924 and Bix reprieved it with Trumbauer in '27.
The brass take the verse intro followed by the trombones on the chorus. Dick playfully swings thru the theme and the bones take over.
A bopppish solo by Smith ,another great player who did much studio work.
Dick trades phrases with the brass and takes a winding coda ending on a half valve .

At the Jazz Band Ball-Recorded by Bix and his Gang in '27. Back to the rhythm section with Paul's intro and Dick on the verse and chorus with witty almost boppish lines.
Smith solos,folowed by Gibbons' tasty guitar-he was a very underated studio man. Dick's back on the verse with some neat tongueing and a tasty unison riff with piano and guitar.
The last chorus has a busy,flowing Cathcart trading with the rhythm. All in 2'21!

Singin' the Blues- This Jazz Classic was recorded by Bix with Trubauer in '27. The strings are back.
Dick gives a pretty melody reading with a bit of Bix's chorus. There's a nice Pete Kelly like coda over sustained chords.

Sweet Sue-Recorded by Bix with Whiteman in '28.Rhythm Section. Slow trumpet opening backed by celesta moving into a medium swing tempo. Paul plays a unison solo on piano and celesta.
Dick winds along from low to middle register and there's a nice trade with celesta before  the coda.

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans-. Another Bix-Tram classic from '27. The Strings open with a transcribed soli of Bix's chorus. Dick picks up the last few bars into his pretty chorus in a bit of a Harry James mood.

Ja-Da- Not recorded by Bix,but another Red Nichols favorite. Dick has another slow intro with celesta then brass pick up to swing tempo. Dick has a nice Bix-like firry. Guest pianist Ernie Hughes has a chorus then the Brass return with Dick blowing some tasty,slightly modern lines with a nifty unaccompanied break on the end.
There's a pretty original coda by Dick.

I'm Comin' Virginia- From the Bix-Tram classics of '27. Lovely theme chorus by Dick a la Pete Kelly.
The strings again play Bix's chorus answered by Dick, before his closing statement over chords with Bix's coda.

Also recorded at the session was Bix's piano composition,Candlelights. The celesta takes the intro with Dick playing the tricky melody. Like In a Mist, Paul Smith is featured. The 2nd strain is very jazzy with nice Cathcart horn backed by Gibbon's guitar. Bix's piano coda is used and Dick gets in his own pretty coda.
This track popped up on a Warner Bros. sampler called Jazz Festival-Near Far and Far Out.

Both albums have been out of print for years and never reissued on CD. You can find the LPs on ebay.
Let's hope some company out there will put out a CD of the material.
Not only is it a Fresh,Sincere tribute to Bix,but a great showcase of the marvelous Cathcart horn.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Piano and Vocal Stylings of Una Mae Carlisle-Part One

Although not a household name, Una Mae Carlisle left a rich legacy of music as a student of Fats Waller;s stride piano school and accomplished vocalist and entertainer in the States and Europe.
She was born in Xenia,Ohio on Dec. 26.1915 and worked in the Cincinatti area in her teens as a pianist/vocalist. Fats Waller heard her while working on his WLW Radio show in Cincinatti.
He mentored teenage Una Mae and she guested on his show.

Una Mae contunued working around Cincinatti and worked in Paris in 1937. Her successful run there earned her an English tour in the spring of 1938. While there she made her first records with a fine local band. The sides made for English Vocalion as Una Mae Carlisle and her Jam Band, contain most of the players who had recorded earlier with Fats during his tour abroad. Trumpeter Dave Wilkins was working with the top London band of Ken "Snakehips" Johnson as was reedman Bertie King.
The band is a good one and has a lot of the same feel as the British Waller band. Una Mae is solid in her piano work and vocals. Although not as strong a player as Fats,she had a lot of the classic Waller stride style in her playing. Una's vocals were husky and well phrased and swung,she also sang a pretty ballad. As photos will attest, she was a very beautiful girl to boot.

Don't try your Jive on Me-A Leonard Feather composition (he may have produced the session). This was also recorded by Fats on his earlier British sesion-it has a "Hold Tight" quality to it. The two hornmen stand out-Wilkins reminds one a bit of Bill Coleman and King has a Chu Berry/Ben Webster feel to his tenor.
Una contributes a fine stride solo showing her debt to Fats.

I Would do Anything for You- The Claude Hopkins favorite gets a nice medium tempo with Una's piano getting solid support from Len Harrison's bass.Una's vocal has nice backup by Wilkins,reminding one of Fats' Herman Autrey. Along with some nice stride, Una throws in some cute asides a la Fats.

Hangover Blues- A Traditional Blues credited to Una and Feather. Una gives us a nice piano chorus before singing her blues lyrics backed by Wilkins' growl horn. King gets in a clarinet spot and some gutty tenor.

Love Walked In- The Gershwin standard is taken at a medium swing tempo with Una's piano up front. Her vocal is nice but  it sounds like her key is a bit low. Her closing vocal swings nice with a cute "Walked Right In" aside a la Fats.

Mean to Me- Another uptempo version with Una using some of her own lyrics. King and Wilkins' shine on solos with some comments by Una. Her piano solo is very Fats like with her own touches,this lady could play! Her vocal rideout swings with a Yes Yes! at the coda.

I'm Crazy bout my Baby- Composed by Una's mentor Fats,we get an approriate stride opening. The horns get in nice spots before Una swings it home.
All in all a very nice session and great introduction to Miss Carlisle.

Una returned to Europe in early 1939 and recorded two sides with clarinetist Danny Polo's Swing Stars.
The band included continental stars Phillipe Brun (trumpet),Alix Combelle (tenor) and Oscar Aleman(guitar).
On Montparnasse Jump,a medium blues ,Una contributes two excellent stride choruses. She also gets in a nice spot on China Boy. Garland Wilson plays piano on the other band sides.

Una was back in the states in 1939 and worked clubs in the New York area. On November 6 she joined Fats' Rhythm for a classic version of I Can't give you Anything but Love. Una sings the first chorus with Fats making his classic asides followed by Fats' vocal. The recording has become a standard in the various Waller reissue sides and became very popular with the public.

Fats may have helped Una get her own series for Bluebird. On 8/2/40 she recorded four sides with John Hamilton,trumpet (see our earlier post), Al Casey,guitar,Cedric Wallace,bass and Slick Jones on drums from Fats' group. Una played piano and despite the absence of Gene Sedric, the session has a real Waller feel

Papa's in Bed with his Britches On is a fun blues novelty. The other sides, Now I Lay me Down to Dream, If I Had You and You Made me Love You are on the mellow side with Hamilton's trumpet in a muted Charlie Shavers mood. Una's piano and vocal work on these sides is exceptional.

On 11/13/40 she was backed by Benny Carter,trumpet,Everett Barksdale,guitar,Slam Stewart,bass and Zutty Singleton,drums.
Walkin' by the River composed by Una became a hit record and her version is lovely backed by Benny's tasty trumpet.This became one of her signature songs. The other side I Met you Then is another pleasant Una composition.

Una's next Bluebird date on 3/10/41 became a classic and memorable session in jazz history as she was backed by Lester Young's band. Lester had recently left Count Basie and had put together this combo with fellow Basie-ite Shad Collins,trumpet-Clyde Hart,piano-John Collins,guitar-Nick Fenton,bass and Doc West on drums. I first heard these sides on an old RCA Vintage lp devoted to various small group swing sessions.
Lester and the band play beautifully and Una's vocals never sounded better in such wonderful company.

Blitzkrieg Baby- A topical wartime blues with a bridge similar to Shoo Shoo Baby. Una swings nicely on the bluesy wartime lyrics. Lester shines with a cool solo spot shared with Hart, a very underated swing pianist.

Beautiful Eyes- A lovely,forgotten Richard Whiting ballad. Una sings the pretty verse and chorus with Lester's soulful fills. Lester has a lovely,haunting chorus Una returns to the verse and lightly swings the out chorus with Shad getting in a nice muted spot.

There'll be some Changes Made- Again Una with the verse and chorus-swinging nicely. John Collins gets a fine solo spot (he worked many years with Nat Cole). Una swings us home. No Lester solo but nice fills.

It's Sad,but True- An obscure pop of the day with a short verse up front followed by Una nicely navigating the rather unorthodox melody line. Lester blows his lovely fills and Shad sounds a lot like his Basie buddy, Buck Clayton. Una returns for a half chorus.
A Lovely Session.

Una's next Bluebird session(5/1/41) utilized the wonderful John Kirby Band as accompanists.
Charlie Shavers,trumpet-Billy Kyle,piano and Russell Procope,alto all have solo spots with kudos to the always tasty Kyle and shavers.
I See a Million People- composed by Una was her second hit composition getting much play by other bands and singers. Una's vocal is very warm and the KIrby band gives her delightful backup.

Oh,I'm Evil- A cute,swinging blues with a bridge,Una's vocal is a standout.

You Mean so Much to Me- Another pretty,but obscure ballad composed by trumpeter/arranger Edgar Battle. Una's phrasing sells the song as does Charlie's trumpet.

Boogie Woogie Piggly-This was a popular swing novelty of '41,even recorded by Glenn Miller. Una sings a verse up front then swings the boogie theme. Charlie gets in some growls and Una has fun with the "oink oink" lyrics.

7/22/41-The Kirby band is back starting with a nice rendering of the Kern standard, Can't help Lovin' dat Man. Una's phrasing compensates for her range and we have a nice band interlude led by Charlie's trumpet.

It Ain't Like That- A Una composition. A Bluesy Riff with a swinging Una vocal. Good spots for Billy and Charlie and a riffing last chorus by Una.

Anything- A pretty Phil Napolean-Frank Signoreli comp. also recorded by Dorsey-Sinatra that year. Una gives us the verse and again gets thru a tricky melody by dropping some notes. A tasty band interlude before Una gives us a pretty wrapup. A lovely side.

City called Heaven- Another obscure pop saved by Una's tasty vocal and a nice Procope alto spot.

10/3/41-I'm the One who Loves You- Another undistinguised pop but with a pleasant vocal and spots for Billy and Procope.

My Wish- Another pretty Una comp. A sweet vocal by Una, the tune sounds a bit like the Ink Spots' "Do I Worry?" The always tasty Kyle has a piano spot.

Coffee and Cakes- A rather average Una comp. with nice Shavers and Kyle.

Moonlight Masquerade- Comp. by Tutti Camarata. A pretty ballad with a warm Una vocal .Procope and Kyle solo.

Una's final Bluebird session was on 2/13/42 with the Kirby Band back.
Don't Tech It (touch)-Is a Cute novelty ala Tisket a Tasket with some nice Shavers.

So Long,Shorty- A Una comp. Riff tune with Wartime theme. Nicely swung by Una with Shavers and Kyle soloing.

I'm Tryin' -A pleasant ballad performance with graceful singing and spots for Kyle and Procope.

Sweet Talk- Una comp. A pretty ballad with Una's nice light touch and sweet Procope alto.
These Kirby sides all have their moments and show Una maturing as a performer with the bonus of one of the tastiest and classiest combos of the Swing Era.

In Part Two we'll survey Una's mid 40s recordings and continue to her untimely passing in 1954.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas with Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen

This post not only gives me a chance to wish everyone a Happy Holiday season, but to do a long overdue tribute to one of my favorite British trumpeters and bandleaders Kenny Ball (1930-2013).

Kenny was one of England's top trumpet men and his band the Jazzmen carried on the great tradition of Kenny's idol, Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. Kenny had his share of hit records such as Midnight in Moscow, Samantha, I Wanna be like You, Green Leaves of Summer and So Do I and along with Acker Bilk,Chris Barber and others he was a key figure of the British "trad" boom of the 50s and 60s.
Because of this,like Louis the critics tended to shun him as "commercial;"-however Kenny always served up a good portion of traditional jazz and his horn and voice always had the pulse of Louis and pure jazz to it.

This 1994 Christmas album is just brimming with fun and good jazz. Supporting Kenny are his longtime trombonist John Bennett, clarinetist Andy Cooper, Hugh Ledigo,piano-John Fenner,banjo and guitar-John Benson,bass and Ron Bowden,drums.
The menu ranges from Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmas Time to White Christmas and Silent Night. There may be a few too many Band vocals, but it's Christmas time-let's not be a Scrooge, all the vocals are done with great joy. Kenny's own vocalizing is very prominent-he sounded like a cross between Pops and his fellow Brit, Nat Gonella. His "Pops" impersonations are very sweet and accurate-so many guys think if they sing in a gravelly voice they're doing a great Louis impression.

Kenny's trumpet is still solid too at 64 years of age. He wasn't the tiger of the Midnight in Moscow days but stills provides solid leads and tasty choruses.
The rest of the Jazzmen get their innings too with special kudos to the always solid John Bennett and the talented string man,John Fenner.
All of the selections contain the joy of Christmas with the Ball trademark-here are some of my favorites:

I'm very fond of the swinging 4/4 treatment of the old English carol, Ding Dong Merrily on High..
The band riffs along with good solos by the horns and Hugh's piano.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and We Three Kings have neat treatments with the feel of Midnight in Moscow. Sleigh Ride gets a nice trad rendition although the boys omit the popular third strain("birthday party at Farmer Brown's). The old reliables Jingle Bells, Santa Claus and Rudolph receive lively treatments with Andy Cooper getting in on the fun with Rudolph. Kenny's breaks on Deck the Halls smack of Pops and the Hot 5, complete with a Potato Head Blues quote.

Kenny has a nice Louis-ish vocal and trumpet spot on Have Yourself a Merry and his aforementioned Louis vocals on White Christmas and Silent Night are most welcome.

Kenny left us in 2013, but his son Keith is keeping the Band going with John Bennett still aboard.
It's a tough job to fill because so much of the Band's success revolved around Kenny's dynamic horn, voice and showmanship. We wish Keith all the best,however.
I picked up the Christmas CD on Amazon where there are many Ball CDs available from the late 50s to the present. Check out the BBC Airshots CD from '57-62 for the early "hell bent for leather" Ball band, just before Midnight in Moscow-It's a real Trad Lover's Treat. Youtube has many wonderful Ball videos. There are many from the Band's late '60s-early' 70s years on the Morecombe and Wise show.

Kenny Ball will always be one of my favorite" Merry Gentlemen"of Jazz and his Christmas album is a great testament to his artistry and flair for fun. We at Pete Kelly's wish you a Very Happy Holiday Season.
We'll be back in 2015 for a post on the Beautiful pianist/songstress Una Mae Carlisle.