Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Sterling Trumpet of Mr. Bose

In the history of jazz trumpet there are many unsung and underated players who left a great legacy of work but are mostly known to musicians and aficiandos.
One such player is Sterling "Bozo" Bose (1906-58). Like many great jazzmen, Sterling's career was ruined and cut short by his addiction to alcohol.
Sterling Belmont Bose was born in Florence, Alabama on Feb. 23, 1906. He spent part of his youth in New Orleans where he absorbed the city's jazz sounds and played with hometown bands such as trombonist Tom Brown.

In 1923 Sterling was in St. Louis where he worked with the Crescent City Jazzers and the Arcadian Serenaders at St. Louis' Arcadia Ballroom. He made his first recordings with the Serenaders in late 1924. The group has a similar sound to early jazz bands such as the Wolverines and New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Sterlings' style is influenced by Bix Beiderbecke but also has a bit of the "sock" style of early trumpeters Paul Mares and Phil Napolean, a driving rhythmic type of playing. His work on the old favorite Angry is especially good.

After his St. Louis stint Sterling worked his way to Detroit where he joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra in late 1927. This was a new edition of the band after Paul Whiteman stole many of Goldkette's stars such as Bix, Frank Trumbauer, Steve Brown and Bill Challis.
His recordings with the band still show the Bix influence along with more of the "booting" rhythmic horn that would be his trademark.

On the side My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now, Bozo's horn is a standout. He also gets a nice solo on Just a Little Kiss and swaps fours with another Bix influenced player Andy Secrest on Here Comes the Showboat. (see our earlier Secrest post).This Goldkette band enjoyed a long stay at Kansas City's Pla-Mor Ballroom.
After Goldkette, Bose who was a good reader spent a few years with the house band of Chicago's WGN. In Novemberof 1930 he joined the great band of Ben Pollack.

Besides his regular Pollack recordings, Sterling appeared on numerous sessions with Pollack musicians appearing under a pseudenem. He also became fast friends with bandmate Jack Teagarden. They teamed up on many delightful recordings during the early 30s.
Hello Beautiful is the Pollack band released under Gil Rodin's name. Bose swaps lively fours with Teagarden and adds a pretty coda, his work here is very Bix-like.
I Just Couldn't Take it Baby is a Teagarden studio session featuring Jack's vocals. Bose has two nice, relaxed choruses with a bit of the Bix flavor. He also contributed fine solos to Jack's recordings of You, Rascal You, Loveless Love and Ol' Pappy.
A Teagarden studio band of 1931 featured Fats Waller, Matty Matlock and Adrian Rollini. An unissued version of China Boy has Bose with two strutting, melodic spots.
One of his best solos with Pollack is on Two Tickets to Georgia (1933). He still had some of Bix's touches but had developed his own personal style. This punchy, rhythmic approach became his trademark. It's a great jazz sound and Sterling exelled on small group lead and hot solos.

Sterling was quite a character. He and Teagarden enjoyed many crazy adventures together. They both shared a love for liquid refreshment and used this to enhance such pursuits as midnight fishing trips and flying lessons! Bose was a fine reader and soloist but his penchant for barleycorn caused him to pass out on the bandstand on numerous occasions!

Bose remained with Pollack until May of 1933. He worked off and on with Eddie Sheasby in Chicago and did studio work for Victor Young and others. In the spring of 1934 he joined the great band of Joe Haymes. Haymes was a pianist and arranger who had done great charts for Ted Weems and led several exellent units of his own thruout the 30s. Like Bose, his downfall was the booze. During this time, Sterling did a lot of freelance recording including Chick Bullock and the Mound City Blue Blowers. Two 1935 sessions stand out.

A May '35 date with drummer Vic Berton for Brunswick produced some fine sides. Featured in the band were Matty Matlock, trombonist Art Foster and bass saxophonist Spencer Clark. Sterling's prominent lead and punchy solo is a highlight of the pop tune A Smile will Go a Long,Long Way. His lead work is a standout on Ja Da and the tricky chart of Dardanella.
Another intersting date was the Little Ramblers session of Nov. 1935. Most of the players were former Haymes men and now with Tommy Dorsey. The band has a sound quite like Dorsey's Clambake 7. These sides were offshoots of the California Ramblers and produced by Ramblers' manager Ed Kirkeby, who makes the mistake of singing 3 tunes! Along with Bose, we get nice work from Sid Stoneburn,clarinet and Adrian Rollini sitting in on bass sax.
Cliff Weston sings on A Little bit Independent which has some great driving Bose including some Louis-ish touches. Bose's lead work shines on You Hit the Spot and Life Begins at Sweet 16. On the forgetable pop, I'm the Fellow Who Loves You, our boy gets two tasty solo spots. A nice session for Bose-afiles.

The Haymes band made an exellent session for Bluebird in Feb. 1935. Two of the beat sides are The Lady in Red and Honeysuckle Rose. The Lady features Weston's vocal, Stoneburn's hot clarinet, the Bud Freeman-like tenor of John VanEps and a short,spirited Bose spot.
Honeysuckle is an exellent Haymes chart. Sid and Van Eps are joined by Bose on two stellar spots. He gets in a Bix like rip along with his driving jazz musings. The horn sections play several patented riffs some by Fletcher Henderson and some by Haymes. One can see why Tommy Dorsey decided to take over the band in the fall of 1935, following his split with brother Jimmy.

When Tommy Dorsey assumed leadership of the Haymes band in Sept. of 1935, Sterling was an important part as trumpet soloist. He has several standout solos on Tommy's full band and Clambake 7 recordings of the time. On the band's first session of Sept. 1935 he has high flying solos on Weary Blues and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Old Haymes buddies Stoneburn and VanEps are also featured. Sterling really shines on the Clambake 7 sides, Tommy's dixieland band-within-a band. Two Dec. 1935 sessions stand out. Bose's leadwork and solos on The Music goes 'Round and 'Round are a highlight, he also gets in some fun dialog with his charming southern accent prevalent. Bose,like Muggsy Spanier had a natural drive using an economy of notes that really swung a group. His work on the pop tunes, The Day I Let you Get Away and Rhythm in my Nursery Rhymes are perfect examples.
Sterling stayed with Dorsey until early 1936. The story goes that on a band busride he got in his cups and began putting down Dorsey, who threw him off the bus in the middle of nowhere! At any rate Sterling just moved over to the top band of Ray Noble.

The Noble band was a star-studded group put together by Glenn Miller who played trombone and arranged for the band. The only holdovers from Noble's British band were his drummer Bill Harty and the popular vocalist Al Bowly. Sterling joined such stars as PeeWee Erwin, Johnny Mince, Bud Freeman, Will Bradley,George VanEps and Claude Thornhill.
The band played at New York's swanky Rainbow Room and on several occaisions Sterling collapsed from drink before making the bandstand! However his booting horn shines on sides such as Big Chief DeSota, Slumming on Park Avenue and One,Two Buckle Your Shoe. On Big Chief, we get one of Sterling's engaging vocals with that Southern accent.
PeeWee Erwin enjoyed working with Bose and in his story This Horn For Hire as told to Warren Vache Sr., he remarked of Sterling's great jazz playing despite his occasional alcholic lapses. We don't know a lot about Bose's personal life but in PeeWee's book there is a photo of Sterling and his attractive wife of the time.

After leaving Noble in the summer of 1936, Bose briefly played with Benny Goodman's band in August and September,leaving due to ill health.
He left a great solo on Benny's version of St. Louis Blues(a wonderful Fletcher Henderson chart).
Bose gets two strutting blues choruses-quite unusual foe a Goodman record-most trumpet soloists with Benny were lucky to get a single chorus. Bozo makes the most of his extended spot.

After some free lancing, Sterling joined Glenn Miller's new band in early 1937. This was Miller's first attempt at leading a band of his own. This band was known as "The Band that Failed". Although a fine musical unit, Glenn was still a few years away from coming up with the formula that would make him America's most popular swing band. Sterling was with Miller thru most of '37 (save for a few dry-outs). The Decca session of March 1937 gives us an idea of where Miller was going at this early juncture

Glenn used PeeWee Erwin and Mannie Klein to bolster the brass and future Miller stars Hal McIntyre and Chummy MacGregor were aboard. Glenn's friend, Metronome writer George Simon sat in on drums. Moonlight Bay is a catchy Miller chart with a band vocal and one of Glenn's repeated riffs and rideouts-a favorite devise, Bose has an exellent, tangy jazz spot. On Anytime, Anyday Anywhere we get one of Bozo's fun vocals backed by the Tune Twisters trio (including future Miller guitarist Jack Lathrop) and a nice trumpet spot. The trumpet solo on Sitting on Top of the World (a tasty McIntyre chart) is probably by Klein or Erwin. This first band eventually disbanded, the 1938 edition would be more succesful and lead to Glenn's breakthru in 1939.

Sterling freelanced some more then joined the great Bob Crosby band in August 1938. Yank Lawson and Charlie Spivak had been lured over to Tommy Dorsey so Billy Butterfield was now playing a lot of lead and jazz. Sterling came aboard to lighten the load with the full band and BobCats. He had two outstanding records from his time with the band. Bob Haggart's chart of I'm Prayin' Humble was written with Yank in mind, however Bose gives a very personal plunger solo in the Spanier mode. On the BobCats' Loopin' the Loop, Bose spells Butterfield and his driving lead is a highlight of the side.
Matty Matlock recalled a humorous anecdote of Bose. A call girl was working at the hotel the Band was staying at and she was posing as a hosiery saleswoman. Sterling was crused to find he had missed her-not for her sexual favors, he really needed a pair of socks!

After leaving Crosby in early 1939, Bose worked at Nick's in NYC and had a short spell with Bobby Hackett's ill-fated Big Band in the spring. This was a band full of promise, but Bobby wasn't leader material and the was full of too many drinkers(PeeWee Russell, Eddie Condon and Bose to name a few).
In the summer of '39 Bose joined up with former Crosby pianist Bob Zurke and his new big band.
Like Hackett's this was another group of heavy drinkers especially leader Zurke, a brilliant pianist. Many of the arangements were by Fud Livingston, despite the eratic personell this band was an exellent musical unit. Sterling was heavily featured in a lineup of fine soloists including Chealsea Quealy, Sid Stoneburn, Ernie Caceres, Mike Doty and Artie Foster.Here are some highlights from their Bluebird recordings.

I Found a New Baby shows the Zurke band at it's best in a great Fud Livingston chart. Driven by Stan King's drums, Sterling gets a full, hot chorus. Zurke's piano shines and the band gets a very Bob Crosby-ish sound.
On Peach Street Blues, Bose gets in oneof his engaging vocals and some nice plunger horn (shades of Muggsy) in a driving big band blues chart. Bozo also sings on Between 18 and 19th on Chestnut St. a popular novelty of the day covered by Charlie Barnet and Bing Crosby. Our boy also has a nice open horn spot. Nickel Nabber Blues and Zurke's showcase Hobson St. Blues have nice plunger spots by Bose. The pop tune Hap, Hap Happy Day has a Bixlike spot by Bozo and on the exellent chart Everybody Step he has a nice albeit brief solo. Pinch Me, an Orrin Tucker-Bonnie Baker hit has a short Bose spot and Evelyn Poe's vocal has shades of Wee Bonnie.
This was an exellent band and despite it's short life it left some truly, remarkable sides, happily available on the british Hep label.

Bose left Zurke in April 1940 (the band would soon break up) and he spent six months with old pal Jack Teagarden's big band. He led his own trio in Chicago (1940-1)and worked with Bud Freeman's big band for a while. In early 1943 he had a spell with George Brunis at the Famous Door in New York followed by a stint in the Bobby Sherwood big band. From late 1943 thru the summer of '44 he was at Nick's in New York with Miff Mole and Art Hodes. During 1944 he recorded with Miff Mole and Rod Cless. Cless' session for Black and White has excellent Bose including a soulful Make me a Pallet with some of his plunger work. One of his last recordings was on an Eddie Condon Town Hall concert during the summer of '44. Sterling is heard on a driving version of Jazz Me Blues in the company of PeeWee Russell, Benny Morton, Gene Schroeder and Ernie Caceres. His lead work and solo are of the usual high order.

Bose had a short stint with Horace Heidt in August 1944 then began a long period of free lancing in Chicago, New York and Mobile before making his home base in St. Petersburg, Florida.(He had a few stints with Tiny Hill's band during this time). From 1950-7 he led a band at the Soreno Lounge in St. Pete. We have no recordings or much info on his activities, but assume his playing was still at a high level.
Sterling's brother Neil had commited suicide some years earlier and Bozo said if Neil could do it-so can I. After years of alcoholism and ill health he shot himself in June of 1958.

Sterling Bose was one of those consumate jazzmen who wasn't a household name. Although influenced by Bix, Louis and Muggsy he developed a very personal and engaging jazz trumpet sound.
One of the few recent tributes to Bose was on the late Ray Smith's Jazz Decades show on PBS Radio. His program of January 31, 2010 featured a full hour of the Bose horn running the gamut from the Arcadian Serenaders, Goldkette and Pollack to his Big Band work with Miller, Dorsey, Goodman, Crosby and Zurke and ending with the Cless and Condon sides. A very fitting tribute to a most deserving jazzman.

Besides the Zurke Hep CD, many of Bose's recording are on various compilations under the leader's names. Amazon and World's records are good places for a search.

Happy Listening!