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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ray Bauduc's Bob Cats-Capitol (1947)

I'm working my way thru Mosaic's Massive Capitol Jazz Sessions Box Set. It's a wonderful collection of dixieland, swing and big band jazz.
There are some great Dixieland sessions here,many involving  the various Bob Crosby alumni working on the West Coast in those post-war years. The core of regulars are Eddie Miller, Matty Matlock, Nappy Lamare and Ray Bauduc. They all took turns leading sessions and this one was under Ray Bauduc's aegis.
I used to have the old 78 of Susie/Honky Tonk Town, so it's a pleasure to hear the entire session and in excellent sound.

Ray rounded up a stellar band including fellow Bob Cats, Miller,Matlock and Lamare along with the multi-instrumentalist Brad Gowans on valve trombone, Stan Wrightsman on piano who would be a frequent member of the "West Coast" dixielanders, top studio man Morty Corb on bass and the very underated trumpeter, Nate Kazebier. Nate worked with several big bands and recorded many solid solos for Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey. Unfortunately, he only plays lead here-but a solid one it is.(we will definitely give him a future post).

The ensemble work is very tight and well arranged. I suspect Gowans as arranger on all titles, Matty Matlock's charts all have that "Crosby" feel. Brad himself was an excellent arranger,he did a lot of Bobby Hackett's book for his short-lived Big Band of 1939.
Susie from the Bix/Wolverine book has a lot of the feel of the original. The band takes the verse with Eddie on the melody, with some nice stop time for Ray's drumming. Eddie,Matty and Brad all solo in between the ensembles. The band swings on the nicely arranged rideout, but not in a loud way-very much like the old Bud Freeman combo-also arranged by Brad!
Down in Honky Tonk Town is another tasty swinger with verse and chorus nicely arranged.  Eddie,Matty and Brad split nice solos with a tricky rideout involving two retards before the coda.

When my Sugar Walks down the Street. Another oldie that gets a new treatment via Brad's nice writing.
There are tasty spots for the aforementioned soloists and some great piano by Stan,another underated studio pro(he has shades of Jess Stacy in his solo work).The closing band riff uses a descending line and has a bit of the "Ira Ironstrings" dixie sound(Warner Bros. studio pros headed up by Alvino Rey). Nice Stuff!
Lil' Liza Jane- An old folk song popular in New Orleans. There are fun call and response vocals by the band. The lead vocalist suggests Lamare, but I think it may be Ray,I can hear a New Orleans accent.
There are also nice spots for Eddie and Brad before the drum break and  rideout with Nate riding high on lead.

All in All, a very tasty session. One of many that Capitol produced in the mid and late 40s.
I'll be stopping by with more as we work our way thru the collection.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash (1970)-Blue Yodel No. 9

Thanks to Youtube,this wonderful performance has become very popular. For years only a few musicians and  critics  spoke of it and how beautifully Louis played on one of his last TV spots playing trumpet.
Louis had been seriously ill since mid 1968, but sang and played in Oct. 1969 for the James Bond film,On her Majesty's Secret Service.(his first performing since that time).
In early 1970 he started making TV appearances, mostly singing. By fall of 1970 he had recovered enough to start working with his All-Stars again.

This appearance on the Cash show was to promote Louis' new Country and Western lp. I remember catching the show and recording the sound on my Wollensack Reel to Reel Recorder.(No VHS or DVD,then). Louis performed a medley of Ramblin'Rose and Crystal Chandeliers from the lp wearing a big 10 Gallon hat and was in great,bubbly spirits.
But the surprise of the night was when Cash brought Louis over to a small set and there was his Trumpet!

Johnny mentioned how Louis backed up the Country music great Jimmie Rodgers in 1930 on Blue Yodel No. 9 and they proceded to recreate the recording 40 years later! The original recording had ex-wife Lil on piano with Louis filling in Rodgers' strange meter with beautiful phrases ala his many blues accompaniments of the 20s.
Things don't change much in 1970. Backed by Cash's Music Director, Bill Walker on piano, Louis fills the performance with lovely middle register obbligatos and takes a strong blues chorus of his own.
Thankfully the meter is straight ahead.

This is not the powerhouse Louis of the 50s and early 60s. His health issues had made it neccesary to limit his trumpet work to certain tunes and on some nights he might have played more or less than the previous.
But it was still Pops with his lovely,burnished tone and those choice,musical ideas flowing out.
Louis cracks Cash up several times at the Yodel refrain by "harmonizing" with him.
As my fellow Louis advocate and friend Ricky Riccardi summated:"Louis turns back into the Louis of 1925 backing Bessie Smith and others."

I finally transferred the reel copy to cassette and now have it on DVD,but it was a very exciting and triumphant night for Louis and his fans to see him playing again with such grace and beauty.
There are more such moments for Pops leading up to his last gig in March 1971.
This one is very special. Check it out on Youtube and you'll see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Buck Clayton and Tommy Gwaltney-Goin' toKansas City (1960)

I recently ran into this Delightful session as part of the Real Gone Buck Clayton set. Real Gone specializes in releasing 6-8 lps on a 4CD set. They have a great catalog of Jazz and Pop artists.
This Riverside lp of 1960 was actually conceived by Tommy Gwaltney and billed as his Kansas City 9.
Basie alums Clayton and Dickie Wells are guest artists and Buck gets plenty of solo space.

The interesting personnel also includes Bob Zotolla (famous mouthpiece maker and father of Glenn) on lead trumpet and alto horn. Gwaltney on alto,clarinet,vibes and xylophone (he was quite a talent and part of Bobby Hackett's great Henry Hudson band). Tommy Newsom of Tonight Show fame on tenor and clarinet. The Rhythm section consists of Benny Goodman stalwart John Bunch on piano, the great Charlie Byrd on guitar, West Coast Bass star Whitey Mitchell and Big Band veteran Buddy Schutz(Goodman, Savitt,Jimmy Dorsey) on drums. The arrangements were by Newsom and Gwaltney and make the band sound bigger via their voicings.
The tunes are an interesting mix of vintage material and originals. Now on with the program.

Hello Babe- A Dickie Wells original. A Swinging band chorus opens the proceedings with Dave Pell-like writing.(you can hear the alto horn in the ensemble). Buck delivers a crisp,swinging solo, some boppish but still swingy tenor from Tommy (a fine player) and Dickie with one of his patented "talking" solos. He was a brilliant trombonist,but tended to fall back on these tricks in later years. Thankfully,he's fairly straight on this album. A Basie-like shout chorus takes us home. 

An Old Manuscript-Composed by Don Redman and Andy Razaf and recorded by several swing bands..
An easy swinging ensemble takes us to Gwaltney's sweet alto,some alto horn, Buck playing plunger under sax riffs, a Basie rhythm bridge and some tasty Byrd guitar (he lays nice rhythm down too). Wells gets in a good solo before the band rides it home.

Kansas City Ballad-Comp. by Newsom. One of the highlights of the session. Buck's trumpet featured in a pretty, introspective mood (the tune reminds one of Pete Kelly's Blues- pardon the plug!).John Bunch has a lovely bridge passage, he has many fine solos on the date.

Jumpin' Blues- Comp. Jay McShann and Charlie Parker. A jazz standard from the Jay McShann band.
John gives us a Basie chorus up front and the saxes take the riff backed by plunger brass. Byrd's guitar follows with Gwaltney's vibes, Whitey's bass and a shout chorus taking us to Wells' bone. The following ensemble is very tight and sounds like a full band. The saxes return us to the melody.

Walter Page-Comp. tribute to the great Kansas City Bassman. Gwaltney intros with his xylophone(shades of Red Norvo) followed by Byrd's guitar and the band playing the bluesy theme.Gwaltney's alto leads to Mitchell's bass backed by the band. More xylophone, Tommy's tenor and Buck on Harmon mute over riffs before a short shout chorus.

Midnight Mama-A rather obscure Jelly Roll Morton composition.(he recorded a piano roll and band version.) The theme is a bit reminicent of Nobody Knows the Way I Feel this Mornin'. Saxes and one trumpet up front with Buck blowing 2 beautiful blues choruses(he was a great blues player), after a band interlude he's back for more. There's more of Tommy's fine tenor,piano and a shout chorus back to the theme.

John's Idea by Count Basie. This Basie classic is given a transcription treatment and sounds a lot like the original-despite the smaller band setup. Bunch does a great job playing Count's original solos-he really gets the Basie feel. The saxes trade phrases and the band chorus leads to Tommy's tenor. The shout chorus has Dickie reprising his trombone shouts before an all too quick fadeout.

Steppin' Pretty by Mary Lou Williams. This was a staple of the great Andy Kirk band. The muted brass state the theme followed by tenor and Gwaltney's low register clarinet (sounding a bit like Woody Herman). We get Buck wailing with some high ones, Byrd and a boppish spot by Zottolla. The brass reprise the catchy riff out.

The New Tulsa Blues by Bennie Moten, A 1927 recording. We get some boogie piano by Bunch for 2 choruses. The theme is stated by the saxes with piano responses.  Buck wails for 2 choruses sounding very Louis-ish backed by boogie riffs. Following Whitey's bass there is a modulation to more low register clarinet.
Byrd's guitar leads to another modulation with reeds answered by plunger brass with Gwaltney's clarinet wailing over the band ala Woody. Bunch reprises the boogie theme leading to the band coda. 

As you can see, a lot happens here and the stellar cast of musicians all get plenty of blowing room.
Gwaltney and Newsom's arrangements range from traditional to innovative,but always in the swing tadition.
It's also a kick to hear Charlie Byrd playing rhythm guitar ala Freddie Greene.

The rest of the Real Gone set has the excellent Buck/Frankie Laine session, 2 Jam Session lps, Buck's Vanguard session with Ruby Braff and 2 collaborations with Buddy Tate.
All Good Stuff,but you're really Dig this Kansas City 9 session!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jack Teagarden and his All Stars-1958

Jack Teagarden (1905-64) was one of those consumate jazzmen who never sounded bad. His ealry groundbreaking trombone work of the 20s and early 30s speaks for itself.
He continued to play and sing brilliantly thru the big band years and postwar years.
After his hitch with Louis Armstrong's All Stars from 1947-51, Jack decided to form his own  "All-Star" combo, which he fronted for the rest of his life.

This delightful recording finds Jack and his band playing a live date at the Modern Jazz Room in Cleveland,Ohio in 1958. Along with Jack are Don Ewell,a wonderful trad pianist with deep roots in Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. Dick Oakley,cornet is a clean,swinging player who worked with many Midwest jazz groups. Jerry Fuller on clarinet is a wonderful Goodman-style player with brilliant technique. He later had a long stint with the Dukes of Dixieland. Stan Puls,bass and Ronnie Greb,drums were solid rhythm men who put in many years with Jack. The program features a mixture of Jack's specialties, Traditional favorites and features for the sidemen.

A short version of Jack's theme I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues opens the proceedings. Right away the relaxed but brilliant Teagarden touch is present. Next is the perennial Fidgety Feet which gives everyone a chance to solo. A Good Opener.
Jack had some nice arangements in his library. This one of Someday You'll be Sorry came from one of his Capitol lps. It has the wonderful Teagarden horn and voice with nice horn parts behind him.
Jack closes with one of those patented but always lovely trombone codas.
Next up is a feature for Don Ewell, his composition Wallerrising which contains his personal stride style in tribute to Fats.This is also a tasty Band arrangement.
Jack sings one of his quaint,down home ballads Old Pigeon Toed Joe. He had a great Jazz Voice and like Louis, his Voice was an extension of his horn work. There is a little trombone here,but oh so nice with another pretty coda.

The old jazz classic High Society is next,everyone gets solo space but Jerry Fuller is the star with some swinging choruses on the old Picou clarinet routine. Jack is back for St. James Infirmary, one of his perennials. Besides his wonderful drawling vocal,Jack gives us his "water glass"routine where he plays the Slide portion of the bone into a Glass giving him a Very, Haunting Kazoo-like sound. This was one of Jack's few tricks, but a very musical one.

Next up is a Hoagy Carmichael medley of Rockin' Chair and Georgia on my Mind. Jack sings solo on Rockin' Chair (his later trumpeter Don Goldie did a great "Louis" routine with Jack) and Jerry gets to stretch out on Georgia. Jack pays tribute to Kid Ory,the composer of Muskrat Ramble next. This is a nice everybody blow version. Oakley gets off 2 nice choruses and surprises with some high ones. In tribute to Ory,Jack closes with Kid's trombone tag. A short version of After You've Gone follows with Jack's horn and vocal featured. This also has a nice arrangement with a tricky ascending band riff to close.

Like many "All Star"jazz groups , Jack closes with "The Saints". Everyone solos with Ronnie Greb stretching out on drums. Ronnie studied at the Gene Krupa/Cozy Cole Drum Studio in New York. He builds a nice solo without a lot of the usual "Cymbal Bashing Theatrics." This version also has a neat riff and modulation closing figure. Jack used this routine on most of his live dates.

This session is far from the greatest Jack Teagarden in his recorded career, but shows the brilliance and pure musicality of this Jazz Star. It's a nice example of the kind of music Jack played nightly in clubs and concerts thruout the 50s and early 60s.
The CD is available from Jazzology Records in New Orleans.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Trumpet of John "Bugs" Hamilton

In our earlier post on Fats Waller and his Rhythm, we mentioned the excellent but rather obscure trumpeter, John "Bugs" Hamilton (1911-47).
John was a regular with Fats and the Rhythm from 1939-42 and his clean,big-toned but always tasty blowing is a highlight of the later sessions. Most Fats fans appreciate the work of Herman Autrey who was on Fats' first session in 1934 and continued with the band into '39. Herman was a Louis-influenced hornman who also excelled in muted blowing. He had many inspired solos on the bands many '34-'39 sides.

John was born in St. Louis, a great city for trumpeters-Clark Terry, Charlie Creath, Shorty Baker and Miles Davis to name a few. His earliest pro band was that of trombonist Billy Kato in 1930-1, followed by a short stint with  Chick Webb, Kaiser Marshall in 1935 and finally Fats. He started as an alternate member of the Rhythm,filling in for Autrey.
John first shows up on the Waller big band session of April 12, 1938. Fats put together touring bands occaisonally ,consisting of the Rhythm plus extra horns. Although Herman Autrey can be heard backing up Fats I believe John takes the tasty muted solo on Sheik of Araby and it sounds likes it's him on Hold my Hand playing   Louis-like glisses over the band's out chorus.

John always played with great taste whether muted or open. Here are a few highlights from the Fats series.The formats were pretty standard with Fat's piano-vocal and horn solos. John always did a workmanlike job,but these selections stand out.
His first session with the Rhythm was for the Muzak Transcriptions. John has standout lead work and solos on The Sheik and After You've Gone and his muted work on B Flat Blues is very tasty.
John's first Bluebird date on 8/10/39 produced a tasty version of Fat's Squeeze Me with nice muted work by Bugs. You're Lettin' the Grass Grow (11/3/39) features good cup mute and lead.From the same date comes a rollicking Darktown Strutter's Ball with a hot open solo by JH and a high flying rideout with John popping off some high ones. Oh,Frenchy!(1/12/40) has strong open and lead work. From the same date, the 2 part instrumental Moon is Low has an outstanding 2 chorus solo by John with some Eldridge like runs. Part 2 features Fat's organ with Band riffs.

You run Your Mouth(4/11/40) has a tasty open solo with some half valving. Stop Pretending(7/16/40) has a band backround vocal ala Marie with a nice muted Hamilton solo and rideout. I always loved Fat's E flat Blues since I had the old RCA lp.John gets in a nice wa-wa mute solo and there's a stop-time band section ala Shoe Shiner's Drag.
Everybody Loves my Baby(11/6/40) is one of the classic Rhythm cuts. Bugs stars on the catchy riff,trades off with Gene Sedric and leads a hot rideout chorus. As the late Ray Smith would say"-Pure Joy-Pure Jazz."

Scram ! (same date) is a riff tune by Leonard Feather and has some nice muted horn by John, who could sound a bit like Charlie Shavers on cup mute. Buckin' the Dice (1/2/41) has some high flying lead work by JH. He had no trouble in the upper register and sounds a bit like Roy Eldridge, here.
You're Gonna be Sorry (3/20/41) is another high flying swinger with a fleet muted solo by JH and a wild out chorus before Fat's vocal coda.

It was back to the Waller Big Band on 7/1/41 and even though Rhythm veteran Herman Autrey is in the trumpet section, JH stars on the solos. On Chant of the Groove, John is in a swinging Eldridge mood. Ain't nothin' to It has JH's solid muted work. I believe the solo on Rump Steak Serenade is by Autrey.
Back to the Rhythm, on 10/1/41 Clarinet Marmalade was cut. Sedric gets some nice spots,but JH is the star with two scorching choruses and a red hot rideout. Fats plays organ on this side.
Back to the Big Band on 3/16/42 for You Must be Losing your Mind with a short growl spot for JH and the instrumental, Really Fine has an excellent muted solo.
The Rhythm's last session on 7/13/42 didn't have any JH solos, but featured a great Fats composition, Up Jumped you with Love with a nice riff by John and Gene and more of John's patented backup.

John also recorded a Bluebird session with pianist/vocalist Una Mae Carlisle(1915-56) on 8/2/40,along with Al Casey,guitar-Cedric Wallace,bass and Slick Jones,drums. So the band had a very Fats and his Rhythm feel.
Una Mae,a beautiful young lady was a protege of Fats,played nice stride piano and had a lovely,jazz vocal style. The tunes recorded that day were Papa's in Bed with his Britches On,a fun novelty with a short muted solo by John. Now I Lay me Down to Sleep was a popular hit for Una and John provides pretty backup and a lovely melody solo ala Shavers. If I Had You and You Made me Love You follow similar formats with John getting short muted solos.
Una Mae is another neglected performer and will get her own post here,soon.

At this time we have no info on how John got his nickname of "Bugs" but will be back with an Addendum when we find out.
John played with violinist Eddie South in 1943,then dissapears from the music scene, due to poor health and bout with tuberculosis which took him in August of 1947 at the too young age of 36. He died in his home of St.Louis.
John was one of many hard working jazz musicians who didn't get the praise they deserved. Thankfully all his Waller recordings are available on RCA Bluebird and Classics. The Una Mae Carlisle session is on her series on Classics. The '39 Transcriptions (along with Fats' '35 sessions) is on a Viper's Nest CD.
If you're a Fats Waller fan or love good jazz trumpet,you'll become a fan of John "Bugs" Hamilton.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Swing Times Five - Raincheck

This recent CD release has become a favorite of mine for listening at home and in the car.
It features the ever tasty trumpet and flugelhorn of Jeff Hughes and the lovely,swinging voice of Debby Larkin
backed up by a top flight New England rhythm section. Jeff is also a wonderful cornetist, but chose to play a 1946 Benge trumpet for the session.
Jeff,a personal friend and colleague is well known around New England for his work with the Wolverine Jazz Band and his own combos. His horn has shades of Bix,Hackett,Berigan and Warren Vache-but is all Hughes.
Debby has been on the New England scene now for a couple of Decades and has graced the groups of Craig Ball,The Swing Legacy and her own group with husband Jeff Stout (another great trumpeter). She sings in a no-nonsense style with pure voice and jazz phrasing but never feels the urge to scat or over indulge.

Also featured is pianist Ross Petot, a busy performer known for his work with the Wolverine Jazz Band and Blue Horizon Jazz Band and a master of stride piano.
Guitarist Dan Weiner is a solid player with roots in the Herb Ellis/Barney Kessell style of jazz guitar.
Bassist Peter Tillotson is a new face but has impressive credentials and is a  solid rhythm man and soloist.
Drummer Dave Didrickson, a former Chicagoan also a Wolverine and a solid timekeeper in the Dave Tough tradition. The group ranges from trad to mainstream easily and Jeff and Ross' versatility gives the group that range. The band has played frequently at the Sherborn (Mass.) Inn .And now on to the musical highlights.

Raincheck-The title tune is a nicely swinging rendition of the Billy Strayhorn classic. Jeff's harmon muted trumpet and Ross duet the melody front and back with some of Ross' stride piano a highlight.

Love Letters- The beautiful Victor Young standard gets loving teatment from Jeff's fluegel,Ross'
piano musings and Dan's pensive guitar.

It Had to be You- Isham Jones' classic introduces Debbie with a clear,no nonsense rendering backed by Jeff's pretty muted horn. Deb always sings in perfect taste and swing.

I'm Checking out Goombye- This rather obscure but fun swinger from Duke dates from 1937,with Ivie Anderson's vocal..
Rosie Clooney recorded it with Duke in the 50s and in the 80s on Concord. Following Ross' delightful striding,Deb gets a lot of Rosie's pretty tone that still swings and Jeff contributes some Cootie-ish growl horn.

S'Wonderful- The Gershwin standard gets a lovely bossa nova treatment similar to Diana Krall's recent recording. Highlights are Deb's mellow vocal,Jeff's flugel (a bit Herb Alpert-ish) and Dan's guitar with shades of Wes Montgomery.

Cottontail- More Ellingtonia. Jeff opens with Harmon followed by Ross' Dukish comping and a spot for Peter's solid bass.

Get out of Town- This Cole Porter classic gets a mini-concert arrangement starting with Ross' rent part stride,then slowing down to a nice medium groove for Deb's tender vocalizing and Jeff's pretty trumpet  statements.

Speak Low- The Kurt Weill standard gets a moody latin treatment with Jeff's horn channeling Warren Vache and Herb Alpert. Ross and Dan also have tasty solo spots.

The Lady's in Love with You.- A great Burton Lane standby is given a swinging treatment by Swing times 5. Debbie's vocal is pure and swinging as are the solos by Jeff and Ross. A nice way to end a lovely but all-too short session of swing and the Great American songbook.

To purchase this delightful CD go to the group's website www. or do a search under their name. You won't be dissapointed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waxing Nostalgic:The Great Isham Jones and his Orchestra

This installment of our series of memorable LP purchases brings us to the masterful composer/bandleader Isham Jones (1894-1956). This LP was part of RCA Victor's Vintage Series and was issued as LPV-504 in 1964.
As a 12 year old jazz fan, I had heard Jones' name mentioned as a great composer and the band that Woody Herman eventually took over. I would soon appreciate the full, rich sounds of the Jones band as a top dance band and also a very respectable "hot" band.

Isham, a saxophonist had been leading a dance band since 1919. The Victor sides date from 1932-34 when he had one of his finest all around bands. As a composer Jones left us with many great standards such as I'll See you in my Dreams, The One I Love, It had to be You, On the Alamo, Spain, Swinging down the Lane, There is no Greater Love and You've got me Crying Again to name only a few.

This edition of the Jones band was very tight and full of a rich sound which was a hallmark of all his bands.
The hot sides swing with the best of them sounding a bit like Casa Loma or Joe Haymes. Let's sample some of the highlights:

As a young jazz fan I was immediately attracted to the jazz numbers. Later I got to appreciate the Jones'
orchestra's musical treatment of dance tunes-no mickey mouse or gimmicks-just beautifully played dance music.The orchestra's sound and texture was not unlike Paul Whiteman's, although the Jones band was smaller with only 3 or 4 strings.

Blue Prelude (4/6/33)-Written by Gordon Jenkins,one of the band's key arrangers,this beautiful theme features a smooth trombone lead played by either Red Ballard or Jack Jenney,some of Saxie Mansfield's big toned tenor and a tightly muted trumpet by leadman Johnny Carlsen.The Jones orchestra spotted some of the best players of the day along with some gifted jazzmen. Jenkins , of course went on to great fame as a studio arranger for Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole and Louis Armstrong to name a few.
When Woody Herman took over the Jones band in 1936, he used Blue Prelude as his theme until Blue Flame came along.

Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia (8/17/32) is a nice swinging fox trot sung by Eddie Stone, one of the band's violinists and an engaging novelty and ballad singer. We get hot spots by Milt Yaner on clarinet,Mansfields's tenor and Jack Jenney's trombone. The band swings the last chorus out nicely with that full orchestral sound.

Darkness on the Delta (12/16/32)-A pleasant medium tempo "southern" tune a la Basin St. and Sleepy Time down South.  Eddie Stone returns for a pleading ballad vocal.   He would later star with Freddie Martin for many years. The band plays this tune with a nice mellow 4/4 swing.

China Boy(5/10/34)- The old Chicago favorite gets a nice hot treatment by the Jones boys.Solos include PeeWee Erwin on muted trumpet,Sonny Lee on trombone and Mansfields's tenor. The call and response band riffs bring back memories of Casa Loma. Lee was a much underated hot trombonist who excelled on muted and plunger solos. He went back to Frank Trumbauer's band of 1925 and during the swing years starred with Bunny Berigan and Jimmy Dorsey.

Dallas Blues (5/10/34). This one really sent me as a 12 year old and is still a great example of hot jazz played by a full sized dance band.The band gets a nice romping tempo going but never screams. Just a lot of beautiful dynamics and beautiful riffing on the out chorus. Those riffs sound like one big horn. We also hear Lee's trombone and Milt Yaner on clarinet.At this point Jones used Walt Yoder's string bass along with Joe Bishop's tuba to create a driving beat.Bishop,later to be another key man in the Herman band did a lot of the hot writing along with Jiggs Noble.

The Blue Room (7/16/34)-Another fine hot arrangement with a standout solo by Pee Wee Erwin who had replaced George Thow in March of 1934.It's a strutting,chromatic line with some percussive triplets thrown in. In his biography, This Horn for Hire, PeeWee remarks that he's still proud of the solo-it's a good one. There's also more of Mansfield's tenor and a nice decrescendo rideout over riffs.

Georgia Jubilee (7/16/34)-A Benny Goodman-Artie Shutt composition-Goodman recorded it a few months earlier.Highlights are Johnny Carlson's muted trumpet, Milt Yaner's clarinet and a rocking muted trombone rideout by Lee over the Band riffs. We'll have to do a post on Sonny Lee,soon.

We don't want to forget the dance tunes-All beautifully played. There are five Jones compositions: I'll Never Have to Dream Again (a lovely waltz), All Mine-Almost,It's Funny to Everyone But Me, You've Got Me Crying Again and Why Can't this Night go on Forever.  . You've Got Me Crying is sung by Joe Martin ,another violinist who stayed with Isham for quite a while. Hal Kemp and Nat Cole had nice records of it.
Joe also sings For All We Know,another standard made popular by Nat.

Eddie Stone sings Louisville Lady (7/24/33) a bluesy ballad by Billy Hill  with a nice minor to major form and a lovely Carmen Lombardo tune Ridin' Around in the Rain which swings politely and suits Eddie's engaging voice.
Tommy Dorsey played this tune on a 1956 Statler Hotel broadcast. That covers the original lp that this 12 year old jazz fan found so attractive and 50 years later it sounds better than ever.

Isham broke up this band in 1936 for a brief retirement and more composing work. By 1937 he was leading a new band that recorded for ARC and made some swinging transcriptions. The band is a good one,though not as full of orchestral textures as the early 30s edition. It reminds you a little of the Hudson-DeLangeOrchestra. In 1937 and 38 Eddie Stone borrowed the Jones band for some Vocalion sides under his name. The few sides I've heard feature a politely swinging band. Jones continued leading bands into the early 40s, then concentrated on composing till his death in 1956.

Of course,Woody Herman took over most of the old Jones band in 1936 and a lot of his early sides still have a lot of the Jones feel. Mansfield, Bishop, Noble and several other Jones alumni stayed with Woody.
Before the end of the 1936 Jones band, some small band jazz sides were made for Decca as Isham Jones' Juniors. They feature Woody, Mansfield,Lee, trumpeter Chealsea Quealy and pianist Howard Smith.
They will certainly be revisited in a future post. There are several Jones CDs available and much of his music on Youtube, including a rare 1933 movie short.

To close here are some words from the original album by James T. Maher:
"Do not consider this music typical nostalgia of the early thirties. Isham Jones and his orchestra were never typical because they were the best."