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.