Tuesday, 9 August 2011

8. Original Dixieland Jazz Band: The 75th Anniversary

The work of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band provided one of the first entries in The Cannonball blog. Apart from being regarded as the first band to record jazz, their sound held little interest for me and I offhandedly, perhaps even snobbishly, dismissed them. They were too far removed from Kind of Blue and their music sounded too simple and clunky. However I feel it is time to correct that by including this album into the library.

Let's be clear, the ODJB did not invent jazz. They may not even legitimately have the first jazz record. No-one can be quite sure how jazz sounded in the first decade of the 20th Century, however bands like the ODJB provide a valuable link to the sound that came before, to the music that was to dominate the 1920's and push jazz into the improvisational vehicle it was to become. They were a band from New Orleans whose style legitimately shocked the ears of the listeners that bought their records. The novelty of Livery Stable Blues helped establish them as the first popular jazz band outside of their native home.

Certain elements of future jazz techniques can be gleaned from these early tunes. For example the use of stop breaks and short solos in Dixie Jass Band One Step. Drummer Tony Sparbaro shows remarkable swing and experimentation and clarinetist Larry Shields is very much to the fore proving a nice drive and blues sensibility to the music. The sound quality is remarkable given that they were recorded in 1917 (it's so odd to think that when these recordings were made the First World War would not be over until over a year later).

The album also includes the very first known recording of Tiger Rag, one of the most covered songs in jazz, controversially attributed to ODJB's cornetist and leader Nick LaRocca

If one was to be brutally honest then it would be fair to say that some of the stuff can be repetitive, with the ensemble style sounding cluttered. However the influence of this band cannot be underestimated (Bix Beiderbecke recorded nine ODJB tunes in his career). There are some standout tracks, including At The Jazz Band Hall, Margie and the exotic Palesteena and I believe this is an essential album for any jazz library, regardless of the absurd claims that this band invented a genre. The early music they recorded paved the way for the jazz age of the 1920's and their travels in Europe enabled the world outside of the USA to hear this unique music.

1. Livery Stable Blues --
2. Dixieland Jass Band One-step --
3. At the Jazz Band Ball --
4. Ostrich Walk --
5. Skeleton Jangle --
6. Tiger Rag --
7. Bluin' the Blues --
8. Fidgety Feet --
9. Sensation Rag --
10. Mournin' Blues --
11. Clarinet Marmalade Blues --
12. Lazy Daddy --
13. Margie --
14. Palesteena --
15. Broadway Rose --
16. Sweet Mamma (papa's Getting Mad) --
17. Home Again Blues --
18. Crazy Blues --
19. Jazz Me Blues --
20. St. Louis Blues --
21. Royal Garden Blues --
22. Dangerous Blues --
23. Bow Wow Blues --

Monday, 4 July 2011

7. Sidney Bechet: Young Sidney Bechet

The only man that could keep up with Louis Armstrong's musicianship and blistering solos. A fellow New Orleanian, Bechet would actually record jazz's first solo a few months before Armstrong. This album represents the very first recordings of Bechet's career, from 1923 - 1925. In fact they are some of the only recordings he made in that decade as he was to spend the rest of it travelling around Europe, even getting as far as Russia.

The main body of the album focuses on his work with Clarence Williams. From the very first track, Wild Cat Blues, Bechet's sound and vibrato absolutely cuts through like a knife. His distinctive tone would carry him through the rest of his career. His love and ear for the blues is evident as he accompanies the early blues singers Sarah Martin (Blind Man Blues/Atlanta Blues), Rosetta Crawford (Down On The Levee Blues/Lonesome Woman Blues), Margaret Johnson (E Flat Blues) and Eva Taylor (Old Fashioned Love). However the tracks he recorded with Mamie Smith are glaring for their omission.

Without doubt though the standout tracks of the album are the ones he cut with Louis Armstrong. From the alternating solos in Texas Moaner Blues to Bechet's unusual sarrusophone solo in Mandy Make Up Your Mind to the sublime Cake Walking Babies From Home, neither player lets up.

An essential album.

1Wild Cat Blues2:59
2Kansas City Man Blues2:56
3Blind Man Blues3:12
4Atlanta Blues2:55
5'Tain't Nobody's Bus'ness If I Do2:49
6New Orleans Hop Scop Blues2:52
7Oh Daddy! Blues3:09
8Down On The Levee Blues3:25
9Lonesome Woman Blues2:57
10If I Let You Get Away With It Once, You'll Do It All Of The Time2:55
11E Flat Blues2:54
12Shreveport Blues2:54
13Old Fashioned Love3:00
14House Rent Blues2:59
15Mean Blues2:51
16Texas Moaner Blues3:09
17Early In The Morning2:57
18You've Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole3:14
19Mandy, Make Up Your Mind3:04
20I'm A Little Blackbird Looking For A Bluebird3:12
21Cake Walking Babies From Home2:54
22Pickin' On Your Baby3:19
23Papa De-Da-Da3:00
24Cake Walking Babies (From Home)3:01

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

6. Bunk Johnson: Last Testament Of A Great New Orleans Jazzman

The best words to describe Geary Bunk Johnson, in my opinion, would be "a character". Here is a man who claimed to have entertained Queen Victoria whilst working with a travelling circus in England in the late 19th century. He also claimed to have played with the, now almost mythical, Buddy Bolden in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th. He embellished his age, gaining ten years, when asked how old he was by a couple of jazz enthusiasts, perhaps to gain more recognition for this role in the birth of jazz. And herein lies the problem with Bunk Johnson. Many critics, especially those around the time that he recorded in the 1940's, were split as to his influence. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. What is indisputable though is how good this LP from that time is.

Johnson was a highly regarded cornet player from the early days of New Orleans Jazz. He played in parades and funerals and quite possibly with Bolden somewhere along the way. Having left New Orleans in 1915, he wasn't to actually record until the 1940's when he was rediscovered by the above mentioned enthusiasts who had interviewed Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, both of whom mentioned Johnson in glowing terms. There were two problems however in getting him to record when they located him in New Iberia, Louisiana. Johnson had no trumpet and no teeth, having lost both in a particularly vicious fight following a gig around ten years earlier. Both problems were quickly solved and Johnson embarked on a remarkable revival.

His first recordings were very much in the early ensemble polyphonic New Orleans style, for which it seemed, perhaps surprisingly, Johnson had little time for. This album, recorded in 1947, comprises a mix of New Orleans and New York session musicians, chosen by Johnson himself. The result is music that allowed the musicians to breath, giving space for solos and expression, but without losing the spirit of the early material they were playing. Johnson's solos are perfectly pitched without being flashy or over the top and displayed his superior musicianship.

1. The Entertainer
2. Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You)
3. Chloe (Song Of The Swamp)
4. The Minstrel Man
5. Till We Meet Again
6. You're Driving Me Crazy (What Did I Do)
7. Kinklets
8. Maria Elena
9. Some Of These Days
10. Hilarity Rag
11. Out Of Nowhere
12. The Teasin' Rag

Saturday, 12 March 2011

5. Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library Of Congress Recordings

Epic and absolutely essential listening for a many different reasons.

This 8 CD boxset is an extremely thorough examination of two things - Jelly Roll Morton and the time and place he inhabited in his youth, early 20th century New Orleans. Hence it is a first hand account (told to the folklorist Alan Lomax) of the birth and rise of jazz music. The recordings were made in 1938, a time when Jelly Roll was at a nadir in his life and big band swing, an offshoot from "hot" jazz that Jelly Roll had a hand in creating, was the most popular form of music. The ambiance is very much fireside storytelling - Jelly Roll sits at the piano and recounts many wild tales from his youth and the highly unsavoury characters he encountered on his journeys. He is prodded by occasional questions from Lomax and the whiskey that he consumes throughout. Jelly Roll paints a very vivid and at times extremely lurid picture (some of the language he uses would make a West Coast rapper blush) that provide fascinating insight into the time and how jazz music came about. Some of the stories need to be taken with a pinch of salt however as Jelly Roll liked it to be known that he had a hand in the invention of jazz music. Nevertheless he gives credit where it's due to a lot of musicians that never had the chance to be recorded or made it big outside of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Old fashioned story telling and a very valuable historical document.

Disc 1

  1. "I'm Alabama Bound" – 4:03
  2. "Time in Mobile" – 4:13
  3. "King Porter Stomp" – 4:06
  4. "The Story of 'King Porter Stomp'" – 3:53
  5. "Jelly Roll's Background" – 4:22
  6. "Music Lessons" – 4:05
  7. "Miserere" – 4:05
  8. "The Stomping Grounds" – 4:15
  9. "The Style of Sammy Davis" – 4:17
  10. "Tony Jackson Was the Favorite / Dope, Crown, and Opium" – 4:00
  11. "Poor Alfred Wilson" – 4:02
  12. "Honky Tonk Blues / In New Orleans, Anyone Could Carry a Gun" – 4:20
  13. "New Orleans was a Free and Easy Place" – 4:06
  14. "The Story of Aaron Harris" – 4:06

Disc 2

  1. "The Story of Aaron Harris, continued / Aaron Harris Blues" – 4:05
  2. "Aaron Harris, His Hoodoo Woman, and the Hat That Started a Riot" – 4:10
  3. "The Story of the 1900 New Orleans Riot and the Song of Robert Charles" – 4:04
  4. "The Story of the 1900 New Orleans Riot, continued" – 4:04
  5. "Game Kid Blues" – 3:57
  6. "New Orleans Funerals" – 4:17
  7. "Funeral Marches" – 4:11
  8. "Oh! Didn't He Ramble" – 4:07
  9. "Tiger Rag, third, fourth, and fifth strains" – 4:02
  10. "Tiger Rag / Panama" – 4:02
  11. "The Right Tempo is the Accurate Tempo" – 4:39
  12. "Jazz Discords and Story of the Kansas City Stomp" – 4:31
  13. "Kansas City Stomp, continued" – 4:34
  14. "Slow Swing and 'Sweet Jazz Music'" – 4:32
  15. "Salty Dog / Bill Johnson, Jelly's Brother-in-Law" – 4:22
  16. "Hesitation Blues" – 4:30

Disc 3

  1. "My Gal Sal" – 3:51
  2. "The St. Louis Scene" – 4:09
  3. "Maple Leaf Rag, St. Louis style / Maple Leaf Rag, New Orleans style" – 4:19
  4. "Jelly Roll Carves St. Louis" – 4:19
  5. "Jelly Roll Carves St. Louis, continued" – 4:23
  6. "New Orleans Blues" – 3:58
  7. "Winin' Boy Blues" – 3:45
  8. "Winin' Boy Blues, continued" – 4:24
  9. "The Anamule Dance" – 3:46
  10. "The Anamule Dance, continued" – 4:19
  11. "The Great Buddy Bolden / Buddy Bilden's Blues" – 4:11
  12. "The Great Buddy Bolden, continued" – 4:11
  13. "Mr. Jelly Lord" – 4:09
  14. "How Jelly Roll Got His Name" – 4:14
  15. "Original Jelly Roll Blues" – 4:09
  16. "Honky Tonk Blues" – 4:07

Disc 4

  1. "Real Tough Boys" – 4:31
  2. "Sporting Attire and Shooting the Agate" – 4:33
  3. "Sweet Mamas and Sweet Papas" – 4:20
  4. "See See Rider" – 4:24
  5. "Parading with the Broadway Swells" – 4:22
  6. "Fights and Weapons" – 4:27
  7. "Luis Russell and New Orleans Riffs" – 4:25
  8. "Jelly's Travels: From Yazoo to Clarksdale" – 4:14
  9. "Jelly's Travels: From Clarksdale to Helena" – 4:34
  10. "Jelly's Travels: From Helena to Memphis" – 4:23
  11. "In Memphis: The Monarch Saloon and Benny Frenchy" – 4:24
  12. "Benny Frenchy's Tune, continued" – 4:23
  13. "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" – 4:15
  14. "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor, continued" – 4:14
  15. "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor, part 3" – 4:14
  16. "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor, concluded" – 4:35

Disc 5

  1. "The Dirty Dozen" – 4:30
  2. "The Murder Ballad, part 1" – 4:05
  3. "The Murder Ballad, part 2" – 4:17
  4. "The Murder Ballad, part 3" – 4:29
  5. "The Murder Ballad, part 4" – 4:19
  6. "The Murder Ballad, part 5" – 4:15
  7. "The Murder Ballad, part 6" – 4:29
  8. "The Murder Ballad, part 7" – 4:32
  9. "Fickle Fay Creep" – 3:17
  10. "Jungle Blues" – 3:43
  11. "King Porter Stomp" – 2:55
  12. "Sweet Peter" – 3:04
  13. "Hyena Stomp" – 3:32
  14. "Wolverine Blues, begun" – 3:45
  15. "Wolverine Blues, concluded" – 4:04
  16. "State And Madison" – 3:48
  17. "The Pearls, begun" – 3:28
  18. "The Pearls, concluded"

Disc 6

  1. "Bert Williams" – 3:41
  2. "Freakish" – 3:59
  3. "Pep" – 3:32
  4. "The Georgia Skin Game" – 3:54
  5. "The Georgia Skin Game, continued" – 3:03
  6. "The Georgia Skin Game, conclusion" – 3:19
  7. "Ungai Hai" – 4:09
  8. "New Orleans Blues" – 4:07
  9. "The Spanish Tinge" – 4:13
  10. "Improving Spanish Tempos" – 4:06
  11. "Creepy Feeling, concluded" – 4:28
  12. "The Crave" – 4:37
  13. "Mamanita" – 4:12
  14. "C'était N'aut' Can-Can, Payez Donc" – 4:21
  15. "Spanish Swat" – 4:21
  16. "Ain't Misbehavin'" – 4:11
  17. "I Hate a Man Like You / Rolling Stuff" – 4:11
  18. "Michigan Water Blues" – 3:51

Disc 7

  1. "Winin' Boy Blues" – 3:45
  2. "Winin' Boy Blues, continued" – 4:24
  3. "Boogie Woogie Blues" – 4:21
  4. "Buddy Bertrand's Blues, continued / Mamie's Blues" – 4:25
  5. "When the Hot Stuff Came In" – 8:40
  6. "The First Hot Arrangements" – 9:00
  7. "The Pensacola Kid and the Cadillac Café" – 7:57
  8. "At the Cadillac Café, Los Angeles" – 9:54
  9. "Little Liza Jane, continued / On the West Coast" – 9:45
  10. "In the Publishing Business" – 8:50

Disc 8

  1. "Original Jelly Roll Blues" – 1:51
  2. "Jelly Roll's Early Playing Days in the District" – 1:22
  3. "Hot Bands and Creole Tunes" – 4:29
  4. "Eh, La Bas" – 2:02
  5. "Old-Time Creole Musicians and the French Element" – 3:32
  6. "Playing Hot with Buddy Bolden" – 3:17
  7. "High Society" – 2:15
  8. "Sporting Life Costumes" – 1:38
  9. "Buddy Bolden: Man and Musician" – 2:23
  10. "Creoles Playing with Negroes: Getting that Drive" – 4:28
  11. "Jelly Roll's Compositions" – 3:22
  12. "How Johnny St. Cyr Learned to Play Guitar" – 2:20
  13. "Guitar Blues" – 2:17
  14. "Bad Men and Pimps" – 3:38
  15. "The Story of the Coon Blues" – 1:33
  16. "Coon Blues" – 2:22
  17. "Jazz is Just a Makeup: Buddy Bolden, Honky Tonks, Brass Band Funerals, and Parades" – 5:25
  18. "Young Sidney Bechet: Jim Crow and the Dangers of the District" – 3:40
  19. "The Main Idea in Jazz: "Just Watch Me" – Improvising and Reading Music" – 3:23
  20. "Of All His Mother's Children He Loved Jelly the Best" – 6:17