Louis Mazetier & Rossano Sportiello video

Here's a joyful and technically amazing performance by two of the greatest stride pianists nowadays, Louis Mazetier from France and Rossano Sportiello from Italy, recorded on December 16, 2007 at the Alte Kirche in Boswil (Switzerland) as part of the Swing Piano Summit II.

Piano duets are not an easy game to play, and much less in the sonically overpopulated world of stride piano, but Louis and Rossano do succeed in their mission and, in fact, they win by a large amount of goals. One of the multiple pleasures of this video is having the chance to watch Mazetier's left hand striding over more than two octaves in some passages.


What they said about Pee Wee Russell [2]

“I used to buy Down Beat magazine all the time but once I read that Pee Wee Russell had won a Down Beat poll. That did it. I never read that magazine again. Guys like him and Frank Teschemacher aren’t clarinet players to me. (…) Man, Pee Wee is terrible – he’s terrible because he’s nothing. You know what people like? They like to see him squirm and make faces – that’s what they enjoy about Pee Wee. The guy is nothing plain and simple. What a stinking tone he’s got”.

[Barney Bigard]


“Solía comprar habitualmente Down Beat, pero una vez leí que Pee Wee Russell había ganado una votación en esa revista. Eso fue todo. Nunca volví a leerla. Para mí, tipos como él y Frank Teschemacher no son clarinetistas. (…) Pee Wee es terrible. Y es terrible porque no es nada. ¿Sabes lo que le gusta a la gente? Les gusta verle retorcerse y poner caras, eso es lo que les gusta de Pee Wee. El tipo no es nada, no hay que darle más vueltas. ¡Y qué tono tan apestoso tiene!”

[Barney Bigard]


What they said about Pee Wee Russell [1]

Sketch by fellow musician and friend, Jimmy Hamilton

“When I first heard him on the radio, I thought there was something wrong with my radio. I said “What is this noise – it’s not an instrument.” That’s the first impression someone who doesn’t know will get of him. But when you listen to him play, you know how very modern he is. Technically, he was never limited. He had everything he needed. Technique has nothing to do with music and Pee Wee was interested in music, not technique.”

[Ruby Braff]


“Cuando lo oí por primera vez en la radio, pensé que mi aparato estaba estropeado. Me dije “¿Qué es este ruido? No es un instrumento.” Esa es la primera impresión que recibe quien no lo conoce. Pero cuando le escuchas tocar, te das cuenta de lo moderno que es. Nunca fue limitado técnicamente. Tenía todo lo que necesitaba. La técnica no tiene nada que ver con la música y Pee Wee estaba interesado en la música, no en la técnica.”

[Ruby Braff]


Willie The Lion Smith transcriptions

Paul Marcorelles has just published a book with transcriptions of 15 original piano solos by Willie The Lion Smith. It is available from this website, both on paper and as a pdf file.

-"Concentrating", "Sneakaway", "Echoes Of Spring", "Finger Buster", "Fading Star", "Rippling Waters", "Stormy Weather", "I'll Follow You" and "What Is There To Say?" are taken from the famous January 10, 1939 Commodore session.

-"Passionnette" and "Morning Air" are reportedly taken from a 1937 recording, but in fact I think these two pieces are taken from the January 10, 1938 Decca session, as I haven't found a recording of these two tunes from 1937 in any of my discographies.

-"Here Comes The Band", "Cuttin' Out", "Portrait Of The Duke" and "Zig Zag" are taken from 1949 sessions, probably the Royal Jazz/Vogue sessions from December 24, 1949 (for "Cuttin' Out") and December 1, 1949 (for the other three).

Paul Marcorelles had previously published two books with transcriptions of Fats Waller piano solos, to be found here and here.


Paul Marcorelles acaba de publicar un libro con transcripciones de quince solos de piano de Willie The Lion Smith. Se puede adquirir en esta web, tanto en papel como en formato pdf.

-Las transcripciones de "Concentrating", "Sneakaway", "Echoes Of Spring", "Finger Buster", "Fading Star", "Rippling Waters", "Stormy Weather", "I'll Follow You" y "What Is There To Say" están sacadas de la famosa sesión para el sello Commodore de 10 de enero de 1939.

-"Passionnette" y "Morning Air", según señala el autor, están sacadas de una grabación de 1937, pero creo que más bien se refiere a la sesión de 10 de enero de 1938 para el sello Decca, puesto que no he encontrado ninguna grabación de esos dos temas del año 1937 en ninguna de mis discografías.

-"Here Comes The Band", "Cuttin' Out", "Portrait Of The Duke" y "Zig Zag" están sacadas de grabaciones de 1949, probablemente de las sesiones para Royal Jazz/Vogue de 24 de diciembre ("Cuttin' Out") y 1 de diciembre (las otras tres).

Paul Margorelles había publicado previamente dos libros de transcripciones de solos de piano de Fats Waller (volumen 1 y volumen 2).


Old jazz magazines - record ads [2]

After my initial post displaying several record advertisements from old jazz magazines, Michael Steinman commented very appropriately in his Jazz Lives blog (nice title for a post: "Swing Archaeology") about the old 78 rpm discs as a very different way of having access and listening to our beloved jazz music:

“(...) If you don’t know the music represented here, these ads might seem charmingly archaic but no more meaningful than drawings of old-time detergent boxes or tubes of toothpaste.

But if you do know what it must have meant to buy the new Art Hodes session on Signature, these ads are tender artifacts of a time when “a record” was a two-sided 78 rpm disk, highly breakable, costing anywhere from thirty-five cents to a dollar, and it was something to treasure. We who collect jazz now and are able to buy every record Fats Waller made (for example) on twenty-four compact discs, should stop a minute and recall such pleasures, even if they had vanished before we were born (...)”.

For his (and I hope others') delight, here’s a new batch of record ads, extracted from Jazz Session magazine and published from May 1945 to July 1946. All single 10" or 12" 78 rpm discs and albums with three 78 rpm discs are represented here, labels being Asch, Blue Note, Disc, Jazz Information, Session, Keynote, Capitol and H.R.S.


Projected Jack Teagarden Museum in Vernon

Jack Teagarden’s birth town Vernon, Texas, contemplates establishing a museum dedicated to the trombonist. The basis of this project, promoted by Mark Finn, rests with a Teagarden archive developed in Canada by the late Joe Showler – 40 years’ worth of devoted collecting, including recordings and motion pictures, magazine and newspaper coverage and a chronology that traces Teagarden’s progress in astonishing detail.

Joe Showler wanted to bring the collection to Vernon and turn it into a museum, but his death thwarted that plan. Mark Finn has reactivated it, and the Showler collection will find its way to Vernon upon the completion of a $175,000 fund-raising campaign. A tenth of that sum will cover the transplanting of the archive from Toronto to the Texas Plains. A historic-property earmark has provided the real estate, and a $50,000 matching-funds promise from Vernon’s tourism agency has lent momentum.

Contributors to the Teagarden museum project can get in touch with Finn via e-mail at MarkFinn@texas.net or by telephone at 940-839-7873.

More details at Fort Worth Business Press.


La ciudad natal de Jack Teagarden, Vernon (Texas), planea crear un museo dedicado al trombonista. El proyecto, promocionado por Mark Finn, se desarrollará a partir del archivo recopilado en Canadá por el fallecido Joe Showler, tras cuarenta años de dedicado coleccionismo, incluyendo discos, películas, periódicos y revistas y una cronología muy detallada.

Joe Showler tenía intención de llevar la colección a Vernon y convertirla en un museo, pero su muerte frustró ese plan. Mark Finn ha reactivado el proyecto, y la colección Showler irá a Vernon si se consigue completar una campaña de recogida de fondos por 175.000 dólares, de los que una décima parte serán necesarios para cubrir el transporte del archivo desde Toronto hasta Texas.

Para hacer donaciones, se puede contactar con Mark Finn por e-mail (MarkFinn@texas.net) o por teléfono (940-839-7873)

Más detalles en Fort Worth Business Press.


Canal Street Jazz Band at the Café Populart

Financial crisis notwithstanding, night life in Madrid is as strong as ever. Watching the crowded surroundings of Huertas Street on Wednesday, you’d never say we are near “total chaos”. In the middle of this lively neighbourhood, you can find a small club called Café Populart, hosting live music, mostly jazz and blues, but also salsa or pop. For seven consecutive nights, our most veteran Spanish traditional jazz ensemble, the Canal Street Jazz Band, leaded by North American trombonist Jim Kashishian, has been delighting all kinds of public with their spicy mixture of NO jazz, Dixieland (how I hate the sometimes negative nuance using this word!) and swing music.

My short break from daily work and family duties was absolutely focused. I had been at several Canal Street Jazz Band (“la Canal”, as we usually call them) concerts before and knew what I was about to see: real HOT music. I bet no more than five persons could recognize “Margie”, “Black And Blue” or “Fidgety Feet”, but everybody there enjoyed the music and, each one in his own way, appreciated it.

Things started off with an opening ensemble statement of “Margie”, followed by three solo choruses by a young Russian trumpeter by the name of “Eugeni” who sat in for Pepe Núñez, who had gall bladder surgery recently (when, at the end of the first set I asked Jim who he was, I just got a “Oh, he’s Eugeni, a Russian trumpet player”). At the beginning of the concert, Eugeni was a bit rhythmically stiff, and it was clear there was a certain lack of rapport with the other musicians (a couple of times he started an additional solo chorus when it was not expected and received Kashishian’s surprised glance) but he got progressively better, much better, and showed a nice tone in the mid and high register (no excursions to the super-high register were needed), a clearly Armstrong-influence phrasing and good ideas and choice of notes. He played the lead in all the ensemble passages, except for the second strain of “Black And Blue”, when trombone played the melody and trumpet played countermelody.

“It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie”, starting with an intro by pianist/keyboardist Fernando Sobrino, was the second number, with Kashishian’s kind of staccato vocals and a plunger-muted trombone solo, followed by “Christopher Columbus”, that included a scat vocal chorus and a good solo by bassist Antonio Domínguez, and “Black And Blue”, introduced with vibrancy by Sobrino and containing a beautiful trombone solo with long sustained notes. The Fats Waller ride went on with “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, enriched by nice obbligati trumpet figures behind Kashishian’s vocals, and Strayhon’s “Take The A Train” preluded an uptempo rendition of Larry Shields’ and Nick La Rocca’s “Fidgety Feet”, which happened to be the last piece of the first set.

And this first set was the last set for me, as next day I had to wake up at six thirty in the morning, as usual. After a brief talk with Jim Kashishian while buying the two Canal Street CDs that I didn’t previously own, I was off to take a taxi and made my way home. In fact, a fifty-five minutes interlude of good live jazz was enough to lift my spirit for a while.


A pesar de la crisis, la noche madrileña sigue tan viva como siempre. Las abarrotadas calles de los alrededores de Huertas no parecen presagiar el “caos total”. En medio de este vivaz vecindario, el Café Populart sigue programando música en directo, sobre todo blues y jazz, pero también salsa o pop. Nuestra más veterana banda de jazz tradicional, la Canal Street Jazz Band, liderada por el norteamericano Jim Kashishian, ha estado deleitando allí a todo tipo de público durante siete noches consecutivas, con su picante mezcla de jazz de Nueva Orleans, Dixieland (¡cómo odio el matriz negativo con el que se usa a veces este término!) y swing.

Mi breve receso del trabajo diario y de las obligaciones familiares tenía un objetivo claro. Ya había estado en varios conciertos de “la Canal” y sabía lo que iba a recibir: una descarga de auténtico hot jazz. Apuesto a que no más de cinco personas en la audiencia fueron capaces de reconocer “Margie”, “Black And Blue” or “Fidgety Feet”, pero estoy completamente seguro de que todo el mundo disfrutó de la música y, a su manera, supo apreciarla.

El concierto empezó con todo el grupo tocando el tema de “Margie”, seguido por un solo de tres chorus del joven trompetista ruso “Eugeni”, que sustituyó al habitual Pepe Núñez, al que han operado de la vesícula recientemente (cuando al final del primer pase le pregunté a Jim Kashishian por el nombre del trompetista, sólo me supo decir “Oh, es Eugeni, un trompetista ruso”). Al principio del concierto, se notaba a Eugeni un poco anquilosado rítmicamente y quedaba patente que no había mucha compenetración con los demás músicos (en sus solos, un par de veces empezó un nuevo chorus que no esperaba el resto del grupo y recibió la mirada sorprendida de Kashishian), pero mejoró progresivamente, y mucho. Tiene un timbre muy agradable en el registro medio y alto de la trompeta (nada de viajes estratosféricos al planeta de los sobreagudos), una clara influencia de Armstrong en el fraseo y buenas ideas y elección de notas. Tocó la melodía principal en casi todos los temas, salvo en el segundo chorus de “Black And Blue”, en el que el trombón tocó la melodía y la trompeta la contramelodía.

El segundo tema fue “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie”, que empezó con una introducción a los teclados de Fernando Sobrino y continuó con Kashishian cantando con su peculiar staccato y haciendo un solo de trombón con sordina plunger. A continuación, “Christopher Columbus”, con un chorus de scat y un buen solo de contrabajo de Antonio Domínguez, y “Black And Blue”, con una vibrante introducción de piano y un magnífico solo de trombón con notas largas y sostenidas. El festival de Fats Waller siguió con “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, sazonado con bellas figuras en obbligato de la trompeta tras el vocalista y, para finalizar el primer pase, “Take The A Train” de Strayhorn y una versión a tiempo rápido de “Fidgety Feet” de Larry Shields y Nick La Rocca.

Y este primer pase fue también el último para mí, puesto que al día siguiente tenía que levantarme a las seis y media como de costumbre. Tras una breve charla con Jim Kashishian en la que aproveché para comprar los dos únicos discos de la Canal Street que no tenía, me fui a coger un taxi. Cincuenta y cinco minutos de buen jazz en directo fueron suficientes para subirme el ánimo.


Joe Turner - Pianists in my life (3/3)

And finally, as promised, here's the third and last installment of "Joe Turner - Pianists In My Life" as told to Johnny Simmen.

"(...) There was a place in Harlem called Robinson’s Restaurant on 131 Street. There, during a long period, every morning between 5 and 6 o’clock I had the damnedest piano contests that I ever cared to have with anyone, with none other than Duke Ellington. The number I used to wash him away with sometimes was his own composition “Jig Walk”. Count Basie and I are the greatest of friends but one trouble I find with him is that every time we meet he wants to have a piano contest to prove he can always cut me. But by the time we have finished searching for a piano in every bar in town (where there are absolutely no pianos) we’ve come to the conclusion that this contest for which we’ve waited for the last 20-odd years will never come about unless someone closes down all the bars and lets us reach a piano!

Roger Ram Ramirez has the same fault in his playing as I have, that is, not being able to record well, but if you hear him in person you must consider him one of the very greatest piano players of our time. I’d like to mention that he is also the composer of “Lover Man”, Billie Holiday’s greatest hit.

Herman Chittison has practically as fast a right hand as Tatum but not with the benefit of Tatum’s inspiration. A very good pianist and I recommend him highly.

Speaking about the years 1935-37, there was one of the most talented youngsters who ever sat down at a piano: Garnet Clark. He had -among many other things- a terrific arrangement of “Tiger Rag” and it is one of jazz music’s great losses that he died so soon (1928, in Paris, at the age of 20 or 21). His recordings of “Rosetta”, “Object Of My Affection” and “I Got Rhythm” (French HMV) show him in fine form.

I’d like to mention the name of a pianist who, in my estimation, knew more chords on the piano than even our genius Tatum: Clarence Profit. Unfortunately this exceptional artist had that fault known to many musicians, not being able to record well. He, too, died young.

Next we have Cliff Jackson, whose reputation as N.Y.’s greatest band pianist was unquestioned. It was not until I heard his record on the Black and White label in Johnny Simmen’s home, however, that I discovered that he was also a terrific soloist in shout style, the music we know best. Whenever I hear of Earl Hines I remember that he impressed me so much with his playing in such masterpieces as “Deep Forest” and “West End Blues”. I consider him an ideal of all ages. Inasmuch as his style was so different from our Harlem stride manner, the fact that he played (and even still does, to this day) in his own inimitable way makes him an honorary member of jazz in big bright lights!

Now we are coming to a jazz mystery. This mystery is Thelonious Monk. It has been said he created bop. I jammed with him for years and I have the records .Any resemblance between Monk’s playing and bop is to me purely a coincidence. He lays a very interesting piano that impresses any musician including the Tate (Art Tatum), but his style is so mysterious that I must admit I have no name for it. But it’s wonderful.

That day in 1930 I recorded with Louis Armstrong (Coconut Grove Orch.), Buck Washington was on the session. He played “Dear Old Southland” with Louis, but aside from that fact Buck would come to Harlem from his engagements downtown with Bubbles, his dancing partner and give all of us more trouble than we had the desire for. In other words, Buck Washington is a terrific pianist.

The first time in my life I heard a piano played completely beautifully was when I heard Ellis Larkins. I tried many times to imitate Ellis on sweet tunes and then I realized it is a special art.

When I was in the army I met a pianist of whom I had heard before but had never met. His name is Kenneth Kersey, one of the most unassuming persons you could ever meet and who plays a really dynamic swing piano. What surprised me as much about him was his equally terrific playing of the trumpet. When you hear “Little Jazz” Eldridge you have heard Kenneth Kersey on the trumpet and vice-versa! As for Kenny’s piano work, his “Sweet Lorraine” on Mercury gives you a good idea of his great talent.

Although I have had Marlowe Morris tell me to my face that I have never taught him anything, I can prove by musicians such as Art Tatum, Ram Ramirez, Chittison, etc. that I taught Marlowe Morris for three years how to use his left hand. He always had a terrific right, but his left hand is Joe Turner.

Of Nat Jaffe, who died prematurely, I can’t truthfully say that I can remember anyone who could interpret Art Tatum better. Furthermore, he was a true friend of mine and we would hang out together nightly, as well as another friend of his -also a very fine pianist-, Johnny Guarnieri. You only needed to mention the name of a good jazz pianist and Johnny would imitate him!

Now, I would like to make mention of something that happened to me in Utica,N.Y.: I walked into an all-night club and saw and heard at the piano an old and great friend of mine who is also one of the really important pianists: Gene Rodgers (who had played in England before the war), but this is not half the story. It ended with one of the darnest piano contests I ever had because Gene played his head off and I did my darnest but a third man, who happened to be none other than Erroll Garner, wrapped it up! There is no joke about it: Erroll Garner is just about as great as they come!"

Joe Turner - Pianists in my life (2/3)

Second part of "Joe Turner - Pianists In My Life" as told to Johnny Simmen.

"(...) Shortly after, I had a tour of the west with Adelaide Hall (as accompanist, together with the late Alex Hill, my good friend- in fact it was a piano duo), but before we left we had trouble with Alex, and Francis Carter, also a good pianist, joined us. Benny Carter told me that when I reached Toledo, Ohio, I should not play any piano because there was a blind boy there called Art Tatum and I would not be able to touch him. When the Adelaide Hall troupe finally reached Toledo, I asked where I could find Art and I was given the address of a buffet flat where he would appear every night at two o’clock, after his work. After finishing at the theatre at midnight I went there and waited for Art to arrive. In the meantime, I played some good stuff on the piano there and two girls sitting near the piano started an argument over my playing compared with Art’s. One girl said “He’ll wash Art away”, while the other was insisting “Just wait until Art gets here and you’ll see how he’ll cut this boy!”. Art Tatum arrived at two o’clock. He asked me if I was the Joe Turner who had made a reputation with a fine arrangement of “Liza”. I said that it was me and begged him to play piano for me. After he had refused to play before hearing me (and of course with Art I lost the argument) I played first “Dinah” for warming up and then my “Liza”. When I had finished Art said “Pretty good”, and I was offended, because everywhere else that I played “Liza” it was considered sensational and there was Art Tatum saying “pretty good”! After that, Art sat down and played “Three Little Words”. Three thousand words would have been an understatement!!! We became the greatest of friends after that. Art came to my home the next morning and even before I had left my bed I heard him in the parlor play my arrangement of “Liza” note for note. After hearing it only once the night before! By the way, he liked it so much that some time later he recorded it exactly as I played it.

When I left Toledo I took his name and address with intentions of bringing him to New York, to team with me, especially since we were having troubles with Francis Carter. But when we returned to New York the troubles switched over to me and left the act, although they wanted to get rid of Francis. Since he was the only one left who knew the act, they kept him. Being honest with everyone, I gave Adelaide Hall Art Tatum’s address and that’s how he came to New York. Many people believed until now that I played together with Art -unfortunately I did not. Although I was supposed to have done, because of so much explaining, I decided not to deny anyone's belief that I had (that’s something putting all the discographies upside-down!) So I declare: Francis Carter made “I’m In The Mood For Love” with me, not Art Tatum, and Francis Carter played in my place with Art Tatum.

Now to mention some more pianists who really gave me solid kicks in my life:

Lucky (sic) Roberts, Fats Waller, who was the best friend I ever had, Willie The Lion Smith -the most unpredictable pianist of all time because if Tatum played, if Fats played, if James P. played, if anyone in Harlem played, we could pretty well guess what their feature number would be- but, when The Lion roared you never knew what was coming. By the way, The Lion and I are always in correspondence, reminiscing about the old times and discussing events in the present day jazz world. We are still having fun together, in spite of The Lion roaring in New York while I’m beating it out all over Switzerland.

There is one other pianist whose genius I would like to have heard beside that of Art Tatum: Seminole (Abalabba). He was the greatest trick pianist I have ever heard. I have jammed together with him many times and I know quite well that he was one of the wonders of our time. It would have been wonderful to have heard two geniuses in a contest, but Tatum came to New York after Seminole had already died.

Many times I heard Jelly Roll Morton brag about the things he’d done for jazz and much to my amazement he would always prove every statement. This leaves us to the one fact about Jelly Roll. This is that the mere mention of the history of jazz without his name in capitals, is bunk. Teddy Wilson came to New York and played with Benny Carter’s orchestra at Connie’s Inn. He gave me no peace until I had taught him some of those smashing minor thirds that I had learned from James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. There is no doubt that Teddy Wilson is one of the cleanest technicians of our time.

Another name I cannot leave out is that of Donald Lambert who came often to New York from New Jersey, always looking for cutting contests. Believe me, when he finished throwing that left hand very few people had even a desire to walk past the piano, let alone play it!

Another old friend of mine who would stutter in his speech but never in his playing, and whose left hand is comparable to that of the Lion, James P., The Beetle and Kirby Walker, is Willie Gant. Willie would always get Kirby Walker and hunt for me because it seems that my left had worried him a bit so he decided between him and Kirby Walker they could give me all the troubles I needed because they both had (and have) dynamite lefts (...)."


Joe Turner - Pianists in my life (1/3)

In 1952, jazz piano authority Johnny Simmen sat with stride master Joe Turner and got this very graphic recapitulation of his career and the great pianists he met. These memoirs were originally published in an European jazz periodical, and have appeared, excerpted, as liner notes on the LP Stride By Stride (77 Records, LA 12/32) and in their complete form, but divided in two parts, on the Solo Art CD reissue of the 77 Records LP, Stride By Stride, Volume 1 (Solo Art SACD-106) and its subsequent follow-up Still Stridin’ Along, Volume 2 (Solo Art SACD-116). I can strongly recommend both CDs, recorded live at the Cafe Africana, Zurich, as a magnificent example of what Joe Turner was doing by 1960.

This is the first installment of the complete text, which will come in three parts.

"I was born November 3, 1907 in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of five my mother taught me piano (ear training) and then, after awhile, I improved alone. When I was twelve I took music lessons for six months. My very first teacher, a women, was a "clock-watcher" which I didn`t like. I paid her 75 cents an hour. The week after, I took lessons from a new teacher, a Mrs. Alma J. Thomas, wife of A. Jack Thomas, a well-known musical director in Baltimore. What I liked about Mrs. Thomas is that she was not a "clock-watcher," but really interested in my playing, even cracking my fingers with a ruler when I made mistakes. So, not too long after that I used to stand by the piano and say to my Aunt Katie, "I sure wish I could play like that," and then I started playing "shout piano," copying her, but without the benefit of the left hand. Gradually I made such progress in that style that people started considering me a good pianist. I entered into a piano contest one night (my first one, in fact; my latest one having taken place last August when the marvelous Ralph Sutton and I were taking turns at the piano in one unforgettable session.)

While we were waiting at the theatre to be called on stage, a tall, smooth-talking fellow by the name of Frank Johnson came up to me and said, “Kid, I want you and the rest of the fellows to do your best tonight because I’ll win the contest anyway. I know I can win, not even playing my best". I stomped with my "shout piano" through "Oh Baby, Don’t Say No, Say Maybe" and came in second. Frank Johnson won, as he had said, and I became very interested in him and asked him to teach me a few piano tricks. He agreed on the condition that I’d buy the music to the latest tunes and teach them to him because he couldn’t read. His style of playing was so similar to a good piano roll that you could not tell the difference. Frank was the first one, too, who mentioned the name of James P. Johnson to me, making clear that James P. was known, in fact, as the greatest jazz pianist in the world. That was in 1923.

I learned so rapidly from Frank’s teaching that the entire city of Baltimore was comparing me to him. That’s when he decided not to teach me any further because he did not wish to have that much competition. I take off my hat to him for being honest and plain spoken.

My interest in my left hand began when I heard Eddie Gibson of Baltimore, who had one of the greatest left hands I ever heard in my life. I would frequently visit his home and he’d play for hours with his left hand along and he was always complaining that his left hand must be brushed up!! This became boring to me at that time but I found out later that it was necessary to have a powerful left hand to play piano properly.

I copied numbers from James P. Johnson’s piano rolls such as "Harlem Strut" and the "Carolina Shout" and copied them so well that I was considered a sort of child wonder. After being encouraged to go to New York I considered it, and went. I arrived in New York City with only one dollar and twenty-five cents in my pocket, and a suitcase made of a carton. (I had told my Mother I had a job in NY, which explained my reason for not taking more money but in reality I had no job; I was just trying to make my luck in the big city). I asked the first person I met where I could find the colored section. I was told to take the E1 train to 130th Street in Harlem. There I asked where the musicians were hanging out. They told me that it was a placed called "The Comedy Club". Going there I had a drink, set my bag down and noticed that anyone who wished could play the piano. Realizing that none of the pianists who had performed before me had done anything special I walked over and started in. After a warm-up number I went into the "Harlem Strut" and then I went to the climax with “Carolina Shout”. When I had finished people swarmed around me and wanted to know where I came from. After I’d told them, someone in the crowd told me that the composer of the last two numbers I had just played was in the room: James P. Johnson! Of course, you can imagine how I felt! I must have impressed him however, since he left his table, came up to the piano and played the same two numbers as nobody in the world could! After it was over someone asked me if I wanted a job and of course I said “Yes” then asked “When do I start?”, at which point he replied “Right away, just come with me”.

I went with him to Baron (sic) Wilkins’ Club (most famous piano club in Harlem, all the best pianists having played there one time or another) where I met, for the first time, and played with, Hilton Jefferson, the great alto man. When the boss told me he could only pay thirty dollars a week I almost fainted because I had never made more than twelve dollars. I worked there for a few months then joined the red hot band of trumpeter June Clark, who was a carbon copy of Louis Armstrong. June and Jimmy Harrison were known as the greatest brass team of that wonderful period. Jazz Carson, a fine drummer, completed our quartet.

During these first few months in NY I visited Clarence Williams’ office where I met one who I considered a truly great pianist, Eddie Blind Steele. This was also the time when we had the world’s most exciting piano contests night after night with the following pianists regularly present: James P., Willie The Lion Smith, Fats Waller and Joe Turner. Very rarely did other pianists dare to play. Of course, there were times when Stephen The Beetle Henderson was getting into the contest and he was demanding the greatest respect for his perfect left hand. Two others who would try their luck occasionally were Corky Williams and Willie Gant (...)."

Joe Turner on French TV (60s)

Stride pianist Joe Turner first visited Europe accompanying singer Adelaide Hall (1935-1936), and he stayed in the Continent until the beginning of World War II. During this period, he cut some records in Paris (among them one cannot forget his "specialty" arrangement of "Liza" for the French Ultraphone label, coupled with "Cheek To Cheek"), Bern or Prague. Reportedly, a private recording of Coleman Hawkins (on tenor sax, piano and vocals!) and Joe Turner does exist (Zurich, April 1936).

When Turner returned home, he joined Sy Oliver's service band at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey, then playing as a soloist in New York (1939-1943) or as part of Rex Stewart's orchestra.

By 1948, he came back to Europe for good, variously headquartered in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, London and Paris, where he was featured regularly from 1962 on at "La Calvados", a bar off the Champs Elysées. Here's where, according to Siegfried H. Mohr, on March 3, 1990, Ralph Sutton, François Rilhac and Louis Mazetier joined him in a truly memorable kind of Stride Piano Summit.

Here you have a few Dailymotion Joe Turner gems, from a rare French TV program from the Sixties, Jazz Session. The other featured musician on this program was Champion Jack Dupree.


Bud Freeman - LIFE archives

As a follow-up to my previous post, here's a selection of Bud Freeman photographs from the LIFE magazine archives.

First six were taken at Eddie Condon's nightclub by photographer Gjon Mili on December 20, 1945. Apart from Bud Freeman and Eddie Condon, you have Joe Marsala on clarinet, Brad Gowans on trombone, Wild Bill Davison on cornet, Gene Schroeder on piano, Bob Casey on bass and Dave Tough on bass.

Last two were also taken by Gjon Mili, this time in 1946 at Eddie Condon's apartment. One shows Singer Bing Crosby holding a pipe in his mouth & sheet music in his hand, rehearsing with Bud Freeman and the other one also includes Condon, who is holding his toddler daughter.

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE

© Gjon Mili / LIFE


Bud Freeman - Eeling his way into the 70s

I would say Bud Freeman is a case where the inverse of the “you can’t see the wood for the trees” saying would be applicable. His incredibly lengthy and extraordinarily consistent recording career, covering sixty years from his first session with McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans in 1927 to his final recording as a guest in Mat Matthews And Friends (Audiophile AP-219, from 1986) overshadows the raw quality of each of his discs, his performances and his solos.

The above mentioned consistency stayed up until he was in his 80s, and what follows is a very personal selection of six discs from his last twenty years, with the only common links of being easily available on CD and having relatively unknown or, at least, not star-like rhythm sections and colleague hornmen (one exception to both characteristics is the Bucky Pizzarelli disc). Oh, yes, I know Alex Welsh was an outstanding trumpetist and a well respected institution in the British trad jazz scene, and Howard Alden is a must everywhere there’s a mainstream jazz session, but you know what I mean.

By listening to these discs you’ll discover that his commitment to his own style is present even in his 70s. He developed it in the early-to-mid 30s, as an alternative approach on the tenor to the harder-toned style of Coleman Hawkins and we cannot forget he was a strong influence in Lester Young, though Freeman’s tone has more of an edge than Young’s and though rhythmically there are similarities with the earlier style of Coleman Hawkins. His instantly recognizable convoluted phrasing, his old frantic drive and his trademark licks in the uptempo numbers are still present on these discs, as is his highly personal way of treating ballads, tender but with no sentimentality, and his moderate and intelligent use of vibrato.

Detractors say he had been playing the very same solo since he recorded “The Eel” with Eddie Condon and his Orchestra in 1933. So much the worse for them!


Podría decirse que a Bud Freeman le sería aplicable el inverso del refrán “los árboles no dejan ver el bosque”. La increíble duración y la extraordinaria consistencia de su carrera en los estudios de grabación durante sesenta años, desde su primera sesión con los Chicagoans de Red McKenzie y Eddie Condon en 1927 hasta su última grabación como invitado en el disco Mat Matthews And Friends (Audiophile AP-219, de 1986) eclipsa la calidad en estado puro de sus discos y sus solos.

Esta consistencia se mantuvo hasta incluso después de cumplidos los ochenta. Aquí se presenta una selección muy personal de seis discos grabados en los veinte últimos años de su carrera, con los únicos vínculos comunes de estar disponibles en CD y de contar con el acompañamiento de músicos no demasiado conocidos (con la excepción, en ambos casos, del disco con Bucky Pizzarelli). Todo ello con el máximo respeto a Alex Welsh, destacado trompetista y toda una institución altamente respetada en la escena del jazz tradicional británico y a Howard Alden, un fichaje obligado en cualquier sesión de jazz mainstream.

Al escuchar estos discos se hace patente que el compromiso de Bud Freeman con su propia forma de tocar el saxo tenor persiste en su vejez. Freeman desarrolló su estilo definitivo en los primeros años 30, como una alternativa al de Coleman Hawkins (de tono más poderoso) y fue una clara influencia en el de Lester Young, aunque el tono de Freeman tiene más aristas y rítmicamente existen ciertas similitudes con el estilo temprano de Hawkins. Su fraseo enrevesado y reconocible al instante, su frenético empuje y sus licks marca de la casa en los tiempos rápidos siguen presentes en estas grabaciones, al igual que su manera muy personal de afrontar las baladas, delicada pero sin caer en sentimentalismos, y su uso moderado e inteligente del vibrato.

Sus detractores le achacan que estuvo tocando el mismo solo desde que grabó “The Eel” con la orquesta de Eddie Condon en 1933. ¡Peor para ellos!


Bud Freeman With Alex Welsh & His Band (Lake Records, LACD 183)
Recorded at Manchester Sports Guild, June 19, 1966
Bud Freeman (ts); Alex Welsh (t, voc); Roy Williams (tb); John Barnes (cl, bs); Jim Douglas (g); Fred Hunt (p); Ron Matthewson (b); Lennie Hastings (d)

Bud Freeman And The Keith Ingham Trio – Superbud (originally on 77 Records, catalog number S55, reissued on CD on Jazzology JCD-185)
Recorded in London, August 13, 1974
Bud Freeman (ts); Keith Ingham (p); Pete Chapman (b); Johnny Armitage (d)

Bucky Pizzarelli With Bud Freeman – Bucky And Bud (Flying Dutchman BDL1-1378)
Recorded in New York, 1976
Bud Freeman (ts); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Hank Jones (p); Bob Haggart (b); Ron Traxler (d)

Bud Freeman – The Man. Live In Dublin 1976 (Nagel Heyer 105)
Recorded in Dublin, 1976.
Bud Freeman (ts); Noel Kelehan (p); Jimmy McKay (b); Jack Daly or John Wadham (d)

Bud Freeman – The Dolphin Has A Message (JSP CD882)
Recorded in London, May 1980
Bud Freeman (ts); Brian Lemon (p); Len Skeat (b); John Richardson (d)

Bud Freeman – California Session (Jazzology JCD-277)
Recorded at the Skytrails Restaurant, Van Nuys, California, January 9, 1982
Bud Freeman (ts); Dick Cathcart (t); Betty O’Hara (tb); Bob Reitmeier (cl); Ray Sherman (p); Howard Alden (g); Phil Stephens (b); Nick Fatool (d)


A bit of Jazz Trivia and a taste of Bud Freeman’s sense of humour:
After trombonist Betty O’Hara soaring solo on “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” (from California Session), Bud Freeman kissed her on the cheek. Then you can hear him say, “Oh, that’s the first time I’ve ever kissed a trombone player.”


Old jazz magazines - record ads [1]

Old magazines are always an invaluable source for any kind of jazz research. Club listings, reviews, interviews, articles, ads, listings of new releases... You can obtain that precious piece of information you've been looking for years in any of those worn pages.

But they can also be highly regarded treasures by themselves, kind of a mysterious jewel you can enjoy in your nightly jazz temple at home...

I have always been fascinated by those old black and white records ads, with their somehow naive hyperboles ("get the sensational new Henry Red Allen record on RCA Victor", "the best in hot jazz", "the real New Orleans Music"...). Here's a good sample, extracted from several issues of the H.R.S. Society Rag (1938-1941).


Las revistas antiguas de jazz son siempre una valiosa fuente de información en cualquier investigación jazzística. Listados de clubs y conciertos, reseñas, entrevistas, artículos de fondo, anuncios, listados de nuevas ediciones... Puede que tengas suerte y encuentres esa preciada información que llevas años buscando ahí mismo, en cualquiera de esas arrugadas páginas.

Pero esas revistas también pueden constituir un valioso tesoro en sí mismas, una especie de misteriosa joya que disfrutas en tu templo nocturno de jazz en casa...

Siempre me han encantado esos viejos anuncios que acompañaban las ediciones de discos de jazz, con sus ingenuas hipérboles ("compre el sensacional nuevo disco de Henry Red Allen en RCA Victor", "lo mejor en el hot jazz", "la auténtica música de Nueva Orleans"). Esta una selección de esos anuncios, que fueron publicados en la revista H.R.S. Society Rag entre 1938 y 1941.

Caprice Rag by James P. Johnson

By 1914, James P. Johnson had already begun to take composition and songwriting quite seriously. During this period, he composed four rags that would remain in his repertory and be recorded later: “Carolina Shout”, “Caprice Rag”, “Steeplechase Rag” and “Daintiness Rag”. All James P. Johnson’s rags from this period had the ragtime formal structure (AABBA), followed by a trio of varying lengths, all seasoned with introductions, interludes and bridges as in ragtime.

“Caprice Rag” was first recorded as a piano roll in May 1917 (Metro-Art 203176) and again in July 1917 (Perfection 87023). According to Scott E. Brown (James P. Johnson, A Case Of Mistaken Identity, published by Scarecrow Press and the Institute Of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, 1982), the Perfection piano roll is another example, alongside “Innovation” (Universal, Oct. 1917) and “Twilight Rag” (Metro-Art, Nov. 1917) of Johnson’s early and extensive use of sixteenth-note triplet figures, which was very rare in printed ragtime and came into common use as jazz developed. According to Brown, “The sweeping, ascending melodic line of the A section differs markedly from the somewhat reserved folk melodies of classic ragtime. (Such a line was later paraphrased by Fats Waller in his stride composition “Handful Of Keys”). There is also a hint of rhythmic phrasing which formed the basis of many later stride styles. In the repeat of the B strain, at measures 11 and 12, Johnson employed off-the-beat block chords in the right hand. They are not arpeggiated or embellished by pivot notes. Instead of merely dividing the beat with tied and untied syncopations, Johnson shifts rhythmic emphasis by playing around the beat maintained by the left hand.” The tune is played in F#, instead of in G as has been played many times later and even James P. himself did on some occasions, but the trio is played in a major third lower than that of the A and B strains.

Fascinating as it is, this Perfection piano roll version is burdened with the limitations of the physical medium. Piano rolls could not reflect the dynamics, the feel of tension and release, the unrelenting swing and the shear power of the performance.

The first phonograph recording was cut on February 28, 1923 for Columbia, alongside “Papa Blues”, “Railroad Blues” and “Glory Shout”. Neither of them was ever issued.

The definitive “Caprice Rag” performance on disc by James P. Johnson was recorded for Blue Note on December 15, 1943, and originally issued on a 12” 78 rpm disc, coupled with “Improvisation On Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (BN 26). As Richard Cook notes, “the eleven choruses (…) are especially finished, close to a notated perfection – yet their syncopations and the personal touch which Johnson imbues belong to a later, jazz age.”

To my knowledge, the piano roll versions of “Caprice Rag” have not been issued on CD yet, unlike many other James P. rolls from these early years. Both the Metro-Art and the Perfection rolls are included in “James P. Johnson 1917, volume 2” (Biograph BLP 1009Q). The 1943 Blue Note version can be found in "The Complete Blue Note Sessions Of Edmond Hall/James P. Johnson/Sidney De Paris & Vic Dickenson" (Mosaic MD4-109).

For instant pleasure and visual enjoyment, check Dick Wellstood playing “Caprice Rag” on December 3, 1978 at Manassas, Virginia.