"La Canal" - May they stay around for another forty years!

Last week I went back to the Café Populart to catch the Canal Street Jazz Band live, this time in the very nice company of three good friends, with the common feature of no previous jazz knowledge or interest. The excursion was absolutely successful, both for the quality of the performance and for having planted a seed -I hope- on three possible future jazz fans.

You can't go wrong with Jim Kashishian and his musical mates: their book contains a large selection of 1910's and 1920's tunes combined with a bunch of hits from the Swing Era, all spiced with a good menu from both the Fats Waller and the Duke Ellington repertoire. Their approach to the music is direct and vital. Paraphrasing the Spanish byword "vive y deja vivir", I'd say their leitmotiv would be "enjoy and let enjoy". In even less words: Hot Jazz as played in 2009.

As the photo coverage (courtesy of Salvador Arias) proves, Ucranian trumpeter Evgeni Riechkalov keeps on sitting in for Pepe Núñez, who is still recovering from gall bladder surgery. His trading bars with Jim Kashishian reminded me of those wonderful miniatures from the early Ellington band with Tricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley on board and even (why not!) of that relatively unknown masterpiece called "Chatter Jazz: The Talkative Horns Of Rex Stewart And Dickie Wells" (RCA, 1959).

In a brief talk with Jim at the end of the second set [see last picture], I managed to give him regards from his fellow trombonist Ron L'Herault and otherwise I was confirmed that there are no plans to record a new CD for now. I'm afraid we have to stick to the four discs they have recorded in almost forty years and, thanks God, to their live performances.

May they stay around for another forty years!


Max Roach's hommage to Jo Jones - the hi-hat tribute

Michael Steinman's heartfelt, thought-provoking and accurately descriptive writing on Papa Jo Jones, and specially the last picture he included, showing the poignant moment when Max Roach passes by and respectfully stares at Jo’s coffin, reminded me of a youtube video I had seen several months ago.

On it, Max Roach plays his own hommage to Jo Jones' habilities with the hi-hat. At the end, Papa Jo comes in the stage just to receive a standing ovation.


Martin Williams on jazz romanticism

"We would do such men [King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton] wrong to make them the victims of our own romanticism or nostalgia. Yet the music itself has been the victim of romanticism. A player considered an amiable amateur by his elders is dug up by the more exclusive partisans of New Orleans jazz, who go into verbal ecstasies when he executes a major triad. A ditty originally written in New York City for comedian Bert Williams is hallowed as a "traditional New Orleans piece". A trumpeter adds a few obvious pick-up notes and some doublings to an old blues theme, and his work is transcribed and picked over like variants in a Shakespearean text. Dozens of men who stayed at home, simply because they were not good enough musicians to undertake Chicago or New York, find themselves more prolifically recorded than an important player like Jimmy Noone.


I ask you to glance with me at two aspects of New Orleans and its traditional music today. First, there is a local jazz appreciation club. It's Jim Crow.

Second, as I write there are a couple of halls in the city hiring the older musicians and functioning as tourist attractions. One of them is shrewdly operated, and some players feel they offer conditions that are awful for performance and in backstage facilities. Both frequently hire honest but third- and fourth-rate players -"ham-fat musicians" the performers call them because they grease their instrument valves with ham fat. Some of them, for all their robust charm and admirable energy, can't keep steady time or play in tune. And some of them are apt to find themselves with a local following and, as a result, get recorded. When they do, they may very well get glowing national reviews as the noble bearers of the great tradition.

It is not so much that King Oliver turns in his grave when such pronouncements are made. It's that a skillful and knowledgeable musician in New Orleans today, now in his late fifties, sixties or even seventies, is apt to be turning in his tracks."

Martin Williams in "Jazz Masters Of New Orleans" (published by The MacMillan Company, 1967)


Bobby Hackett - Soprano trombone ad

Here's another treasured gift from Fernando Ortiz de Urbina's collection of 50's & 60's Downbeat issues. It's an advertisement, published on January 8, 1959, of what is called a "Bb slide trumpet" but is, in fact, a soprano trombone (also pitched in Bb), as some research on several trumpet & trombone websites prove [check, for example, 8notes.com]. Not only Getzen, but also Jupiter and other brands marketed it as a "Bb slide trumpet" which was actually a baroque instrument.


Paul Whiteman against jazz

This curious statement, not favouring -to say the least- jazz dancing was made by popular bandleader Paul Whiteman to the American Society of Teachers of Dancing and published in the New York Times (August 31, 1923):

"I hold no brief for jazz, and any change the dancing masters can make in rhythm will be welcome. I'll be the first to play and will do my best to popularize it. (...)"


Jazz on the River - 1947

With Sidney Bechet (would he double on soprano sax, that he was mostly playing those days?) and Albert Nicholas on clarinet, Danny Barker on guitar, James P. Johnson on piano, Pops Foster on bass and Baby Dodds on drums, this must have been a trip to jazz heaven!

Line-up is very similar to those of the "This Is Jazz" broadcasts from May 31, 1947 (remove Sidney Bechet, add Wild Bill Davison on cornet, George Brunies on trombone and Blue Lu Barker on vocals, and put Joe Sullivan instead of James P. Johnson) and June 7, 1947 (remove Sidney Bechet, add Wild Bill Davison on cornet and put Freddie Moore instead of Baby Dodds), so the remaining -and not listed in the New York Times article- musicians might be Wild Bill Davison on cornet and Jimmy Archey ("This Is Jazz" broadcasts from June 14 and June 21) or George Brunies on trombone.

Any help from moldy figs and other dried fruits is much appreciated!


Teagarden's right to sing the blues - against the cabaret tax

A few days ago, among other little treasures from his extensive collection of Downbeat issues from the 50's and the 60's, my good friend and fellow researcher Fernando Ortiz de Urbina sent me this curious petition to repeal or reduce the "20% cabaret tax", promoted by Jack Teagarden and published in Downbeat, August 20, 1959.

Some research through the New York Times digital archives brings these two articles, published on December 4, 1917 and August 9, 1918, where the purpose and the method of calculation of this tax, that first went into effect on November 1, 1917, are explained.


Paul Whiteman pays $7,750 to settle suit

Unsurprisingly, musicians also have to deal with earthy matters, and not even the so-called King of Jazz escaped from a knotty divorce. This article was published in the New York Times, March 25, 1926, when Paul Whiteman was a very popular bandleader.


Como no podía ser de otra forma, los músicos también tienen que lidiar con los asuntos terrenales, y ni siquiera el presunto “Rey del Jazz” se libró de un divorcio espinoso. Este artículo se publicó en el New York Times el 25 de marzo de 1926, época en la que Paul Whiteman era un director de orquesta muy popular.

Johnny Windhurst

Trumpeter Johnny Windhurst is one of those excellent second-line jazz musicians who never was in the spotlight and just deserved a few lines in the most complete jazz encyclopaedias –no mention of him in 90% of the jazz history books densely populating my shelves-. A self-taught musician, his golden tone was mainly influenced by Bix Beiderbecke white followers such as Bobby Hackett.

From left to right: Johnny Windhurst, Milt Gabler, Jack Crystal, Eddie Condon and Henry "Red" Allen

Born in Bronx, New York, in November 5, 1926, at age 15 he was sitting in at Nick’s and by 1945 he replaced Bunk Johnson in Sidney Bechet’s band playing at the Savoy Café in Boston. He played at the Jazz at Town Hall concert in September 1946 and at the World’s Greatest Jazz Concert #2 on April 26, 1947, worked in Chicago for a time and then moved to California, where he played with clarinettist Edmond Hall. Other employers around this time included Louis Armstrong and Nappy Lamare. He also led his own band in Ohio and Boston, and was a latter day associate of Eddie Condon, playing and recording with the guitarist in the early '50s and back again in 1967. He recorded with singers Lee Wiley (1952) and Barbara Lea (1955-1957) and with trombonist Jack Teagarden (1955).

His only leader recording session, for the Transition label, took place on April 22, 1956, backed by Jimmy Andrews on piano, Buell Neidlinger on bass and Walt Gifford on drums. Bud Blacklock replaced Andrews on “When You’re Smiling”, where Hamilton Carson joined on tenor sax. The disc was called Jazz At Columbus Avenue (Transition TRLP-2).

Here’s Johnny Windhurst in 1958, leading an ensemble during one of those Art Ford Jazz Parties and waving though “Pennies From Heaven”. Roland Hanna is on piano, Mary Osborne on guitar, Mark Goldberg on bass and Morey Feld on drums.