"Traveling Blues: Life and Music of Tommy Ladnier"

Traveling Blues: Life and Music of Tommy Ladnier by Bo Lindström and Dan Vernhettes has just been published by Jazz'Edit in a limited edition of 500 copies. As an option, you can additionally get a CD containing an archive of the 189 Tommy Ladnier recordings, in mp3 format.

I have already ordered the book but haven't received it yet. However, I have read the Fletcher Henderson chapter, which was published in the two latest IAJRC Journals (Vol.42 nº2 - June 2009 & Vol.42 nº3 - September 2009), and it combines outstanding biographical research and thorough musical analysis (Lindström and Vernhettes have been working on this biography for ten years!). So, the book should be a must-read!


La editorial Jazz'Edit acaba de publicar Traveling Blues: Life And Music of Tommy Ladnier, de Bo Lindström & Dan Vernhettes, en una edición limitada de 500 ejemplares. Opcionalmente, se puede adquirir un CD con las 189 grabaciones en las que participó Tommy Ladnier, en formato mp3.

Pese a que todavía no he recibido el libro, he podido leer el capítulo dedicado a la época en la que Tommy Ladnier formó parte de la orquesta de Fletcher Henderson, ya que fue publicado en los dos últimos ejemplares del IAJRC Journal (Vol.42 nº2 - June 2009 & Vol.42 nº3 - September 2009). Dicho capítulo combina, a partes iguales, una magnífica investigación biográfica con un concienzudo análisis musical (Lindström y Vernhettes han trabajado durante diez años en esta biografía). Sin duda, ningún aficionado a la música de Tommy Ladnier puede perderse este libro.


Louis Armstrong & the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra (June 1929)

After his brief stay at the Savoy in New York in March 1929, which had been promoted by OKeh's Tommy Rockwell, Louis Armstrong returned to Chicago, where work was scarcer than before for the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra. From June to late 1929, Louis Armstrong and Dickerson's band would be billed in the New York City musical Connie's Hot Chocolotes, showing at Broadway's Hudson Theater and Connie's Inn.

Here's a hand program from a concert at the Graystone Garden in Detroit, with Satchmo featured as "Lou Armstrong, World's Greatest Trumpet Player", courtesy of Linda Fitak.


Jelly Roll Pete - mystery solved!

In my post from February 28, I reported on an unknown pianist by the nickname of Jelly Roll Pete and his obscure recording on a label called Hilarity. The identity of this pianist seemed to have been an unsolved mystery for years.

Well, in fact this mystery was solved on August 2008 by Max Keenlyside from the very interesting and scholarly focused Yahoo group "Elite Syncopations".

The pianist is a gentleman named Peter Fahrenholtz, who lives in Denmark. According to the experts from Elite Syncopations (most of them reputed ragtime and oldtime jazz pianists), the playing style is identical, right down to the sustained final chord in each piece, an so are the tone of the piano and the audio quality.




James P. Johnson's last rent party - reviewed

The James P. Johnson Foundation, the Johnson family and Smalls Club organized an all day “rent party” to raise money to buy a monument to commemorate this great musician who so far rests in peace in an unmarked grave in Maspeth, Queens, Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

The concert took place last Sunday, October 4, at Smalls Jazz Club, and Ben Ratliff has reviewed it for the New York Times. Some excerpts are reproduced here:


Raising Roof and Headstone for Pioneering Pianist
Published: October 5, 2009

"A definition of righteousness: about 75 people, crammed into the West Village club Smalls, watching a series of pianists play James P. Johnson on a grand piano in a benefit concert to buy a headstone for his grave.


Johnson died in 1955 fairly isolated after four years of illness, and his body lies in an unmarked grave in Maspeth, Queens. The spot was found in February by Scott Brown, a Johnson scholar, and the idea was hatched for “James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party,” a daylong blowout of Johnsonia at Smalls on Sunday, with historical talks and performances.

The day ended with five hours of solo piano — by 12 performers — and a little bit of four-hands playing. Unlike the Harlem rent parties Johnson used to play, it wasn’t remotely a competition. Though several pianists wrestled with the same material (especially the charging “Carolina Shout”), the emphasis was not on besting one another but on beneficially knocking the tunes around, treating fairly neglected music like common repertory.

Ethan Iverson, the pianist from the Bad Plus, announced that the beginning of his set would be “classical”: an earnest shot at Johnson’s style. He played “Carolina Shout” with sensitivity and clarity, keeping the stride rhythm steady in the left hand. Then he went off into his own updated, posteverything style, full of explicit dissonance, repetition and strange dynamics.

“The Charleston” was his killer: it started with deliberately messy tone rows, his two hands playing at cross-purposes, the left staccato and slow, the right flowing and medium-tempo. Inevitably, and with humor, he finished in the song’s proper style.

Mike Lipskin, a pianist based in San Francisco who studied with the stride pianist Willie (The Lion) Smith, played stride-piano songs as if they were his drinking buddies: his versions of Johnson’s “It Takes Love to Cure the Heart’s Disease” and Luckey Roberts’s “Pork and Beans” were rowdy and familiar, and he made Johnson’s “If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)” mellifluous and lovely, smiling at the audience rather than monitoring the difficult variations in his left-hand stride patterns.

The evening’s revelation was Aaron Diehl, a pianist in his mid-20s who has played with Wynton Marsalis and Wycliffe Gordon. His style, on “Scaling the Blues,” “Over the Bars” and the second movement of Johnson’s “Jazzamine Concerto,” was modest, secure and insinuating, with an iron sense of time. A few different pianists worked in their own tunes as Johnson tributes; Mr. Diehl’s was a slow, gorgeous blues.

Ted Rosenthal and Dick Hyman closed the night. They performed some pieces together at the keyboard, including “Twilight Rag”; then Mr. Hyman, one of the world’s great specialists in early jazz piano, performed Johnson’s music with well-practiced dynamic shifts, elegant and sometimes a bit too showy for the circumstances. But complaining is pointless. Mr. Hyman smoothly played the entire 10-minutes-plus solo-piano version of Johnson’s “Yamekraw,” a rhapsody with classical flourishes and stride interjections. Who else does that?"



Sax ads [1] - It's Bueschers...for Count Basie

This post opens a series of musical instruments ads published in different periodicals through the decades. Let's start with jazz nobility...

Music And Rhythm (October 1941)


Fats Waller On The Air: 1938 Broadcasts

Fats Waller scholar and discographer Stephen Taylor has just released a CD called Fats Waller on the Air: 1938 Broadcasts (TPR-FW0102), containing three complete broadcasts (NBC Broadcast - 12 July 1938, Broadcast to America - 10 September 1938, and Yacht Club Broadcast - 18 October 1938) plus four bonus tracks from vinyl test pressings. The CD includes 30 tracks of which 15 tracks are previously unissued. Stephen has remastered the recordings himself.

You can order it online from his Thomas “Fats” Waller website.


El estudioso y discógrafo de Fats Waller Stephen Taylor acaba de editar un CD con el nombre de Fats Waller on the Air: 1938 Broadcasts (TPR-FW0102), que contiene tres programas radiofónicos completos (NBC Broadcast, del 12 de julio de 1938, Broadcast to America, del 10 de septiembre de 1938 y Yacht Club Broadcast, del 18 de octubre de 1938), además de cuatro temas extra que proceden de test pressings de vinilo. El CD incluye 30 temas, de los cuales 15 son inéditos. El propio Stephen ha remasterizado las grabaciones.

Se puede adquirir online a través de su web dedicada a Thomas “Fats” Waller.

Jabbo Smith day in Milwaukee

From Chris Albertson's liner notes for Hot Jazz In The Twenties (Biograph BCD 151 & 152):

"In 1961, when I was working for Riverside Records, someone in Milwaukee sent us two reels of tape containing a recent live performance by Jabbo Smith. We were amazed, because -for reasons to which I can find no logic- we assumed that Jabbo had long been dead. In an era of stereo LPs, FM, jet aircraft, post-bop, and nuclear power, Jabbo's 78 rpm discs seemed downright historical, and he -though actually still in his fifties- was, in our minds, "legendary". The truth was that Jabbo had worked and appeared as a sideman on relatively obscure recording sessions during the Thirties, and remained active into the Fifties. The 1961 tapes captured a "comeback" concert sponsored by the Milwaukee Jazz Society, but it failed to get Jabbo into the national spotlight. They were crudely recorded, but Jabbo's work was still impressive. Bil Grauer, the force behind Riverside, was delighted and wanted to see Jabbo continue his career on the label, but that project somehow fell through, so Jabbo Smith remained a local Wisconsin attraction for another 20 years, or so."

To my knowledge, those tapes were never published but other "hidden treasures" from that same year did finally see the light of day: the June 3 and October 15, 1961 recording sessions promoted by guitarist Marty Grosz (Jazz Art TR520699 & TR520700).

Being a Milwaukee resident for several decades, Jabbo Smith got quite a few hommages in his adoptive hometown. In June 1977, he was honored as "a living jazz immortal" at the 4th annual Unlimited Jazz Ltd. Festival on the Memorial Center promenade. The music was provided by some local jazz musicians, and Jabbo refused to play. "How's the lip?," someone asked. "You know," Jabbo shrugged, smiling.

This article was published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on June 27, 1977: