Hank Jones - In memoriam

Jack Teagarden, Dixie Bailey, Mary Lou Williams, Tadd Dameron, Hank Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, and Milt Orent at Mary Lou Williams' apartment, New York, ca. Aug. 1947. Copyright by William P. Gottlieb.

Baltimore AfroAmerican, September 20, 1947

Milwaukee Sentinel, October 10, 1952

Norwalk Hour, November 1, 1957


Vocalists on Ellington's March 30, 1926 Gennett session

In the latest issue of VJM's Jazz & Blues Mart magazine (#157 - Summer 2010), Steven Lasker contributes with an article on Duke Ellington's March 30, 1926 session for Gennett and, specifically, on who's the vocalist on "(You've Got Those) 'Wanna Go Back Home Again' Blues" and "If You Can't Hold The Man You Love" (Gennett 3291).

Here's how Ellington's specialist Eddie Lambert describes this session in his wonderful book Duke Ellington: A Listener's Guide (Scarecrow Press, 1999): "This session was the first of two for the Gennett label, each of which produced two titles. With Miley absent again, the band was that of the preceeding session, augmented by trombonist Jimmy Harrison, and by Prince Robinson and George Thomas, both doubling clarinet and tenor sax. Thus say the discographers, but aurally the band sounds smaller, and it seems probable that Harrison and Thomas were used solely as vocalists. "'Wanna Go Back Again' Blues" (with a vocal by Thomas) includes the first instance on record of imaginative scoring by Ellington, albeit briefly and in a novelty mold. After the band introduction, Hardwick's playing of the theme on baritone is skillfuly offset by two clarinets and the trumpets. This is a considerable contrast to the conventional saxes-against-brass scoring in the eight-bar verse and in the bridge of Irvis's chorus. "If You Can't Hold The Man You Love" (vocal by Jimmy Harrison) has a passage for plunger-muted trumpets which is a distant precursor of what Ellington called his "pep section" in later years. The style, however, looks back to the King Oliver manner and is reminiscent of Oliver's two-cornet breaks with Louis Armstrong on the Creole Jazz Band recordings of three years earlier. Irvis has a terse eight bars but otherwise the performance is dull, despite an attempt to ginger up the last chorus by having Robinson play a piping clarinet improvisation against a written ensemble. This foreshadows a device used regularly and successfully in later years, but in this instance it fails to counteract the prevailing medriocrity".

Since Delaunay's 1938 Hot Discography, almost every published discography (including Rust and Jepsen) has shown George Thomas on the first one and Jimmy Harrison on the second one. As an exception, Bruyninckx lists Jimmy Harrison on both tracks.

On the other hand, Mark Tucker's Ellington: The Early Years (University of Illinois Press, 1991), which contains three pages on this session, lists Sonny Greer on "(You've Got Those) 'Wanna Go Back Home Again' Blues" and Jimmy Harrison on "If You Can't Hold The Man You Love".

Based on Sonny Greer's recollection as recalled by Brooks Kerr, the historical circunstances, and aural evidence, Lasker concludes that neither Thomas nor Harrison take the vocals on those numbers, and that it would have been natural for Ellington to use Sonny Greer as vocalist (as he was the band's regular singer) rather that hiring an outsider such as Thomas or Harrison.

It should be noted that Lasker's recent statement agrees with Luciano Massagli's and Giovanni M. Volonté's The New Desor (Milano, 1999) (thanks to David Palmquist and Ken Steiner for pointing this out to me) and with the current on-line edition of Tom Lord's discography.

Jimmie Noone bio-discography - long overdue!

Jimmie Noone - Jazz Clarinet Pioneer, the new bio-discography of the great clarinetist by James K. Williams, is available from the author at tubawhip@comcast.net for $20 US per copy plus packaging and postage ($4 US in US, $4.50 US to Canada and $8 US to overseas destinations).

This book has 120 pages and includes extensive photographs from the Frank Driggs and Duncan Schiedt collections, Chicago Defender advert art and several historic Noone documents. A long overdue tribute!


Dust the mouldy pics off! [2] - Elmer Snowden's Nest Club Orch.

Elmer Snowden's Nest Club Orchestra in 1925

Left to right: Te Roy Williams (trombone), Elmer Snowden (leader and banjo), Joe Garland (alto and baritone saxophones), Walter Johnson (drums), Freddy Johnson (piano), Bob Ysaguirre (tuba), Prince Robinson (tenor sax and clarinet) and Rex Stewart (cornet).

Dust the mouldy pics off! [1] - Keppard with Lil Armstrong

Tonight I'm starting a series on old photographs published in The Jazz Information magazine in 1940 & 1941, featuring jazz bands from the 1920s. Some of them are very good shots; some of them are of substandard quality. Some of them have been published elsewhere; some of them I haven't seen anywhere else. All of them are a very importante piece in the jazz hisory puzzle; all of them are worth rescuing.

Hope you enjoy'em!

Freddie Keppard with Lil Armstrong's band

From left to right: John Thomas (trombone), Ted Eggleston (drums), Lil Armstrong (piano), Freddie Keppard (cornet) and Jerome 'Don' Pasquall (clarinet). This group was formed in 1928, when Pasquall was leading his own twelve-piece orchestra at Harmon's Dreamland, the Arcadia Ballroom and various benefits in Chicago, with Freddie Keppard on cornet. Lil Armstrong asked Don to form a small group for gigs around Illinois and Indiana, and the combination illustrated was the result. The band was always on demand, Don says, because it was a "real hot band, with Freddie blowing his top every session. In fact, Freddie was a whole brass section by himself".


The Lion at Suburban Gardens (1939)

Suburban Gardens was the first major amusement park within Washington, D.C.. Located at 50th and Hayes Streets, in the Deanwood neighborhood near the National Training School for Women and Girls, it opened in 1921 and was in operation for almost two decades, closing by 1940. Today Merritt Elementary School occupies part of the site of Suburban Gardens.

Suburban Gardens was created by the Universal Development and Loan Company, a black-owned real estate and development company. Apart from a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, several swimming pools, games of chance and picnic grounds, there was also a large dance pavilion where popular jazz musicians performed.

Here's where our Lion enters the game. He played there for three consecutive nights on June 23, 24 & 25, 1939, billed as the "King of Swing" (sic) and accompanied by his Junglecats including vocalist and dancer Ollie Potter. Dancing started at 8:30... with no known end.

Washington Afro-American (June 17, 1939)