Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jukebox Jazz: Tenors

The year is 1953, it's July and it's hot in New York City. Especially in your third-floor walk-up aprtment in a Harlem brownstone at 129th and Fifth Avenue. Too hot to even hang out on the stoop. So you stroll four blocks down to 125 and slide into the Lenox Lounge around the corner. They've got air-conditioning, cold beer and, best of all, a hot jukebox. The sides aren't the latest, and they're a little worse for wear – especially the hits – but each one jumps more than the last. You drop a nickle in the slot, punch up A-12, and straddle a stool at the bar as the opening chords to "Robbin's Nest" fill the room. That feels better!

I've been collecting 78 rpm records since about 1970, and sometimes I like to think of them in context. Like the scenario above. Perhaps one or two of these sides actually was in a jukebox in a joint in Harlem, or on South Central, or Cottage Groove and Indiana. So, since the warm months are coming up, I thought it might be nice to assemble a set of lounge-type sides for your summer listening. Each tune features a tenor player – though not always as the leader. They all come from the decade 1944 to 1953, so they mostly qualify as bop-inflected jump blues, precursors to rock 'n' roll. There are some stellar moments, like Lucky Thompson's accompaniment to Lips Page's vocalizing and Georgie Auld's soprano work on "Heaven." And then there's 26-year-old Billy Taylor comping with an organ player while John Hardee takes a chorus – unusual to say the least!

Some of these recordings are available elsewhere, but most are not. You can find the McVeas and Jacquets if you look, but the Ben Webster sides (actually a Tony Scott date) are real rarities (they feature Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie). So you may decide this jukebox set is worth your downloading efforts. When the temperature hits 90 degrees, they may be just hot enough to cool things down.

As always, these tunes have been ripped from the original discs with only a bit of sound cleaning. Be forewarned that there is some surface noise.

(Personnel, dates and labels are included with the download.)

Illinois Jacquet
1. Robbin’s Nest
2. Jacquet’s Mood
3. Blow, Illinois, Blow
4. Illinois Blows the
5. Jacquet Bounce
6. Jumpin’ at Apollo
7. Jacquet in the Box
8. Jacquet and Coat

Georgie Auld
9. Airmail Special
10. Here Comes Heaven Again

Lucky Thompson
11. The Lady in Bed
12. It Ain’t Like That
13. Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?

Ben Webster
14. All Too Soon
15. Ten Lessons with Timothy

John Hardee
16. Take the A Train
17. The Bug

Eddie Lockjaw Davis
18. Chihuahua
19. I Only Have Eyes for You

Jack McVea
20. Don’t Blame Me
21. O-kay for Baby
22. Play It Over
23. My Business Is C.O.D.

Find it here:

Jack McVea and his jumping band, including drummer Rabon Tarrant (next to Jack who is opening the bus door), about to embark on a tour to promote their Black & White hit, "Open the Door Richard." Photo from "Harlem of the West: Fillmore Jazz Era"