Monday, November 26, 2012

Hines' Varieties

On the ball: The Fatha takes a break from the keys to roll a few at the lanes. Very
nice form, don't you agree? This was taken about the time these recordings were
made. From "The World of Earl Hines"

Here's another Earl Hines offering – one that's a bit more contemporary than those of our previous postings. Hines has long been one of my favorite players, ever since I first heard his keyboard gymnastics on "Weather Bird" with Louis. His sense of rhythm was far more advance than any of his contemporaries, with the possible exception of James P. He just knocked me out!

I was filing away some records I'd pulled for my radio show when I came across this gem. It's another of those cheapo budget records from the early '60s, but it's not one that you see very often and the music reissued on it comes from an interesting period in Hines' career. Plus, these sides were all originally recorded for the short-lived Sunrise label in Chicago, making them pretty rare (back before the Internet, that is).

There's another reason why I decided to upload these files. The record has an interesting story behind it (are you surprised?). 

When I was living in Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago, I spent a lot of time in used record stores and thrift shops. There were great records to be found there as you might imagine, and I found quite a few. One day I purchased an LP with curious notes on its backside written in blue ballpoint pen ink. The notes added information on personnel, and on session dates and locations. They also commented on the various tunes on the LP – things like "Dynamite Blowing – a Real KICK!!!" and "Slow Burner – Tpt. Solo – Bold!!!" Whoever had made the notes used exclamation points freely.

A sample of the mysterious annotations, made
on a Duke Ellington record. The writer put much
effort into drawing lines and curious symbols.
I didn't think much of it until I came across another LP with similar jottings. And then another, and another. I began seeing dozens of records with the ballpoint marginalia in many of my record haunts. I decided that somebody was getting rid of a collection of primo jazz sides piece by piece, selling LPs to dealers as circumstances dictated. The variety of detailed information and the evaluations of the tunes (the writer had an elaborate system of stars and crosses for rating them) made me suspect that the original owner may have been a radio DJ. The notes served as a guide for picking material for his show on the fly – he wouldn't have to preview the music, just grab and go. 

I never found out the true story behind the ballpoint annotator, but I did end up with about thirty of his records. This Hines LP is one of them. The interesting thing about his notes is that he not only knows the correct date and place for Hines' Sunrise sessions, but he knows many of the players as well (more than are listed in my discography). The record itself offers no info whatsoever on the material. My question is this: How did this fellow know these things? Did he have the original Sunrise releases? Did he know one of the sidemen, or possibly Hines himself? Was he a serious hipster on the scene? This last hypothesis seems to be borne out in his liberal use of jive argot – as in "T-pipe" for "tenor saxophone."

Johnny Hartman
Whatever the case, we have here some rare Hines recordings that capture the Fatha in a period of transition. His big band had just been disbanded, a victim of changing tastes and shrinking budgets, and he'd just been hired by his former recording partner, Louis Armstrong, to be a sideman in Satchmo's first All-Stars unit. It must have been a difficult time for Earl. Victor was no longer recording him, so he went with Sunrise and issued a series of tunes in a variety of styles. In this download you'll hear the first gleanings of R&B, sweet ballads with strings and some straight-ahead jazz in the tradition. It's like Hines was hoping something would catch the public's ear but wasn't sure quite what.

The Dark Angel of the violin –
Eddie South
That said, you get to hear the immortal violinist Eddie South on three of these titles (and maybe more if, like me, you suspect it's Eddie South and not Bill Dougherty playing fiddle on some of the other tunes). You'll also hear the first recordings of a young up-and-coming baritone named Johnny Hartman, as fluid and smooth as he'd ever be even at age 24. Then there are the fine arrangements of Ernie Wilkins (or is it Budd Johnson?) on the big band sides. The jump tunes with Wini Brown feature a band pulled from Lionel Hampton's orchestra – with Mingus on bass! "Blues for Garroway," by the way, refers to Dave Garroway, then a nationally known Chicago radio personality and promoter of jazz. Earl no doubt was hoping Garroway would use the tune for his theme.

After 1947, Earl Hines would never again front an orchestra of his own on a permanent basis. Too bad, but then we wouldn't have his many decades of stellar trio and quartet work. So enjoy this last gasp of one Hines tradition. And see if the mysterious annotator doesn't inspire you to form your own theories about his story.

As always, these files were ripped from the original vinyl with just a mild cleaning of light pops and clicks.


Earl Hines and His Orchestra
Earl Hines
Hines, p; Morris Lane, ts; Eddie South, vi; Bob Wyatt, org; Ernest Ashley, g; unk. b, d.
Chicago, IL; December 1947

1. Honeysuckle Rose
2. Dark Eyes
3. Blues for Garroway

Hines, p; Duke Garette, tp; Bobby Plater, as; Morris Lane, ts; Charlie Fowlkes, bar; Bill Dougherty, vi; Bill Mackel, g; Charles Mingus, b; Curley Hamner, d; Wini Brown, unk., v.
Chicago, IL; December 1947

4. The Sheik of Araby
5. No Good Woman Blues

Hines, p; prob. Willie Cook, Vernon Smith, Fats Palmer, Charlie Anderson, tp; Bennie Green, Walter Harris, Gordon Alston, tbn; Clifton Small, tbn, p; Scoops Carey, Thomas Crump, as; Ernie Wilkins, Budd Johnson, ts; Wallace Brodis, bar; Bob Wyatt, org; unk., vbs; Skeeter Betts or Bill Mackel, g; Calvin Ponders, b; Gus Johnson, d; Johnny Hartman, Melrose Colbert, v; unk. string section.
Chicago, IL; late 1947

6. Ain’t Misbehavin’

Personnel as 4, 5:
7. Bow-legged Mama

Personnel as 6:
8. Black and Blue
9. I Need a Shoulder to Cry On

Personnel as 4, 5:
10. My Name Is on the Doorbell

Find it here:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wailin' with Hamp

Lionel Hampton runs through a few two-fingered piano riffs prior to a show in the late '50s.
Photo from "Hamp," his autobiography

Barry O snags a
second shot.
The re-election of President Barack Obama reminds me of a time when I was directly involved in presidential politics, and that spurs me to offer this recording by the great Lionel Hampton. The connection may be a stretch, but I'll go with it since it's nice to have a logic (however contrived) behind these musings here on Gems.

In 1970, I worked for the late Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign, going door to door in the Syracuse, NY, region in an effort to get out the vote. Like many college kids from that era, I was firmly against the war in Viet Nam and believed that George would end it once elected. My canvassing partner and I were assigned to one of the poorer neighborhoods and the work was anything but easy. People answered our knocks – when they answered at all – with half-opened doors and suspicious looks. Nobody wanted to hear us talk about the Senator from South Dakota; they just wanted to get the two white kids from somewhere else off their front porch. 

Lionel Hampton chats with Richard M. during a visit to
the White House in 1970.
The experience impressed upon me just how complex the American political landscape can be. Another example could be found in Lionel Hampton's very public support for former Vice President Richard Nixon, McGovern's opponent. Back then I was just beginning to explore this music called jazz, and the idea that someone of Hamp's stature could support a war-mongering honky square like Tricky Dick just defied all logic. Of course, my eighteen-year-old political reasoning was anything but nuanced. But I really had trouble getting my head around the fact that a jazz giant was embracing a guy who seemed to be against everything that jazz stood for.

Of course, McGovern went down in one of the worst defeats anyone in a presidential election has ever experienced. Nixon went on to run afoul of the Watergate caper and also came up a loser. Our bumper stickers in Boston read, "Don't blame me – I'm from Massachusetts." 

But Lionel Hampton went on to play music for another three decades, swinging just as hard as he ever did. He was clearly a survivor, and that spoke volumes about his decision to go with the Repubs. That and the fact that his politics were pretty conservative to start with.

There's nothing political about this posting. It's just Hamp and the guys blowing for a rowdy crowd at a dance at Chicago's famed Trianon Ballroom. This is how live-in-concert recordings should sound – the crowd is vociferous, hip and paying attention. And Hamp and his men rise to the occasion. No great soloists here – Jay Peters and Jay Dennison are featured, and neither is exceptional. But they have a grand time and, if you can overlook Dennison's repetitious "Casbah stuff," you will too. And Hamp's solo turn on "Stardust" is worth the download all by itself.

As always, these tunes were ripped from the original vinyl, in this case a mono veteran of many years of repeated playings. There was a lot of surface noise that had to be cleaned up, so you may notice some minor digital artifacts here and there. But play it loud, roll back the rugs and pretend you too are at the Trianon ...

Wailin’ at the Trianon
Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra

Hampton, vbs; Billy Brooks, Wallace Davenport, Ed Mullens, Roy Slaughter, tp; George Cooper, Al Hayse, Harold Roberts, tbn; Jay Dennison, as; Bobbie Plater, fl, as; Edwin Frazier, Jay Peters, ts; Oscar Estell, bar; Dwike Mitchell, p; Billy Mackel, g; Peter Badie, b; Bill Eddleton, d.
Trianon Ballroom, Chicago, IL; July 22, 1954; Columbia CL1711

1. The Chase  12:05
2. Stardust  6:34
3. Mark VII  5:28
4. How High the Moon  8:58
5. Love for Sale  5:39
6. Wailin’ at the Trianon  6:17