Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Twenty Fifteen

New Year's greetings from our pals at Down Beat, circa 1947, back when the editors were printing on cheap newsprint in an effort to control costs. By the end of the year, readers' complaints made them switch back magazine-quality paper, and our archivist is very glad they did. From Gems' DB collection

Another year come and gone, and still so many Gems yet to share. Happy New Year to all our friends out there in the ether and best wishes for a prosperous, swinging 2015! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Relatively Lucky

A dapper Lucky Thompson, decked out ala mode Parisian. In the end, despite being one of America's greatest tenor players, he had little to smile about. Photographer unknown

Here's another jazz treasure, courtesy of WJFF's annual music sale, held every year right around Thanksgiving time. It's an event definitely worth giving thanks for if you're a vinyl hound like myself. We've posted record sale items here on Gems before, and this year's haul was especially good. Chief among the rarities was this long-out-of-print, wildly obscure LP by Eli "Lucky" Thompson. I snagged it, and now you can have a copy, too.

A few more gems from the music sale. Note the other Lucky Thompson, this one on ABC, made just prior to Lucky's heading off to Europe. A must-have LP, too, and readily available.

After spending half-a-dozen productive years in Europe, Lucky returned stateside in 1964 to have another go at making a living in the land of his birth. He waxed several very good LPs for Prestige and then somehow hooked up with a start-up company called Rivoli. The label's output was limited to a few short years before it went under, but in that time span Thompson recorded two excellent albums for Rivoli. This is the second of the two and it is Lucky's tribute to his roots – his "kinfolks."

In other news, gang, your humble interlocutor has returned to the airwaves at the esteemed broadcaster mentioned above, namely WJFF 90.5 FM in Jeffersonville, NY. That's right, I'm back hosting a weekly two-hour radio show, this time featuring 60 minutes of jazz followed by 60 minutes of blues. The program's called "Blues Connotation" (thank you, Ornette) and so far my tens of listeners seem to like it. You may remember that I ended my previous show on the station a few years back so I could spend a more time with my family (that's what what you're supposed say). I'll post a link to the new one on the column to the right in case you should find yourself with nothing else to listen to one day.

One other thing – WJFF has the distinction of being America's only hydro-electrically powered radio station, courtesy of nearby Jeffersonville Hydroelectric Co. There's a lake next to the station that lets Jeff Hydro generate the juice that lights up the board in Master Control and allows jazz-obsessed gents like myself to disseminate America's classical music for 60 miles in all directions. What power!

The mighty dam on Lake Jefferson in Jeffersonville (can you tell our little burg likes the country's third president?), the power source for WJFF. To give you a sense of its size, the spillway is about three stories high. Gems photo
So here's another Gem to celebrate this blog's host returning to the airwaves, and to share a once-in-a-lifetime find with all our screen-staring friends in the blog-o-sphere. As always, these files were ripped from the original vinyl with no, nada, cleaning of the sound. Dig!

Kinfolks Corner
Lucky Thompson and Friends
Rivoli 44
Lucky Thompson, ts, ss; Tommy Flanagan*, p; Frank Anderson, org; Wally Richardson, g; Willie Ruff, b; Oliver Jackson, Walter Perkins*, d.
New York City, NY; 1966

1. You Stepped Out of Dream*
2. Kinfolks Corner (Thompson)
3. Open Haus* (Thompson)
4. I'll Be Around*
5. Star Eyes*
6. Poor Butterfly
7. Anthropology*
8. Who Can I Turn To?
9. Caressable* (Thompson)

Find it here:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chazz Workshop

The Baron steps up to the mic. Wonder if this was also a broadcast? A photo
from several decades earlier than the period represented by this download,
probably taken on 52nd Street. Bob Parent photo

Well, gang, this here's our 100th posting on Gems of Jazz. Where does the time go? Since it's a special occasion, I thought I should post a real rarity. Not that many of the other items on Gems aren't in that category, but this one is – as far as I know – only available here. I've been saving it for a banner moment, and now that moment has arrived. 

You all know Charles Mingus. You probably know that his last great quintet was the one that featured Jack Walrath, George Adams and Don Pullen along with Dannie Richmond and the boss. You may also know that there are very few live recordings of this stellar group. 

Well, here's one more.

The Jazz Workshop (and Paul's Mall) on Boylston
Street in 
the mid-1970s.
To wit, the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop at the Jazz Workshop, 733 Boylston Street in good ol' Boston. The band appeared there on May 7 and 8, 1975, just before heading off to the Montreux Jazz Festival on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Mingus was in Boston for two nights, playing two sets each night and working out some of the new material he was going to perform in Switzerland. He was in declining health, suffering from the first symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease. But his playing – and especially that of his new quintet – was superb.

At the time, I was working at Discount Records in Allston (see a previous post on Walt Dickerson) and was lucky enough to get free tickets to the second of those nights at the Workshop, courtesy of our WEA rep (Mingus was on Atlantic at the time). The first night's show, I learned, was going to be broadcast live over WBUR, Boston University Radio. It was a Boris Rose moment: I decided I had to tape the broadcast.

The record store where I worked had a sideline selling cheapo stereo equipment, stuff that was made somewhere in Asia but was stamped with the CBS brand (CBS owned Discount Records). I didn't own a tape recorder, so I talked my boss into letting me borrow a cassette tape deck that was the store's demo model. I took it home and figured out how to wire it up to an old GE FM tube radio that I'd bought at a yard sale during my college days. I tuned in WBUR, ran tape, and to my great surprise and delight, was able to get a decent test recording. I eagerly waited for the 9 p.m. Jazz Workshop broadcast.

When the program began, I started the tape deck and hoped for the best. The show got underway a little late (jazz time) and the audio was pretty funky at first, but then suddenly there was Mingus and the band and some pretty amazing music. The demo deck performed flawlessly, considering that it was a bargain-basement piece of equipment. I used a 90-minute CBS cassette and had to hurriedly flip it once Side 1 ran out. But the recording came out OK, as you will hear, given the limitations of WBUR's engineering and my device. There's a persistent tape hiss, but I hope you can overlook that.

Here's Mingus during an earlier
visit to the Jazz Workshop in 
courtesy of Warren S.
The next night I went with a friend to the Jazz Workshop and caught Mingus' first set. Charles smoked a cigar through the whole performance and at one point I remember its ash leaving a dusty trail down his shirt front. George Adams sang an outrageous version of Gatemouth Brown's "Devil Blues," and Don Pullen deconstructed the piano repeatedly. It was the only time I saw Mingus live, and it was transcendent.

These shows are not listed in the Jazz Discography Project's page on Mingus, so apparently no recording has survived. Until now. So grab this one and enjoy the sound of the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop and my Boris Rose moment.

As an added bonus, here's George Adams performing "Devil Blues" at the aforementioned Montreux Jazz Festival. The trumpet player isn't Jack Walrath – I'm not sure who he is, but the rest of the band is there. (Note to self: After doing a little checking, the trumpeter is Claudio Roditi.)

Charles Mingus Quintet
WBUR Broadcast

Mingus, b; Jack Walrath, tp; George Adams, ts; Don Pullen, p; Dannie Richmond, d.
Jazz Workshop, Boston, MA; May 7, 1975

1. Introduction/Nobody Knows
2. Fables of Faubus
3. Peggy's Blue Skylight
4. Noddin' Your Head Blues
5. Ornithology/Cherokee

Find it here:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Battle of the Sexes

Norma Carson and Clark Terry go blow for blow in a promo shot, possibly taken around the time of the recording featured in this posting. Photographer unknown

I don't know about you, but I'm not a real fan of concept albums. The organizing conceit usually causes the music to play second fiddle, with the resulting whole often sounding less than the sum of its parts (if that makes any sense). But this record piqued my interest when I saw it offered at and I had to pick it up. Girls vs. boys in a best-of-four jazz donnybrook? Find out which sex plays better jazz!

Ridiculous, I know. But still, haven't you always wondered what a direct performance comparison between male and female jazz players would sound like? No? Well, me either until I got this disc. After listening, I was surprised to find that the differences were ... essentially nil. Each group swings, plays well together and solos with conviction. That was a surprise, especially considering the line-up for the guys' team. Clark Terry? Lucky Thompson? Horace Silver, Urbie Green, Tal Farlow, Percy Heath AND Kenny Clarke? That just didn't seem fair. 

But I love Mary Osborne, the little I've heard of her playing (there isn't much), and I've always appreciated Terry Pollard and Beryl Booker (the little I've heard of their playing – not much of that either). So maybe the match-up was more equal than it first appeared.

As I was listening, I did a little research into the feminine side of the personnel – and came away very impressed! Terry Pollard, for instance. I knew she played with Terry Gibbs, but not much more. Check this out:

Wiki says she also performed with Coltrane, Bird, Miles, Duke, Nat, Dinah and Ella. I can see why. It's a mystery that we don't have more recordings from her. But then, with this record we do.

Then there's Corky Hecht. Or maybe I should say Merrilyn Hecht. Or Corky Hale. I'd heard her name before and knew she played harp (she's on an obscure Kitty White record that I have), but that was about it. Turns out she's a monster talent on multiple levels: harpist, pianist, singer, actress, producer – and centerfold! At nearly 40, she did some demo work for the songwriting duo Lieber & Stoller and wound up marrying Mike Stoller. Around that time, she was a regular on Johnny Carson. Dig:

Mary Osborne we all know (or should). She got her chops directly from Charlie Christian, sitting in with him long before Benny Goodman had ever heard of him. Here's Mary with a few of the boys in an excerpt from Art Ford's Jazz Party in 1958:

And then there's Beryl Booker and Norma Carson, both veterans and both very underrated players. You get to hear them go up against the fellas, tune for tune. Producer Leonard Feather has other critics act as judges and they wind up calling the match a draw. I would agree. See what you think.

This LP was originally issued as an EP with just the "cats vs. chicks" material. When MGM repackaged it as a 12-inch album, they added six more tunes featuring Terry Pollard in trio and quartet settings. She plays both piano and vibes in an impressive set of standards and originals. A most welcome addition.

So here's a concept album that I think we all can appreciate. As always, these files come right from the original vinyl with very little cleaning of the sound required. 

Cats vs. ChicksClark Terry, Terry PollardMGM E3614
Cats: Clark Terry, tp; Lucky Thompson, ts; Urbie Green, tbn; Horace Silver, p; Tal Farlow, g; Percy Heath, b; Kenny Clarke, d.Chicks: Norman Carson, tp; Terry Pollard, vbs; Corky Hecht, harp; Beryl Booker, p; Mary Osborne, g; Bonnie Wetzel, b; Elaine Leighton, d.New York, NY, 1958
1. Cat Meets Chick (Cats)2. Cat Meets Chick (Chicks)3. Mamblues (Cats)4. Mamblues (Chicks)5. The Man I Love (Chicks)6. The Man I Love (Cats)7. Anything You Can Do (Both)
Terry Pollard, vbs, p; Terry Gibbs, p; Ernie Farrow, b; Frank DiVito, d.New York, NY, 1958
8. Good Bait9. I Remember You10. Terry's Blues11. That Feeling12. Terry's Romp13. Emaline
Find it here:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rare Strings

Mingus during his insurance salesman period. Actually, the Baron was recording for Fantasy at the time – the early 1960s – and the garb was most likely a hedge against San Francisco's famous fog. Photo by William Claxton

Well, gang, I'm pleased to announce that I have come across the Holy Grail of record collecting – at least, to me. Ironically, this Gem comes from eBay, a place where I rarely spend more than a buck for a record. But a very nice fellow was selling a couple hundred LPs for a nominal price, and buried within them was this EP from 1952 (the year of my birth). I just happened to notice it as I was killing time at work going through the cheapo listings on the auction site.

The last photo in the posting had the gold,
including "Stings and Keys." Lots of other nice
10-inchers, too.
Right there, in one of the photos of a his collection, plain as day, was Charles Mingus' first release on Debut, a record the bassist recorded in the early 1950s with pianist Spaulding Givens. They waxed it for another label but later released it on Mingus' own imprint. It's historic because it's the first independently-produced record by a jazz artist, and because it's rare Mingus. The initial pressing was probably only 500 EPs.

The seller seemed to know very little about jazz, and I was curious about the collection, because much of it was Mancini, Bert Keampfert, Les Brown and other easy-listening stuff. But mixed in were some pretty heavy and rare jazz recordings, mostly by bass players. There were also several bass instruction records. It seemed like an odd mix.

When I met up with the seller to make the buy, he told me the collection had been his grandfather's. He said the old gent had been a swing bass player and that he'd played in bands most of his life. He lived in the Corning, NY, area and worked most often with an big band called, curiously enough, the Mohicans. I found listings for them in old newspapers in my newspaper's morgue. Judging by the collection, the bassist started out playing bebop but later switched to the more conventional swing style, probably in an effort to make a little money. Not much call back in the 1950s for "Ooh Bop Sha'bam" in upstate New York, I'm guessing. He bought the easy-listening stuff so that he could practice the popular tunes that dancers wanted to hear.

Marian McPartland and the trio from a decade
or so before this recording was waxed. Joe
Morello on drums with Vinnie Burke on bass.
The other gem in this posting is a very rare EP from the late, lamented Marian McPartland. This one also comes from eBay and I don't know why nobody else bid on it. But I got it for 99 cents, and was very pleased that I did. It features Ms. McPartland actually playing some muscular stuff, unlike what she'd been recording for Capitol prior to this date. The strings are here, yes (including the ever-present Harry Lookofsky), but the arrangements by Frank Hunter are a cut above the usual treacle that backed Marian following her London House days. Phil Bodner is also present, playing flute quite nicely. The Sesac label was one that didn't last long, and this little disc features four of the twelve tunes that were recorded on this date back in 1964. There must have been an LP release, but I've never seen it.

So here's an extremely rare Mingus recording and another rarity that we offer as a tribute to Ms. McPartland. As always, these files were dubbed from the original vinyl. The Mingus tunes have a lot of hiss to them, but I suspect that's how they sounded when the record was new (the vinyl is visually pristine). The notation on the cover was made by the previous owner – and I left it there as a tribute to him. Dig!

Strings and Keys
Charles Mingus and Spaulding Givens 
Spaulding Givens, p; Charles Mingus, b.
New York, NY; April 1952; Debut DLP 1

1. What Is This Thing Called Love
2. Darn That Dream
3. Yesterdays
4. Body and Soul
5. Blue Moon
6. Blue Tide

It Swings
Marian McPartland 
Marian McPartland, p; Phil Bodner, fl; Harry lookofsy, Leo Kruczek, vi; Harold Coletta, viola; Alan Shulman, cello; Barry Galbraith, g; George Duvivier, b; Dave Bailey, d; Frank Hunter, arr.
New York, NY; June 1964; Sesac AD 92

1. The Magpie
2. Y'know What I Mean
3. Warmin' Up
4. Don't Panic

Find them here:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Darlin' Red

William Garland, photographed in action by producer Esmond Edwards, was better known as "Red." But his given name perhaps explains why Miles Davis had him do "Billy Boy" on "Milestones."

I've always had a thing for Red Garland. It was probably his touch that got me – and his incredibly melodic approach to chording. Nobody played like Red. And nobody accompanied like he did. It's what made him so perfect for Miles' band in the mid-'50s. And, a few years later, made him ideal as the pianist for most of John Coltrane's Prestige sides. 

Yeah, yeah, I know – Garland made many, many (too many!) trio recordings for Bob Weinstock, and after a while they all sounded the same. A couple of blues, two standards, maybe a jazzed-up folk melody. But, heck, I'll take a hackneyed Garland LP over a Brubeck side most days of the week (though Desmond kills). That's just me, a simp for the Texas approach to the 88s. 

Miles invades Red's personal space to share
a few chord suggestions. Paul Chambers
and Philly Joe in the background, a session
for Columbia.
Garland could play any tempo – fast, slow, in between. This posting offers Red fingering that quintessential slow drag tune, "Lil' Darlin'." A composition written (and arranged) by Neal Hefti and immortalized by Count Basie and his crew in 1958, "Darlin'" is the acid test for rhythm sections. Anybody who has ever tried to play this music we call jazz knows that playing fast is, well, if not a breeze, then at least a damn sight easier than playing slow. Slow tempi are tough to swing, and "Darlin'" is slower than slow. Which means it's nearly impossible not to drag it and kill the swing.

Brother Red takes it a bit faster here than the Kid from Redbank did, but it's a live recording so he gets a pass. What he does unquestionably do is rock the be-Jesus out of "Lil' Darlin'." In the liner notes to this LP, there is the statement that some "call Red a cocktail pianist," but nothing could be further from the truth. Smooth, uncluttered, melodic, yes – but superficial? Ridiculous. As I think you'll agree when you listen to OP's "Blues in the Closet" and the two standards included in this posting. 

So here's Red Garland at The Prelude in New York City, up in Harlem on 129th Street and Broadway. He's accompanied by Jimmy Rowser on bass and Specs Wright on drums. This is one of several LPs that were issued from this October 2, 1959, appearance, and for some reason Prestige chose to release it on their Status imprint. The music is delightful, and the files come as always from the original vinyl. Very little cleaning was required. Wonder if that's Mrs. Garland on the cover?

Lil' Darlin'
Red Garland

Red Garland, p; Jimmy Rowser, b; Specs Wright, d.
The Prelude, New York, NY; October 2, 1959; Status LP8314

1. Lil' Darlin'
2. We Kiss in a Shadow
3. Blues in the Closet
4 Like Someone in Love

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Enjoyment of Jazz

In December of 1949, a striking full-page ad appeared in Down Beat touting the latest effort by producer and label owner, Norman Granz. This time it wasn't about another of his JATP tours. Instead, it promoted a unique album that Granz had created called "The Jazz Scene." It was a premium item, costing all of $25 for 12 sides. The illustration is by David Stone Martin.

Predicting the future is never easy. Predicting the future of this music we call jazz is darn near impossible. How many times have we heard "the big bands are back"? Or that X (insert "Dixieland," "soul jazz," "psychedelic," "fusion," "hip-hop," etc.) is the next big thing? Remember the Fender Rhodes? Steinways were the keyboard of the past. Anthony Braxton was the next Charlie Parker one year, unemployed and scuffling only a few years later.

So your guess is as good as mine when it comes to jazz's destiny. Who could have predicted Wynton Marsalis? Not me.

Norman makes a point.
But back in the late 1940s, jazz's leading impresario took a stab at jazz prognostication. Norman Granz decided to issue an album that would feature some of the music's finest talents and would offer a glimpse not only of the contemporary scene but also of what lay ahead for jazz. To grab the public's attention, Granz planned to market this recording as a special collector's edition, limiting the total pressing and selling it at a premium price. The records would be packaged in an elegantly designed case, accompanied by detailed notes and beautifully executed photographs by Gjon Mili of the artists involved.

This milestone Granz christened "The Jazz Scene." 

Released in early 1950, "The Jazz Scene" went for a stiff 25 bucks and was capped at 5,000 copies, with the stipulation that "no copies will be available after the first edition is sold." It was received with accolades by the jazz press and got a special two-page review in the industry's unofficial pub, Down
Down Beat's 1950 review of
"The Jazz Scene."
Beat magazine. To increase the album's appeal, Norman numbered and signed each copy. Buyers were secure in the knowledge that the music contained within was authorized and approved by jazz's Sol Hurok.
The fans regarded the album as a must-have, though for many the price was prohibitive.

A portion of the music on the "Scene" was provided – no surprise – by members of Granz's stable of artists. Among them were Charlie Parker (recently signed), Lester Young, Bud Powell and Flip Phillips. Norman also recorded non-Mercury artists Willie Smith, Ralph Burns, Neal Hefti and George Handy. He seemed to have favored the arrangers on the album, hinting that at least some of jazz's future lay with writers rather than with improvisers. 

"The Jazz Scene" in its
original 78 rpm issue.
Of the compositions, George Handy's "The Bloos" stands out. It's at once anachronistic and startlingly original. It couldn't be written today, but it's unlike anything being written in 1949, too. Michael Levin called it a "satire" in his Down Beat review, and that seems about right. There are no solos, and it's the arrangement that gets top billing. Handy retired from music not long after this, claiming that the "music biz and all connected stinks."

Of the Parker contributions, "The Bird" is a piece based on "Topsy" (if I recall correctly) that runs almost five minutes – the longest performance Bird ever recorded in a studio setting. It's good, but not first rate Parker and kind of peters out at the end. According to Phil Schaap, Charlie was upstairs making "The Bird" when Neal Hefti was downstairs with the orchestra recording "Repetition" and "Rhumbacito." Parker stopped by on the way out of the studio and asked if he could sit in on the former tune. The result was Bird soloing over Hefti's arrangement during the latter half of "Repetition." A spontaneous collaboration and it works. 

Gjon Mili's photo of Harry
Carney at work.
The Ellington sides are really features for Harry Carney and an unnamed string section. Duke figures in only as the composer of the two tunes. My understanding is that Ellington did not like Granz and pretty much had nothing to do with him (until late in his career), so for Norman to credit these tunes as he does is a bit of false advertising. That said, Carney sounds great, and it's nice to hear Billy Strayhorn tickle the ivories.

The true gem on the album is Coleman Hawkins' stellar "Picasso." According to the notes, the Hawk spent many hours formulating this free-form, solo saxophone masterpiece, and it shows. Hawkins did two or three other solo improvisations after this first effort, but "Picasso" stands out as a remarkable document by jazz's elder statesman of the tenor sax. If you've never heard it before, you're in for a treat.

The album was originally released on 78 rpm discs with a Mercury/Clef imprint. Despite Granz's pledge, the recordings were eventually issued again (and again), first on various LPs and more recently on CD. These dubs were taken from an American Recording Society release. The ARS was a record club of the variety popular back in the '50s, and it had a special deal with Granz to reissue Clef and Verve releases for its members. Each ARS record came with detailed liner notes – something the originals often lacked.

The liner notes for the ARS release of "The Jazz Scene."

The sound quality of this album is very good considering its age. We've cleaned things up here and there, and you may notice the occasional click, but mostly these files are broadcast quality. As always, they were taken from the original vinyl.

The Jazz Scene
Various Artists
New York, NY; Various dates, 1949

1. Repetition 
Neal Hefti Orchestra featuring Charlie Parker

2. I Want to Be Happy
Lester Young with Nat Cole, Buddy Rich

3. Tanga
Machito with Flip Phillips

4. Introspection
Ralph Burns Orchestra with Bill Harris, Herbie Steward

5. Sophisticated Lady
Willie Smith with Dodo Marmarosa, Red Callendar, Jo Jones

6. Frustration
Harry Carney with Billy Strayhorn, Oscar Pettiford and strings

7. The Bloos
George Handy

8. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
Bud Powell with Ray Brown, Max Roach

9. Sono
Harry Carney with Billy Strayhorn, Oscar Pettiford and strings

10. The Bird
Charlie Parker with Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Shelly Mann

11. Rhumbacito
Neal Hefti Orchestra

Coleman Hawkins

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Eight from the 88s

Meade Lux Lewis was the eldest of the boogie woogie triumvirate and, according to some, the best known of the three as a progenitor of that classic style. Photo from the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues

Here's a post with no special story to go along with it. I just thought you might like to have these obscure discs. They come from the cleaning woman stash that I've mentioned in several other posts. I picked up a lot of interesting sides in that haul, and these probably won't be the last of them to appear here.

These two gents, along with Albert Ammons, were the pianists most associated with that two-fisted piano romp on the American song form known as boogie woogie. Pete Johnson is most often thought of as a product of the Kansas City jazz era, and so he was, but he also made a name for himself by beating it out in tandem with Ammons or Lewis (and sometimes both). Meade Lux Lewis may have been the first to record in the boogie style, waxing his "Honky Tonk Train Blues" way back in 1929 (he recreates it here, too).

Pete Johnson, left, and Albert Ammons in
studios of KCKN in Kansas City in the '40s.
These Pete Johnson tunes were originally recorded for National and then were reissued on this little EP for Rendition. In the '50s they came out again on Savoy and are probably available on a number of contemporary CDs, but I couldn't resist posting them anyway. The presence of Ben Webster on one cut and Lips Page on two is an added treat. Including the New Orleans sound of Albert Nicholas makes for a rare pairing, and Higgy literally wails on his number.

Lewis's four tunes for Atlantic, done in 1951, are exactly what you'd expect – bumpda-bumpda in the bass and a fistful of eighth notes in the right hand. To my ear, there's more than a little hint of rock 'n' roll here. He pays tribute to three of the greats – Pinetop Smith, Cow Cow Davenport and Jimmy Yancey – and then fetes himself with his own composition. He's subtly accompanied by a bassist and drummer who, to this date, remain anonymous.

So here's a half-hour of good blues for when you're in a toe-tapping mood. The Lewis disc looks pristine but was plagued with surface noise. Much of it has been removed, but some still remains so be forewarned. The Johnson tunes are all sonically clean. As always, these files were created right from the vinyl originals. Beat me, daddy, eight to the bar!

At the Piano
Meade Lux Lewis 
Meade Lux Lewis, p; unk. b, d.
Chicago, IL; Dec. 4, 1951
Atlantic EP 510

1. Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie
2. Cow-Cow Blues
3. Yancey Special
4. Honky Tonk Train Blues

On the “88”
Pete Johnson
Pete Johnson, p; Hot Lips Page, tp; 
Ben Webster, ts; Albert Nicholas, cl; 
J.C. Higginbotham, tbn; Jimmy Shirley, g; Al Hall, b; J.C. Heard, d.
New York, NY; January 26, 31, 1946
Rendition EP 45-115

5. Mr. Clarinet Knocks Twice
6. Ben Rides Out
7. Page Mr. Trumpet
8. J.C. from K.C.

Find them here:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fats and Fat Value

Fat Girl and his co-leader Tadd Dameron waxing a session for Blue Note in 1947. They're joined by reedmen Charlie Rouse and Ernie Henry. William Gottlieb photo

What is this music that we love worth? On a personal level, of course, it's priceless. Who can set a value on those recordings that opened our ears, expanded our minds, that thrilled us and touched our hearts? It's easy to get maudlin about it, but those highly individual experiences are the moments that inform the arc of a lifetime. To talk of monetary worth is to miss the point.

But now that that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks (whatever that means). The reason we post jazz recordings here on Gems is because much of that material is rare and (for that reason) desirable. Hence it has value. Just a few clicks away from this page is a gargantuan auction site where just about any recording in any format is available at any time night and day – for a price. Sometimes that price is modest, but many times the selling figure for a particular album is, well, astonishing. I can't help but wonder, how are these values determined?

A couple of gems – as far as collectors are
concerned. Musically, I'm not so sure.
Case in point: When I lived in Boston back in the '70s, I haunted used recorded shops eight days a week. Every now and then a deep-groove Blue Note would turn up, or a first-issue Riverside, or maybe even a 10-inch gem on Prestige would (rarely) appear. I'd buy those if I could afford them, but I'd also buy just about anything that looked interesting. I was particularly into the avant garde and I picked up loads of self-produced free-jazz LPs by unknown players. A couple of records of that sort that I came across had homemade covers and were by two gents named Michael Cosmic and Phill Musra. I'd never heard of them, but the records were 99 cents each, so I snapped them up. I don't even think I ever listened to them.

Forty years later I discovered a website that lists the selling price of records auctioned on that big site on the Internet. Maybe you know it? It's called CollectorsFrenzy. They had a listing for both of the Cosmic/Musra albums I bought those many years ago, and it blew my mind. Together these two records sold recently for a whopping $2,220.75! 

So what is this music worth? 

Clearly, in the case of Cosmic and Musra, nowhere near that much. At least, in terms of the music itself. Their sort of stuff these days is termed "spiritual jazz" and is deemed highly collectible. But musically speaking? Nah, no great shakes. 

Which leads me to offer some music that I know is of real value. Maybe not in terms of its "collectibility," but in terms of its artistry. It's also a self-produced effort, another of Boris Rose's offerings. But there's no question about the quality of the music – it's first rate.

These tunes were recorded during several successive broadcasts from the Royal Roost in 1948. They feature the Tadd Dameron/Fats Navarro sextet with special guest Anita O'Day, and the performances are without exception superb. You probably know the airchecks by this band that were released on Riverside back in the '60s. This recording only repeats one of those tunes (or maybe "The Squirrel" is a different take). 

Eager in solo flight, captured by Bill Gottlieb.
Fats is in tip-top shape, rivaling Dizzy for pyrotechnics. Rudy Williams, a former swingtime member of the Savoy Sultans, is a bit out of his element but manages to get over. Tadd comps along competently, but it's Allen Eager who is the stand-out. His tenor navigates the solo terrain deftly and repeatedly impresses. And to think this guy quit jazz to become a ski-instructor!

Anita O'Day sounds relaxed and in command. You can hear how carefully she's structured her act by the repeated "spontaneity" of the "I ain't mad at you" interjection in "How High the Moon." The pianist is listed as Dameron but the guy takes solos that are beyond Tadd's ability, at least to my ears. So maybe someone else is at the keyboard when Ms. O'Day steps up to the mic.

There's a full 60 minutes of music in this download, so give it some time to fully load. The tunes are clipped at the end in classic Boris Rose fashion, so don't blame me for that. But – at least in musical terms – you'll get some real value for your efforts.

As always, these files were dubbed from the original vinyl. The sound isn't perfect (it wasn't when the record was new), but I've cleaned it a bit and I think you'll approve. 

Fats’ Gang!
Fats Navarro/Tadd Dameron/Anita O’Day 
Talcrip TDFN 10230

Fats Navarro, tp; Rudy Williams, as; 
Allen Eager, ts; Tadd Dameron, p; Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 2, 1948
1. Good Bait

Anita O’Day, v; Tadd Dameron, p; Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 2, 1948
2. What Is This Thing Called Love?
3. How High the Moon

Personnel as 1.
Aircheck, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
4. The Squirrel
5. The Tadd Walk

Personnel as 2.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
6. September in the Rain
7. How High the Moon

Personnel as 1.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
8. Dameronia
9. Good Bait

Personnel as 1; add Kai Winding.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 23, 1948
10. Eb-pob
11. The Squirrel

Personnel as 10; omit Navarro, Williams.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 30, 1948
12. The Chase
13. Wahoo
14. Lady be Good

Find it here: