Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Hipster Holidays

A Hi-De-Ho Happy Holidays greeting from Mr. Calloway from a full-page ad in the December 15, 1942 edition of Down Beat magazine (then a quarter-fold tabloid). 

Best wishes to all of Gems' web friends for a swinging holiday season and a syncopated New Year. Let's hope 2017 will be an improvement over 2016. But whatever the future holds, you can depend on Gems of Jazz to post more obscure treasures, curious rarities and other jazzy oddities over the next twelve months. Here's a favorite of mine from Babs Gonzales that, if you've never heard it before, I think you'll dig. Best wishes to all!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Doctors Are In

The Chicago Flash, aka Gene Krupa, stares in amazement as Eddie Shu blows hot in the mid-'50s. I have no idea who the bass player is. Do you know? Unknown photographer

Sometimes, when you're flipping through odd sides in a record bin (remember those?), usually in the section marked "Miscellaneous," you come across an artist whom you've never heard of. In the case of this offering, two artists who were largely unknown, to me anyway. I was shopping in one of the few remaining record stores in Manhattan a few weeks ago, and I came across this old Bethlehem release, priced moderately enough (the only kind of price Gems' tight-wad host considers). I purchased it, even though I hadn't heard of one of the players and only knew of the other from his association with Gene Krupa.

The album was issued on Bethlehem, a '50s company that, from about 1956 until 1964 or so, issued hundreds of LPs by artists known and unknown. I don't why they put out so much product, but they covered everything from Ellington to Mingus to Herbie Nichols and Ruby Braff. They especially featured singers, the more obscure the better. Ever heard of Helen Carr? Terry Morel? Jerri Winters? How about Marilyn Moore? Me neither. But they all recorded for Bethlehem.

Stan Kenton's crew at a 1940s recording
session: from left, Bill Jurney, Lennie Mitchell,
Ken Hanna, Bob Hardaway, Bart Caldarell
and Bobby Drasnin.
So here are a couple of guys who weren't vocalists, the "Jazz Practitioners." The LP features the saxes of Eddie Shu and Bob Hardaway, a reissue of two EPs that were released earlier, one for each artist. Eddie Shu, aka Edward Shulman, worked with Tadd Dameron, George Shearing and Lionel Hampton before spending four years as part of Gene Krupa's trio. This is the only recording he made as a leader (I think), and he sounds great. A bit like Georgie Auld, maybe even a touch of Don Byas, and on alto, Eddie Harris. If you don't know him, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The other horn man here has an interesting back story. His old man, it turns out, was "Bugs" Hardaway, the cartoon artist who created Warner Brothers' venerable wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny. He also came up with Woody Woodpecker. You would have thought Bob would have gone into the cartoon business, but no. He's an excellent tenor player, muscular and inventive, sounding a little like Sonny Rollins (squint your ears).

The side guys are all excellent, too. Larry Bunker does double duty on drums and vibes, and Bobby Scott plays some nice piano. Roy Haynes is an added plus. Marty Paich was still paying the bills as a piano player, not yet the studio arranger and conductor he would become.

So here are the jazz docs, quite capable practitioners as it turns out. The sound quality of the files is quite good despite the LP's venerable age. The copy here is actually a reissue on the Rep label, a Crown imprint. Crown licensed Bethlehem recordings and issued a few on Rep before disappearing, as record companies tend to do. It's a certified vinyl dub, so enjoy!

Jazz Practitioners
Eddie Shu/Bob Hardaway
Rep 202

Eddie Shu, as, ts; Bobby Scott, p; Vinnie Burke, b; Roy Haynes, d. 
New York, NY; November 26, 1954

1. Tom, Dick and Jim (Shu)
2. Blues for Baby (Shu)
3. Peace (Scott)
4. East Side (Burke)
5. Justice (Shu)

Bob Hardaway, ts; Marty Paich, p; Larry Bunker, vbs, d*; Max Bennet, Joe Mondragon*, b; Art Mardigan, d.
Los Angeles, CA; January 21, 22*, 1955

6. Irresistable You
7. Jr. (Paich)
8. Lou's Blue (Hardaway)
9. Out of Nowhere*
10. Indiana*

Find it here: