Friday, April 7, 2017

Tenors Anyone?

Jaws performs at The Bell in Hertfordshire, England in 1982. Photo by Denis Williams

Here's an EP you don't come across every day, and I don't believe its music has ever been reissued on CD (isn't everything on CD these days?). Contained in this offering are some of the very earliest recordings by Eddie Davis and Morris Lane, two tenor players who were renowned for their fatback, honking sound in the days just before rock 'n' roll burst on the scene and spoiled everything.

These sides were originally recorded for the Lenox label, 78 rpm shellac discs that were issued at a time when long playing records were on the horizon. Lenox was an imprint of Continental Records, a division of Remington Records, and they were eventually reissued in long-playing form on the parent label. For some reason, they also were released (with corrected titles) on a sort-lived Remington subsidiary named Pontiac. Confused? Me, too. But that's the release that we have here, and I gotta say, for a cheapo budget album, this one was in pristine condition. I don't think it had ever been played. 

Morris Lane in flight with the Hampton orchestra.
So here's Jaws before he'd acquired his nickname, blowing with Johnny Acea on piano, the great Gene Ramey playing the floor fiddle and Butch Ballard on drums. As you might expect, he plays rough, big-toned tenor, simple and melodic on the ballads, hot and aggressive on the up-tempo numbers. The real revelation, though, is the Morris Lane selections. I'd always thought of him as an unremarkable horn man in Lionel Hampton's orchestra from the 1940s and '50s. But here he plays with real verve and command – no honking or walking the bar. The band behind him is unknown, which is unfortunate because the trumpet, trombone and piano players are all excellent. Can you tell who the trumpet guy is? He sounds familiar, and a Gems of Jazz no prize to whoever can name him (or her?). There's a vocalist, too, probably one of the band members, and check out "Big Trees." It's weird enough to be one of Sun Ra's early R&B records.

So here are eight selections from 1947-48 of two tenor players, one well known, the other not so much. There's surface noise, but I believe it was there in the originals, and I don't think it will trouble you much. I cleaned it a bit, so not to worry. These are also wav files, so you audiophiles should be happy. From the original vinyl as always, gang (although in this case I think it's probably styrene).

Tenors Wild and Mild 
Eddie Davis/Morris Lane
Pontiac PLP 523
*Eddie Davis, ts; Johnny Acea, p; Gne Ramey, b; Butch Ballard, d.
New York, NY; 1947-48
**Morris Lane, ts; unk. tp, tbn, p, b, d, v.
New York, NY; 1947-48

1. Sepember Song **
2. Music Goes Down Around *
3. Big Trees **
4. But Beautiful *
5. Leapin’ on Lenox *
6. Ready for Action **
7. Ravin’ at the Haven *
8. After Hours Bounce ** 

Find it here:


  1. Interesting recordings.

    Thanks a lot!!

  2. More Morris Lane here:

  3. I've had the «chance» to find this little gem a couple of years ago, in OK shape. I really listened to it several times, it was addictive :-) Numerized it too. ---- My 1st comment here, love your posts and there's so much to discover ! -- Greetings from Montreal, Quebec.

    1. Hello, Montreal! Glad you're finding stuff here of interest, Ravel (I also love the music of your namesake). Have fun looking through the postings.

  4. Hello from Michigan, These recordings are "new" to me.
    Thank you for your work.

  5. Thanks David.I always have to pop around to Gems of Jazz to find something new.Unfortunately lots of great music has not made it to a CD/digital version.But then,vinyl may outlive digital.

    1. What are you looking for, M? Perhaps I have it. I'm happy to upload requests!

  6. Thanks David.I'd have to think about it.Many releases by Concord Jazz never made it to CD/Digital download.

  7. Arrived here, via boogiewoody, courtesy of ramson; many thanks for keeping the link live...