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Jazz Age! : Hot Sounds of the 20s & 30s

CD:PPCD 78131 / CASSETTE: / RUNNING TIME: CD1: 76:20 CD2: 73:30

"You could not do better than 'Jazz Age!' This collection is a model of its kind." Gramophone SUPERB VALUE! Double Album: 2 CDs/2 CASSETTES - 2 hours 29 minutes!!

COMPACT DISC 1: 76 minutes


Jelly Roll Morton: Black Bottom Stomp
Miff Mole: The New Twister
Bessie Smith: Trombone Cholly << sound clip
Bix Beiderbecke: Royal Garden Blues
Beale Street Washboard Band: Forty And Tight
Louis Armstrong & Kid Ory: Ory's Creole Trombone
Red Nichols: Whispering
Mckinney's Cotton Pickers: Milenberg Joys
Boyd Senter & His Senterpedes: Sweetheart Blues
Louis Armstrong & Earl Hines: Weather Bird << sound clip
Fats Waller: Won't You Get Off It, Please?
Hoagy Carmichael: Rockin' Chair << sound clip
Duke Ellington: Old Man Blues
J C Higginbotham: Give Me Your Telephone Number
Mamie Smith: Jenny's Ball
King Oliver: Don't You Think I Love You?
Cab Calloway: Trickeration
Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Snake Hips
Boswell Sisters/Dorsey Brothers: There'll Be Some Changes Made
Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang: Farewell Blues
The Chocolate Dandies: I Never Knew
Art Tatum: The Shout
Fletcher Henderson: Tidal Wave
Duke Ellington: Sump'n' 'bout Rhythm
Jack Teagarden: Junk Man


COMPACT DISC 2: 73 minutes


Earl Hines: Copenhagen
Louis Prima: Sing It Way Down Low
Benny Goodman Trio: After You've Gone
Henry 'Red' Allen: Whose Honey Are You?
Benny Goodman: If I Could Be With You << sound clip
Billie Holiday / Teddy Wilson: What A Little Moonlight Can Do
Bud Freeman: The Blizzard
Artie Shaw: Sweet Lorraine
Benny Carter: Swingin' At Maida Vale
Dick Mcdonough: Dardanella
Mildred Bailey: When Day Is Done
Coleman Hawkins: Crazy Rhythm
Johnny Dodds: Melancholy
Casa Loma Orchestra: Casa Loma Stomp
Sidney Bechet: Southern Sunset
Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli: Them There Eyes
Jimmie Noone: I Know That You Know
Johnny Hodges: The Jeep Is Jumpin' << sound clip
Eddie Condon: California, Here I Come
Count Basie: Jumpin' At The Woodside
Kansas City Six: 'way Down Yonder In New Orleans
Muggsy Spanier: That Da Da Strain
Ella Fitzgerald: Moon Ray << sound clip
Bob Crosby: The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
Lionel Hampton: When Lights Are Low
Jimmie Lunceford: Liza

The more I get, the more I want, it seems.

This very Nineties sentiment comes from Jelly Roll Morton's composition, 'Doctor Jazz', recorded by his Red Hot Peppers as far back as 1926. Morton was inclined to boast about his encounters (and success) with the opposite sex, but it is safe to assume from the rest of the song's lyrics that this time he is referring to the music itself. To hot jazz, in fact. He seems to be saying that the more of this marvellous stuff you hear, the more you will want (and need) to hear. Well, amen to that!

Our double-CD compilation will surely satisfy all such longings for 'hotness.' The selections are prime monuments of the Jazz Age and arguably, some of America's finest jazz performances. It is no exaggeration to say that the fusion of several vital strands in American popular culture - the emergence of jazz on record and the upsurge in social dancing - brought an outpouring of individual creativity that was without precedent. As one jazz master after another came to maturity and triumphed, so others, influenced and inspired by their predecessors, followed on.

All of these giants are here - enduring legends every one: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Johnny Dodds, Duke Ellington - the alphabetical litany goes on.

Given Jelly Roll Morton's viewpoint that we quoted earlier, it is altogether fitting that we commence with one of his masterworks. Black Bottom Stomp, recorded in Chicago in 1926, is taken at a lively clip, to tie in with a dance style popular in flapper society. Morton was a New Orleans Creole, a proud man never at a loss for a word, most often in praise of himself. For all that, he could usually back up his claims and surrounded himself with the best musicians, many from his home town. An accomplished pianist and composer, he was also the first great orchestrator in jazz.

Trombonist Miff Mole and company were New Yorkers, men who worked in radio and theatre bands. Less spirited than Morton's crew, they play with controlled dignity, Adrian Rollini's breaks on bass saxophone momentarily disturbing the equilibrium. Cornetist Red Nichols was a follower of Bix Beiderbecke and had something of Bix's bell-like sound. Mole himself was among the first trombonists to release the instrument from its huff-and-puff limitations.

The blues is at the root of jazz and Bessie Smith is thought by many to be the finest blues singer of all time. Her magnificent voice and stately delivery were unparalleled. Here she duets with her favourite trombonist, Charlie Green, the 'Trombone Cholly' of this cheery blues song. Green was always influential but died early, frozen to death on his own Harlem doorstep.

Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke's early success was cut short when he succumbed in 1931 to alcoholism, aged only twenty-eight. His perfect cornet tone and unusual approach to improvisation brought him to the attention of major bandleaders like Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. Royal Garden Blues was written to recall a Chicago cabaret on the city's South Side where a pioneering black band led by cornetist Joe Oliver played.

Beale Street was the main thoroughfare in the black section of Memphis and home to many washboard bands in the 20s. Surprisingly, perhaps, none of the four musicians on this jaunty piece, recorded in Chicago in 1929, came from Memphis. The white pianist Frank Melrose was from Sumner, Illinois, and he swings along with yet more great New Orleans players, clarinetist Johnny Dodds and his brother Warren 'Baby' Dodds, puttering away on a domesticwashboard, and cornetist Herb Morand, who made many fine recordings with his Hamfats before ending his days back home.

The emergence of Louis Armstrong as an inspirational jazz star commenced when he joined King Oliver in summer 1922. Within a few years he had embarked on a crucial series of sessions with a select band of his fellow New Orleanians which placed him head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Listen to his effortless swing and compelling invention on this showcase for trombonist, Edward 'Kid' Ory. Ory was older but knew his way around an ensemble and became a leading light in the traditional jazz revival of the Forties.

Whispering was a popular show song which has become a standard. Nichols and Mole again combine and it is instructive to note Mole's enhanced mobility on this 1928 track, when compared with his work just a year earlier on The New Twister. We also hear the Italian-American violinist Joe Venuti, a noted practical joker but another who built an enduring jazz career.

McKinney's Cotton Pickers is our first big band, a black group from Detroit which enjoyed a lengthy period of success. They play a Morton tune, named for a pleasure beach near New Orleans, cleverly routined by saxophonist Don Redman, considered the pioneer swing band arranger. Note the use of clarinet trios and repeated ensemble passages, all contributing to a performance which embodies the spirit and dash of the age. The trombonist is Claude Jones, later a steward on the SS 'United States' transatlantic liner.

Boyd Senter was best known as a novelty musician but his 1929 studio group is composed of excellent players, buoyed up by a good rhythm section. Senter's wheezy clarinet is featured on his own composition. With Weatherbird we come to a milestone in recorded jazz, an undoubted masterpiece. It combines Louis Armstrong and the young Pittsburgh pianist Earl Hines, who like Louis influenced so many other performers. Both are heard at their fascinating best, trading ideas and playing rhythmic tricks.

Mrs. Waller's 'harmful little armful,' otherwise pianist/composer Thomas 'Fats' Waller, was another whose creative gifts were exceptional. His impish sense of fun and engaging personality made him an endearing performer in films and on record. Here, he leads a bright bunch of Harlem friends, mostly from the famed Luis Russell band, whose superb bassist George 'Pops' Foster drives things along. The featured trumpeter is Henry 'Red' Allen, yet another New Orleanian and the shouting trombone is by J.C. Higginbotham. Oddly, Waller himself does not solo. Rockin' Chair gained prominence when trombonist Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong featured it with Armstrong's All Stars. Here the vocal duettists are composer Hoagy Carmichael and pianist Irving Brodsky. The buzz trumpet is by Bubber Miley, a black star from Duke Ellington's Orchestra. It's Venuti on violin and Beiderbecke is heard briefly at the tune's end. If Carmichael's original lyrics would be politically incorrect today, his tune still has a timeless melodic quality.

Duke Ellington's Old Man Blues was made in Los Angeles while the band was filming in Hollywood. A peppy theme, just right for the dancers at the Cotton Club which was then Ellington's New York base, it spots Tricky Sam Nanton on trombone, the fine attack of the whole brass team and Harry Carney on baritone saxophone. The Six Hicks were a small group from the Luis Russell Orchestra, Harlem favourites in the early l930s. Leader Higginbotham was known for his declamatory style on trombone. Red Allen and alto-saxophonist Charlie Holmes are the other soloists. Mamie Smith earned perpetual fame as the first woman to record a blues number. By 1931, her palmy days were over and she sounds uncannily like the strong-voiced show singer Ethel Merman.

After his initial success in Chicago, Joe 'King' Oliver moved on to New York and formed a larger band for theatre and club engagements. He's heard here on open trumpet in a simple but fervent solo. Oliver died penniless in Savannah and it was his one-time protege Louis Armstrong who paid his funeral expenses.

Oliver turned down an engagement at New York's Cotton Club, complaining that the payment was insufficient. Young Duke Ellington took the job and prospered, to be joined later by Cab Calloway, known as the King of Hi-De-Ho. Trickeration is from Cab's Cotton Club days, briskly played with bright solos and an expressive vocal. Calloway's use of scat (rhythmic wordless sounds) comes directly from Armstrong. The Mills of the Blue Rhythm Band was Irving Mills, a white New York impresario and recording man, who used the Blue boys as a relief group for Calloway and Ellington when needed at the Cotton Club. Snake Hips is an exuberant original designed for dancers by band pianist Edgar Hayes.

The Boswell Singers - Martha, Helvetia, and Connee - were from New Orleans and learned about black music from their domestic staff. They knew how to swing and Connee, who later went solo, became a prime influence on Ella Fitzgerald. Farewell Blues was part of the repertoire of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, an early white group, and is played here by the best New York session men of the day. The Teagarden brothers, trombonist Jack and trumpeter Charlie came from Texas, and impressed everyone. Some energetic riffing (repeated rhythmic figures) leads to a spirited finale. Hot jazz, indeed.

The Chocolate Dandies were a racially-mixed group brought together for recording purposes only. Alto star Benny Carter probably made the arrangement of this old pop song, featuring solos from trombonist Floyd O'Brien and the fine trumpeter Max Kaminsky. More riffs see out a strong track. When Art Tatum's solo recordings first began to appear, other pianists maintained that there must be two men involved Partially blind, Tatum could play at great speed, substituting harmonies and re-working familiar themes seemingly at will.

Today, Fletcher Henderson, college-educated and distinguished, is best remembered for his part in the Benny Goodman success story. It was Henderson's arrangements which helped make the Goodman band the best of its kind. In earlier times, Henderson had been a significant bandleader in his own right and for a decade or more ran a top black big band. This 1934 recording of a Will Hudson composition does not feature a Henderson arrangement yet still shows off his orchestra's ensemble precision and solo effectiveness. The tenor-saxophone improvisation is by Ben Webster, sounding much like his predecessor, Coleman Hawkins, and the clarinet is by the classically-trained William 'Buster' Bailey.

Sump'n' 'bout Rhythm is low-key Ellington and shows off the neat trumpet of Freddy Jenkins, who left music later to become a disc jockey and press agent. Duke's writing is adroit as ever, as the saxes and brass interweave. Jack Teagarden's Junk Man opens with a melancholy chord or two but soon perks up when Caspar Reardon's harp - an unusual jazz instrument, if ever there was one - leads us into a lovely exposition of this pretty theme. Brother Charlie handles the muted trumpet and it's Benny Goodman on clarinet.

Earl Hines made his name with Armstrong and clarinetist Jimmie Noone but by 1934 was at the helm of his own big band. This became a fixture at the gangster-controlled Grand Terrace in Chicago during the Thirties. Copenhagen was always a Dixieland speciality, and arranger Jimmy Mundy retains some of its original free-wheeling spirit. Note Hines's solo, with its bewildering rhythmic twists and turns. Louis Prima was an Italian-American from New Orleans who kept club crowds happy with his breezy trumpet-playing and laid-back vocal style. In later years, he was a big attraction in Las Vegas and is also remembered for his performances as 'The King of the Swingers' on the soundtrack of Walt Disney's 'Jungle Book.'

Turner Layton's After You've Gone introduces the Benny Goodman Trio, an offshoot of the clarinetist's popular big band and notable for the inclusion of Teddy Wilson, the brilliant black pianist. The creative interplay demonstrated by these three musicians (with Gene Krupa on drums) is second to none. Red Allen was a trumpet star and fine jazz vocalist who but for the commanding presence of Louis Armstrong would have gained wider public recognition. This forgettable pop song is given exhilarating treatment, led by Allen and powered by the mighty Luis Russell rhythm section. The muted trombone is by George Washington, later active in rhythm and blues.

Goodman's big band earned its greatest popularity from 1937 onwards. When If I Could Be With You was recorded in 1935, Goodman was doing well but was still a long way from his ultimate role as The King of Swing. This lively performance of a Fletcher Henderson arrangement includes a rare solo by guitarist Allan Reuss. Before Teddy Wilson hooked up permanently with Goodman, the pianist embarked on a series of small group dates with a then unknown vocalist, the 20-year old Billie Holiday. What A Little Moonlight Can Do (taken from a British film called 'Roundhouse Nights') is from their first session. Supported by front-rank musicians including Goodman and trumpeter Roy Eldridge, Miss Holiday's behind-the-beat delivery of the lyrics and unique vocal timbre announced a great new vocal talent. Listen to Wilson's energetic piano and Eldridge's fiery ride-out.

Bud Freeman was a Chicago tenor-saxophone stylist. He plays both clarinet and tenor on The Buzzard in a combo setting which also shows off the casual trumpet mastery of Bunny Berigan. Another great white instrumentalist, Artie Shaw started out in the studios and then built a series of superb touring big bands. He felt that a string setting was the ideal backdrop for his poised clarinet playing on a pretty theme like Sweet Lorraine.

Multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter, a native New Yorker, continues to please audiences world-wide although now in his early nineties. So exceptional were his skills that he was hired by bandleader Henry Hall in London as staff arranger in March 1936. One month later he was in the studio with a hand-picked group of British jazzmen including trombonist Ted Heath Swinging at Maida Vale is a Carter original and features the composer on clarinet and alto-saxophone. Adrian Rollini plays the vibes on guitarist Dick McDonough's neat version of the engaging Dardanella. Berigan plays trumpet. Mildred Bailey was married to xylophonist Red Norvo and they made fine music together. Bailey's upbeat vocal style on When Day Is Done stands comparison with Billie Holiday and Holiday's pianist Teddy Wilson is on the date. Guitar is by McDonough and the grainy tenor comes from the great Chu Berry.

When Coleman Hawkins put the tenor-saxophone on the jazz map in the Thirties he set in train a process which continues today. Tenor remains the dominant instrument in contemporary jazz. In the Thirties Hawkins spent a lengthy period in Europe and his version of Crazy Rhythm teams him with a mixed band which includes Carter and the Belgian guitar genius Django Reinhardt. Carter devised the arrangement and solos briefly. Once underway, Hawkins almost threatens to burst asunder. Somewhere in the background, violinist Stephane Grappelly is on piano. Where Hawkins was harmonically sophisticated, clarinet man Johnny Dodds preferred simpler methods. On Melancholy, from 1938, he's alongside younger swing musicians in a rare session away from Chicago. Although far from well - Dodds died in 1940 - he plays with characteristic intensity.

The Casa Loma Orchestra started up in 1929 and made steady progress during the Thirties. Their punchy momentum comes across well in this fast riff instrumental, which music critic Gunther Schuller called 'a killer-diller,' composed and arranged by guitarist Gene Gifford. Noble Sissle's Orchestra tended to cater to 'society' audiences and the virtuoso soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet seems, in retrospect, an unlikely sideman. A volcanic, irresistible improviser, Bechet, who could not read music, was featured with a small group from the band on his 'majestic theme', in the words of Bechet biographer John Chilton, sounding restrained and lyrical. Bechet spent the final years of his life in Paris where the Quintet of the Hot Club de France originated in the middle thirties. The combination of Stephane Grappelly's ebullient violin with the solo guitar of Django Reinhardt, underpinned by rhythm guitars and bass, made for a truly distinctive sound.

Clarinetist Jimmie Noone was from New Orleans but like so many of his townsmen moved to Chicago early on. His recording of I Know That You Know was made with a group of New York musicians including the self-taught guitarist Teddy Bunn. Noone's smooth style and technical mastery sometimes sounded less authentically hot compared to Dodds and Bechet. It was impossible to mistake Johnny Hodges - 'the Lily Pons of the saxophone,' according to the modernist John Coltrane - for anyone else. A peerless stylist, he adorned the Duke Ellington saxophone section for several decades. Jeep Is Jumping was made with a small unit from Duke's band and is a swingy riff piece which reveals Hodges' mastery of casual extemporisation.

To many, Eddie Condon was better known as a New York club owner and wit. To others, he was jazz guitarist with an incredible capacity for alcohol, a tough-talking Chicagoan who could handle himself. While no technician himself, he knew how to pick good musicians and this lively version of California Here I Come includes the melancholy clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, of whom a writer said, "Even his shoes looked sad." Pianist Joe Bushkin starts and tenorist Bud Freeman continues before Russell slides in. The lyrical cornetist Bobby Hackett glides over the ensemble as the band get into its stride. Count Basie's marvellous orchestra originated in Kansas City where the pianist holed up in the early Thirties. It featured an exciting riff-based style over an even four-four rhythm, and was heaven for soloists. Woodside (named after a Harlem hotel favoured by musicians) spots the clarinet of Herschel Evans and the innovative tenor-saxophonist Lester Young. It's Basie's stride piano which sets the pace, though.

Young is the king-pin on the Kansas City Six version of Way Down Yonder. This is chamber jazz, pianoless, by a group of Basie-ites, Eddie Durham's electric guitar combining in the front line with Young's tenor and the beautifully incisive muted trumpet of Buck Clayton. Young's rhythmic daring and harmonic subtlety laid some of the groundwork for modern jazz. Durham was another pioneer and a fine trombonist and composer. Perfect music.

After years in Ted Lewis's commercial band, cornetist Francis 'Muggsy' Spanier touched off the traditional jazz revival when he formed his Ragtimers in 1939. Designed to recreate the free-blowing collective style of the Twenties this band succeeded with record buyers and critics alike. Sadly, its commercial success was limited and the Ragtimers were soon disbanded but not before they had recorded sixteen classic tracks. That Da Da Strain uses a Chicago-style front line - cornet, clarinet, trombone and tenor, with Spanier's fine, King Oliver-influenced lead as its defining feature. Ella Fitzgerald won a Harlem talent contest when she was sixteen and was taken on by bandleader Chick Webb. Her recording of Moon Ray was made in October 1939 shortly after Webb died and illustrates her melodic ease and clear diction perfectly. Bob Crosby was singer Bing's younger brother and a passable vocalist himself. When a group of former Ben Pollack sidemen needed a front man for a new co-operative band, they picked Bob and the association thrived. With its powerful rhythmic impetus - thanks to New Orleans drummer Ray Bauduc - and the mellow tenor of Bauduc's childhood friend Eddie Miller, tunes like The World Is Waiting took on the guise of souped-up Dixieland.

Originally a drummer, Lionel Hampton chanced on the vibraphone and soon demonstrated a capacity for continuous invention which seems never to have left him. By 1939, when he recorded Benny Carter's When Lights Are Low, he had made his mark with Benny Goodman. Heading an all-star group which bebopper Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Hamp shares a chorus with altoman Carter over a steady rhythm. Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra, known as The Harlem Express, vied for top billing with Ellington, Basie and Calloway, and was packed with top stars. Lunceford had started out as a High School athletics coach who ran music classes on the side. His version of George Gershwin's Liza was arranged by clarinetist Ed Inge, explaining, no doubt, the use of a clarinet trio to carry part of the melody. The bustling tenor is by Joe Thomas.

And that's our tour of the best in Twenties and Thirties hot jazz completed. Small groups and big bands, vocalists and instrumental stars, blues and swing, technical virtuosity and simple statements. No wonder Jelly Roll wanted more!

Peter Vacher



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