JBP's jazz reviews
Barry Martyn's Orchestra:
Everybody's Talkin' 'bout The
Sam Morgan Band and the Piron Band.
GHB Records. BCD-38.
Barry Martyn playing the Morgan repertoire in 1966.
Everybody Talkin' 'Bout Sammy;
Over in the Gloryland;
Steppin' on the Gas;
Kid Sheik Cola, Cuff Billett (trumpets);
Captain' John Handy (alto sax);
Frank Brooker (tenor
Richard Simmons (piano);
Brian Turnock (bass);
The Columbia recording of the Sam Morgan band in 1927 was a Jazz
landmark. Although well-known and popular in New Orleans the Sam Morgan band
was unlike other bands of the day. Instead of playing jazz standards and
popular tunes, the Morgan repertoire taped in 1927 consists of traditional
numbers like 'Down by the Riverside', and products of the Morgan band itself,
both played with energy and zest.
The instrumental line-up, too, was not the usual trumpet,
clarinet, trombone and rhythm section, but two trumpets, trombone, alto sax,
tenor sax, piano and rhythm section. They ignored the often sniffy attitude to
the saxophone and two saxes give the band a strong character of its own.
I always think of the Sam Morgan outfit as a circular band,
hard-driving round the island at a road-junction, with bass, banjo and drums in
the lead, vigorous and on one level throughout, without rising to a tearaway
Barry Martyn was devoted to 1920s New Orleans jazz and his
recreation of their repertoire, recorded in 1966, quickly establishes the
Morgan atmosphere but remains circular only to the point of lift-off. The idea
of alto player John Handy, the most fecund and fiery soloist of his day,
playing along with someone else's notes at jazzing time would cause hair-loss
in a barber's shop. The Martyn band breaks free and rocks on a rising tide.
The number called Bassic Blues (do they mean 'Basic Blues'?) is
not from the Morgan menu, and I would guess that this boogie bash was suggested
by Handy, who revels in it.
Barry Martyn had the luck to find Kid Sheik and John Handy from
New Orleans touring England at recording time, and the band in consequence has
enough lift and drive to raise the roof, reminiscences of the Morgan sound
being used for breakaway. I would recommend this half of the CD to All - and
Sundry, too, if he's at home.
The Piron orchestra, whose repertoire is the basis for the
second half of the CD, is as unlike the Sam Morgan band as booze from beetles
This was a highly sophisticated, easy-swinging outfit, led by a violinist,
which played for dancing in posh New Orleans hotels, clubs and at festivities
during the twenties. It was perfectly capable of serious jazz when the spirit
took over, and numbers like 'Sud Bustin' Blues' are, quite simply, beautiful.
The trumpeter Peter Bocage, clarinetist Lorenzo Tio and Steve Lewis on piano
were jazz musicians of style and stature. They too had saxophones on board, so
perhaps the Revivalist insistence on clarinet only was just daft.
The Barry Martyn band in 1960 makes no effort to come close to
the Piron sound and character but plays items from its menu in more or less
standard New Orleans style. Handy and Kid Sheik are missing and seriously
missed. Old-timer Louis Nelsom, trombone, and Frank Brooker, tenor sax, get off
the ground in Louisiana Swing, and Cuff Billett is always reliable.
Bright Star Blues;
Purple Rose of Cairo;
Mama's Gone, Goodbye;
West Indies Blues.
Shake It and Break It: Lanin's Southern Serenaders
Records. FROG DGF61. 2006.
One of the 78s I bought in the early 1930s, aged 10, was 'You
Can't Cheat a Cheater', played by Phil Napoleon's Emperors. Phil Napoleon plays
a straight, confident lead trumpet, there's a lively guitar solo (Eddie Lang?),
and solid work from clarinet and trombone. They all know what jazz is, and are
enjoying it. Of course I encountered Napoleon often enough through the years,
since no one recorded more, in such a variety of bands, always proving himself
accomplished and reliable.
And here he is in Lanin's Southern Serenaders. What a
disappointment! FROG have done valuable work by disinterring and reissuing
forgotten groups of the 1920s and 30s, but Sam Lanin was a business man. not a
jazz man, and these recordings are entirely commercial, with professional
musicians politely pooling out popular tunes of the day in a manner guaranteed
not to alarm, inspire; excite, or enliven respectable ladies spooning up their
Only in a tune called 'Eddie Leonard's Blues' does the band
awaken to find itself gently swinging, with Napoelon putting a touch of zip
into his deft and determined lead, a highly accomplished guitar solo (Eddie
Lang?), and a couple of other offerings proving that all members of the band
are alive and well. For a few minutes, despite Sam Lanin, they believe they
have a mission in jazz.
Sweet Emma Barrett and Her Bell Boys - Mardi Gras Day, 1960.
Live in New Orleans.
(18 tracks). 504 Records.
Emma Barrett, piano;
Jim Robinson, trombone;
Andrew Morgan, clarinet, tenor sax;
Creole George Guesnon, banjo;
Richard Alexis, string bass;
Gabriele Gad,the bright and bouncy keyboard player in Brian
Carrick's band, sings a little ditty of her own composition which runs, 'Sweet
Emma Barrett taught me how to play the blues.'
She did a good job, too. But we can't hear much of Emma on this
recording. It's too rough, rowdy, rumbustious and full of
shrieks,shouts,musical duels,dust-ups and dramas to the point where the only
way to deal with the whole affair is by running commentary. Who wins the
battle? It can't be Emma. The piano isn't loud enough.
Jim Robinson and Creole George, who's notorious for taking over
any band he plays with, both play loudest and longest. Jim's trombone groans
lustily and lugubriously throughout, and George won't let up for two-thirds of
a minute. In New Orleans music trumpet's usually in charge, but with all this
moaning, hooting, clipping, strumming, thrumming, drumming, rat-tatting,
clanging and high speed bonging, trumpeter Percy Humphrey hardly gets a blow in
and frustration makes him brassy. Andrew Morgan's clarinet has an eldritch
shriek,but when he changes to tenor sax a warm sonority swims over the world.
There's no time for contemplation or musical finesse, just tap-tap and go, an
express train on the way to a party at the Zoo.
Let's see if we can join the party, starting with ALICE BLUE
Emma's direct and honest piano is trying to show us jazz as
conversation when Jim Robinson's laborious trombone rolls up to drown the
neighbourhood. Wait! is that Percy getting in a brassy shout between the
groans? And Andrew Morgan's night-bird clarinet goes chasing bats round the
Someone's singing? No, it's just spirited merriment among the
assembled crowd, and a determined George has taken over.He's like a patent
banjo-machine switched on at full power, inspiring druumer Frazier to start
clacking, knocking,bashing and bonging as if he had three arms. A boisterous
burst of rumpy-bump drives us past the winning post.
MACK THE KNIFE. You don't often hear this played by a hot jazz
band but Jim's going like a ship's hooter and they're bumping it up with Percy
playing straight.Now Andrew's singing. His voice isn't the greatest but he's
got hold of the song and believes every word. He shouts to the band for
support, and damn it, the whole thing has become really moving. What would Kurt
Weill say? Wunderschon, I expect, with an umlaut here, an umlaut there, and
everywhere an umlaut.
BILL BAILEY. Here's George, fast, loud and bumpy. Where's Jim?
Here he comes, jumping like an overweight rabbit over tufts of grass. Emma has
started to sing. We can hardly hear her for the row. The whole band is singing
and clapping and now she's reached the piano and is playing with remarkably
steady elan. Percy has started soaring into the empyrean. Ah, Bill Bailey has
SISTER KATE. This can't be Sister Kate, can it? I've never heard
her played with this amount of solid bump. George is going strong and the
drummer's banging and clacking with a holiday insouciance which makes everyone
bawl lustily and never mind the tune.
ST.LOUIS BLUES. And this doesn't sound like St Louis Blues,
either, or any blues whatsoever come to that. It's some sort of happy-clappy
celebration with lots of bumps. George is strumming with furious zeal and
something strange is happening. Andrew is blowing on tenor sax and holding a
single note. He refuses to let it go. They're shouting him on. Is he going for
the world record? He can't stop. Surely swomething will burst? Will it be
Andrew? The effort seems supernatural, he'll need a doctor, but there's the
note as strong as ever. Suddenly Jim can't stand it any more,his trombone
groans aloud and Andrew sails away into silence.
Thank heaven he's still alive!.
Rare Cuts - Well Done - Vol ll 'Slip Horn'.
Kid Ory (tracks 1-9),
Preston Jackson (10-15),
Jazz Crusade JCCD3119.
In his programme notes for this CD Big Bill describes the
Missourians as 'my favourite band of all time.' Well, if for any reason life
begins to weigh heavily, I play the Missourians bursting with life on 'Market
Street Stomp' or 'You'll Cry for Me'. They have bounce, drive, precision and
let fly with a peculiar elan which I can only describe as 'ordinariness grown
They are without showiness and pretension and combine section
playing and solos as if born to it. Their dynamo works. All I have been able to
acquire of them to date is on a Neovox tape of the years 1925-30, compiled by
Birmingham stalwart Norman Field.
Unfortunately, the group was swallowed in 1930 by Cab Calloway,
who not only had showiness and pretension galore, but insisted on singing all
the time, eventually pushing the Missourians out of instrumental fun into the
dread big-band era.
Again unfortunately, the five tracks on this CD don't show them
at their best. There's a strangely routine atmosphere as if they're waiting for
lift-off and it doesn't come. The one track which gives you a feel of their
true character is 'Snag 'Em Blues', which makes foot-tapping obligatory.
In any case, there's ample compensation on this offering of Big
Bill's. We get nine tracks from one of Kid Ory's best outfits dated early
nineteen-fifties, with Teddy Buckner going stratospheric on trumpet/and Ory
himself growling away with extraordinary lyricism in a series of new-born
The third contributor is a Preston Jackson group of 1926, one of
the best years for jazz, and this is a strong, confident New Orleans-style
unit. Jackson does some inspired groaning on trombone, trumpeter Shirley Clay
tootles with characteristic staccato zest, and the unassuming Artie Starks
plays with notable
grace both on clarinet and sax. Finally, Elzadie Robinson
contributes authentically soulful singing on 'Houston Bound.'
This group is just what we need to restore sunshine in these
dark winter days.
Go to Jazz
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