Tuesday, June 14, 2011

James P. Johnson: Father of the Stride Piano 1923-1939

One of the great jazz pianists of all time, James P. Johnson was the king of stride pianists in the 1920s. He began working in New York clubs as early as 1913 and was quickly recognized as the pacesetter. In 1917, Johnson began making piano rolls. Duke Ellington learned from these (by slowing them down to half-speed), and a few years later, Johnson became Fats Waller's teacher and inspiration. During the '20s (starting in 1921), Johnson began to record, he was the nightly star at Harlem rent parties (accompanied by Waller and Willie "The Lion" Smith) and he wrote some of his most famous compositions during this period. For the 1923 Broadway show Running Wild (one of his dozen scores), Johnson composed "The Charleston" and "Old Fashioned Love," his earlier piano feature "Carolina Shout" became the test piece for other pianists, and some of his other songs included "If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight" and "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid."

Ironically, Johnson, the most sophisticated pianist of the 1920s, was also an expert accompanist for blues singers and he starred on several memorable Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters recordings. In addition to his solo recordings, Johnson led some hot combos on records and guested with Perry Bradford and Clarence Williams; he also shared the spotlight with Fats Waller on a few occasions. Because he was very interested in writing longer works, Johnson (who had composed "Yamekraw" in 1927) spent much of the '30s working on such pieces as "Harlem Symphony," "Symphony in Brown," and a blues opera. Unfortunately much of this music has been lost through the years. Johnson, who was only semi-active as a pianist throughout much of the '30s, started recording again in 1939, often sat in with Eddie Condon, and was active in the '40s despite some minor strokes. A major stroke in 1955 finished off his career.

This LP gives one a good all-round introduction into pianist James P. Johnson's music although it does not list the recording dates. There are piano solos from 1921, 1923, 1927 and 1939, a humorous vocal/piano duet with Clarence Williams ("How Could I Be Blue") and four selections from a 1939 septet session with trumpeter Red Allen and trombonist J.C. Higginbottham. Most of this music has since been reissued in more complete fashion on CD. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi

Original Columbia and OKeh recordings. Japanese Exclusive Release. 20 Bit Dsd Remastered

01.If Dreams Come True

03.Ronsume Revoly

04.Mule Walk

05.Blue Blueberry Ryhme

06.Snowy Morning Blues

07.All That I Had Is Gone

08.How Good I Be Blues

09.Swinging at the Rodeo

10.Having a Ball

11.Hungry Blues

12.Old Fashioned Love
13.Memories For You
14.Worry & Ransom Blues

15.Weaping Blues

16.Carolina Shout



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jim Cullum Jazz Band: Super Satch

A powerful cornetist inspired by Louis Armstrong, Jim Cullum has led an exciting jazz band in San Antonio since his father's death in the 1970s. A clarinetist, Jim Sr. led the Happy Jazz Band with Jim Jr. on cornet, recording for their own Audiophile and Happy Jazz labels. The younger Cullum, who has recorded a Porgy & Bess jazz set for Sony and tributes to Louis Armstrong and Hoagy Carmichael, has made quite a few rewarding albums for Stomp Off and Audiophile, plus a Christmas record for World Jazz. Since the late '80s, Cullum's band has been featured on a highly enjoyable radio series, Riverwalk, Live From the Landing, whose special shows have given the group the opportunity to show its versatility. Among Cullum's most notable sidemen of the 1980s and '90s have been clarenetists Allan Vaché (brother of cornetist Warren) and Brian Ogilvie, trombonist Mike Pittsley, and pianist John Sheridan.

Super Satch! Yes indeed .. this is an ingeniously scored and superbly executed tribute to Louis Armstrong. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, a premier band held in great esteem by other traditional jazz musicians, here goes to the essence of Satchmo's jazz, concentrating on Hot Five and Hot Seven repertoire with some attention to Armstrong's later periods. British co-author of the book Louis, John Chilton writes in the liner notes, "I feel sure that a look of true pleasure would are so apparent on this album. It will delight lovers of Louis's music by reminding them of his monumental achievements, and it will also win The Jim Cullum Jazz Band many new fans who will be enthralled by the musicianship and feeling that makes this one of the finest tribute recordings in years.
~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

On this tribute to Louis Armstrong, Jim Cullum's Jazz Band at times expands from being a septet to an octet with the addition of trombonist Ed Hubble and (on some selections) the switching of Randy Reinhart from trombone to second cornet behind the leader. Cullum is a spectacular player who was influenced by (but does not copy) Armstrong. The band performs a dozen selections from the 1920s and '30s that were associated with Satch. Cullum showed a lot of courage in remaking such classics as "Potato Head Blues," "West End Blues" and "Weather Bird" but his versions are different enough from the originals so as to avoid close comparison. Other highlights include "Fireworks," the underrated "Hustlin' and Bustlin' for Baby," "Beau Koo Jack" and "Chicago Breakdown." Highly recommended to prebop jazz collectors. ~ Scott Yanow

01. Potato Head Blues [5:15]
02. Yes! I'm In The Barrell [4:00]
03. Fireworks [5:45]
04. Hustlin' & Bustlin' For My Baby [3:50]
05. S.O.L. Blues [7:26]
06. Beau Koo Jack [4:07]
07. He's A Son Of The South [4:30]
08. West End Blues [5:33]
09. Chicago Breakdown [4:45]
10. Weather Bird Rag [5:29]
11. Tight Like This [5:22]
12. Put 'Em Down Blues [5:42]


Jim Cullum Jr (cnt)
Allan Vache (cl)
Ed Hubble (tm)
Randy Reinhart (tm)
John Sheridan (pn)
Howard Elkins (bj,gt,voc)
Jack Wyatt (st bs)
Ed Torres (dm.)
Recorded October 21-22, 1986.

Listen to the Jim Cullum's Jazz Band live weekly at Riverwalk Jazz Radio:



Jelly Roll Morton's piano solos, 1923-24

Part of Classics' excellent chronological series, this examines Jelly Roll's recordings from 1923 to 1924, beginning with a Paramount single with his orchestra, "Big Fat Ham," followed by "Muddy Water Blues." Next up are the first six issued Gennett piano solos, then stray singles by Morton's Jazz Band, Steamboat Four, and Stomp Kings. These are proceeded by four more piano solo sides, which were cut for Paramount, before finishing out with a marathon piano solo session for Gennett in 1924. ~ Cub Koda, AMG.

Jelly Roll Morton (1923-1924)
[The Chronological Classics No 584]

01. Big Fat Ham
02. Muddy Water Blues
03. King Porter Stomp
04. New Orleans Joys
05. Grandpa's Spells
06. Kansas City Stomp
07. Wolverine Blues
08. Pearls
09. Someday, Sweetheart
10. London Blues
11. Mr. Jelly Lord
12. Steady Roll
13. Thirty-Fifth Street Blues
14. Mamantia
15. Frog-I-More Rag
16. London Blues
17. Tia Juana
18. Shreveport Stomp
19. Mamanita
20. Jelly Roll Blues
21. Big Fat Ham
22. Bucktown Blues
23. Tom Cat Blues
24. Statford Hunch
25. Perfect Rag



Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stephane Grappelli, Barney Kessel: Limehouse Blues

One of the all-time great jazz violinists (ranking with Joe Venuti and Stuff Smith as one of the big three of pre-bop), Stéphane Grappelli's longevity and consistently enthusiastic playing did a great deal to establish the violin as a jazz instrument. He was originally self-taught as both a violinist and a pianist, although during 1924-28 he studied at the Paris Conservatoire. Grappelli played in movie theaters and dance bands before meeting guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1933. They hit it off musically from the start even though their lifestyles (Grappelli was sophisticated while Django was a gypsy) were very different. Together as Quintet of the Hot Club of France (comprised of violin, three acoustic guitars and bass) during 1933-39 they produced a sensational series of recordings and performances. During a London engagement in 1939, World War II broke out. Reinhardt rashly decided to return to France but Grappelli stayed in England, effectively ending the group. The violinist soon teamed up with the young pianist George Shearing in a new band that worked steadily through the war.
In 1946, Grappelli and Reinhardt had the first of several reunions although they never worked together again on a regular basis (despite many new recordings). Grappelli performed throughout the 1950s and '60s in clubs throughout Europe and, other than recordings with Duke Ellington (Violin Summit) and Joe Venuti, he remained somewhat obscure in the U.S. until he began regularly touring the world in the early '70s. Since then Grappelli has been a constant traveler and a consistent poll-winner, remaining very open-minded without altering his swing style; he has recorded with David Grisman, Earl Hines, Bill Coleman, Larry Coryell, Oscar Peterson, Jean Luc Ponty and McCoy Tyner among many others.
Active up until near the end, the increasingly frail Grappelli remained at the top of his field even when he was 89. His early recordings are all available on Classics CDs and he recorded quite extensively during his final three decades. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi

1. It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
2. Out of Nowhere
3. Tea for Two
4. Limehouse Blues
5. How High The Moon
6. Willow Weep For Me
7. Little Star
8. Undecided

Updated link (LP-ripped)