Friday, October 29, 2010

Eddie Miller the bandleader

Eddie Miller, on tenor sax with his short-lived big band, playing 'Yesterdays'. Here he has the opportunity to show off his gorgeous tone and delicate touch:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eddie Miller the clarinetist

Eddie Miller played wonderful tenor sax for decades, most notably with Bob Crosby's Bobcats. He excelled as the fourth horn player in an improvising front-line with trumpet, trombone and clarinet. It's a difficult job, and not one that gets the audience's attention - you've got to weave a musical line that stay out of the way of the mobile clarinet, doesn't interfere with the trombone in outlining the chord changes, and especially doesn't challenge the trumpet lead. In short, you're doing a good job if no one notices you, yet the band has a wonderfully thick harmonic texture.

Eddie Miller and Bud Freeman are the only ones I've heard do it perfectly in addition to providing inspired solos. Both played clarinet on occasion, but Eddie Miller played it superbly. The recording below shows his woody New Orleans sound, one shared by Willie Humphrey and Raymond Burke.

He's hardly an unknown, but Eddie Miller doesn't receive the attention an artist of his consistency and good taste deserves.

Coleman Hawkins - a masterclass!

This is not a new video - it's been around since 1935. In fact, it's not even a new video for me personally, as I remember seeing it years ago when YouTube had just taken off.

However, for a jazz fan like me, it's wonderful to see footage of one of my long-gone heroes smiling and talking, even stumbling over his words a little. I recently bought the great new 2-CD set 'Cabaret Echoes' on the Archeophone label, which features snippets from interviews with New Orleans musicians like Kid Ory, Johnny De Droit and Abbie Brunies. Each time I hear their characterful voices, I'm reminded of the reality of their existence; they were real people, living full lives outside the grooves of the records I know and love.

Coleman Hawkins was a real person, and though there are many alive today who knew him or saw him live, it's so powerful for a youngster like me to be reminded of it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tom Baker and Martin Litton

Here is a video of American/Australian multi-instrumentalist Tom Baker on tenor sax with UK pianist Martin Litton, playing Stardust. A winning combination!

Tom Baker didn't inspire me to play jazz, but soon after I discovered jazz, he became my hero. He still is. Countless musicians, young and old, felt/feel the same. He was a truly special human being who left us too young and too early.

Martin Litton is another exceptional musician, commanding a whole range of styles and moods at the piano. I've never met a more gentlemanly fellow.

This is only one of a bunch of great videos from a performance by the Swedish Jazz Kings with guests at Askersund Jazz Festival in Sweden.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eubie Blake and His Orchestra

A red hot recording by Eubie Blake's band in 1931. The other tunes they recorded aren't nearly as exciting as this one. It builds up some serious momentum after the vocal.

Clarence Williams Stompers

A fascinating mix of musicians on this Clarence Williams record. Don Redman proving his skills yet again on reeds and vocals - and I imagine that this is one of his arrangements.

Nice tuba!

Clair De Lune

I recently had the pleasure of playing this evocative tune with a Django-styled band. Of course, the only problem is whenever you announce it, the audience will expect the Debussy composition!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lionel Belasco

Music doesn't get any prettier than these lovely Lionel Belasco recordings, in my opinion. I was introduced to Lionel Belasco (and other obscure but amazing musicians) through the soundtrack to the film Ghost World.

Al Bowlly with Arthur Briggs

A young Al Bowlly singing with trumpeter Arthur Briggs and his orchestra. Briggs was an African-American musician who made the most of the comparatively relaxed working conditions in Europe in the 20s and 30s. It's fascinating to hear him here with Bowlly, such an iconic British vocalist.

I love Bowlly's rhythmic style - his lines have a half-spoken feel at times. Old-fashioned hot syncopation!

Arthur Briggs' cousin Pete recorded on tuba with Louis Armstrong's Hot Seven. I wonder what Arthur would've got up to had he stayed home too?

Annette Hanshaw - private recordings

Annette Hanshaw retired from public performance very young, but these private recordings posted on YouTube show she could still sing wonderfully.

Her mature, deeper voice reminds me of the great Lee Wiley.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joe Marsala and Carmen Mastren

Here's clarinetist Joe Marsala with a great lineup, including alto saxophonist Pete Brown and trumpeter Bill Coleman. All three horn players have gorgeous sounds. I've been listening to plenty of Joe Marsala lately, and he consistently surprises with his delicacy and ideas.

The rhythm section sounds cohesive too, headed by unsung hero Carmen Mastren on guitar. I find it interesting that a big band guitarist from Tommy Dorsey's unashamedly commercial orchestra could provide the heartbeat of classic small groups like this one and the Bechet/Spanier Big Four. Imagine finishing a gig as a virtually unheard and unseen acoustic guitarist - a tiny cog in a big machine - and going straight to a thrilling small-group jam session, spurring on the likes of Sidney Bechet!