Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jabbo Smith - intensity personified

Cladys 'Jabbo' Smith was a talented trumpeter and singer who recorded about two dozen sides as a bandleader, as well as featuring on classic recordings by Charlie Johnson, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington.

I'm impressed by his daring ideas, rapid execution and flexible tone. He has much in common with the Louis Armstrong of the 1920s, and record companies at the time were keen to make the most of these similarities. However, he is clearly his own man, just as Henry 'Red' Allen was.

In these two examples, he is joined by one of my favourite reedmen - Omer Simeon. Simeon was usually featured on clarinet, but his hot, stomping alto sax is just as impressive:

Jabbo's singing was warm and characterful. Here's an interesting comparison - an audio vocal from 1929 and a video from one of Jabbo's comeback attempts fifty years later.

While Jabbo lived a long life, his musical career seems to have shared both the strengths and the weaknesses of his playing itself - plenty of intensity, yet lacking focus. Perhaps spontaneous the way he lived his life helped form his unique musical approach. I'm grateful for that.

1 comment:

Barbad said...

I was only recently complaining about how discussion of the early greats like Jabbo and Fess Williams and Jack Purvis was exlusive to record collectors and scholarly types

...which is a shame because they have that attraction which is as hard to analyse as it is to enjoyable to listen to and talk about

Love the Blog - keep it up

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