Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Washboard Rhythm Kings Paradox

How can a band that recorded so prolifically be so shrouded in mystery? That's the paradox of the Washboard Rhythm Kings, a hot aggregation that at times featured trumpeter Taft Jordan and guitarist Teddy Bunn, along with a bizarre assortment of other musicians of mixed ability. Many of the musicians' identities are uncertain, some entirely unknown, yet there are dozens of recordings by the group under various pseudonyms.

What's most pleasing about the Washboard Rhythm Kings is their dual nature - they are wholly entertainers, singing bawdy lyrics and clowning audibly on their records, yet there is no doubt they are playing undiluted hot jazz. If only more musicians, past AND present, could find this balance!

Exhibit A - 'Hummin' to Myself':

Exhibit B - 'Tiger Rag'. To listen to the alto sax breaks and the tenor sax solo is to hear one of the chief inspirations of Australian sax stylist Ade Monsbourgh:

Exhibit C - 'Blue Drag':


Michael Steinman said...

I expect its one of those recording-studio paradoxes: we forget that the A&R men of the time were selling a product -- if it had a washboard player and was rhythmic, and loosely followed the set pattern of instrumentation and effect, then it was (or were?) the WRK, no matter what individuals were in the band: consider OKeh offering a Louis Armstrong Hot Five in 1926 and 1928 although the men and the overall sound had changed so: the implication was that the record buyers wanted a discernable / recognizable product. "Whatever," as my students still say: those washboard groups swing as well and with as much heat as anything ever recorded . . . and their twentieth / twenty-first century descendants, the Reynolds Brothers, follow exquisitely along the same paths!

rhythmoftheday said...

Yes, I agree - but usually in these cases, there's greater clarity about who did what and why and how!

My students have abbreviated 'whatever' to just 'evs'...

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