Tuesday, 20 January 2009
In previous postings I've described at length how I've found my way into music, but I have forgotten to mention one vital link from the early days. If 'Blues Fell This Morning'(see Woke up this morning) was my atlas for the blues, then "This Wonderful World of Jazz" was my 'Rosetta Stone' for jazz. This LP compilation was issued by Philips Records around 1960, at a time when that company were distributing the American Columbia Records catalogue in this country. I had acquired my copy from a friend of my older brother ('Alcohol'), who had purchased it under the impression that all the tracks would be Traditional jazz, and had been more than a little disappointed to find Modern jazz performances on there as well. I swapped my copy of another compilation - 'Great Jazz Reeds' on RCA Camden, which was much more to his liking, despite one Charlie Parker track. (It wasn't that I didn't like 'Great Jazz Reeds' - it was just that my friend Muff owned a copy as well so I knew I had access to it whenever I wanted to hear it.)
As you can see from the photograph at the top of this page, I still own the Philips compilation, although I haven't played it for many years. In fact, it's virtually unplayable these days. I acquired it second hand nearly fifty years ago and played it regularly on a record player whose sapphire stylus must have tracked like a baby plough, but I can't quite bring myself to part with such an old friend. However, musical memory is a wonderful thing and I have only to look a the track listings to hear the music in my head again. Fortunately I don't have to do that in many cases because I own a lot of the tracks in different formats these days, but over the next few postings I shall give you a complete rundown on the titles that helped me make musical connections and advance my understanding and appreciation of jazz.
Side one opened with Big Bill Broonzy performing his own composition, 'Texas Tornado', a recording made in 1956. This was another pointer to the relationship between blues and jazz, and I really liked the guitar playing on this one as well. This and other Broonzy recordings were to influence my own attempts at the guitar. I couldn't find 'Texas Tornado on YouTube but here are a couple of other performances. Firstly his classic Black ,Brown and White (which was another of the treasures on Paul's dad's tape recorder (see Wonderful round, black, shiny things)
Allthough this was not a blues, it was a powerful statement against racism and was something that we often sang. However this instrumental clip of Bill playing 'Hey Hey' contains all of the elements of fingerstyle blues guitar that grabbed my attention.
The next track on the album was 'Papa Dip' by The New Orleans Wanderers (recorded 1926) which was a group led by pianist Lil Hardin (then wife of Louis Armstrong) and was in fact Louis' Hot Five but, due to contractual problems, without Armstrong himself. This introduced me to clarinetist Johnny Dodds and trombonist Kid Ory, as well as banjoist Johnny St Cyr. And here it is...
Track three was 'Potato Head Blues' by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven, recorded in 1927. This was my first real taste of Armstrong. Up to now I had just seen him as a popular entertainer, based on his performance in the movie High Society. It now began to dawn on me that here was something rather special...
Next up was my first taste of another musician that I came to love and admire - Bix Beiderbecke. Bix recorded a number of sides with a group known as Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang, the personnel of which varied from recording to recording. This particular track - Jazz Me Blues (recorded in 1927) - also introduced me to Adrian Rollini ( multi instrumentalist, here playing bass saxophone), who was by no means in the same class as Bix, but an interesting fellow none the less. (The Jugular Vein - see Mutt and Jeff would later take great delight in regularly hamming up a Rollini Orchestra number as a part of their stage performances. I couldn't find 'Jazz Me Blues' so here's 'Royal Garden Blues', which was recorded on the same day and with the same personnel
Parts two and three will include Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Count Basie, Dizzie Gillespie, Horace Silver and Miles Davis - amongst others.