Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jazz Performance Saturday! - "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" - Geo Dixieland Jazz Band

The tune Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue is not only a catchy tune, it is also a very popular tune with modern Traditional jazz bands! In today's Jazz Performance, the Geo Dixieland Jazz Band plays the tune in a park. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Alejandro Armando Córdova Carrasco on January 1, 2016. The identified is the Geo Dixieland Jazz Band which appears to be based out of Mexico City, Mexico.

As I stated the tune Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Girl?) is a rather popular number and has been covered before here on Yankee Jazz Beat. The original music was published in 1925 and was recorded that same year by The California Ramblers. Ray Henderson composed the music and Sam Lewis and Joe Young wrote the words to it. Interestingly, a 1952 film seems to have brought it back into the spotlight with the title "Has Anybody Seen My Gal."

I couldn't discover too much information on the band or identify the members in this video, but it is nice to know that Dixieland is alive and well in Mexico!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Eddie Edwards

Eddie Edwards was born Edwin Branford Edwards in New Orleans on May 22, 1891.

At about the age of ten he began learning the violin. Five years later Edwards began playing the trombone.
He would eventually play both instruments as a professional musician. In 1910 he worked in a local theater as a violinist. As a trombonist he played with "Papa" Jack Laine's Reliance band in 1912 and by 1914 started working with Ernest Giardina's band.

For a regular job he and Nick LaRocca, worked as electricians. He also played minor league baseball around the New Orleans area.

When Johnny Stein's Jazz Band went to Chicago in 1916 Edwards was chosen by Alcide Nunez to be the band's trombone player. Several of this bands personnel would form the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. With this group Edwards would play on the "first" jazz recordings in 1917.

Edwards was a good rhythmic trombonist and also played in a style that became known as the tailgate trombone. He used his horn to mimic animals and to create wild wails anything that would excite and entice the audience.

Unfortunately, he was drafted into the Army during World War I and was replaced by Emile Christian. Edwards served in the army from July 1918 to March 1919. After his discharge from the army, he is said to have kicked around a bit, forming his own band and playing with Jimmy Durante's band before going back to play with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band where he stayed with them until the band broke up in 1925.

Edwards formed his own band in New York after the break-up and successfully led it for most of the remainder of the 1920s. After the 1929 stock market crash he held out for a few more years before calling it quits and retired from music.

For awhile Edwards ran a newspaper stand. Being an athlete he also worked as a coach. But when Nick LaRocca called about reforming the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1936 he jumped at the chance. From then on he was playing into the 1940s sometimes with members of the Original band including J. Russel Robinson, Larry Shields and Tony Sbarbaro.

He continued playing, although not regularly right up until his death on April 9, 1963 in New York.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday Jazz Performance - "That's A'Plenty" - The Dixie Demons Jazz Band

There isn't much worse than a demon, but, there isn't too much better than the Dixie Demons playing Trad Jazz! Today let's listen to the Dixie Demons Jazz Band of Toronto, Canada playing That's A'Plenty at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar, on January 8, 2011!

That's A'Plenty a favorite of Dixieland bands far and wide was composed by Lew Pollack (1895-1946) as a piano rag. It appears that Prince's Band led by Charles Prince (1869-1937) was the first to record the tune in 1917 after which the New Orleans Rhythm Kings recorded it in 1923. Many years later lyrics were written for the tune by Ray Gilbert (1912-1976).

The Dixie Demons have been playing Traditional jazz since 1984 when trombonist Dan Douglas founded. Since that time they have been playing everything from corporate events, clubs and jazz festivals. They are currently selling two CDs on their website Fossil Fuel and Live at the Rex.

The Dixie Demons Jazz Band at the Rex, Toronto, 1-8-2011.

Jack Teagarden playing the tune in 1951.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Jazz Performance - The Fat Babies in Concert

This Saturday Jazz Performance will be a concert that the Fat Babies gave on November 8, 2013 as part of the 24th annual Chicago Humanities Festival.

Courtesy Fat Babies website "Press Photos"

The Fat Babies was founded by Beau Sample in 2010. The band currently consists of Beau Sample on string bass, Andy Schumm on cornet, John Otto on reeds, Jonathan Doyle on reeds, Dave Bock on trombone, John Donatowicz on banjo and guitar, Paul Asaro on piano, and Alex Hall on the drums.

Not only is 2017 the Centennial of jazz recordings, but it is also the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima which is being celebrated by the Catholic Church. The Fat Babies start off their performance with "Jelly Roll" Morton's Animule Dance also known as Animule Ball. Since, today's date, May 13th is the anniversary of the first appearance of the apparition in Fatima, Portugal and since Morton was a practicing Catholic, who at one point in his life was known to attend Mass daily, I'll pick out Morton's two pieces that were played by the band to comment on.

Born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe on October 20, 1890 he will forever be known by his professional name of "Jelly Roll" Morton. Morton was a larger than life pianist and composer who was playing piano in the early 1900s. He wrote and recorded many jazz standards. His compositions are still being played. He died on July 10, 1941. He was truly one of the jazz greats and his legend lives on.

Pianist Paul Assaro does a fantastic job recreating the spirit of Morton's narration on the Animule Dance piece. Morton recorded the tune during his legendary Library of Congress recordings during the Summer of 1938 and again in 1939. But he first composed it in about 1906. Speaking about the tune he said, the “Animule Dance” is a number that was ages old. I wrote the number and ten thousand claimed it. I don’t believe it’s ever been published. I don’t guess it ever will be published. Or maybe it will. Since so many claimed it, I thought I wouldn’t try to claim it. But there’s nobody ever been able to do it so far but myself.”

The third tune played is another "Jelly Roll" Morton tune which he composed in 1908 called Frog-I-More Rag and later called Froggie Moore. Beau Sample gives the two stories often cited for the tunes strange name. The preferred story seems to be that it was named after a Vaudevillian contortionist who went by that name, whom Morton accompanied on the piano!  Who knows, it just could be true. Morton didn't actually copyright the tune until 1918, ten years after he was supposed to have composed it. He did record it in 1923 as Frog-I-More Rag.

The players for this 2013 concert are a little different from the current band. Jake Sanders was the banjo player, reed player Jonathan Doyle had not yet joined the group when this concert was filmed and Amanda Wolff sings. 

The Fat Babies most recent album release is "Solid Gassuh" which came out in 2016.

Here is "Jelly Roll" Morton's 1939 version of Animule Dance.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Wolverine Jazz Band Strikes Again!

Yesterday, George A. Borgman's widow Janet C. Borgman was given a birthday party in Millis, Massachusetts. The band that performed throughout was John Clark's Wolverine Jazz Band.
The Wolverine Jazz Band with the birthday girl!

Clark and the members in attendance all knew George when he was writing stories about jazz in the Mississippi Rag and other publications. John Clark and the Wolverines was always one of his favorite  New England bands.

Performing was John Clark the leader and clarinet player, Jeff Hughes on cornet, Rick MacWilliams on tuba, Jimmy Mazzy on banjo and Ross Petot on keyboards. They played a couple of requests that Janet asked for including Egyptian Ella and  Creole Belles.

During the band's break, the noted entertainer Joey Noone, aka Joey Voices put on a terrific comic performance by imitating a number of celebrity singers and actors to the letter! The audience loved his show, so much that half of them crowded round him after his performance asking for his card.

Janet Borgman and Casey McDougal
One guest said the party brightened her day and was still raving about the music and entertainment days later!

Emmy Award winning producer and actor Casey McDougal was in attendance at the party. Her latest film The Last Poker Game in which she appears with Martin Landau and Paul Sorvino is set for it's debut tomorrow at the Tribeca Film Festival.

All-in-all the party was a hit with the Wolverine Jazz Band playing up a storm to an appreciative audience. Traditional jazz still survives in New England!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Legendary Chuck Berry Dead At 90!

Blues guitarist and Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry was found unresponsive at his home earlier today, March 18, 2017. It was determined that he died of natural causes and it is believed he died of a heart attack.

Berry was born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri to William and Martha Berry. Berry was a fan of Nat "King" Cole growing up. His first public performance was while he was in high school in 1941. It was also while in school that he had his first major run-in with the law and he was incarcerated. He was released on his 21st birthday in 1947 and the next year he married. He worked at various jobs to support his wife and daughter and eventually began playing with local bands by the early 50s.

By 1953 he was working in a tio and played blues, country and ballads. The group played many of Muddy Waters' tunes and Berry would meet him in Chicago in 1955. It was Waters who suggested that Berry should contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records.

Maybellene was recorded on May 21, 1955 and would go on to sell over a million records. His career took off and he continued recording hits and touring. Songs like Johnny B. Goode, Sweet Little Sixteen and Carol all made the Top 10.

Chuck performing Johnny B. Goode in 1958.

In 1959, however, he had his second major run-in with the law and was arrested for transporting a 14 year old girl over state lines with whom he had sexual relations with. He served a year and a half in prison.

After he was released from prison, he continued his musical career. Dear Dad, Nadine, You Can Never Tell, and Promised Land were a few of his hits in the 1960s.

He released an album of all original music in 1979 which the critics liked. Then he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys. In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In October 2016 he announced his plans for a new album. His name and his recordings will always be synonymous with the birth of Rock and Roll.

Here is one of his last concerts in Moscowin 2014. He was 88 years old.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Centennial of Jazz Recordings!

Some may not realize it, but 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of jazz recordings. As such, Yankee Jazz Beat will be featuring the first jazz band that recorded on various posts throughout the year. In case you haven't guessed... that jazz band was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band led by Nick LaRocca.

Of course, there is controversy when Nick LaRocca claimed that he and his band were the "creators of jazz" and because of this and other comments and claims many people have neglected the group and their music, which is a shame. "Jelly Roll" Morton made the same claim that he "invented" jazz, but he has been treated with much more respect and even reverence over the years despite some evidence that he may have plagiarized some of his compositions.

LaRocca especially has been labeled a "racist" by some even though those same people ignore the rumors that Morton held some racial prejudices himself.

So, I want to here and now bury all of that malarkey. Jazz musicians great and small were and are not gods, they are fellow mortals who have all the human frailties, prejudices and beliefs. Some were heroes and legends, some were deeply flawed; some were great guys and some were down right bas***ds!

Now back to what matters, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The original band that recorded consisted of Nick LaRocca on cornet, Eddie Edwards on trombone, Larry Shields on clarinet, Henry Ragas on piano, and Tony Sbarbaro on drums.

The band was formed in Chicago after LaRocca, Edwards, Ragas and clarinetist Alcide "Yellow" Nunez broke off from Johnny Stein's band on May 26, 1916. The four had traveled from New Orleans in early March with Stein for an engagement in Chicago. However, when they arrived they found the club they were to have played at closed. Fortunately, they soon found employment at Schiller's Café on 31st Street. The band was billed as Stein's Band from Dixie. Soon, though, the band's name was changed to Stein's Dixie Jass Band. This appears to have been the first use of "jass" in reference to a band.

The band proved quite popular with audiences, too popular in fact for the pay that they were receiving and by May LaRocca and Edwards felt it was time for them to move on from Schiller's and do other gigs for more pay. When Stein was approached with this notion he balked. An argument ensued and it is said that Edwards ended up punching Johnny Stein in the nose.

A short time later on June 2, 1916, in fact, The Original Dixie Land Jass Band opened at the Del' Abe Café at the Hotel Normandy on the corner of Clark and Randolph Streets. LaRocca was the clear leader of the band although Edwards was the business manager and the two worked closely together. Chicago local Earl Carter played drums replacing Stein, for about two weeks. Tony Sbarbaro was sent for from New Orleans and he permanently replaced Carter on drums.

On July 6th the band started a new engagement appearing at the Casino Gardens on Kinzie St. The bands popularity continued. So much so, that during this period in August and September they  performed in Vaudeville with dancer Jimmy Fogarty to rave reviews.

Problems arising from Nunez's habit of being late on stage and the fact that his playing style clashed with LaRocca's led to Nunez being replaced with Larry Shields at the end of October 1916. Bad blood would remain between Nunez and the band for years to come.

Chicago had been the groups studying period where LaRocca and the band experimented with original tunes and a hectic, driving style that was spurned on by the audiences approval. When Al Jolson heard the band he was impressed and it is said that it was upon his recommendation in New York that led to the bands offer of a try out at Reisenweber's Café on Columbus Circle in New York City.

And the beat goes on...