Discographical Ramblings

A selection of Colin Hancock’s Dicsographical Ramblings from VJM 196, our Summer 2023 issue


Just what was the first jazz trombone solo? Trombone “features” began permeating Jazz in the late 1910s. Renditions of That Moaning Trombone by Jim Europe’s Band (Pathe 22085), Lassus Trombone by “Dabney’s Band” (AV 12119), Slim Trombone by “Joseph Samuels’ Jazz Band” (OKeh 4124) all found there way into record catalogues, and the genre influenced compositions such as Ory’s Creole Trombone (Nordskog 3000). However, the first true solo trombone recording very well may be a complete deviation from this tradition - a 1925 instrumental blues number entitled Jake’s Weary Blues (Pathé 36366) by the Harlem trombonist Jake Frazier. Issued under the name of the “Kansas City Five”, the disc is really just a solo performance by Frazier accompanied by Elmer Snowden and Louis Hooper. Indeed, the subtext of the disc lists “Trombone Passages by Jake Frazier,” though my copy on Perfect calls him “Jack”! According to Eugene Chadborne, the idea for the disc (which features the same rhythm section with clarinetist Bob Fuller on the flip) came from music publisher Joe Davis, who insisted on interesting and uncommon instrumental sides to plug his songs. The performance is a low down blues with fantastic moaning from Frazier, who plays every single chorus. At a late night listening session in Matthew Rivera’s apartment with Jerron Paxton and Andy Schumm, the group of us concluded the best description of the record is “Johnny Dunn-style trombone.”


This is a landmark recording in jazz history. The song stayed in Armstrong's repertoire for the rest of his career. Three takes were recorded. According to Laurie Wright's OKeh Race Records 8000 Series, the file card shows that take A was rejected, while takes B and C, initially the respective first and second choice takes, were subsequently designated as the respective second and first choice takes. All copies known to me of OKeh 8756 and Columbia 2688-D contain Rockin' Chair take C. An alternate take has been issued on microgrooves and compact discs. Discographies by Jos Willems, Tom Lord and Franz Hoffmann mistakenly list this as take A. Willems reports that “Rockin' Chair matrix 403496-A is said to exist on Vocalion 3039, but all copies of this record known to us play the common take -C.” No 78 rpm issues of the rare take are listed in any of the three discographies. [Note: DAHR notes A and C but not B, Rust misprints the Voc issue as 3009, and Westerberg lists take C only - Ed.] I am happy to report a copy (held here) of Vocalion 3039 that contains the rare take. It is aurally identical to the performance claimed as take A on microgroove and compact disc issues. The label is black and gold. It appears to be a west coast pressing, with a laminated surface and a small center ring. Stamped in the dead wax: W403496B.


Mark Berresford adds that Charles Manny (white American) and Ashley (Bob) Roberts (black American) recorded two sides for HMV in London in 1915 -- and one, All Night Long, is one of the first black scat vocals, eleven years before Louis! While their performance isn't jazz per se, it is of considerable interest, and can be heard on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k0IHhuIZi4. Your rambler also notes that even prior to this recording, the African-American banjoist and entertainer Charles Ashbury performed an early version of scat singing while imitating his banjo on the ca. 1893 wax cylinder recording of Haul the Woodpile Down, which can be heard on Four Banjo Songs (ARCH EPV-0704-181).


Please send any ramblings, comments or responses to me at [email protected]Thanks.