Reviews

Georgie Price

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CALENDAR: BLUES IMAGES 2021 CALENDAR. Classic Blues Artwork Of the 1920s. Vol. 18. With Free CD By Blues Images - A division of John Tefteller’s World Rarest Records, P.O. Box 1727, Grants Pass, OR 97528-0200, USA. $29. https://bluesimages.com. Email: [email protected].

Let’s all hope that this 2021 Calendar will be the best way to get the blues in the coming year. 2020 has had enough blues to last a couple of decades. That said, this is the 18th edition of the calendar produced by collector John Tefteller, originally from 1920s artwork used for newspaper adverts for blues recordings. Through the years we’ve seen pictorial depictions of blues from such old friends as Charley Patton, Skip James, Blind Blake, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and the ‘Mississippi Sheiks’ (back editions are still available) which add a new dimension to our listening experience.

  In recent years, John has departed from the advertising concept to offer very high resolution photographs of blues artists — some familiar but in never-before-seen quality. 

  The most striking image is a photo of Leadbelly and his wife Martha Promise made shortly after they were massed in 1935. He’s demonstrating to her how to make a chord on lap guitar style in resolution so crisp and clear that it could have been taken today - in B&W, of course. The accompanying song is Leadbelly’s New Black Snake Blues recorded for ARC in 1935. 

  The photo of Blind Boy Fuller (one of the very few that exist of him) is very familiar to most collectors. But instead of a grainy image reprinted from a Vocalion catalog, this image was derived from the original studio portrait and the detail is incredible. We can finally see the true face of the man who made those records. The accompanying song on the CD is one of his best, Rag Mama Rag, from his first session in 1935. 

  The 1937 photo of Sonny Boy Williamson, made for his first Bluebird session, appears to be an early attempt at ‘photoshopping’ with Sonny Boy sporting a prominent (not quite real looking) moustache. Is it real? And why were his two harmonicas inked into the portrait? Perhaps we will never know. But we do know that he was one of the founders of the Chicago blues style with tough sounding harp playing over an incessant beat. From his first session, included here is Good Morning Little School Girl, still deep in traditional mode with Yank Rachel’s mandolin behind him.

  While the studio portrait of Buddy Moss remains undiscovered, the calendar features an excellent restoration of a catalog shot, guitar in hand with his 1933 Undertaker Blues featured on the accompanying CD.

  Meade Lux Lewis enjoyed a long career as a boogie boogie pianist, even appearing in movies (check Boogie Boogie Dream on the internet) but started his recording activities with Paramount, with Honky Tonk Train Blues, offered here in the cleanest transfer yet with what could be a still from that movie.

  Three months in this calendar go back to the Paramount adverts that started this series — Bertha Henderson and Blind Blake’s Terrible Murder Blues; Rambling Thomas’ Hard to Rule Woman Blues and — an old friend Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Pneumonia Blues — one of his best from his final sessions. (Surely the note that the session was recorded in Richmond, VA was a typo). 

  December usually features a religious disc and this year is no exception - Rev. D.C. Rice represented in a bold Vocalion advert for Angels Rolled the Stone Away

  The bonus tracks on this year’s calendar mark a distinct break from the past, being an entire post-war session (1950) by pianist Lost John Hunter. A few tracks from this session, recorded in Memphis, were issued on the 4-Star label, usually associated with country music, but the remainder languished unheard until now. The eleven previously unheard tracks sound rough and straight out of Memphis juke joints 

  As we move ever further into the digital world, wall calendars and CDs — physical products (including VJM itself)— are becoming less relevant. But the Blues-Image calendar never was about logging in doctors appointments or checking today’s date. It is about artwork that changes every month and offers us a glimpse of the blues. And the CD is rapidly becoming an outdated format but for anyone who cares about listening to this great music with the best possible quality, they are still relevant. Rip them into your computer and forget Youtube.

  Finally, they make great Christmas gifts — even to people who’ve never held a 78.

RUSS SHOR

CD: DAYLIGHT SAVIN’ – EARLY JAZZ, STOMP & SWING. ‘The Dime Notes’. El Rado Scuffle, The Chant, Daylight Savin Blues, The Dream, Grandpa's Spells, Fickle Fay Creep, Pep, Worried And Lonesome Blues, Ten Cent Rhythm, Why, Jubilee Stomp, San (12 tracks). Lejazzetal Records LJCD23. £12. Also available as a download for £6.99. https://lejazzetal.com/shop/daylight-savin.

This CD is the second album from the ‘The Dime Notes’, accurately advertised on the Lejazzetal website as ‘Blues drenched clarinet-driven 1920’s New Orleans jazz with London’s hard-swinging vintage jazz band.’ This quartet consists of David Horniblow, clarinet; Andrew Oliver, piano; Dave Kelbie, guitar; and Louis Thomas, string bass. Messrs Horniblow and Oliver, two very gifted musicians from London and Portland, Oregon respectively, will be familiar to readers already, in particular for their recent albums including The Complete Morton Project and to British festival circuit frequenters. The owner of Lejazzetal and veteran of the group, Dave Kelbie has been active since the 1980s as a fine guitarist, particularly at solid ‘comping’ as well as soloing. Louis Thomas, from Devon, completes the line up on bass with an arsenal of dextrous techniques.

  Daylight Savin’ fires off to a swinging start with their version of El Rado Scuffle, recorded by Jimmie Noone in 1930. David Horniblow has mastered the clarinet styles of greats such as Noone, Johnny Dodds, Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, Jimmy Lytell and others. This is the appropriate recording to start the album with as we hear how adept David is in all registers, along with Andrew Oliver’s dextrous mastery of the keyboard over the rock solid foundation of Dave Kelbie’s rhythmic guitar and Louis Thomas’s propulsive bass, all of which are sustained throughout this CD. A lot happens musically in this first three and a half minutes and a neat ending concludes this fine opener. Incidentally, one minor point – the tune was actually composed by Fred Rose, not Jimmie Noone as per the sleeve.

  It’s great to hear tunes like The Chant being recorded today. Unfortunately, it is one of those pieces that seem to have been inexplicably abandoned by 1930, at least on record. This fine tune, written by pianist Mel Stitzel who played with the ‘Bucktown Five’ and the ‘New Orleans Rhythm Kings’, and arranged for Melrose Bros. publishing, had a few different treatments from the Jelly Roll Morton stomp version to the bluesy Fletcher Henderson version, both recorded in 1926, to Omer Simeon’s ‘Dixie Rhythm Kings’ version three years later which lands somewhere in between. ‘The Dime Notes’ put their fine individual stamp on it to generate another swinging performance, while mainly following Morton’s routine with David and Andrew paying their respective homage to Omer Simeon and Jelly Roll. 

  Daylight Savin’ Blues is associated with the great stride master James P. Johnson, one of Andrew Oliver’s main influences, but was written by Perry Bradford and originally recorded under him with the ‘Gulf Coast Seven’. As expected, Andrew’s talent is featured heavily on this piece, with very effective support from the others. Louis Thomas’s bass playing is very strong on this track with plenty of slapping. A rousing final chorus leads to a cool surprise ending.

  The Dream is a ragtime piece written around 1896 by one Jesse Pickett, an obscure unrecorded ragtime pianist whom Eubie Blake looked up to and who, according to Andrew Oliver’s sleeve notes, evidently died young from drug addiction. He also notes the deliberate use of Morton’s Spanish Tinge which is clearly audible. This beautiful chamber-jazz version is at times vaguely reminiscent of Morton’s The Crave, with sterling work by Andrew who is front and centre. There is great interplay from all with some tricky stops, starts and pauses; and Dave Kelbie’s very smooth, crisp rhythm guitar is particularly effective on this track.

  Grandpa's Spells is vintage Jelly Roll Morton with Dave nicely recreating the original breaks by both Johnny St. Cyr on guitar and George Mitchell on cornet. David pays his dues to Omer Simeon again, while Andrew pounds out some of his quality Morton-influenced piano, and Louis Thomas solos forcefully. The recording is capped off perfectly by Dave again with a tasty guitar end-tag of his own, closing as good a rendition as any of this Morton gem.

  Fickle Fay Creep is another Jelly Roll classic and one of the more unique jazz pieces. Morton originally recorded it as Soap Suds with an obscure crew of unknowns as the ‘St. Louis Levee Band’ in the Gateway City for OKeh in 1926. It re-surfaced as Fickle Fay Creep on what turned out to be his last ‘Red Hot Peppers’ recording for Victor in 1930. Our quartet does an excellent job. The signature middle section with Andrew’s rocking piano and Dave’s steady guitar provide the perfect cushion for David’s long clarinet notes. Louis Thomas’s return to slapping his bass for the next two choruses sets things up for a rousing final chorus build up. They opt for the superior Soap Suds finale which Morton had curiously dropped in 1930, a great idea which along with above is how they do this tune justice.

  Pep, recorded only as a solo by Jelly Roll Morton, first in 1929 for Victor and again in 1938 at the Library of Congress interviews, is given a band treatment here. This is not the first band recording – Dick Hyman did one in his 1974 Morton album. ‘The Dime Notes’ include the 1938 opening for the piece. Louis Thomas uses the bow well here, and the others drop out to give Andrew some solo space towards the end where he shines as always before the swinging out-chorus.

  Worried And Lonesome Blues is a lively James P. Johnson composition which the band launch into with plenty of vigour. Andrew plays a superb solo, with more shades of Fats Waller than James P. Then there’s a sequence of stop-time and rhythm changes with breaks first by Dave Kelbie, and then by Louis Thomas bowing, followed later by another tricky series of breaks. Again, we hear fine comping from Dave throughout, anchoring the band perfectly. The final chorus is led by David’s Doddsian clarinet. They drop down a notch for a series of phrases leading to a satisfying blue note ending.

  Ten Cent Rhythm is an Andrew Oliver original, keeping the musical ten-denomination American currency theme going. The piece is a stomp that shows off Andrew’s excellent technical acumen at the keyboard and his compositional skills. There is an interesting clarinet/guitar interlude towards the end which creates a nice contrast, leading into another fine out-chorus with a clean ending.

  Why is another Morton piece from late in the great jazzman’s career, recorded with his ‘Hot Six’ for General in January 1940. The piece is one of his more commercial ones with a pleasant melody and featured a ‘croony’ vocal by Morton himself. The quartet keeps it instrumental and delivers a beautiful performance of this mellow tune. They also adjust their style accordingly to subtly and effortlessly let us know that this music is from a later period. Again, Dave does a top job with his rhythm. The composer credit isn’t quite correct on the sleeve – it was a co-composition by ‘Werac – Morton’. ‘Ed Werac’ was an alias for Morton’s confidant, friend and publisher in his later years, Roy J. Carew (1883-1967). 

  Jubilee Stomp comes from the Duke Ellington book. The great man seemed to drop the tune as quickly as he picked it up after recording it several times in 1928 in tempos that range from the leisurely medium-tempo Brunswick, through the fast versions for OKeh and Victor to, as Keith Nichols might say, the ‘tear-arse’ tempo of the Cameo version. ‘The Dime Notes’ choose around the latter pace and do the Duke and his men proud with their own very individual rendition which, like the originals, is short and sweet, and swings relentlessly.

  They finish with San, which links back to the start via Jimmie Noone. This 1920 piece by Lindsay McPhail and Walter Michels has been interpreted in many ways. Its first recording in 1921 by ‘The Benson Orchestra of Chicago’ is a standard dance band run-through; Johnny Dodds’s 1927 trio version is medium-up-tempo with an oriental feel; Paul Whiteman’s 1928 version is an up-tempo, but lyrical rendering of Bill Challis’s arrangement by a band-within-the-band featuring Bix Beiderbecke, violinist Matty Malneck and guitarist Carl Kress; while Jimmie Noone’s 1930 recording is a full-steam-ahead stampede showcasing the great clarinetist’s awesome technique. The excitement of Noone’s version must have been too much for Vocalion as neither take was issued on 78, but both did surface over 35 years later, one each on Swaggie and Ace of Hearts LPs. ’The Dime Notes’ produce another of their own fine, individual interpretations with nods to Dodds, Noone, Whiteman and Morton’s Spanish tinge. After the rhythmic introduction, they proceed at approximately the Whiteman tempo. A series of breaks by all four players leads to a neat, clean finish, ending the album on a high.

  Daylight Savin’ is a fine, swinging collection of jazz from the familiar to the obscure interpreted by a tight group of superb musicians. They go beyond keeping this style of music alive - they strike the right balance between injecting their own creativity and talent into the music while tipping their caps to the greats, thus making this music theirs. Note also that the quartet renders several pieces originally recorded by larger units but at no point does the listener feel that anything is missing. A few more tracks would be nice, but this is not a reissue, so that is understandable and we await their next instalment.

  There is huge credit due to Dave Kelbie and his firm for continuing to produce physical CDs in spite of the market. This CD is handsomely packaged with an opening orange and black smooth cardboard sleeve, a colour booklet with photos and Andrew’s notes, and the inner sleeve for the CD is a nice, practical touch as well. A beautiful production, thoroughly recommended – just order and enjoy!

BRIAN GOGGIN

DIGITAL ALBUM: DUETS FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Michael McQuaid & Curtis Volp. There Ain't No Land, Without That Gal, For No Reason at All in C, Melancholy, The Man I Love, Lots O'Mama, Moonlight on the Ganges, Blue River, Forget-Me-Not, Looking at the World (Thru' Rose Colored Glasses), If I Can't Have You, Waiting at the End of the Road, Bechet's Steady Rider (13 tracks). Bandcamp. Unnumbered. $10 or more if desired. https://mcquaidjazz.bandcamp.com/album/duets-for-no-reason-at-all.

Michael McQuaid was born in 1981 in Australia and is a multi-instrumentalist, who names luminaries as varied as Dodds, Leon Roppollo, Hawkins, Trumbauer, Beiderbecke and Jabbo Smith amongst his musical influences – and indeed he plays clarinet and saxes as well as cornet. Although the brief liner notes refer to him playing the saxes and cornet in this collection, I can only hear a clarinet and possibly one of the higher register saxes. He’s well-known as a member of the Australian-American Hot Jazz Alliance, but also performs with the Vitality Five and his own Swing Stars and Saxophone Quartet. He specialises, as here, in music from the 20s and 30s and is one of the finest exponents of hot jazz in Britain, where he now lives. 

  Curtis Volp plays guitar, banjo and mandolin – though only the first on this CD – and is something of a prodigy. Biographical details for Volp are hard to come by, but he has studied jazz and classical guitar at the Guildhall School of Music and has performed in both styles at the Royal Albert Hall and Courtauld Gallery, amongst many venues, as well as on BBC2 TV and Radio 4. He is a member of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, the Ubu Ensemble, and the Guildhall Big Band. Suffice it to say that, whatever his musical influences may be, his playing here displays the rhythmic intensity of Eddie Lang with the solo virtuosity of Teddy Bunn – though I must admit this is potentially misleading, as both Volp and McQuaid are true original stylists, which is what makes this CD so fascinating.

  Their selection opens with There Ain’t No Land Like Dixieland To Me, taken at a coruscating pace, yet with no feeling of being hurried or thrown together. McQuaid’s playing has a beautiful, liquid quality, reminiscent of Omer Simeon or Joe Marsala, with excellently executed slurs along the way, whilst Volp’s solo is a complex combination of rhythm and dexterous single string melody. Without That Gal – a big hit for both Leo Reisman and Blanche Calloway in its day – is nonetheless a mostly forgotten number today and gets a well earned revival here: Volp’s solo is noteworthy. The title track, For No Reason At All In C, features an extended guitar solo, which is more than a nod in the direction of a tribute to Eddie Lang, though the style is entirely Volp’s own. The duo re-create the original ending to the Beiderbecke / Trumbauer recording and McQuaid’s phrasing is superb.

  You might well be surprised at the up-tempo pace of the next number, Melancholy, but it works and gives McQuaid an opportunity to shine in the clarinet’s high register – where one might have expected a much more restrained delivery. Although the tempo of The Man I Love is in keeping with its ballad status, this is a bouncing, rhythmic version of a tune, which very few jazzmen attempted when it was first written:  perhaps not least because its very un-1920s chord sequence and harmonies made it unsuitable for the kind of improvisation most musicians back then were capable of. Fred Elizalde gave it his usual somewhat fussy interpretation as a piano solo, complete with double-tempo chorus, and – unless you include Paul Whiteman’s equally fussy concert version with its few bars of Trumbauer’s c-melody sax -  that was it! McQuaid and Volp rehabilitate this lovely melody as a classic jazz number, which is long overdue. Incidentally, the Gershwins originally intended it for their 1924 show Lady Be Good, but it was dropped and only revived three years later for Strike Up The Band.

  Lots o’ Mama likewise dates from 1924, but is a horse of a very different colour: a simple melody with its own internal ‘bounce’, and one often played hot by dance bands of the period. Curtis Volp plays a solo with an improvisational line reminiscent at several points of Charlie Christian at his very best. McQuaid’s clarinet positively wheels and soars through the final chorus to a splendid finish. Although Benny Goodman recorded Moonlight On The Ganges (in 1940, arranged by Eddie Sauter, but not issued), I’m not aware of any other jazz combo attempting this number before the modern era (so-called!). It’s not an obvious candidate for any kind of traditional jazz treatment, with its oriental (but not actually atmospheric) voicings and rather flat rhythm. Nonetheless after a straight opening chorus, the guitar solos well and lifts the rhythm and the clarinet turns in a pleasant improvised chorus to round it off. Blue River is one of my personal favourites from the Bix / Trumbauer output: their OKeh recording has a smooth rhythm and a natural studio echo which gives it a wistful sense of longing. Although taken at the same tempo, McQuaid and Volp offer a more swinging approach, with a finely executed chase chorus, which might well have replaced the nondescript vocal on the original. Forget-Me-Not is an entirely forgettable 1920s tune, which is only noteworthy for its glimpses of Bix Beiderbecke in the version by Paul Whiteman, which was first issued in the 30s as a tribute to Bix long after he died; Michael McQuaid nonetheless shows just what a good jazz musician can make of such unpromising material, ably backed by Volp’s thrumming guitar.

  Looking At The World Through Rose-Coloured Glasses is, by contrast a tune covered by a large number of early bands, jazz and dance alike. Curtis Volp takes a full-blooded guitar solo on this version, which ends with another excellent chase chorus. It’s followed by If I Can’t Have You, another of those undistinguished tunes from the late 20s, but that doesn’t prevent the musicians here from giving it a relaxed and inspired treatment. Interestingly, I was struck by how much the tone of Michael McQuaid’s clarinet on this number sounds like that of the fine New Orleans player, Sidney Arodin. Volp plays an especially good guitar split chorus on the penultimate track, Waiting At The End Of The Road, which the duo then repeat in reverse, making this one of the best numbers on the CD, which rounds off with Bechet’s Steady Rider. Although it’s played on clarinet throughout, the attack and drive of the soprano sax of its composer is all there – a fitting end to a selection that is both thoughtful and fiery, and an asset to any collection of up-to-date hot jazz.

MAX EASTERMAN

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