I Remember Jazz
Six Decades Among the Great Jazzmen
Publication Year: 1999
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Sure I remember jazz. I remember more than sixty years of it—from the time I was a kid standing on a French Quarter banquette in New Orleans listening to the breathtaking band that played for dancing on the second floor of the Fern Cafe No. 2 to the ones I tried futilely to...
A Note on Vernacular
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The reader with a reasonably close-hand relationship to the world of jazz may find that the way I've quoted the musicians doesn't ring altogether true. That's because I have deleted most of the obscenities—in the interest of brevity rather than prudery. Had I included every...
Jelly Roll Morton
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Try to forget for a moment that he was a musician who had a profound effect on American culture, that he was a pimp and a pool hustler who was racist in his attitudes. Just for now, forget his conviction that blacks were inherently inferior beings. What kind of man...
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In my own pretensions to civilization I have always scoffed at the practice of or belief in voodoo. Hard as it is to believe, though, thousands of Orleanians accepted it matter-of-factly as I was growing up, and unfortunately many lives were destroyed or impoverished because of...
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Not too many jazz fans remember Frankie Newton. He was an exciting and inventive trumpet player, the one that Bessie Smith collectors hear on her final recording that included "Gimme a Pigfoot" and "You've Been a Good Old Wagon." Frankie lived in Greenwich Village...
Jack "Papa" Laine
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It seems unreasonable that I could have had any sort of relationship with Jack Laine when you consider that he led the first documentable jazz band in history as early as 1892 and that he retired from music in 1910, long before I was born. His Reliance bands spawned such talents...
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Like thousands of others, I admire Bill Russell, the dean of jazz researchers and archivists, who, almost single-handedly, brought about the jazz revival that began in the 1940s. His American Music Records company put on wax a host of jazz stars whose sounds would have...
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When Mezzrow got out of jail, where he spent some time because of his indiscretions with illegal substances, he was broke and had no prospects for work. I produced three concerts just so he'd have a little encouragement. If you've read his autobiography, Really the Blues,...
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We were having coffee in a cafeteria on Sheridan Square in the Village—Pee Wee Russell, Bobby Hackett, and I. I just happened to meet them in there. They were due on the bandstand at Nicks in forty minutes or so, and Hackett had promised Miff Mole he'd keep Pee...
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Anytime you hear someone play the clarinet solo in "High Society" its either a copy or an adaptation of the original treatment created by Alphonse Picou. Picou crafted it himself, out of the piccolo part in Porter Steeles classic. For the rest of his life Picou reveled in the flattery...
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Irving Fazola was a physical wreck by the midforties. (He was only thirty-seven when he died in 1949.) He had already established himself in the front rank of all-time great jazzmen. A student of classic teacher Jean Paquay, who was a mainstay of the French Opera Orchestra...
Oran "Hot Lips" Page [Includes Image Plates]
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"It's all in the lip," he explained. "You see these valves and all this plumbing—the only thing you really need is the mouthpiece." If that had been anyone but a really great jazz trumpet man like Lips Page speaking, I probably wouldn't have been paying the close attention...
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The concert was around 1946, at the White Horse Bowling Academy in Trenton, New Jersey. I just can't remember whom I brought besides Tony Parenti, Max Kaminsky, and the drummer, Arthur Trappier. This wasn't an auditorium, just a place set up with tables and chairs. It...
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I don't know how many jazz fans remember Dan Burley. He came out of the rent-party tradition, which in Chicago spawned such stars as Pinetop Smith, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, and Jimmy Yancey, besides Cripple Clarence Lofton, Pete Johnson, and so many more....
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In the jazz world I've known all kinds of musicians—hustlers, pimps, drug addicts, band managers, entrepreneurs, and booking agents. I've met my share of dilettantes, philanthropists, political proselytizers, politicians, cynics, and innocents. And very few people don't belong...
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Outside of the years I spent in college, a few of my adult years were spent in Philadelphia. In 1946 and 1947 I was doing the Journeys Into Jazz radio shows and concerts there, supporting these vices by working in the advertising and publicity business. My favorite account was...
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All jazz collectors know the name of Adrian Rollini, who was not only an expert bass-saxophonist and xylophone virtuoso but also had the knack of getting jobs for himself and whatever group he happened to out-of-town artist may only appear in the one place he's booked for....
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Hugues Panassie introduced me to Stephane Grappelle in the winter of 1936. Panassie was the first patron of jazz in France and the author of Le Jazz Hot, the first book ever written to acquaint the public with this art form. He organized the Hot Clubs of France, which produced...
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The young man told me that as a civilian he'd been a professional jazz saxophonist. I never did hear him play, but it was clear from his talk about life in Baltimore that he knew all the right people, that we shared many friends. From his manner I had no reason to doubt that...
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Reading Sidney Bechet's autobiography, Treat It Gentle, I had to accept the fact that the Bechet he was writing about had little in common with the Bechet I knew so well. His Bechet and mine both played soprano sax and clarinet. The kindly old gentleman in his book...
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The music we have come to call Dixieland made its debut north of the Mason-Dixon Line under the leadership of Tom Brown, born in New Orleans on June 3, 1888. He and his Band from Dixieland made their bow at Lamb's Cafe in Chicago in 1915, and that started it all....
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Its impossible to write of any phase in the history of jazz, most especially a first-person account, without finding oneself constantly dealing with bigotry, meanness, and the gross insensitivities that are just as prevalent in jazz as in the rest of our society. Such character flaws are...
James P. Johnson
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There's a kind of piano playing I never could work up any enthusiasm for. I can't label it "stride," since I was always transfixed by the performances of folks like Luckey Roberts and, later, Don Ewell. On the other hand, Fats Waller, Willie "The Lion" Smith, and Art Tatum,...
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There have always been magical people in this world, individuals found in unlikely places, catalyzing their environments into something infinitely better than without them. With an aura of indestructibility, agelessness, magnetic charm, they make legends. Two such flowered...
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We were walking together toward our rooms in the Downtowner Motor Inn in Manassas, Virginia. I was the only one sober enough to count that there were three of us on that winter night in 1969. There was me, for one. I was in Manassas to attend Johnson McCrees annual...
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What we did together, mainly, was drink. We had our favorite outside, I noted that Bob Greene, too, had emerged from his room. We faced each other in front of Condons door and I tried the knob. No dice. Bob knocked. The painful groans and screeches continued...
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The year was 1976—the American Bicentennial. Alvin Alcorn and I sat on the deck of a bateau in the Seine and I said, "Back in the late thirties—I think that must be when we first met—could you have dreamed that one day we'd be sitting here on a boat in Paris with you...
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The Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans is world famous for its cancer research and for alerting the nation to the extreme dangers of tobacco. Smoking, of course, is not permitted in the hospital. Dr. Alton B. Ochsner was very specific on that point....
Wild Bill Davison [Includes Image Plates]
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The reference is not to his playing style, which has won him an international following for the past forty-five years or so. He's just, well, wild. The oldest incorrigible brat in the jazz world, his misdemeanors were magnified exponentially when George Brunies was still...
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Strictly speaking, you couldn't really call Joe Mares a musician, though I know for a fact that he did play a little clarinet in his youth and once or twice might even have been paid for it. But he did have the opportunity frequently to sit in with the key members of the New...
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Sometimes things happen that don't take very long and they're so far outside of your regular routine that in retrospect they seem unreal. Such events seem more frequent among jazz people than among the members of saner society. I mean the average working citizen can live...
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As far as the musical arts were concerned, the middle thirties were years of drastic changes. The swing era started effectively in 1935 with the startling success of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, which achieved popularity by dumping the prime essentials of authentic jazz and borrowing...
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knew Eubie Blake so well, and for so long, that I still can't believe he's gone. As his official biographer I put almost all the Eubie stories in that volume, Eubie Blake by Al Rose (Schirmer-Macmillan, 1979), but not all of them. Some were withheld in deference to Eubie's wife...
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band
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The ODJB's importance in the history of jazz can't be overstated. Those musicians made the very first jazz record ever issued (1917). And they ultimately made jazz a household word with early records that were enormously successful just after World War I and with tours...
Armand J. Piron
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How I wish I could recreate this scene for you and the feelings of this nine year old, as he sat on the bank of Lake Pontchartrain in the light of the full moon, watching the flickering bulbs of the amusement rides of Spanish Fort in their perpetual multicolored pattern changes,...
The Candy Man
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In our times, you may have noticed, there's been a proliferation of "old time ice cream parlors." Even the very young now associate that white-topped table, those ice cream chairs, the gayly striped awnings, and the Tiffany-style light fixtures with fifty delicious flavors in cones...
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There may have been a variety of earth-shaking events going on in the world on that particular spring day in 1922, but only one thing mattered in the sun-drenched town of Perryton, Texas. It surely didn't look as though it were participating in Mr. Coolidges prosperity, with...
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Over the phone, he said: "Man, I do believe my family's tryin' to kill me! I promised Marie [pronounced with a flat a and with the accent on the first syllable] I was gonna take her for a visit to California, and I swear, I'm too sick to go. I'm not over this damn flu yet. And it's not...
Pee Wee Spitlera
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He had a distinguished career as a clarinetist to Jumbo (Al Hirt) and developed a following of his own not only in Jumbos Bourbon Street nightclub, but among the TV audiences that noticed there was something special in the tone of this roly-poly little fellow whose every...
Morten Gunnar Larsen
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Morten Gunnar Larsen is one of the great jazz and ragtime pianists in the world. His only problem is that he lives in Norway, apparently on purpose. Now in his mid-twenties, he devotes himself to concert work in Europe, playing mainly the works of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton...
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Anytime I get back to New Orleans after having been away for an appreciable time, there are a few people I check in with—first to satisfy myself that they're all right and second to find out what's going on. One of these is my old and valued friend, Danny Barker, one of jazz's...
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In the mid-1940s, after my discharge from the army, I lived in Philadelphia for three years, doing publicity work, mainly theatrical and musical. I had a house in Quince Street, which is the heart of the downtown section of the city. Just three blocks away was the Earle...
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In 1966, Life magazine published a large cover story about Satch. Richard Meryman put the piece together, but it consisted almost entirely of Louis' tape-recorded reminiscences about his career, plus a large number of old photographs, many of which I was able to supply....
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Don't let anybody tell you that Knocky Parker isn't one of the all-time jazz greats, because he is. That does not say he isn't a strange one, because he's that, too. He lives in Tampa, Florida, where he teaches various courses at the University of South Florida under the alias of...
Johnny Wiggs [Includes Image Plates]
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It seems a shame that the name of Johnny Wiggs is so little known even to jazz fans, despite his magnificent recorded achievements and his inestimable part in the revival of authentic jazz in the forties and fifties. Wiggs was one of the very few who were able to teach aspiring...
Jean Christophe Averty
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The word genius is, in our time, used much too freely. Even among that rarefied class, the majority aren't necessarily conspicuous. I want to call your attention to one who is in fact a genius—it might not even be inappropriate to employ the cliche "mad genius"—and...
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I never had much professional contact with Eddie Miller, because I have always abjured the use of that deplorable device, the saxophone, in recording or concert work. I understand their function in swing bands, or as replacement parts to be fitted under sinks. But when it...
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Philosophy is a very personal matter and you wouldn't expect to learn it from a jazz musician, but I must admit that my own attitudes toward life and my perspective on people have been discernibly modified by observing at close range Raymond Burkes approaches to life...
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September was still hot in 1880 New Orleans, though not as bad at Number 3 South Basin Street, because that was a wide, tree-lined boulevard. It was already known for its massive houses of ill-fame such as those presided over by Kate Townsend and Hattie Hamilton. Number...
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There are always people that you consider lifelong friends, people who seem as though they're part of the family. Even when your communication may be grossly irregular, you never cease to be concerned about and interested in their welfare. For me, Pierre Atlan and his...
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Claude Luter, in the area of authentic jazz, is Europe's foremost musician. His name is a household word in Paris, but unfamiliar, for the most part, to American fans and even collectors. One reason for this is that he has never performed in this country; in fact, he has only...
W. C. Handy
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The "Father of the Blues" was already a legend forty-five years ago, and most people—even musicians—didn't know he was still alive. He was occupying an office on Broadway opposite the Brill Building, running his music publishing business with what seemed to be moderate...
David Thomas Roberts
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During my long association with American music, only two musicians have assured me that they were the most important creative artists of their time in their idiom. One was Jelly Roll Morton, who, in 1939, told me, "All these other guys is playin' Jelly Roll. You turn on the...
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His name was Martin Abraham. The music world called him Chink Martin, an unfortunate use of an ethnic slur. But what could he do about it, or who would have wanted to, during the years before the general public began to frown on the use of such nicknames? If you'd...
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During the mid-1940s, I often found myself embarrassed by the incontrovertible fact that no blacks attended my Journeys Into Jazz concerts. It would have seemed as though I had been systematically excluding Negroes, since we found we were playing exclusively to...
"Buglin' Sam" Dekemel
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"Buglin' Sam the Waffle Man" was a New Orleans institution in the early twenties, when his colorful, horse-drawn wagon would ply the streets of New Orleans selling hot waffles, four for a nickel. You could always tell when he was in the neighborhood, because he heralded...
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There's as much technique involved in listening to jazz as there is in playing it. Superficial performers attract hordes of superficial listeners. There are so many more of them. As one learns to really hear the jazz, ones interest in the ingeniousness and beauty of ensemble play...
Johnny St. Cyr
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I always saved the business cards of jazz musicians. Most of them are now in the Tulane University Jazz Archive Collection. Among New Orleans jazzmen, though, many of the cards advertised their "day jobs" and made no mention of their music. That's how it came to...
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Sharkey really captured the fancy of the Dixieland fans, but not necessarily for the right reasons. A natural showman, his slight figure was never at rest on stage. His brown derby with the little feather in it was one of the best-known trademarks in jazz. His tiny, raspy, almost soprano...
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There are many kinds of piano players. Among the most numerous is the kind that can dazzle you with their sheer brilliance. Even among them there is a hierarchy of the super-brilliant, and if you've sat in an audience being overwhelmed with the consummate skills of a Johnny...
Earl "Fatha" Hines [Includes Image Plates]
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Anybody who knew him didn't call him "Fatha." That was PR stuff. His friends and other musicians called him Earl, though he, himself, called his own close associates by various nicknames, many of which he made up. He called Louis Armstrong "Homey" because, he alleged...
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After 1935, Gene Krupa was all the rage. Before that hardly anybody had ever heard of him, though I had been dimly aware of him, I suppose, from hearing musicians talk. I can't really remember when I met him, but I'm almost sure it was while the Goodman band and the...
The Exterminators: Pete Fountain and Al Hirt
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Things were hard for jazzmen in the fifties—especially the early fifties—and most especially in New Orleans. Bourbon Street was still a year or so away from full bloom, and the Dixieland bands that were to proliferate hadn't yet secured their jobs. There were places like La...
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In a book about the real jazz you wouldn't reasonably expect to find anything about Dizzy Gillespie, but I've included him to make a point. The point could be of interest to people who feel that the music began to decline roughly around the time it began to be recorded. It's...
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There used to be a little middle-Eastern restaurant on Fourteenth Street in New York. It was called The Kafkaz, and many evenings when I planned to go to Nick's to listen to some music, I'd go in there for some shashlik and kasha. I was on my way in one night when I...
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I didn't get to know Clarence Williams until the late forties. He wasn't playing music anymore, having made his pile out of his music publishing business and other hustles he seemed to generate consistently. I had always wanted to talk to him, and when I found out from Jimmy...
The Dixieland Rhythm Kings
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This is about six youngsters from Dayton, Ohio—at least that's where they'd been playing in their short careers and the leader, Gene Mayl, was from there. He performed expertly on a four-valve tuba. All of them were enamored with early New Orleans jazz and most particularly...
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George was the most famous Brunies. I think he's the best jazz trombonist I ever heard, but I finally had to stop using him on concerts because he was incorrigible. I can't talk about the characters of Richie and Henny, who played with Papa Laine, though the old man had...
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In 1958 the morning TV show "Wide Wide World" decided to cover the tenth anniversary celebration of the New Orleans Jazz Club aboard the steamer President. The vessel was alive with jazz stars, including Pauls band, Sharkey s band, Wiggss band with Edmond...
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Somewhere there's a doctoral dissertation yet to be done on the seeming coincidence of certain neighborhoods producing a disproportionate share of jazzmen. I've known everybody in the so-called "Austin High Gang" of Chicago. It included Krupa, Bud Freeman, Jimmy...
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One of the world's great jazz bass players is Sherwood Mangiapane of New Orleans. He's retired from his "day job" now as an officer of Keppards, Jim Robinson, George Lewis, and the composer of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," Edward Boatner. Jim Robinson had no...
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I knew from the very start that I'd never get it all into a single volume that would be small enough to handle. I never even mentioned some of my best friends—some of the people I was and am fondest of. Nothing about Edmond Hall, Isidore Barbarin, Don Albert, Ricard...
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Page Count: 258
Publication Year: 1999