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Kenny Ball - Midnight In Moscow
Jackie Cain and Roy Kral
Terry Lightfoot - King Kong
Art Van Damme
Click here for a video of Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen playing Midnight In Moscow.
We have an interesting conundrum. Perhaps readers can help?
Ian Simms wrote to us. He recalled 'Banjo George' Baron telling him how: 'he went off to Russia "just to have a look at it" (his words) and came back with a pretty little folk tune. Kenny Ball heard it, George said he could have it if he liked, and Kenny turned it into a No. 1 hit with Midnight In Moscow!'
But Gerard Bielderman, compiler and publisher of discographies of jazz musicians and jazz bands, in the Netherlands queried this saying: 'Kenny Ball recorded the tune in September 1961 but there was already a Trad version on the market (Storyville A45042), played by the Dutch New Orleans Syncopators and recorded on January 4, 1961. I've always thought that Kenny heard it and saw the hit potential.'
As Ian Simms says: 'I had the origins of Kenny Ball's hit told to me by Banjo George himself and there is no reason to doubt him.'
The New Orleans Syncopators version seems to have been released as a single in 1961 and then as a two-sided record (backed by Shine) in 1962. Click here to hear the Jan Burgers and his New Orleans Syncopators recording of Midnight In Moscow. It is credited as 'Traditional arranged by Jan Burgers' and the arrangement is different to Kenny Ball's although it is the same tune.
On Songplaces.com, Cenarth Fox writes 'In 1955 two experienced Russian creators, Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi [composer] and Mikhail Matusovsky [lyrics] wrote a song called "Leningrad Nights," Leningrad being another Russian city. But a powerful force requested a change. The Soviet Ministry of Culture thought something about evenings in Moscow might be more appropriate, and so the lyrics and title were changed ... Vladimir Troshin was the singer/actor who first recorded "Moscow Nights," giving the song its initial burst of fame.'
'Then some bizarre things occurred. The tune won first prize in an international song competition held in Moscow in 1957. It became a hit in China. From 1964 in the old Soviet Union, the tune has been played on radio every 30 minutes as part of the time signal. It was pretty damn hard not to know this melody.'
Click here for a video of Vladimir Troshin singing Moscow Nights.
If you are interested in the lyrics (not usually heard on the Trad versions), the English version is:
Stillness in the grove Not a rustling sound
Softly shines the moon clear and bright
Dear, if you could know How I treasure so
This most beautiful Moscow Night
Lazily the brook like a silvery stream Ripples in the light of the moon
And a song afar fades as in a dream
In this night that will end too soon
Yes a song afar fades as in a dream
In this night that will end too soon Dearest, why so sad, why the downcast eyes
And your lovely head bent so low
Oh, I mustn’t speak, though I’d love to say
That you’ve stolen my heart away
Promise me my love, as the dawn appears And the darkness turns into light
That you’ll cherish dear, through the passing years
This most beautiful Moscow Night
Say you’ll cherish dear through the passing years
This most beautiful Moscow Night
'In 1961 the British jazz group, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, recorded an instrumental version called "Midnight in Moscow." They even played it when on tour in Moscow. It did extremely well on the charts of the Western world. As recently as 2008, the Russian singer Vitas recorded a second version of the song. It again enjoyed great success and again in China; proof positive that songs can cross borders and cultures in both the East and the West. In the 2008 Olympics, the winning rhythmic gymnast used "Midnight in Moscow" as the music for her gold medal performance. Some songs just hang around.' (Click here for the article).
Wikipedia picks up on some of these points saying: 'The song spread around the world, achieving particular popularity in mainland China; Van Cliburn's 1958 piano performance of the tune contributed to this international spread. In the Soviet Union, the tune became the time signal sounded every 30 minutes on the Mayak music and news radio station since 1964. The shortwave radio station Radio Moscow's English-language service has played an instrumental version of "Moscow Nights", between informing listeners of frequency changes and the hourly newscast since the start of its 24-hour English Service in 1978.'
Click here to listen to Van Cliburn's piano version. It is far more sombre and the video is accompanied by some interesting pictures and information.
It is quite possible, of course, that both Jan Burgers and George Baron picked up the tune at the same time as it was becoming so popular, and that it just so happened that Kenny Ball's version received the exposure it did and went on to be the hit record. Later versions of Kenny Ball's recording attributes the song to 'Soloviev-Sedoi, Matusovosky, Ball' giving its origins in line with Cenarth Fox's account, although the original Pye single also credits it as 'Traditional' as Jan Burger's did.
Kenny Ball's version had Johnny Bennet (trombone), Dave Jones (clarinet), Ron Weatherburn (piano), Vic Pitts (bass), Ron Bowden (drums) and Paddy Lightfoot (banjo).
Perhaps someone knows something different?
Terry Lightfoot and King Kong
John Doyle hosts a local radio programme at Near FM in Dublin. He writes:
'On 1st August, the Irish August Monday, I played King Kong by Terry Lightfoot. I've liked this record since its release in 1961. Any information I've read of this 1959 jazz musical from South Africa, mentioned that the show was going to Broadway after its London performances, early 1962.'
'Last weekend, while searching for information on pianist Johnny Parker, I read for the first time that due to various difficulties, the show did not open on Broadway. Instead, the seventy-cast show broke up in London. Some cast members went home, others stayed in England. Johnny Parker's second wife Peggy Phango, was a cast member who stayed. Some years ago, while seeking information on the King Kong musical, I found a five page feature in a 1961 issue of Ebony, an American magazine aimed at African American people. The feature was more photographic than text. The photographs were taken in London. Ebony mentions the show's impending run on Broadway, which didn't happen. One photograph, is a young member of the cast playing an alto Grafton plastic saxophone. It was a birthday present from the cast. I only saw the Grafton plastic saxophone on display in one Dublin music shop, Piggott's, it was around 1959.'
Click here to listen to Terry Lightfoot's New Orleans Jazzmen playing King Kong (click the grey box to the right that says 'Listen').
This is the title track song from King Kong, an All African Jazz Opera in 1959 starring Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi. Click here to listen to Kwela Song from the original cast recording.
Wikipedia tells us: 'King Kong had an all-black cast. The musical portrayed the life and times of a heavyweight boxer, Ezekiel Dlamini, known as "King Kong". Born in 1921, after a meteoric boxing rise, his life degenerated into drunkenness and gang violence. He knifed his girlfriend, asked for the death sentence during his trial and instead was sentenced to 14 years hard labour. He was found drowned in 1957 and it was believed his death was suicide. He was 36.'
'After being a hit in South Africa in 1959, the musical played at the Prince's Theatre in the West End of London in 1961. The liner notes for the London cast recording state: "No theatrical venture in South Africa has had the sensational success of King Kong. This musical, capturing the life, colour, and effervescence -- as well as the poignancy and sadness -- of township life, has come as a revelation to many South Africans that art does not recognize racial barriers. King Kong has played to capacity houses in every major city in the Union [of South Africa], and now, the first export of indigenous South African theatre, it will reveal to the rest of the world the peculiar flavour of township life, as well as the hitherto unrecognized talents of its people. The show, opened at the Princes Theatre, London, on February 23, 1961 ...'
'. ..... According to John Matshikiza, King Kong's first night was attended by Nelson Mandela, who at the interval congratulated Todd Matshikiza "on weaving a subtle message of support for the Treason Trial leaders into the opening anthem".'
Ollie Dowling of Quality Music in Dublin has been championing guitarist Louis Stewart for a long time. It was only a matter of months ago that Ollie was publicising Louis' regular gigs at J J Smyth's Dublin venue in Aungier Street and then when Louis became ill, keeping me updated about his progress. Sadly, Louis didn't pull through and passed through the Departure Lounge on 20th August. Since then, many people have paid tribute to his contribution to jazz.
Click here for a video of Louis Stewart playing at J J Smyth's in Dublin with the Phil Ware Trio.
Louis Stewart was born in Waterford and started out professionally in playing with Dublin showbands. (Readers might recall John Doyle's recent article about the distinctive nature of Irish Showbands - click here). When Louis played at the Montreaux Jazz Festival with pianist Jim Doherty in 1968, he received the award for 'Outstanding European Soloist' and was offered a scholarship to attend Berklee College Of Music. Instead he joined Benny Goodman's band in 1970.
Here's a video of Louis with Benny Goodman playing Rose Room and Honeysuckle Rose. Billy Higgins is the pianist.
Louis began recording with his own band in 1976. Louis the First's sidemen included Billy Higgins, Peter Ind, Red Mitchell, Sam Jones and Spike Robinson. Later he began touring with George Shearing and eight albums followed often with bassist Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen. The NewYork Times wrote: "Mr. Stewart seems to have his musical roots in be-bop. He leans toward material associated with Charlie Parker and he spins out single-note lines that flow with an unhurried grace, colored by sudden bright, lively chorded phrases. His up-tempo virtuosity is balanced by a laid-back approach to ballads, which catches the mood of the piece without sacrificing the rhythmic emphasis that keeps it moving."
Peter Ind, Mundell Lowe and Louis Stewart in 1993
Photograph courtesy of Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz
A video of Louis and Jim Doherty playing Charlie Parker's Donna Lee.
A blog on Jazz Guitar Online says: My favourite session he is on is playing live with the Tubby Hayes Quartet in 1969 on a BBC radio jazz programme - I'm not sure if this session ever got an official release but there are bootlegs of it floating around.
"His major recognition came on the BBC Jazz Club shows of December 18th 1968 and April 9th 1969.The first was the radio "debut" of Tubby's new quartet with Louis Stewart, Ron Mathewson and Spike Wells, and on the programme they appeared opposite the Joe Harriott quintet comprising Joe, Kenny Wheeler, Pat Smythe, Ron Mathewson (again!) and Bill Eyden, who played a wonderfully mixed repertoire by Kenny Wheeler, Ornette Coleman, Horace Silver and Joe himself.
Tubby had formed the quartet with Louis in late summer 1968, after the famous "Mexican Green" line-up of Mike Pyne, Ron Mathewson and Tony Levin had disintegrated following Tubby's drug-related period of seclusion. In fact, hearing that Hayes was looking for a guitarist, Stewart, who'd barely been in London a few weeks, decided to introduce himself to Tubby; "It was all very casual at first" he told writer Tony Wilson shortly afterwards, Tubby said it was the kind of thing he was looking for. Initially we rehearsed a lot. some of Tubby's compositions are quite unusual...there are some fast tempos that I haven't experienced. If Tubby wants to keep me, I'll be happy".
Tubby was indeed very satisfied with Stewart, as he wrote later that year;"he handles the difficult 'comping' role unobtrusively and with taste in the absence of a piano in the quartet. In this role he follows Terry Shannon, Gordon Beck and Mike Pyne, and when I say I do not miss the piano, it is meant as the highest compliment".
Click here for a video of Tubby Hayes Big Band playing at Ronnie Scott's club in 1970. We think that's Louis Stewart taking a solo starting at about 4.58.
Louis Stewart in 2014
Photograph courtesy of Ollie Dowling
Louis Stewart composed a number of pieces based on the work of James Joyce, several of which appeared on the albums Milesian Source and Joycenotes. 'A brilliant sound allied to a crystal-clear tone has helped to make Stewart one of the outstanding guitarists in jazz. A virtuoso technique allows him to realize fully his endless inventiveness.'
Click here for a video of The Ballad from Joycenotes.
But Louis' home town was Dublin. He was recognised in 1998 with an honorary doctorate from the city's university and in 2009 he was elected to Aosdána, an Irish co-operative of artists engaged in literature, music and visual arts. Aosdána was established by the Irish Arts Council in 1981 to honour those whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Ireland.
Here's a video of Louis Stewart playing Fascinating Rhythm with Stephane Grapelli at Belfast Grand Opera House in 1986.
Click here for more videos of Louis.
Ian Simms writes: 'In a recent issue of 'What's New', cartoonist Jim Thomson asked about violinist Dick Powell. When I asked if anyone remembered the hot swing nights at the Gigi and borscht and tears, I forgot to mention the fantastic Dick Powell. He drove down from his home in Oxford several times a week to Knightsbridge, a great guy as well as a fab hot swinger. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in the early seventies.'
Dick 'Sweet' Powell was a swing violinist and double bass player who also worked as Richard Powell ARIBA, an architect specialising in model making. It is said that at one point he worked with Sandy Brown who was the acoustic engineer for Lansdowne Studios in London. Dick is also known for his violin playing on Rod Stewart's albums Every Picture Tells a Story, Gasoline Alley, Never A Dull Moment and Smiler. Apparently Rod heard him playing at Pizza Express and invited him to the Gasoline Alley sessions in 1970. You can see Dick by the right-hand goalpost in the gatefold of Rod’s 1972 album Never A Dull Moment and outside the pub with a pint in his hand in the gatefold sleeve of Rod’s 1974 album Smiler (click here).
Dick also appears on a number of other albums including some with Diz Disley. Diz and his band of semi-pros played every Thursday at Bert Niblett’s Club Django in London with Nevil Skrimshire and Denny Purssord on guitars, Dick Powell on violin and Timmy Mahn on bass. Other albums featuring Dick include Clarinet Jamboree (Part 1 Bilk and Lightfoot) and Diz Disley's Dinette.
Dick Powell died relatively young at the age of 49. He used to live in London but in the late 1970s he and his family moved to Windrush Farm, a barn conversion in Ducklington (Oxfordshire).
I am grateful to Gypsy Jazz UK for this information where there is a page with people's memories of Dick Powell (click here) andfor this photograph of Dick (Sweet) Powell with Joseph Reinhardt and Diz Disley.
Unfortunately, there seems to be very little music by Dick Powell online. That is unfortunate because if you listen to this one track we do have, we can hear what we are missing. Click here to listen to Dick Powell and Diz Disley playing Shine.
In 2011, the Daily Mail ran an article about the 'bad luck' suffered by several people associated with Rod Stewart's famous recording of Maggie May (click here). The article includes 'Rod’s violinist was Dick ‘Sweet’ Powell, a well-known figure on the London jazz scene. Legend has it that the star paid him £10 for his work on the song Reason To Believe. He died young, too, in his 50s, of a cerebral haemorrhage.' Click here to listen to Dick Powell's solo on Reason To Believe.
Jeff 'Two-Tone Boogie' from Preservers of Sound says: ‘think that another who is worthy of mentioning is the great Stuff Smith. Stuff was not a great technical player but he sure could play some great tunes and improvise excellently’.
Violinist and vocalist Stuff Smith was born Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith in Ohio in 1909. His father, also a violinist, taught him and Smith always said that his main influence was Louis Armstrong. At age fifteen, he won a music scholarship to Johnson C. Smith University, where he studied classical violin. By the 1920s he was playing with In the 1920s, he played in Texas as a member of Alphonse Trent's band in Texas, but then moved to New York where at the Onyx Club he established his sextet which included trumpeter Jonah Jones, clarinetist Buster Bailey, pianist Clyde Hart, and drummer Cozy Cole.
Listen to You'se A Viper from 1936.
In the 1930s he played with Coleman Hawkins, and the young Charlie Parker and later Sun Ra. Signing with the Vocalion label in 1936 he recorded as Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys and continued to record for both the Decca and Varsity labels as well as being featured on the Nat King Cole Trio album, After Midnight.
Here are Stuff Smith, Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson playing Things Ain't What They Used To Be.
There was a time when Sun Ra was working with violinist Stuff Smith and his trio. During a rehearsal with Stuff, Sunny brought out his new tape recording deck that recorded on paper tape. Many of these brittle but quality sound recordings have been preserved. Sun Ra introduces this unusual recording of Deep Purple where he talks about Stuff Smith before and after the music.
Apparently, Stuff was 'a devoted drinker and not exactly the easiest person to deal with, and frequently found himself at loggerheads with club owners, bookers, business people, and his fellow musicians, and his career suffered as a result.'
Despite some of his liaisons, Stuff was said to be critical of bebop and yet he was one the first violinists to use electric amplification techniques on a violin playing a "Vio-Lectric" model which was custom-built for him by the National Dobro Company. In 1965, Stuff Smith moved to Copenhagen and performed actively in Europe. Stuff found European audiences and musicians to be very receptive to his style, and he hooked up with violinists such as Jean-Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli, and also played with American expatriates. Probably as a result of his drinking he had part of his stomach and liver removed. He died in Munich in 1967 and is buried in Jutland, Denmark.
Here is a video from 1965, two years before he died, playing Bugle Call Blues in Denmark with 'The Montmartre Trio' - N.H. Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Kenny Drew (piano), Alex Riel (drums).
Click here for more about Stuff Smith.
Jane Stobart, Kathy Stobart's neice, suggests we take a moment to listen to trumpeter Bert Courtley.
Jane says that she thinks 'All Night Long (1962) was certainly one of the worst films ever made but fortunately the story took place in a night club and they did at least get the jazz right. This clip features Dave Brubeck backed by four British musicians and offers a rare sight of wonderful Bert Courtley on trumpet. As you will no doubt spot, the editing of Raggy Waltz is nonsensical, showing certain musicians playing, when the soundtrack says otherwise!'
The YouTube video text talks about Dave Brubeck's famous quartet, but clearly that is not who he is playing with here. Readers might be able to help me, but I assume that apart from Bert Courtley, it is Kenny Napper on bass, Allan Ganley, drums and ? Johnny Scott, saxophone.
Bert Courtley was born on September 11, 1929 in Moston, Manchester, England as Herbert Courtley. He was married to Kathy Stobart. He died on September 13, 1969 in Croydon, Surrey, England.
Ron Simmonds remembers Bert Courtley in an article held by the National Jazz Archive. In it, Ron says: '... He was a jazz trumpet player, pure and simple and he was happiest standing out the front in a small band, playing what he liked the way he wanted, free from all the restrictions and disciplines of the big combination. He left Tommy (Sampson)’s band and went straight out with a small group got together by a young lady tenor-saxophonist by the name of Kathy Stobart. It must have been a case of love at first sight, I guess, between this tall, beautiful, fair-haired girl and the fresh-faced, young blonde newcomer. It was enough, anyway, to keep them together when Kathy’s band folded and the two of them joined Vic Lewis’s big band ... Bert did about three years with Ken Mackintosh at Wimbledon Palais and then went on tour with Eric Delaney’s band ...'
'... Bert had one of those sharp, clear sizzling sounds on the trumpet; he would shut his eyes and hunch his shoulders up and play the most beautiful jazz you could imagine. In 1956 he became part of the Jazz Today unit, which toured Britain with Gerry Mulligan’s Quartet and later the Modern Jazz Quartet. Some of his colleagues in Jazz Today were Phil Seamen, Kenny Wheeler, Kenny Napper and Ed Harvey ... Bert made a solo record for Decca called “Bertrand’s Bugle” around this time. Then he was part of the Woody Herman Anglo-American Band, playing alongside Reunald Jones, Nat Adderley and Bill Harris. ...
Listen to Bert and Founder Member from the album The Jazz Committee featuring Bert and Don Rendell. On the YouTube page Neil Yates says: 'Great to hear this. Bert was great. He never even gets a mention now. Sad. I love his laid back timing, beautiful phrases and sound.'
Ron continues: 'Then I left Ted Heath to join Dankworth’s band and Bert suddenly found himself in a totally unexpected situation, one he had never dreamed of: that of sitting in the Heath band playing the extremely demanding lead book.“I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to make it,” Ted told me one day after Bert had been in the band for a few weeks. “I don’t think he’s ever played lead before. But he knocks me out every night and he’s getting better all the time.” ....
Bert Courtley, Eddie Harvey, Don Rendell, Pete Blannin, John Dougan
'Bert became a studio musician, still keeping up his club dates too, though, until he suddenly became ill, lost some teeth and went through a very rough time indeed trying to get his embouchure back again. If a trumpet player has any trouble with his teeth he ought to realise that no dentist in the world will be able to replace them in anything like the same position without first having at hand an accurately-made impression of the originals. The first set Bert had made gave him so much trouble it was like starting to learn the trumpet all over again and I think this had a big bearing on the general deterioration in his health later on, that eventually led to his death.'
Click here to read the full interesting article by Ron Simmonds.
In 2000, Kathy Stobart gave an interview to Jazz Journal in which she also blamed the pressure of work with the Ted Heath band and Bert's increasing drinking. She said Bert started to feel ill, was taking all sorts of addictive, patent medicines, and finally he had to leave the band. After good pay working with Ted Heath, money became tight and in addition to working as a dep. with Humphrey Lyttelton, Kathy had to take a job as a demonstrator at Bill Lewington's music instrument store. 'The doctor told me that if Bert didn't look after himself he would kill himself. He succeeded!', she said, 'In September 1969 Bert died. It was two days after his 40th birthday.'
Jane Stobart is an artist and printmaker axisweb.org/artist/janestobart
Some while ago, Steve Fletcher in Spain wrote to us asking us if we could track down another musician. Luckily we were able to help. Steve also suggested that we might take time out to remind ourselves of the Harry Parry Sextet.
Steve points us in the direction of this video from 1947 and the Sextet playing Honeysuckle Rose (click here). The band members are not listed, nor is the singer, but I am sure someone will recognise them?
Tony Middleton suggests they are: Pat Barnett (trumpet); ?Alan Clark (alto); ?Joe Riley (tenor); Dennis Wilson (piano); ?Hank Hobson (bass); ?Dennis Neale (drums): unknown (voc) 1947 (Note: sound and vision not always in sinc!)
Clarinettist Harry Owen Parry was born in Bangor, Wales in 1912. He was a natural musician who started out playing cornet, flugelhorn, drums and violin but settled on clarinet and saxophone in the late 1920s. He trained to become an instrument maker at Bangor University and then moved to London in 1932 when he was 20 and played with a number of dance bands before forming his own sextet. In 1940, his became the house band at the St Regis Hotel and he led the BBC's Radio Rhythm Club show.
Here is an excellent video where 'Harry Parry and his Radio Rhythm Club Sextet play cool swing music' in 1942. I am not sure whether the tune is Hot Dogs or whether that is the title of the series - again can anyone name the musicians? Tony Middleton again suggests: Sounds like "Dark Eyes ": Roy Marsh (vibes); ?Reg Dare (tenor); ?Tommy Pollard (piano); Joe Deniz (guitar); Charlie Short (bass); Bobby Midgley (drums) 1942.
His sextet recorded over 100 titles for the Parlophone label. His style has been compared to that of Benny Goodman and his band included at various times vibraphonist Roy Marsh, pianists George Shearing and Tommy Pollard and trumpeters Dave Wilkins and Stan Roderick.
After the War, during which his band entertained the troops, Harry continued to work for radio and television and toured internationally with the sextet during the 1940s and 1950s and for a brief period formed the resident band on the BBC's Crackerjack children's programme.
Harry died in London in October 1956.
There are a number of audio tracks on YouTube you can listen to (click here), and a number of albums are available (click here), including Parry Opus, one of Harry's best known numbers, although I have not been able to find that track for you to listen to here.
Here is a video of the band playing You Are My Lucky Star with complementary dancers in 1943. Tony Middleton again helps us out with the personnel, but says he might have made some spelling errors: Dave Wilkins (trumpet); Derek Neville (alto); Ken Oldham (tenor); Yorke de Sousa (piano); Sam Molineaux (bass); Syd Raymond (drums) 1943
Harry Parry and Doreen Villiers
Bob Ross, clarinetist from Dundee writes: 'A quick search reveals that Harry often featured Doreen Villiers in his
band. Might this be her singing in the clip?'
Click here to listen to Doreen singing Don't Get Around Much Anymore with Geraldo and his Orchestra. Not a 'jazz' recording, but the personnel is interesting: Leslie Hutchinson (trumpet), Ted Heath (trombone), Nat Temple (saxophone), Ivor Mairants (guitar) ....
Tony Augarde suggests: 'How about featuring drummer (and other things) Lionel Hampton? He pioneered the vibraphone as a suitable instrument for jazz, and his work with the Benny Goodman Quartet gave the group much of its excitement. He and Gene Krupa provided much of the impetus, while Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson were perhaps the more "refined" members of the group. His work with his own groups in the late thirties was astonishingly good and varied. He was a versatile musician: vibist, drummer, two-fingered pianist and bandleader. He could swing as richly as almost any other jazz player and I feel that (like Dizzy Gillespie) he is often underestimated because of his antics.'
Lionel Leo Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky on 20th April, 1908 where he was cared for by his grandmother. His mother then took him to her home town of Birmingham in Alabama. After a period in Wisconsin, the family moved to Chicago in 1916. Not allowed to join the segregated Boy Scouts, he joined the alternative Bud Billiken Club, a social club for black young people in Chicago, established in 1923, by the Chicago Defender. He was still a teenager when he started taking xylophone lessons from Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodd's sideman drummer Jimmy Bertrand, and that was when he also began playing drums.
The Chicago Defender also had a 'Newsboys Band' and Lionel started playing drums with them. He moved to California in 1927 / 1928, played with the Dixieland Blue-Blowers and made his recording debut with Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders. Moving on to Culver City he joined Les Hite's band at Sebastian's Cotton Club. As a drummer he did stunts with multiple pairs of sticks, twirling and juggling without missing a beat, and he would play a couple of numbers on vibraphone. During the early 1930s he studied music at the University of Southern California and in 1934 started his own orchestra, appearing in the film Pennies From Heaven (1936) alongside Louis Armstrong (wearing a mask in a scene while playing drums).
Click here for the scene from the film and the number Skeleton In The Closet.
In 1936, he was invited to join Benny Goodman's Trio which then became the famous Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. The bands were one of the first racially integrated jazz groups to perform before audiences. Affectionately known as 'Gates', 'Hamp' and 'Mad Lionel' he stayed with Goodman until 1940 when he decided to form his own big band. Click here for a video of the Benny Goodman Quartet from 1937 with I Got A Heartful Of Music from the film Hollywood Hotel.
The Benny Goodman Quartet
The Lionel Hampton Orchestra was prominent in the 1940s and 1950s and perhaps their best know recording was Flying Home that also featured a solo by Illinois Jacquet.
Here is a video of Lionel Hampton and his band playing Flying Home from 1957.
And so started a time recording for Decca with many young jazz musicians including bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalist Dinah Washington as well as trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Kenny Dorham, and Snooky Young and trombonist Jimmy Cleveland. The Hampton Orchestra that toured Europe in 1953 included Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones, and singer Annie Ross. In 1955, while in California working on The Benny Goodman Story he recorded with Stan Getz and made two albums with Art Tatum. There are a number of short clips online from The Benny Goodman Story, but they are not very satisfying for this article. Lionel Hampton is fleetingly featured in Moonglow in this trailer - click here. Time might be better spent listening to this recording of Tenderly, Autumn In New York and East Of The Sun played as a medley from the 1955 album Hamp and Getz - click here. (Leroy Vinnegar, bass; Shelly Manne, drums and Lou Levy, piano).
Although he was raised Roman Catholic (as a child he was out playing fife and drum at the Holy Rosary Academy near Chicago), during the 1950s Hamp developed a strong interest in Judaism. In 1953 he composed a King David Suite and performed it in Israel with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The score was believed totally lost in a fire in Hamp's apartment in 1997 - click here for the news item in the New York Times - click here for a video news broadcast on how the score was later discovered.
Later in life Hampton became a Christian Scientist and he was also a Freemason in New York. He was a staunch Republican and became involved in the construction of various public housing projects, founding the Lionel Hampton Development Corporation.
As the 1960s and 1970s came, Hamp's style of music became less popular although he continued to record. In the 1980s, the University of Idaho recognised his contribution renaming their annual jazz festival (at which he had played) as the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, and then naming their school of music after him, the first university music school named for a jazz musician. Hamp had been suffering from arthritis for some time and after a three successive strokes in the 1990s was obliged to play less. He died in 2002 from congestive heart failure and at his funeral there was a performance by Wynton Marsalis and David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band; the procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem. He has been inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Fortunately Lionel Hampton left a wealth of recordings and there are countless choices on YouTube, however our article ends with this film of extracts from the full Lionel Hampton Orchestra concert at the 1988 Newport Jazz Festival (45 minutes) - click here.
Dave Keen in Canada suggests we feature Nicholas Payton. Dave says: 'There were two great trumpeters, Bill Hardman and Wilbur Harden from that period who got lost somehow maybe in Freddie’s shadow and that was a huge shadow. Nicholas Payton is a great trumpeter outa New Orleans outa the Freddie mould. Great player.'
Nicholas Payton was born in New Orleans on September 26, 1973, the son of Walter Payton, a bass and sousaphone player. Nicholas started playing trumpet when he was four and was sitting in with his father in the Tuxedo Brass Band by the time he was nine years old. At ten, he started playing professionally with James Andrews' All-Star Brass and was given his first steady gig by guitarist Danny Barker at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street.
Listen to Nicholas Payton playing the theme from the movie Chinatown.
Nicholas toured with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early 1990s, before signing a recording contract with Verve; his first album, From This Moment, appeared in 1994. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the movie Kansas City, and in 1997 received a Grammy Award (Best Instrumental Solo) for his playing on the album Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton.
Check out this video of Nicholas Payton playing Little Liza Jane at the 1997 Newport Jazz Festival.
Besides his recordings under his own name he has also collaborated with Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Jill Scott, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint, Nancy Wilson and Joe Henderson.
Click here for a video of Nicholas playing Milt Jackson's Bags Groove with the Ray Brown Trio in 2001..
He recorded seven albums on Verve and then moved to Warner Bros. Records for his next album, Sonic Trance, in 2003.
Click here to listen to Praalude from the Sonic Trance album.
In 2004, Nicholas Payton became a founding member of the SF Jazz Collective, and in 2008, Payton joined the Blue Note 7, a septet formed in honour of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. In 2011, he formed a 21-piece big band ensemble called the Television Studio Orchestra, and also recorded and released Bitches, a love narrative on which he played every instrument, sang, and wrote all of the music.
In 2012 the Czech National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and debuted his first full orchestral work, The Black American Symphony, and in 2013, Payton formed his own record label, BMF Records, and the same year released two albums, #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, where he plays both trumpet and Fender Rhodes, often at once, and Sketches of Spain, which he recorded with the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.
Nicholas 'belongs to a growing group of race scholars and activists committed to social justice. Members of this movement suggest that racism is not simply a response to color, but that it additionally describes subtle legal behaviors by which the dominant culture continues to marginalize people in order to sustain a poor, minority class. In the case of American society, evidence of this can be framed as institutionalized racism and white privilege, a topic that Payton has sometimes written about in several essays to his website. Payton's writings are provocative for other reasons, too. One of his most notable pieces to date, On Why Jazz isn't Cool Anymore, describes the effects of cultural colonization on music. The article quickly earned his website 150,000-page views and sparked international press attention and debate.' (Wikipedia).
Click here for a video of Willard Jenkinsan interviewing Nicholas Payton on 'Black American Concepts and Controversy'.
Listen to Freesia from Bitches in which Nicholas Payton sings and which features bassist Esperanza Spalding.
Jackie Cain and Roy Kral
Brian O'Connor says: 'I shall continue to make my case for Jackie and Roy. Regrettably totally underrated. Just look at their output between the late forties and 1995 - the Alec Wilder Songbook, tribute to Bogey, almost endless good taste, great jazz, and fine concept albums. The exception? 1968’s Grass where they went electric and tried to join in with the current UK pop scene.'
Jackie Cain and Roy Kral were a husband and wife jazz vocal team in which Roy played piano as well as singing. They first got together in 1946 with the Charlie Ventura band and performed until Roy Kral's death in 2002. Jackie Cain died on September 15, 2014.
Here is a video of them performing (probably on NBC's Today show) not in the 1960s as someone suggests, as in the interview that follows they talk about the death of their daughter, Nicky, in 1973. The video ends with them performing Day By Day from Godspell.
OK, I'm a sucker for Fran Landesman's songs. Here is Jackie Cain in 1975 singing Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most. It was first recorded for the Trio Records album Jackie Cain and Roy Kral in 1955, but has been reissued since then on Storyville and Black Lion records. The album included Barney Kessel, Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne.
Roy Kral co-operated with Fran Landesman on the tune Stopping The Clock - click here to listen to Mark Murphy singing the song. (Mark Murphy also does a nice version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most).
But we should go back to the start. Here they are singing with Charlie Ventura's Septet in Pasadena in 1949 playing Euphoria with Charlie Candoli on trumpet, Benny Green on trombone and Boots Mussulli on baritone sax.
Brian O'Connor points us towards them performing the tune Lazy Afternoon in 1955 (from the 1954 musical The Golden Apple). It is a number taken very slowly that showcases Jackie's voice. Placed on YouTube from an LP, unfortunately the quality of the recording does not do her justice.
Fairly early in their career, Jackie and Roy were befriended by composer Alec Wilder, who wrote the liner notes for the Jackie Cain and Roy Kral album. They had always featured Wilder's songs and, ten years after his death, paid tribute by recording an entire album of them, An Alec Wilder Collection.
Brian O'Connor says that he thinks they made a mistake in the album Grass, trying to make a 'pop' record. I am inclined to agree. Here is a video of them singing a cover of the unfamiliar Beatles' song The Word:
So let's finish with Jackie Cain, Roy Kral and a big band. Here they are with So Its Spring with the Bill Holman Orchestra from the 1957 album Free And Easy:
David Keen in Canada writes: 'I think Stanley Turrentine gets real short shrift historically. He was a hugely influential player from that period and could play any bag.'
Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine was born in Pittsburgh. His father was a saxophonist with Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans, his mother played stride piano, and his older brother Tommy Turrentine was a professional trumpet player who served stints in the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Benny Carter. Stanley started out playing with blues and rhythm and blues bands, after hearing saxophonist Illinois Jacquet.
In the 1950s, he went on to play with the groups of Lowell Fulson (with Ray Charles) and Earl Bostic but it wasn't until the mid 1950s that he received any formal musical training when he served with the military for a short time. In 1959, he left the military and went straight into Max Roach's band.
In 1960, Stanley married organist Shirley Scott and the two frequently played and recorded together, and as the decade went on, he started working with organist Jimmy Smith. He made many soul jazz recordings both with Smith and as a leader in his own right.
Llisten to Love Letters from the 1964 album Hustlin' with Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone); Shirley Scott (organ); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Otis Finch (drums).
Stanley began recording as a leader for Blue Note, concentrating on small-group soul-jazz on classics like That's Where It's At, but also working with the Three Sounds (on 1961's Blue Hour) and experimenting with larger ensemble settings.
Here he is playing Willow Weep For Me with the Three Sounds - Gene Harris (piano), Andrew Simpkins (bass), Bill Dowdy (drums).
He was possibly best known for his Blue Note soul-jazz jams of the 1960s but by the 1970s he had divorced and had started to become involved in playing jazz fusion. He signed for Creed Taylor's CTI label and his album, Sugar, was a great success.
Here's Sugar with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone); George Benson (guitar); Lonnie Smith (electric piano); Ron Carter (bass) and Billy Kaye (drums).
Stanley Turrentine went on to work with, amongst others, Milt Jackson, George Benson, Idris Muhammad and Eric Gale.
The album Mr Natural included the Beatles' Can't Buy Me Love with Lee Morgan (trumpet); McCoy Tyner (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), Ray Baretto (percussion).
He returned to soul jazz in the 1980s and into the 1990s until he died of a stroke in New York City in 2000.
Here is Stanley Turrentine's cover of Isaac Hayes's Shaft from the 1980s.
Jazz.com says: 'Stanley Turrentine, it has been said, could make the telephone book sound soulful. His elegant brawn in the lower register of the tenor saxophone, and seductive swagger in the upper, sang perfectly in whatever bag he swung - from the blues and bebop to rhythm 'n' blues and pop. Throughout his long and varied career, his musical identity remained distinctively intact.'
Alan Bond writes: I have a soft spot for Annette Hanshaw and virtually all her known recordings are available via spotify. I was utterly jealous of Trevor Benwell as he got to meet her when he was in the US many years ago (in the 1940s I think as Trevor was over there as part of his RAF service) and he had a signed photo of her in among the raft of photo's he had in his front room at Dollis Hill. I did ask him if I could have it when he popped off but it never materialised and Trevor has been gone for a good few years now.
Listen to Annette singing I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling in 1929 finishing with her usual 'sign off' of 'That's all!'
Someone on YouTube writes: 'Life has so many magic, wonderful moments, and we often fail to see or feel them when they are screaming and jumping up and down right in front of us. Sometimes, when I am low, I remember this, and wonder if we could withstand the joy if we took every minute particle in every second. Probably not. HA!!! There is a little of that embedded and overt joy in this song, and I have listened to it ten times in two days. I think I am falling for Annette. That little "That's all" gets me every time.'
Annette Hanshaw was originally thought to have been born in New York in 1910, beginning her recording career shortly before her 16th birthday. However, it has come to light that she was in fact born nine years earlier in 1901, making her 25 at the time of her first commercial recording in September 1926. In a 1934 poll held by Radio Stars, she received the title of best "female popular singer," alongside Bing Crosby as best "male popular singer." (Ruth Etting came third). King Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, was a fan and apparently loved dancing to her music.
Annette made many records between 1926 and 1934 for Pathé, Columbia and ARC and issued on various labels including Perfect, Harmony, Diva, Clarion, Velvet Tone, OKeh and Vocalion labels. She recorded under a number of pseudonyms including 'Gay Ellis' (for sentimental numbers), 'Dot Dare' and 'Patsy Young' (for impersonations of Helen Kane).
Here is a brief, rare film of Annette singing:
Annette made one appearance in the 1933 Paramount short Captain Henry's Radio Show, "a picturization" of the popular Thursday evening radio program Maxwell House Show Boat, in which she starred from 1932 to 1934.
We can watch Annette in Captain Henry's Radio Show (with Annette at 7.06 minutes in and some 'blackface' performances now finally consigned to social history).
She retired in the late 1930s and later said: 'As a matter of fact, I disliked all of [my records] intensely. I was most unhappy when they were released. I just often cried because I thought they were so poor, mostly because of my work, but a great deal, I suppose, because of the recording. [...] I disliked the business intensely. I loathed it, and I'm ashamed to say I just did it for the money. I loved singing, you know, jamming with the musicians when it isn't important to do, but somehow or another I was terribly nervous when I sang. [...] You just have to be such a ham and love performing, and I happen to be an introvert, and I just wasn't happy singing, and I wasn't happy with my work as I said.' (Radio interview with Jack Cullen, 1978).
Here's Annette singing Am I Blue in 1929.
Later in her life she considered making a comeback and produced two unreleased demo recordings but she died of cancer in 1985 at New York Hospital, aged 83, after a long illness.
We have had a number of suggestions to remember saxophonist Earl Bostic. On our page about Wood Green Jazz Club (click here), Peter Pohl says: 'The record played most times during the intervals must have been Earl Bostic's 'Flamingo'. I can't hear that number now without being taken back to those great days at WGJC!'
Here's a video of dancers raving to Earl Bostic playing Artie Shaw's Special Delivery Stomp.
Earl Bostic (that was his name, he was not one of the 'Jazz Royalty' - Duke Ellington, King Oliver, etc.) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1912. He joined Terence Holder's "Twelve Clouds of Joy" at eighteen. He graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, played the riverboats with Fate Marable, and with other bands including those of Hot Lips Page, Rex Stewart, Don Byas, Charlie Christian and Cab Calloway. He made his first recordings with Lionel Hampton at the age of 27.
During the 1940s, Earl Bostic formed his own band and made recordings on the Majestic label. His biggest ‘hit’ was his signature tune Flamingo, but others became popular – Temptation, You Go To My Head, Cherokee ...
Listen to Flamingo:
At various times, a number of famous jazz musicians played in his band – Benny Carter, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Sir Charles Thompson, Stanley Turrentine, to name but a few.
Listen to Up There In Orbit .
His album Jazz As I Feel It featured Shelly Manne (drums), Joe Pass (guitar) and Richard Holmes (organ). The recording enabled Bostic to extend the three-minute limit imposed by the 45 RPM format. Click here to sample the album.
It is said that Earl Bostic was influenced by Sidney Bechet and (according to James Moody) John Coltrane was in turn influenced by Bostic. Coltrane told Down Beat magazine in 1960 that Bostic "showed me a lot of things on my horn. He has fabulous technical facilities on his instrument and knows many a trick." Moody mentioned that "Bostic knew his instrument inside out, back to front and upside down." It is also suggested that 'If one listens carefully to Bostic's fabulous stop time choruses and his extended solo work, the roots of Coltrane's "sheets of sound" become clear.'
As for his jamming, the story is that he was well able to hold his own against Charlie Parker: 'The alto saxophonist Sweet Papa Lou Donaldson recalled seeing Parker get burned by Bostic during one such jam session at Minton's. Donaldson said that Bostic "was the greatest saxophone player I ever knew. Bostic was down at Minton's and Charlie Parker came in there. They played "Sweet Georgia Brown" or something and he gave Charlie Parker a saxophone lesson. Now you'd see him, we'd run up there and think that we're going to blow him out, and he'd make you look like a fool. Cause he'd play three octaves, louder, stronger and faster." Art Blakey remarked that "Nobody knew more about the saxophone than Bostic, I mean technically, and that includes Bird. Working with Bostic was like attending a university of the saxophone".
Earl Bostic died October 28, 1965 from a heart attack in New York while performing with his band.
Click here to read more about Earl Bostic.
Steve Day suggests we listen to Johnny Dyani. Steve says:
It is a long time ago now, 1980. I heard the duet between Abdullah Ibrahim and Johnny Dyani, Zikr, (Remembrance to Allah). I am not sure of the circumstances. Certainly I had bought a vinyl copy of Johnny Dyani’s duet album with Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), Echoes From Africa, from which this beautiful Sufi song came. In hindsight I now think Zikr helped me realise it is possible to take strength from where you least expect to do so. I only speak for myself, I still tread warily past the territory of priests yet Zikr, this passive siren song to the spirit of our common humanity, connected. It is not just the voices of these two men, slowly singing with and to each other like old brothers, there is also that oh so stately piano and bowed double bass which come to the ears from an immeasurable depth. Like an aural meditation. It sounds as if Abdullah Ibrahim had finally found home again and there was Johnny Dyani wringing time and melody from the double bass to welcome him.
Zikr is hard won, but even in the midst of exile Dyani could never let go of joy.
Here are Abdullah Ibrahim and Johnny Dyani performing Zikr.
Johnny Mbizo Dyani: Cook/Morton called him “one of the most distinctive bass players since Charles Mingus”. So why don’t more people still name-check him? Here are the basic facts: Johnny Dyani was born in Duncan Village, a Township in East London, South Africa on 30th November 1945. At the age of 16, already a gifted bass player, he met Chris McGregor in Cape Town and joined his band, the Blue Notes. In 1964 the whole band went into exile; apartheid meant that a Black band ‘led’ by a White pianist literally wouldn’t work. They came to Europe, playing the Antibes-Juan-les-Pines Jazz Festival, then decided to move on and settle in London. The way I read it, after Africa, Dyani never really ‘settled’.
Within a year of arriving in London he and drummer Louis Moholo were again globe-trotting on a weird tour of Argentina with American soprano saxophone supremo Steve Lacy and Italian trumpeter, Enrico Rava. Dyani and Moholo got back in one piece (another story) and in 1967 with the rest of McGregor’s Blue Notes (Dudu Pukwana, alto sax, Ronnie Beer, tenor sax, Mongezi Feza, trumpet) recorded the defining Very Urgent album for Polydor. Crucially, within twelve months Dyani had once more decamped, to Denmark/Sweden. Here he connected up with Don Cherry and John Tchicai, both of whom had independently moved from America after working with Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Johnny Dyani still kept some links with the Blue Notes, particularly Dudu Pukwana, but for me it is the classic series of recordings he made under his own name for Steeplechase Records and his embrace of Abdullah Ibrahim that is the key to his memoriam. For him it would be almost forty-one years from birth to death; he died in October 1986.
Here is the Don Cherry Trio with Johnny Dyani and Okay Temiz live on French TV 1971.
By the time I got to see and hear the Chris McGregor band live, what was left of the Blue Notes had already morphed into the Brotherhood of Breath and Johnny Dyani had gone to live in Copenhagen. A city I now know well, though sadly not during the period when Mr Dyani was there. So, for me, I am left with my little five-stack of precious Dyani Steeplechase recordings. All of them are highly recommended, two are absolute gold plated classics, Witchdoctor’s Son and Song For Biko. What comes next is the best I can do to plug their importance.
Witchdoctor’s Son and Song For Biko were recorded in Copenhagen within four months of each other in early 1978. Witchdoctor’s Son is a special album. John Tchicai had played on John Coltrane’s groundbreaking Ascension album. Now based in Scandinavia Tchicai’s investigative tenor was right up alongside Pukwana’s righteous alto; both reeds played ‘free’ yet were diligently responsive to Johnny Dyani’s material and the melodic bell-like drama of his bass. Witchdoctor also featured the Brazilian acoustic guitarist Alfredo Do Nascimento and his fellow countryman, the drummer Luez ‘Chuim’ Carlos de Sequaira. The end result, a recording brim full of beauty and excitement. The traditional song Ntyilo Ntyilo features Dyani singing about a tiny bird, his voice sounding almost discreet in its inflection, whereas the chant of Magwaza is all thunder and lightning, his bass rolling the riff under the horns as if carrying the whole weight of Xhosa culture. Other standout tracks are Eyomzi, containing a stunning exemplar of a Dyani bass solo, and Heart With Minor’s Face and Mbizo. The latter has Dyani playing some fine piano as well as mercurial bass. There is also a trademark Dyani device, using rhythmic counterpoint to expand the dynamics coming out of a small group situation. Witchdoctor’s Son is the real thing.
Here's Ntyilo Ntyilo sung by Johnny Dyani.
and here's Magwaza by Johnny Dyani, John Tchicai and Dudu Pukwana.
The second album to be made in 1978, Song For Biko, is historic. It had to be done and Johnny Dyani was the musician most able to do it. Here’s the background: By the mid-sixties Don Cherry had undertaken his own version of exile (from America) following his breakthrough in the original Ornette Coleman Quartet. By 1971 he and Johnny Dyani, plus Turkish drummer Okay Temiz were playing regularly as a trio in Europe. Their Paris concert filmed by French TV shows how the Cherry/Dyani partnership were already expanding their performance to include voice, piano, flute, percussion as well as pocket cornet and double bass. Seven years later when the two men came together with Dudu Pukwana and drummer, Makaya Ntshoko (who had played with Abdullah Ibrahim in the legendary Jazz Epistles in Cape Town) the scene was set for something special.
Song For Biko by the Johnny Dyani Quartet featuring Don Cherry and Dudu Pukwana.
The title track Song For Biko has a startlingly measured introduction with the cornet and alto elucidating the elegy as a bright soulful signature. The poignant homage to Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist who had died the previous year in police custody, is lifted up by the bass and drums axis. Pukwana’s alto reed propels the thing forward, leaving Don Cherry to bring his cornet through like sweetness and light. It is all over in less than five minutes. The length belies the brilliance of the performance. Song For Biko is a great moment in jazz, and in itself records a critical moment in the development of a new South Africa. I hope that neither the music nor the moment will be lost to those who follow.
The Trumpeter and writer Ian Carr once quoted Johnny Dyani as saying: “Only Abdullah Ibrahim and Makhaya Ntshoko are being true to themselves. They are the ones working for Africa. With them there is a real exchange – as with Don (Cherry) – we don’t seem to need to talk, we just communicate.” For me it is a telling statement. Johnny Dyani was an exceptional bass player, composer, singer, a visionary, and a catalyst for change. In my view, he never truly received the recognition he deserved. Even now I can be brought low by the gap in understanding. Who did they think they were dealing with? Back in 1964 he had little choice but to leave South Africa but South Africa never left the heart of Johnny Dyani. Jo’berg – New York, another track from Biko, is a descriptor of Dyani the world traveller, yet at the same time it highlights the centrality of his roots and birthright.
In 1979, twenty years down the road and a year after Song For Biko, Johnny Dyani recorded the album Black Paladins in Italy with Joseph Jarman and Famoudou Don Moye from the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The first piece they play is a Dyani tune, Mama Marimba. I quote from Lee Jeske’s liner notes, as a fitting summary of everything the great Johnny Dyani stood for: “It seems to me that jazz is coming full circle. Borne of the music of African slaves, who adapted their native musics to field hollers in English, to gospel and blues, to ragtime and dixieland, to swing and bebop, to cool jazz and hard bop and free jazz and fusion and free funk and beyond, the music of Africa, the source, is returning to the jazz of today.”
Listen to Johnny Dyani's bass solo on Eyomzi.
Steve Day - www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk
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Griff Thomas writes: The book They All Played Ragtime was also the title of Ken Colyer's EP with Ray Foxley on piano. I played (banjo) with Ray in the local Saratoga Jazz Band back in the late 1970s.'
Here's an early recording of Ray Foxley playing Deadman Blues with the Original Levee Ramblers at the BBC Jazz Club.
The following was written by Ray himself when he was 19 and is taken from the programme notes for 'Jazz At The Birmingham Town Hall' on Saturday, June 14th, 1947.
Ray "began his musical career at the age of 14, when he took his first straight music lessons. Pianoforte rudiments did not hold any great fascination for him, however, and after about 18 months he abandoned with relief this preliminary excursion into the musical world. It was about 2 years later that, attracted by a boogie record, he went out and bought the sheet music of Cow-Cow Boogie, upon which much time and energy was expended. That was the beginning.
Fortunately, his musical evolution was speedier than most, and he soon began to dig the righteous stuff. Graduating through the Fats Waller stage, and fortified by a few months syncopation lessons, (to get that bass) he began to acquire a truer perspective of the real jazz, and an increasing desire to play it. ... His association with various small bands began a long way back, and right from the early days his relentlessly righteous outlook has proved a bone of contention between him and the more commercially-minded of his fellow musicians. But he stuck to his beliefs and almost achieved his ideal band in the Gutbucket Six, a group whose unfortunate disintegration on the brink of success was brought about by the call-up.
Listen to Ray playing Jelly Roll Morton's Frog-I-More Rag.
He is an implicit believer in the Morton principles of melody, variety, and originality in order to achieve the best results. And, above all, what counts with him is sincerity.
That is why the Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, Bessie creed is to him the ultimate in jazz, and why he still holds a great admiration for Fats, for those are the musicians to whom true artistry is infinitely more important than technical virtuosity.
His band repertoire of 150 or so pieces is composed almost entirely of New Orleans standards, while his solo repertoire consists mainly of Jelly Roll’s blues and stomps, Joplin rags, and a few of his own compositions, the latter showing that Jelly’s maxim of originality has not fallen on stony ground. His greatest achievement to date? When he played Shreveport Stomp in an otherwise strictly classical competition, and missed first place by only one mark."
Pianist "Professor" Ray Foxley, died aged 73 of Bell's palsy in 2002. He was best known for his work with the New Orleans-style bands of Ken Colyer in the 1950s - and was one of the sidesmen who formed the Ken Colyer Trust Band after the trumpeter's death in 1988.
Ray's love of Scott Joplin's music is illustrated here in his version of The Entertainer.
In his obituary in The Guardian, CJB Holme wrote: 'His boundaries were wider. His four Ms, he told me, were Jelly Roll Morton, Charles Mingus, Jerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk. Born in Birmingham, he founded the Gutbucket Six in 1946, playing local concerts while simultaneously running a trio, and appearing with the Gully Low Stompers. Radio dates followed with his Levee Ramblers, who he took to Paris in 1952, to great acclaim. He then worked in London with Colyer's Crane River Jazz Band, and the bands of Mick Mulligan, Chris Barber and Mike Daniels, returning to Colyer's Jazzmen, and his skiffle group, (later) in the 1950s.'
Here are Ken Colyer's Jazzmen playing Chimes Blues in 1959. The piano is very much in the background until after Mac Duncan's trombone when Ray takes his solo around 5.12 minutes in.
'In 1960, Foxley moved to Bromsgrove, and was to be found gigging extensively in the midlands and the north country into the 1980s with the likes of Ken Ingram, Eddie Matthews's Jump Band, Rod Mason, Henry Gardiner's Southsiders and the Paragon Jazz Band. He was to play again with Colyer in 1986. For the last seven years, he played solo, and was in residency with the One More Time sextet of traditionalists led by trumpeter Max Emmons and clarinettist Tristan York. He was also admired by avant-gardists like sopranoist Lol Coxhill and percussionist Roger Turner.'
Ray has written about some of Ken Colyer's recordings on the Ken Colyer website (click here).
In conclusion, there is this a duet recording of Save It Pretty Mama III with Ray and trumpeter Rod Mason.
Click here for a selection of Ray Foxley recordings. There are also many Ken Colyer recordings on which Ray plays.
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June Bastable and Duncan Ledsham suggest we taste the music of pianist Dave McKenna.
Dave McKenna was born in Rhode Island in 1930 and started playing piano early at the age of fifteen. By seventeen he was playing with Boots Mussulli (1947) and two years later with Charlie Ventura. He spent a year with Woody Herman before going into miltary service and then returned to Charlie Ventura's band.
He worked with a variety bands and musicians including Gene Krupa, Joe Venuti, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Bob Wilbur, Eddie Condon, and Bobby Hackett but he became primarily a soloist after 1967. McKenna performed with Louis Armstrong at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival, and he was also known as an accompanist, recording with singers such as Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett.
Here is a video of Dave McKenna accompanying Tony Bennett at a special recording from the Copley Plaza Hotel in 1982 in a programme that also featured Count Basie.
During the 1970s, Dave McKenna chose to play in clubs and hotels in his local area rather than travel extensively. His ten years at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel ended in 1991 when the hotel was sold and the place turned into a cabaret venue.
Because of his fondness for staying close to the melody, McKenna often said, “I’m not really a bona fide jazz guy... I’m just a saloon piano player.” Regulars at the Copley Plaza Bar (now the Oak Room) rebuffed this modest remark by telling McKenna he was “just a saloon player” like Billie Holiday was “just a saloon singer”. He retired around the turn of the millennium due to increasing mobility problems brought on by his long battle with diabetes and he died from lung cancer in 2008.
Dave McKenna's style has been described as: 'relying on two key elements relating to his choices of tunes and set selection, and the method of playing that has come to be known as "three-handed swing". He liked to make thematic medleys, usually based around a key word that appeared in the titles, such as teach, love, women's names, dreams, night or day, street names, etc. He often combined ballads and up-tempo songs with standards, pop tunes, blues, and even TV themes or folk material.'
June Bastable recommends this album of Dave McKenna playing medleys of tunes by Harold Arlen and Fats Waller. You can hear the whole album if you here:
'McKenna's renditions usually began with a spare, open statement of the melody, or, on ballads, a freely played, richly harmonized one. He often stated the theme a second time, gradually bringing more harmony or a stronger pulse into play. The improvisation then began in earnest on three levels simultaneously: a walking bassline, midrange chords and an improvised melody. The bassline, for which McKenna frequently employed the rarely used lowest regions of the piano, was naturally played in the left hand, often non-legato, to simulate an actual double bassist's phrasing. The chords were played using the thumb and forefinger of the right hand or of both hands combined, if the bass was not too low to make the stretch unfeasible. Sometimes he also added a guide-tone line consisting of thirds and sevenths on top of the bass, played by the thumb of the left hand. With his right hand's remaining fingers, he then played the melody, weaving it into improvised lines featuring colorful chromaticism, blues licks, and mainstream-jazz ideas. The result was the sound of a three-piece band under one person's creative control.'
Here is the album Dave McKenna at the Jazz Corner.
Duncan Ledsham is the creator of the Dave McKenna Appreciation Society, an offshoot of Facebook (click here).
June Bastable's latest book of short stories, These People, is out now.
Alan Bond commented on this article. Alan says: 'One of my favourite pianists gets a look in - the late, great Dave McKenna. I first heard him with the Concord Jazz All Stars on a CD of a concert in Japan and I was hooked. He was the out and out jazz pianist, capable of producing glimpses of everything from James P Johnson to Bud Powell.'
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Art Van Damme
Alan Bond says: 'One name that seems never to have cropped up in SBJ is that of Art van Damme. I hadn't heard a lot of his stuff until Humph played a couple of tracks on his 'Best of Jazz' radio show a few years back and it wasn't until recently that I have been able to get hold of any of his music, and then I found dozens of tracks on Amazon so I now have a mighty collection which is good listening for the car.'
'A mate of mine describes his work as 'a bit Light Programme' but I find it very pleasant and relaxing and he swings like mad. Load of clips on YouTube too. In addition there are at least another four accordion players who got well into the be-bop idiom and boy, what a feast. Sadly Art and several of the others are no longer with us.'
The Art Van Damme Quintet
Art Van Damme was a rare creature - a jazz accordion player. He was born in Michigan in 1920 and had already started to play the accordion from the age of nine. His family moved to Chicago in 1934 at which point Art began to study classical music. In 1941, Art joined Ben Bernie's band, adapting Benny Goodman's music to the accordion.
Here is a video of Art Van Damme playing Satin Doll with another accordion player, Tony Dannon, in 1997.
For fifteen years from 1945, he worked for NBC (America's National Broadcasting Company) and performed on shows such as The Dinah Shore Show and The Dave Garroway Show, as well as his own fifteen minute show that ran for 130 episiodes. He regularly won the Down Beat Readers' Poll for the accordion and passed through the Departure Lounge in 2010 at the age of 89.
Here is Art playing Neal Hefti's Cute with a quartet of vibes, guitar, drums and bass on his 80th birthday in 2001.
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