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American Music label

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Posted

if this has been done before i can't find it but I'm curious what are O-sters favorite 10-20-30 releases on this label? is anyone a George Lewis completist? which Emile Barnes goes best with shrimp? what was Bunk Johnson's drink of choice? Is Kid Thomas really related to Danny Thomas or was that just a publicist's fantasy? etc etc. Merci.

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Posted

Calling jeffcrom ...

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Posted

Yes. Jeff may be out of pocket, not sure. But he'll certainly check in when he sees the thread.

:tophat:

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Posted (edited)

Well, I'm not sure that I can be entertaining and/or confrontational enough for Moms, but I know this music pretty well, and here's what I think:

I'm going to confine myself to the American Music yellow-label series. These are all recordings made by Bill Russell, mostly for release on American Music during its first incarnation (1944 to the early 1950's). The blue-label AM CDs are recordings made by others, but which are of similar style and documentary value. There are also a few AM CDs with red, green or gold labels - these indicate various esoteric things about their origin. There are some great CDs in all of these series, but I don't want to pontificate for too long. All of the following CDs are excellent and "important," for whatever that's worth. I'm listing them in approximate order of value - my opinion only, of course.

AMCD-1; Bunk Johnson - King of the Blues. 1944 recordings that represent the beginning of the label. If you think Bunk Johnson was a worn-out, toothless trumpeter past his prime, you're not listening very well. The nine-minute "Midnight Blues" is beautiful, and Bunk's note choices in "Careless Love" are stunning. And the interplay between Johnson, George Lewis, and Jim Robinson is subtle and fascinating, and very different from the "classic" New Orleans-style records of the 1920's.

AMCD-6; Bunk Johnson - Bunk's Brass Band & 1945 Sessions. The brass band sides are the reason to get this - the first recorded example of this amazing New Orleans hybrid music (except for 30 seconds of a 1929 newsreel). This is one of only two recordings of the old-style NOLA brass band instrumentation, with alto & baritone horns instead of saxophones. I can't say enough about how wonderful these recordings are. The rest of the CD is by the same band that recorded the 1944 sides, and they're pretty good, but you can tell that they were all getting a little tired of each other by this point.

AMCD 100 & 101; George Lewis & His New Orleans Stompers. These were George Lewis's first recordings as leader, and they're probably his best. Alfred Lion originally released these on his Climax label (they weren't of high enough technical quality for Blue Note). The then-unknown Kid Howard blows the roof off.

AMCD-2; George Lewis With Kid Shots. Slightly later, but still very fresh-sounding Lewis, and the only recordings on which trumpeter Kid Shots Madison is prominently featured (he died young-ish). It includes the first recording of Lewis's famous "Burgundy Street Blues." The success of that record led Bunk Johnson to sardonically refer to Lewis as "The Composer."

AMCD-5; Wooden Joe Nicholas. This may be as close as we'll ever get to hearing what the earliest jazz sounded like, at least the rough, bluesy strain, as opposed to the more sophisticated Creole stuff. Wooden Joe is loud and simple, but not crude - he knew exactly what he was doing, even if he could only do it in two or three keys.

AMCD-7; Big Eye Louis Nelson - 1949 Sessions and Live at Luthjen's. Some beautiful beginnings-of-jazz Creole clarinet here. Possibly even better than the stuff Bill Russell recorded is 20 minutes of the clarinetist (whose real last name was probably DeLisle) with a four-piece band at a New Orleans dancehall, recorded at around the same time.

AMCD-4; George Lewis - Trios & Bands. There's some overlap with other issues here, but the tracks with Lewis with just banjo and bass are simple and beautiful. They're maybe not even jazz, just really nice music.

AMCD-11; Dink Johnson/Charlie Thompson - The Piano Players. Dink played piano, drums and clarinet, but he's mostly on piano here. He was Jelly Roll Morton's brother-in-law, and his playing was kind like a somewhat simplified Jelly. Charlie Thompson was a seldom-recorded St. Louis ragtime/blues player, and deserved to be better known.

AMCD-10; Kid Thomas Valentine - The First Recordings. I love Kid Thomas' crude (I'll use that word here), pre-Armstrong trumpet style, which never changed or developed - he sounded the same in the 1980's. Emile Barnes is on this one, and I like it better than Barnes' yellow-label AM CD.

And for lagniappe:

There is an AM CD I love which is only available with the Jazzology Press book Bill Russell's American Music; it's full of outstanding rare tracks. That book is a must for anyone with a serious interest in this music, by the way.

I should add that there are weaker tracks on all or most of these CDs - alternate takes that are sloppy, or takes when Bunk was drunk or pissed off. But don't let those distract you from the best tracks.

I have five American Music 78s which have one or both sides that have never been reissued on LP or CD - even bootlegs. Just let me know when you're coming if you want to hear them. :)

And Bunk's favorite drink was port wine.

Edited by jeffcrom

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Posted

Baby Dodds? Playing For The Benefit Of The Band?

415XJK3797L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Baby Dodds? Playing For The Benefit Of The Band?

415XJK3797L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Yeah, that's a good/interesting CD. I didn't list it in my top ten or so because (A), you've got to stop somewhere; (B), most of the music consists of alternate takes of pieces which are on other AM CDs, and ©, much of the CD is taken up with Dodds talking - which is very interesting, but it doesn't hold up that well to repeated listenings, at least to me. I find that I don't pull this CD off the shelf that often, although I'm glad I have it.

Later: I just learned that the forum software turns a C in parentheses into a copyright symbol.

Edited by jeffcrom

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Posted

Dodds' talking is what's hooked me on that one. "Playing For the Benefit Of The Band" should be required listening - no, required memorization & absorption - for anybody who dares to play with other human beings. That's just about the heaviest explanation of what it means, really means, to make music with a group I've ever come across.

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Posted

Great stuff Jeff. Didn't realize there were differences among the various label colors.

I think most if not all of the handful of American Music titles I have were acquired at Jeff's suggestion. One from the blue label series I enjoy is John Casimir's Young Tuxedo Jazz Band AMCD-61.

4075.jpg

Taken from two sessions in 1961 in New Orleans, most of the music appears to have been previously issued. I'm in no position to judge Casimir's playing from any sort of technical standpoint, and things can get a little ragged from time to time, but when they hit it the ensemble playing is spirited and the music always comes from a genuine place. Casimir seems particularly inspired on the four tracks taken from the first session, whirling and warbling and twirling and spiraling from great heights. He seems to almost have a bit of that stovepipe, talking clarinet thing going sometimes.

The Dodds looks worth hearing, too. :tup

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Posted

Dodds' talking is what's hooked me on that one. "Playing For the Benefit Of The Band" should be required listening - no, required memorization & absorption - for anybody who dares to play with other human beings. That's just about the heaviest explanation of what it means, really means, to make music with a group I've ever come across.

I have and love the Eureka Brass Band New Orleans Funeral and Parade.

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Posted

thanks Jeffcrom. What's up with all the blue label stuff, and the 200 volumes George Lewis Oxford series?

so far I have: Yellow-- two George Lewis you mention, Bunk Plays Popular and Blue-- Bunk + Leadbelly, Mutt Carey + Hociel Thomas & Lee Collins + Chippie Hill (both women in shockingly strong voice), and Bunk + Don Ewell.

Don Ewell is the healing force of the universe.

will def. get the Jazzology book + cd...

it's a shame I spent my youth tracking down BYG, ESP, FMP splatter (little of which interests me now) when the REAL heat was right here. I'll grant it's possible to dig Bunk and Bill Dixon but I'll take the BJ 99 times out of 90.

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Posted

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

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Posted

"All The Whores Like The Way I Ride"

unfortunates raised in era (error) of rock hegemony are pushed toward "free" crap first ("that 'fire music' is 'spiritual,' man"), little of which stands as either sound or composition (AACM sentimental gentlemen most notable/sustained exception). YOU go listen Alan Silva or Peter Brotzmann (or Jason Moran or Joe Lovano), i'd rather slop the stable barefoot.

thing we now realize is the American Music albums were rare and the reissues postdate many a young person's collective improv thigh dive.

now that it's mostly available, we can REJOICE and get minds right.

"There's Yes Yes In Your Eyes"

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

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Posted

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

I think it's the kind that Bob Feller threw.

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Posted

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

"All The Whores Like The Way I Ride"

unfortunates raised in era (error) of rock hegemony are pushed toward "free" crap first ("that 'fire music' is 'spiritual,' man"), little of which stands as either sound or composition (AACM sentimental gentlemen most notable/sustained exception). YOU go listen Alan Silva or Peter Brotzmann (or Jason Moran or Joe Lovano), i'd rather slop the stable barefoot.

thing we now realize is the American Music albums were rare and the reissues postdate many a young person's collective improv thigh dive.

now that it's mostly available, we can REJOICE and get minds right.

"There's Yes Yes In Your Eyes"

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

The question still stands. "Real" is a pretty quantifiable word. I'd like to know where and what the quantification is.

"REAL heat"? What does that mean?

I think it's the kind that Bob Feller threw.

Now see, here's a man who knows how to answer a question!

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Posted

I need to get more American Music cds. In due time.

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Posted

Dodds' talking is what's hooked me on that one. "Playing For the Benefit Of The Band" should be required listening - no, required memorization & absorption - for anybody who dares to play with other human beings. That's just about the heaviest explanation of what it means, really means, to make music with a group I've ever come across.

:tup

"You can't sit there just sittin' there drummin' - you got to think! That's what you've got a head for!"

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Posted

Seems like Moms is trying to stir things up again. And he knows if the bait's out there, someone will go for it.

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Posted

Seems like Moms is trying to stir things up again. And he knows if the bait's out there, someone will go for it.

How so? Certainly not by expressing enthusiasm for American Music and seeking opinions on the catalog. Nor would Moms be the first person to distance themselves from certain regions of free jazz, in no uncertain terms.

In any case, a stirred pot makes for a good brew. ^_^

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Posted (edited)

Okay, more pontificating, this time about AM's non-Russell recordings.

AMCD-70, New Orleans Funeral and Parade by the Eureka Brass Band (mentioned by Hoppy T. Frog) is every bit as amazing and "important" as the best of the Bill Russell recordings. This was the first recording of a working NOLA brass band, and it's deep. The best moments of AMCD 110/111, Eureka Brass Band In Rehearsal 1956, are nearly as good.

AMCD-76; New Orleans 1946. The meat of this one is the Original Zenith Brass Band, a pick-up band put together by Kid Howard. It's the first studio recording of a brass band, and fills in some gaps in our knowledge of the kind of music the early brass bands played - there are some 6/8 marches and 19th-century pop songs here, for instance. You can hear the alto and baritone horns better than on the Bunk's Brass Band recordings. Most of the rest of the CD is the Eclipse Alley Five, with George Lewis and Jim Robinson.

AMCD-48; Kid Thomas - The Dance Hall Years. This is actually my favorite Kid Thomas album - two live sessions (one from the 50's and one from the 60's) of Mr. Valentine's band playing for dancers. You'll hear "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Blueberry Hill" rather than "Clarinet Marmalade" or "Jazz Me Blues."

AMCD-84; Barnes-Bocage Big Five 1954. Like no other New Orleans jazz you've ever heard. It's like every member of this five-piece band is playing a different style, but it all works somehow. Must be the humidity and the gumbo. There aren't that many records featuring Creole trumpeter Peter Bocage, and he's at his best here. The "Barnes" is Emile.

AMCD-104; George Lewis - Jam Session. A more complete version of what some folks (not me) believe to be Lewis's best album. Jam Session was originally released on the Paradox label, and features Lewis's favorite trumpet player, the rough and ready Elmer Talbert, who died shortly afterwards. It's good, but I prefer the short-lived band with Talbert's replacement, Percy Humphrey. This was has a gold label and cover; I'm not sure what that means - maybe they wanted a unique color for this renowned album.

Moms asked about the George Lewis Oxford Series, which runs to many volumes. George and the band visited Miami Univ. in Oxford, Ohio every year for many years, starting in 1952, and their concerts (and private parties, rehearsals, and church services) were recorded by the University. I can't imagine many people wanting to hear all of it - I certainly haven't. Kid Howard was not in good form during those years, for one thing. I love Volumes 1 through 3, when Percy Humphrey was in the band. These have a red label; most of the volumes with Kid Howard have a dark blue label. Of the Kid Howard discs, Volume 17 is worth a mention. It's a church service and was released in part at the time as Spirituals in Ragtime. I like it, in spite of Howard's weak lip.

And I like the Mutt Carey/Lee Collins/Hociel Thomas/Chippie Hill CD mentioned by Moms a lot. I don't have the John Casimir CD papsrus talks about, and I really hate him for having an AM CD that I don't have.

Edited by jeffcrom

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Posted

FWIW, Blue Note did not create the Climax label because of the sound quality. They created it because they were not union recordings and it would be a violation of their labor agreement to issue them on BN.

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Posted

Seems like Moms is trying to stir things up again. And he knows if the bait's out there, someone will go for it.

I'll take both old-time collective improvisation and "new thing." No problem with either, in principle.

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Posted

Lots of messy stuff in both genres.

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FWIW, Blue Note did not create the Climax label because of the sound quality. They created it because they were not union recordings and it would be a violation of their labor agreement to issue them on BN.

I had read both explanations, and I was too lazy to investigate whether or not Lewis & Co. were in the union at that point. Thanks for the clarification.

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Posted

Lots of messy stuff in both genres.

I don't disagree.

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FWIW, Blue Note did not create the Climax label because of the sound quality. They created it because they were not union recordings and it would be a violation of their labor agreement to issue them on BN.

I had read both explanations, and I was too lazy to investigate whether or not Lewis & Co. were in the union at that point. Thanks for the clarification.

The point is not if Lewis was in the union but if the recordings were made under a union contract. Big deal back then.

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