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The Original Memphis Five


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#1 jeffcrom

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:30 PM

I don't know if there are any other Original Memphis Five fans here, but I think I just discovered a "new" record by them.

I recently took a chance and spent five bucks on a 78 by the "Superior Jazz Band" on the early Bell label. According to the Rust discography, "Virginia Blues" and "Georgia" were recorded on April 18, 1922, but "Georgia" was rejected and remade on May 2. They were issued on three related labels, Arto, Bell (#P-144), and Globe. The instrumentation is the same as the OM5; Rust didn't know who the five musicians were, but noted that Ed Kirkeby directed the session. Kirkeby is best known as the manager of the California Ramblers and (later) Fats Waller, but also "managed first dates for the Original Memphis Five," according to John Chilton's Who's Who of Jazz. The first known record by the OM5 was Bell P-140, recorded some time in April, 1922; it was also issued under a pseudonym: The Original Dixieland Jazz Band!

Which brings us to my record. I figured it was probably something pretty corny until I put it on the turntable today. My thoughts went like this:

1. "Wow - this is pretty good."
2. "That sounds like Phil Napoleon on trumpet."
3. "Is that Jimmy Lytell on clarinet?"
4. "Damn! I think this is the Original Memphis Five!"

I compared the playing to that on the earliest OM5 record I had, from June, 1922 - it sure sounds like the same band. "Georgia" (by Walter Donaldson - the Hoagy Carmichael song hadn't been written yet) is excellent throughout. "Virginia Blues" starts well, but gets bogged down when it turns into a medley of "Southern" songs. The trombonist is a little stiff, but I don't know who else it could be except Miff Mole. He and Napoleon loosened up quite a bit on the band's 1923 recordings, but they both were slightly stiff on the 1922 records I've heard by them.

I know this post is kind of esoteric, but I wanted this information (or at least informed speculation) to be on the web somewhere. I couldn't find anything in print or on the web linking this record to the Original Memphis Five.

Edited by jeffcrom, 03 April 2012 - 10:42 PM.


#2 AllenLowe

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:44 PM

I'm with you on this one; I love the Memphis 5. Good work -

#3 John L

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:03 PM

Ive never heard the Superior Jazz Band tracks, but I am sure that you are probably right. It is hard to keep track of all of the different band names under which the same musicians recorded recorded back then.

The Original Memphis Five had a very nice sound. It is hard to put a finger on exactly what is so attractive about it, but I always enjoy hearing it.

#4 J.A.W.

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:42 PM

I must admit that I've neglected the OM5. Are there any good CD compilations of their recordings?

#5 jazzbo

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 04:08 PM

There are two Retrieval releases, both equally good.

Nice find Jeff! Let Jazz Oracle know about it. . . maybe they'll incorporate it in some release.

#6 AllenLowe

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:01 PM

just be sure to ask for $10,000.

#7 papsrus

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:55 PM

Nice. Any chance of getting a sample of these up on your blog?

:g

#8 Chuck Nessa

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 08:03 PM

How many in the group?

#9 jeffcrom

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:28 PM

Nice find Jeff! Let Jazz Oracle know about it. . . maybe they'll incorporate it in some release.

Even though there's little doubt in my mind, I want a second opinion, so I've emailed Mark Berresford, asking if he'll listen to them.

just be sure to ask for $10,000.

I suspect that Bell P-440, while not common, is not that rare, either. I just don't think anybody familiar with the Original Memphis Five has listened carefully to it before. I'll take the ten grand, if offered, though.

Nice. Any chance of getting a sample of these up on your blog?

:g

I think so - give me a day or two.

How many in the group?

3.14 - they were first called the Original Memphis Pi.

Edited by jeffcrom, 03 April 2012 - 09:30 PM.


#10 alex.

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:54 PM

Neat! Looking forward to hearing these.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was the Ladd's Black Aces session, also with Phil Napoleon and Signorelli, and also from 1922. Given the overlap in probable personnel, I assume it's similar. Is it, Jeff?

#11 jeffcrom

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 10:39 PM

Neat! Looking forward to hearing these.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was the Ladd's Black Aces session, also with Phil Napoleon and Signorelli, and also from 1922. Given the overlap in probable personnel, I assume it's similar. Is it, Jeff?

Well, Ladd's Black Aces was the pseudonym the Original Memphis Five used when recording for Gennett. (It's actually a little more complicated than that - there was some variation in the Ladd's Black Aces personnel, but that's basically it.) There were actually quite a few Ladd's Black Aces sessions for Gennett between 1921 and 1924, mostly by the Original Memphis Five guys.

Arto was a record company who was not affiliated with Gennett - they were active from 1920 to 1923. Bell was the "dime store" label of the W. T. Grant chain, and their records were drawn from the Arto catalog until Arto went out of business. After that they used material from Emerson and the Plaza group of labels (Banner, Oriole, Regal, Domino, etc.) So there's a connection in that the "Superior Jazz Band" and Ladd's Black Aces are both basically the Original Memphis Five, but beyond that there's no connection between the Ladd's Black Aces sessions and the Arto/Bell sessions.

The amount I've learned in the past year about early 20th century record labels and their relationships is frightening and pathetic.

#12 jeffcrom

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 08:16 AM

I heard back from Mark Berresford, who is familiar with the record. He doesn't know who the Superior Jazz Band is, but he doesn't think that they're the OM5. He calls the trumpeter "far coarser and 'hotter' than Napoleon" and describes the band as "very good and not as refined as the OM5."

I don't know - neither of those descriptions (except the "very good" part) seem quite right to me. Without knowing any of the circumstantial evidence, I thought it was Napoleon and Lytell. The amount of circumstantial evidence strengthens the case. I'll continue to listen, compare, and think about it.

Edited by jeffcrom, 04 April 2012 - 08:18 AM.


#13 EKE BBB

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 03:38 AM

I posted your query/suggestion in the RedHotJazz list... But no replies so far.

#14 EKE BBB

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 03:21 PM

From the RedHotJazz group:

You are correct.
It is an EARLY version of the Memphis Five but issued under the name of Lanin's Southern Serenaders with a different personnel than the later Memphis Five. Also listed in 'The Fabulous Fives'
Sam Lanin groups also were issued on the Arto-Bell labels.
Personnel probably is:
Phil Napoleon (TP) Moe Gappel (TB) Jimmy Lytell (CL)Frank Signorelli (P) Jack Roth (D)
Notice I said probably as Miff Mole moved in and out of the band so did Lytell as he replaced Doc Behrendson on clarinet especially in the first half year of 1922.
I hope this helps somewhat.



#15 AllenLowe

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 03:32 PM

thanks; though it should be relatively easy (I think) to tell if it's Miff or not.

#16 jeffcrom

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:03 PM

Thanks, EKE BBB. A local university library has The Fabulous Fives; I'll get over there and check it out this week.

I'm continuing to listen; I burned all my OM5 from 1922, along with the Superior Jazz Band, onto a CD, to make it easy to hear these sides over and over and really get them in my ears & brain. My judgement as of today is that it's definitely Napoleon - with all due respect, I think Mr. Berresford's judgement about the trumpet player is incorrect. I'm less certain about Lytell and Mole - I'll get the tracks posted somewhere on the tubes of the internet soon so that folks here can listen.

#17 jeffcrom

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

Okay, Bell P-144 by the Superior Jazz Band is most definitely not listed in Horst Lange's The Fabulous Fives discography. I spent some time with the 1978 revised edition in the library this morning, and the Superior Jazz Band's record isn't included, nor is Bell P-144 listed in the record index. (Bell P-140 and P-149, both by the Original Memphis Five, are listed.)

Not counting the Superior JB record, Phil Napoleon recorded "Virginia Blues" twice in February, 1922: with Lanin's Southern Serenaders for Regal, and with Ladd's Black Aces for Gennett and related labels. Neither of these labels was connected with the Arto/Bell group of labels. And there was no listing for "Georgia" at all in The Fabulous Fives.

EKE BBB, I don't know whether your source confused the Regal recording by Lanin's Southern Serenaders with my record, but it's obviously not the same. I would be curious about where his information came from.

I have a blog entry about this recording (with a link to MP3s of the record) mostly ready - I'll post it tonight. I want to listen to my OM5 1922 compilation CD one more time first. I'm still going back and forth about Miff Mole....

#18 jeffcrom

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:14 PM

Okay, I've listened to the record enough over the past week to know what I think - at least for now. Here's my blog entry. I'd love to know what y'all think after listening to the recordings.

#19 papsrus

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:23 AM

Thanks for posting the samples Jeff. I just returned to this thread tonight for the first time in several days (nights). You've done a wonderful job researching this, and given all the evidence you've presented, surely the music deserves, at the very least, a reappraisal by those who have discounted the OM5 as the source.

I obviously have no way to judge the music technically, only enjoy it. But having a pretty good sense of your familiarity with this sort of material, and seeing no firm alternatives offered yet as to who the individuals in the band might be, I'd say you deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Edited by papsrus, 15 April 2012 - 12:30 AM.


#20 jeffcrom

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:44 PM

...surely the music deserves, at the very least, a reappraisal....

That's what I'm hoping for. I hope that some folks smarter and more knowledgeable than me will devote a little time and research to this interesting little record.

#21 EKE BBB

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 01:37 AM

Jeff

Here's yet another response from the RedHotJazz community:

LET ME FIRST SAY THAT I DISAGREE WITH YOUR STATEMENT THAT THE "SUPERIOR JAZZ BAND" ARE THE SAME MUSICIANS AS THE "ORIGINAL MEMPHIS FIVE" OF THE SAME PERIOD (APRIL/MAY 1922).

Who am I to say so ?

An avid 78 rpm collector, who specializes in the period 1917 to 1922.

I am VERY familiar with the sound of the OM5 groups (I own over 300 of their original 78s, only missing the following 9 records:
Banner 1178 or Regal 9455
Bell P-216 or Globe 7216
Gennett 5125 or Starr 9385
Gennett 5142
Emerson 10725
Emerson 10741
Emerson 10783
Vocalion 15234
Pathé Act. 36413 or Perfect 14594
(anyone help???))

It was also me who first discovered that the OM5 also provided the accompaniment for IDA COX's "Blue Kentucky Blues" (mx 2003-2 on Paramount 12258).

I also own Bell P-144 by the "Superior Jazz Band", and just had an intense listening session, along with all the OM5 groups recordings of March to June 1922.

1.) The overall sound of Bell P-144 is UNLIKE the OM5 sound of this period. Less Swing, less musical purity.

2.) Trumpeter is definetively NOT Phil Napoleon. Napoleon is more musical, exhibits a tone which is always in tune, compared to the broader tone and less driving lead of the Bell P-144 trumpeter.

3.) Trombonist is definetively NOT Miff Mole. More pedestrian, lacking Mole's sweeping figures which helped to free the trombone from it's tailgate role, and a more crude, albeit more forceful tone.

4.) Clarinetist COULD be Doc Behrendson.
On aural grounds, I do think that Lytell joined the OM5 not until early June, 1922, and not already in early April, 1922, as reported in the standard discographies.

Thus, IMO, the following OM5 goups records still feature Berendson, and NOT (already) Lytell:
Arto 9140/Bell P-140(April 5, 1922)
Gennett 4689 (April 14,1922)
Cameo 218/Muse 218 (April 22,1922)
Paramount 20131,etc.(May 10, 1922)
Arto 9149/Bell P-149(May 11, 1922)
Cameo 232/Harmogr750(May 22, 1922)
Gennett 4886 (May 25, 1922)

4.) Further, I compared the "Superior Jazz Band"'s Bell P-144 to the following:

A.) KNICKERBOCKER NOVELTY FIVE
571-A Virginia Blues GG 1102
571-B Virginia Blues GG 1102
571-C Virginia Blues GG 1102
YERKES' NOVELTY FIVE
578-D On The 'Gin 'Gin GG 1102
'Ginny Shore (NOTE TAKE!)
(I own three copies of GG 1102)
First, the musicians on both sides (Knickerbocker N.F. / YERKES' N.F.)
are the same. These would be:
Hymie Farberman, t / Tom Brown, tb /Ross Gorman or Arnold Brilhardt, cl / p / d.
Second, the personnel on GG 1102 and Bell P-144 sounds identical, to my ears.
The possible exception is the clarinettist, which is more on a Ted Lewis kick on GG 1102; the clarinetist on Bell P-144 exhibits a purer tone, and avoids novelty effects.

B.) LENOX NOVELTY ORCHESTRA
Doo Dah Blues Arto 9137
I've Got The Wonder Where He Went And When He's Coming Back Blues Arto 9137
Recorded March 1922.
Instrumentation is 2t/tb/cl/Cm/p/bj/bb/d.
Loren McMurray is unmistakeable on C-Melody sax, t/tb/cl sound as if they were the same men as on Bell P-144 (NOT Napoleon, NOT Mole, PROBABLY Behrendson).

C.) LANIN'S FAMOUS PLAYERS
1-1450 Lonesome Mama Blues Federal 5203
To my ears:
t(NOT Napoleon)/Miff Mole-tb/Doc Behrendson-cl/Loren McMurray-as/p.
The trumpeter on this HOT recording could be the same man as on Bell P-144, but tb and cl sound different.

D.)VIRGINIANS
Victor 18881, Victor 18895, Victor 18913
IMO, all three frontmen are different to those of bell P-144.

E.)SPECHT'S SOCIETY SYNCOPATORS
1100-1 You Can Have Him, I Don't Want Him Blues Banner 1090
1101-2 Hot Lips Banner 1090

Again, all three frontmen sound different to those of the SUPERIOR JAZZ BAND.

I was especially careful comparing the Specht recording to the Superior J.B. recording in the light of the following:
In Record Research 25 (Nov./Dec.1959), eminent scholar CARL KENDZIORA had the following to say while reviewing the OM5 section of the first (1959) edition of HORST H. LANGE's "FABULOUS FIVES" (on page 7):
"The Superior Jazz Band coupling on Arto group labels listed on page 13 is not the OM5. This was a session booked by Ed Kirkeby for Arto on April 18, 1922 /the Georgia title was remade May 2nd). His notebooks show this only as "Jazz Band" and the only clue as to the identity of the group is the cryptic one word "Deppe" also listed in the book. There was a Russell Deppe playing in the Paul Specht and His Hotel Astor Orchestra and so this just might be a Specht group under Deppe's leadership."

Only problem is that there is no banjo (Deppe's instrument) on Bell P-144, Guarente is definetively NOT the trumpeter heard on Bell P-144, and tb and cl are, IMO, also played by different men.

Regards,
Ralph Wondraschek



#22 jeffcrom

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 08:01 AM

Yes, Mr. Wondraschek posted some fairly intense replies to my blog post. I'll be editing my post in light of his replies - he seems to know what he's talking about.



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