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The Magnificent Goldberg

Earl Bostic - the general thread

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We don’t have a general Earl Bostic thread! Only one in Recommendations, just headed Earl Bostic, and dealing with two of his albums.

Earl was one of the most prominent jazz musicians of the two decades following WWII and no one here cares about him! Well, I do (and Jim Sangrey does). I think ‘Flamingo’ is a track that’s been with me since I was a kid, though I only started really getting it in the sixties. And bought my first Bostic LP – a 10” in Parlophone with five tracks per side - in 1971. And this year and last, I’ve got more and more interested having all his Chrono Classics CDs. He’s the second most played artist in my collection this year (after Jug).

And, in any case, I don’t believe there’s no interest here in him, so here we go.

I’ve spent a couple of enjoyable days assembling Earl’s first ten 10” LPs for King, from the Chronological Classics CDs, just to see how they played. Can’t say I’m in a position to comment terribly sensibly on that yet, on the strength of one listen, but three things are clear already.

First, like all the other bosses of the indies labels, Syd Nathan didn’t really know how to put an album together when he started. And didn’t really NEED to know, in the beginning. Earl’s first three LPs – Earl Bostic & his alto sax vols 1-3 (295-64, 65 & 66) – all had only six tracks; three per side, just to rub the point in. All three were apparently released at the same time; in February 1953. By the end of 1953, Nathan had changed up to a four tracks per side model and vol 4 is more like an album with some thought, though little variety.

Second, once Nathan began to put an act together on those longer Bostic LPs, he seems to have had the idea of a medium paced side 1 and an up tempo side 2.

Third, Nathan was miserly about his album titles; why keep thinking up new ones when the old one would do for a dozen albums?

295-64 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 1 [2/53] (6 tracks)

295-65 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 2 [2/53] (6 tracks)

295-66 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 3 [2/53] (6 tracks)

295-72 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 4 [1953] (8 tracks)

295-76 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 1 [1954] (8 tracks)

295-77 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 2 [1954] (8 tracks)

295-78 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 3 [1954] (8 tracks)

295-79 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 4 [1954] (8 tracks)

295-95 – The artistry of Earl Bostic [1955] (8 tracks) How unusually profligate!

295-103 – Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, Volume 5 - Earl Bostic [1955] (8 tracks)

 

The BSN site has two more volumes of Earl Bostic and His Alto Sax, but not full track listings, so it’s not clear that they were ever actually issued.

 

By the way, 296-76/7/78 are not reissues of 64/5/6 with, as would now be said, a couple of bonus tracks added. Although the new vol 1 contains four of the original six, the new vol 2 only contains two from the original LP, as does vol 3. So it’s clear that Nathan had done a fair bit of thinking during 1952.

Well, that’s enough of that very nice early material done for King, but he’d been a professional for about twenty years by the time they came along. Here’s a link to the very interesting Wiki page on him

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Bostic

There’s an odd bit in that Wiki piece. Earl couldn’t have joined Terence T Holder’s ‘Twelve Clouds of Joy’ in 1930 at 18, as that band kicked Holder out of the ‘Dark Clouds of Joy’ and voted for Andy Kirk, who changed the Dark to Twelve. So, when did he join Holder? Whether Holder started another band in KC then isn’t known. He may have done; his own rather sparse Wiki page says he worked in bands with the likes of Buddy Tate and Budd Johnson (both teenagers then) afterwards, so he may have employed them or merely worked alongside them. But also, Earl may have worked in Holder’s band before he was 18.

Clearly, though, those wide open spaces territory bands were Earl’s training ground. Later he was with Fate Marable on the Mississippi steamboats going through the Midwest. Later, in 1938 and again in 1944, he ran the house band at Small’s Paradise and, in the same period was a regular at the Minton’s jam sessions. He first recorded with Lionel Hampton in 1939, following which he recorded with Hot Lips Page, Louis Prima, Buck Ram and Rex Stewart before forming his own big band late in 1945.

By early 1946, he’d slimmed the band down to one trumpet, 3 saxes, 4 rhythm, and begun recording for Gotham. Possibly that was a mistake, viewed from the viewpoint of his reputation among jazz lovers – Gotham is not eminent as a jazz label but as a gospel label. But it was probably a decent way in for Earl to the black market.

He had more success when he started recording for King in 1948. Although he only had two hit singles for King (and ‘Temptation’ for Gotham), his records sold consistently and always appeared on juke boxes.

What we all tend to forget about Earl is that he was a musician with masterly chops. Here’s ‘Artistry by Bostic’, recorded in 1947 for Gotham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2IBoqoWF34

It’s kind of unsurprising that, according to Lou Donaldson, Earl burned Charlie Parker. Here’s the quite from Wiki:

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."

If that was in 1944, Lou would have been about eighteen.

He’d refocused his style a bit during the Musicians Union strike of 1948. Not a radical change; his Gotham hit, ‘Temptation’, from 1947, featured essentially the Bostic style as he’d worked on it and continued to work it until the end of his life. Here it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygIodxF1QW0

The sound is more or less the one he’d been using for years. By the time he started recording for King, he’d modified his sound a good deal; the same sound, but now as if he’d shoved a fist full of road grit in with his reed, or had it in his mouth, or somewhere. And the beat was heavier

Here’s a cut from his first King session in January 1949; ‘Blip boogie’  quite a honker and screamer. The beat is noticeably heavier. We’re now deep into the honkers and screamers era and Earl was by no means a hanger-on at the feast of naughty noises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab_i0iawcfI

Count Hastings is the tenor player, Jaki Byard is on piano and Shep Shepherd is on drums.

And late in 1951, he had his blockbuster single, which spent five months on the R&B chart, a month of it at #1. Although that was his LAST hit, it was a good way to leave the charts.

Well, here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, as Earl Bostic, heavily disguised as Bullmoose Jackson (I love those YouTube posters who don’t know what the hell they’re doing), plays ‘Flamingo’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcxBLiKpRm0&list=PL4F28C4EEBAC43170

What more can you say? Well, you can say it again and again and again. And Earl did. My favourite of all these reiterations is ‘You go to my head’ from April 1952, the personnel for which was Bostic, Blue Mitchell (tp), Pinky Williams (as, bar), John Coltrane (ts), Gene Redd (vib), Joe Knight (p), Jimmy Shirley (g), Ike Isaacs (b) and Specs Wright (d)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcCgY4IBvGc

That’s all, folks!

MG

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Bostic was a monster!

I've used his original (1952, mono) version of "Steamwhistle Jump" (a thinly disguised version of "Take the "A" Train) as the theme of my radio program since 1987 (started back then in conjunction with list member "Salvatore Massaro").

There's a nice Bostic collection on Ace/Charley called "Earl Bostic Blows a Fuse."

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Among my sister-in-law's record album (she had a job in a record shop for a few months) was an Earl Bostic 45 of Flamingo. Through the years I bought two or three LP compilations, his unmistakable alto style is part of the soundtrack of my teens. 

Most recent acquisition is this CD: 

61DbwUQlfyL.jpg

Bostic in a 1963 organ combo with Groove Holmes and Joe Pass - definitely worth checking out.

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Nice rundown of his (earlier) career, MG! 

That "Blows A Fuse" compilatin (on Charlie) that Jazztrain menions is a recommended introduction indeed, particularly for his more rousing tracks. I find some of his later King recordings a bit formulaic, though. They are always spot-on and it shows that he was a master of the alto sax but somehow to me they sound as if he had played all these tunes a zillion times, knew every nuance inside out, had been through all of the changes in every conceivable aspect so was able to play every tune forwards and backwards in his sleep. Still nice but I prefer to take them in smaller doses.

It's amazing his Gotham recordings have not been reissued in a more compehensive way when Krazy Kat did all their Gotham LP reissues in the 80s.

The cover of that CD mentioned by Mikeweil is one of those oddities where you really have to look hard and read the fine print to see what it is all about. Like with many contrivedly updated reissue covers of the 70s, the artwork is so totally out of keeping with any early 60s recordings and the way the sidemen all of a sudden received co-billing for their fame acquired later is rather misleading, not to mention the picture selections that aren't exactly 60s-ish, including the "techno" processing of the Bostic pic  (BTW, are there ANY pre-Synanon artist pics of Joe Pass in existence at all?).

A mention "feat. Richard Groove Holmes and Joe Pass" instead of the "VIvid Sound" blurb would have been sufficient IMHO for a respectful reissue ... ;)
(But thanks for mentioning that record, Mike, which made me pull out the LP again ... ;))

27343964ae.jpg

 

 

 

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Placing Pass and Groove on the cover certainly was an attempt to draw bigger sales - these sessions are probably a bit "jazzier" for the uninitiated. From the jazz police, Bostic mostly gest honorary mention for having Coltrane in his band and being a superior technician, but is labelled as too commercial by most. 

That CD introduced me to a different side of Bostic, as I had no idea he had recorded in an organ combo context, and I really love the stuff that Pass and Groove did together in California, no matter with whom. They were a great team.

Edited by mikeweil

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13 hours ago, mikeweil said:

Among my sister-in-law's record album (she had a job in a record shop for a few months) was an Earl Bostic 45 of Flamingo. Through the years I bought two or three LP compilations, his unmistakable alto style is part of the soundtrack of my teens. 

 

 

I still have a Vogue 78 of Flamingo.  I'm not a Bostic fan but this 78 is a treasured part of my music history.

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2 hours ago, mikeweil said:

Placing Pass and Groove on the cover certainly was an attempt to draw bigger sales.

Reminds me of a 70s budget label LP credited to "Early Jimi Hendrix" - with Jimi buried in the backup bands of Joey Dee and Little Richard, plus (I think) a few early outtakes. :lol:

I agree with how you summarized Bostic's (a bit unfair) standing with what you aptly refer to as the "jazz police".

However, his earlier recordings should not be overlooked either for their jazz content. Spotlite SPJ152 ("That's Earl, Brother" - a smart album title :D) has a nice (Jubilee?) session by his big band from late 1945 and also features him as a sideman with the Lionel Hampton and Rex Stewart bands.

Some of his later albums are a bit formulaic but it's a pity he was given short shrift too often. It's (among many others) people like him I think of when I read about some of those "avantgarde" jazzmen about whom it is claimed they went BEYOND the more "conventional" players. IMHO they can only claim they went "beyond" their predecessors if they can prove they have as much chops and technical facilities as those earlier ones and in fact can outplay them if they wish and THEN go beyond because they have "exhausted" all that was there to play. If they can't, IMHO they just go SIDEWAYS onto a different limb in the tree of jazz (which is all very well too) but certainly not "beyond" in the sense of "ahead" or "further up".
 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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91dWsSo2sHL._SL1500_.jpg

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I must admit that's one I've tended to avoid. ;)

"Plays Sweet Tunes of the Roaring 20s" was more than enough for me (and only because you can't pass it up if you come across the three King 7-inchers at a steal price).

Somehow "Bostic Rocks Hits of the Swing Age" does a bit more for me. ;) 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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6 hours ago, Big Beat Steve said:

Nice rundown of his (earlier) career, MG! 

That "Blows A Fuse" compilatin (on Charlie) that Jazztrain menions is a recommended introduction indeed, particularly for his more rousing tracks. I find some of his later King recordings a bit formulaic, though. They are always spot-on and it shows that he was a master of the alto sax but somehow to me they sound as if he had played all these tunes a zillion times, knew every nuance inside out, had been through all of the changes in every conceivable aspect so was able to play every tune forwards and backwards in his sleep. Still nice but I prefer to take them in smaller doses.

There's a note on the page of, I think, one of his LPs on the Discogs site, to the effect that Earl was very concerned to produce in live performances what the audiences had heard, so he wrote everything out. And, when King wanted stereo recordings of his big numbers, he got those sheets out and, even though most of the musicians were different geezers, they played them note for note the way they'd been played before. So yeah, they HAD played them a zillion times!

I think I have one of those LPs, but it's a while since I listened to it. I may try ripping it and seeing how it compares.

But that was what the guy thought. More than almost any other jazz musician, Earl seems to have been a person who thought of jazz in a functional sense - as part of the soundtrack to people's lives. Critics tend to use the term functional as one of disapprobation, but I reckon that, if you take the function out of jazz, you haven't got anything worth listening to; you've got music as art. Of course, there are degrees of detachment from function and it's probably best that there IS some detachment. But the example of someone who had no truck with the notion is important because it's one end of the continuum.

MG

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2 hours ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

 Critics tend to use the term functional as one of disapprobation, but I reckon that, if you take the function out of jazz, you haven't got anything worth listening to; you've got music as art.

"music as art" is "not worth listening to"? Like making music to listen to is not a function in and of itself? Like listening to "listening music" is not the pursuit of engagement in that function? Like there's no implicit agreement of potential reciprocity?

That's just silly, is that really what you mean?

Not sure if life imposes that strict a set of rules as to what its "functions" are. You can choose to impose a fixed set of them upon yourself and then blame life, but, uh, really?

Me myself, I use the term "functional music" as a recognition of purpose, and to that end, most music is functional, hell, pretty much all music is functional, you just have to recognize the function.

Even silence is functional. Especially silence. without it there would be nonstop noise. Like time is what keeps everything from happening all at one, silence is what keeps noise from being nonstop.

I'm a big fan of functional music, all kinds of it, the functions and the musics alike.

 

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Back to much more esoteric matters...who's in for paralleling Earl Bostic to Jimmy Dorsey for sheer instrumental virtuosity, quite apart from any improvisational skills?

In fact...how is this not a tip of the hat to Earl Bostic? Sure, you got Pete Brown, Tab Smith, even Louis Jordan in the mix, but to the best of my knowledge, Jimmy Dorsey was not prone to these kind of body tempo musics, the kind that Bostic lived (literally) and breathed (also literally)...it takes one tart-toned virtuoso player and businessman to recognize another, I say.

 

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3 hours ago, JSngry said:

"music as art" is "not worth listening to"? Like making music to listen to is not a function in and of itself? Like listening to "listening music" is not the pursuit of engagement in that function? Like there's no implicit agreement of potential reciprocity?

That's just silly, is that really what you mean?

Not sure if life imposes that strict a set of rules as to what its "functions" are. You can choose to impose a fixed set of them upon yourself and then blame life, but, uh, really?

Me myself, I use the term "functional music" as a recognition of purpose, and to that end, most music is functional, hell, pretty much all music is functional, you just have to recognize the function.

Even silence is functional. Especially silence. without it there would be nonstop noise. Like time is what keeps everything from happening all at one, silence is what keeps noise from being nonstop.

I'm a big fan of functional music, all kinds of it, the functions and the musics alike.

 

As I'm sure you know, Jim, my interests don't lie in the field of music as art, or even the pure listening function, but in music as part of society. So, if you take that right out of it, there's nothing in it for me. But that's the opposite extreme from Earl Bostic.

MG

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It is probably a scandalous canard, but I once heard that Jimmy Dorsey was quite ill (from cancer, which was to take him half-a-year earlier) and that the passionate, much-more R&B-ish solo on So Rare was actually played by the band's lead alto player.  An apocryphal tale, no doubt...

Anyway, it must be just about the last instrumental (I know, there's an ooh-wah chorus) by a Big Band Era orchestra to make the top 10.  (No, maybe not:  I just thought of several Lawrence Welk things that came later...)

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

Back to much more esoteric matters...who's in for paralleling Earl Bostic to Jimmy Dorsey for sheer instrumental virtuosity, quite apart from any improvisational skills?

In fact...how is this not a tip of the hat to Earl Bostic? Sure, you got Pete Brown, Tab Smith, even Louis Jordan in the mix, but to the best of my knowledge, Jimmy Dorsey was not prone to these kind of body tempo musics, the kind that Bostic lived (literally) and breathed (also literally)...it takes one tart-toned virtuoso player and businessman to recognize another, I say.

 

I've never heard that before and always wondered what business a thirties bandleader had having such a huge hit in 1957 - #2 in Billboard pop charts, amazingly, #4 in the R&B charts. Well, now I know. Yeah, same rhythm as Earl used, but not quite as much ease or something. And obviously, the guy could play, though he didn't have much of an interesting sound.

Thanks very much, Jim. Mucho appreciated.

MG

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1 hour ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

As I'm sure you know, Jim, my interests don't lie in the field of music as art, or even the pure listening function, but in music as part of society. So, if you take that right out of it, there's nothing in it for me.

So...."music as art" & "pure listening" are not "part of society"? What, are those things some sort of deviancy?

I get the "nothing in it for me" part, I don't get how only "for me" can rightly be viewed as the only "part of society". Are you saying that you only view what's in your world as THE world and not consider other possibilities as valid, even if not of personal interest?

That just seems...off, grounds for a culture war based on a notion of separatism that is probably not worth having (the war and the notion) in a world as small as this one continues to become. Not to say it's not going to be fought anyways, there's good money in encouraging rigidity, but really, it's a chump bet.

Jimmy Dorsey...other players had respect for the skills.

This is the same kind of finger & tone virtuosity that Bostic had. They spoke different dialects/accents, to be sure, but I've no doubt that they had any trouble understanding each other.

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I'm sure you're right about mutual respect, Jim. I just don't feel attracted to his sound. It's kind of professional.

As to part of society, sure you're right there. I don't make rules for anyone but myself and try to make as few for myself as I can. I never talk about what you or anyone else SHOULD do or think.

MG

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I think it does a disservice to Earl Bostic, and many others, to highlight their importance just on the grounds that they connected with their audience(s). If that's why they have relevance, does it not follow that their relevance diminishes and eventually does as that audience does? It's not a path of sustainability, really.

And yes, Bostic's ongoing relevance will continue to be condensed, because most of his career was spent as a singles/jukebox artist. And that's a world that, if not already extinct, is bordering on it.

And there's also the matter of that whole world, jukebox/singles music, it was populated by a helluva lot of people who no longer really matter except when/if somebody wants to do an archeological deep-dive into some extinct world. These folks matter as part of the whole, a picture is not complete without them, but...who's gonna look at that picture in the first place?

So what makes Earl Bostic relevant, why should he get a thread of his own, why should people even bother to check him out at all? Because he was a bad motherfucker, that's why. Not because he got to his market, but because of what he got to his market with. Some real skills, skills that were not a function of the marketplace, skills that came from personal "artistic" drive, standards and skills, just good old-fashioned work ethic and a discerning, personally targeted musical taste and some good business sense. Even if the singles all begin to blend into one same record, it's a GOOD one same record, and that's not accidental, nor was that driven by the market place. That there were so many of them, yes, that's the market place, but what they were, that's entirely Artist's Choice. The cat could play, did play, never did not play.

Look, Ace Cannon reached his market, and Ace Cannon was a borderline no-playing jiveass waste of time (sure, that's a value judgement, but oh well about that). He's a bad role model for the youth of the future, never mind the youth of his youth. If everybody forgets about Ace Cannon and doesn't bother to re-remember, probably a net gain as far as evolution goes, there's really no "there" there. But time spent absorbing and contemplating the realities of Earl Bostic...it might all basically sound alike, it might all actually basically be all alike (look out, though, those sides with Groove & Pass do seriously kick ass), but what that "all alike" actually contains...you can go forward with that, just the recognition of it, not even the specifics of it, just the abstract truth of what this "is really is. Where you can go with Ace Cannon is straight to the hell you're already in, ain't but no way out, blues and the concrete overshoes.

And sure, yes, by all means, everybody familiarize yourself with Ace Cannon. You can't do a meaningful contrast and compare otherwise.

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And look, there's no reason to declare a War On Ace Cannon. Why bother fighting something that is no longer there.

Earl Bostic, otoh, refuses, so far, to die. There's a reason for that, and we need to be clear about what that reason is.

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:lol:  :lol:

You worded it pretty well (better than I could ever have) why I, for example, have always been sort of underwhelmed by the likes of Ace Cannon. Repetitive in a way quite different from what I called "formulaic" about the later Earl Bostic recordings. Maybe to put it in a very simplified way, Ace Cannon "played" a sax player whereas Earl Bostic WAS a sax player?

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Big Beat Steve said:

:lol:  :lol:

You worded it pretty well (better than I could ever have) why I, for example, have always been sort of underwhelmed by the likes of Ace Cannon. Repetitive in a way quite different from what I called "formulaic" about the later Earl Bostic recordings. Maybe to put it in a very simplified way, Ace Cannon "played" a sax player whereas Earl Bostic WAS a sax player?

 

 

 

That's actually what I was trying to say.

Oh well.

And Jim's right, too.

Oh well...

:)

Glad I came and did this.

MG

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Earl Bostic was a consummate professional. Don't know if that will be interpreted as a compliment, but it's meant to be.

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Is there any kind of consensus on what would be the best Earl Bostic cd  to buy?  (I've mentioned before  that the only radio station in my home town-- which mainly played c&w) often featured Bostic's version of Harlem Nocturne. 

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If there is a CD version of the "Blows A Fuse" LP mentioned earlier then this would be the one I would go for.

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