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Back to Vol.1 No.3 March 1946

Pickup Magazines Vol.1 No.3 March 1946 0005

Pickup Magazines Vol.1 No.3 March 1946 0005

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IN MEMORY OF “MY KNEE” JONES

By KEN J. SINCLAIR.

I wonder whether those of you who heard of the death of Richard M. Jones, realise just what a loss jazz in all its aspects has suffered. Pianist, composer and arranger, as well as an active figure in arranging recordings of all the forgotten jazz figures of the golden era, he stands out as one of the big men in jazz. It was Richard “My Knee” Jones who gave King Oliver his first important job and as Okeh’s recording director he did much to nurse Armstrong’s Hot Five into existence.

He was born in New Orleans (where else ?) around 1889, when jazz was almost synonymous with life for the musicians of that period. He played organ, piano, alto horn, and sometimes cornet, and admired the parade bands with all the fervour that a twelve-year old was capable of. His young face would beam with delight as he staggered behind them carrying the heavy water bucket, as the huge negroes marched briskly down the main street, leaving a delicious welter of sound behind them. At thirteen he was playing alto horn for the Eureka Brass Band.

The brothels of Storyville were his stamping grounds and at the age of 19, he was playing solo piano in the more exclusive of these. During 1908, he formed his own band for “H. Aberdeen’s”, George Fewclothes”, and the “Poodle Dog”, the personnel being himself on piano; Freddie Keppard, on cornet; Roy Palmer, trombone ; Lawrence Dewey (later replaced by Bechet) and Noone, on clarinet and John Vigne on drums. Later he joined the Tuxedo band at Jack Sheen’s roadhouse, where he kept the piano stool warm for nine years, during which time the music produced must have been pretty nearly perfect, with a line-up consisting of such legendary figures as Oscar (Papa) Celestin (who joined about 1916) ; : Armand Piron; Johnny St. Cyr; Baby Ridgley; and Johnny Dodds. Jimmy Noone ; Sam Dutrey ; Ernest Tripania, and others were also featured in this band at different periods of its existence.

Following the line of other great musicians, after the cleaning up of Storyville, he migrated towards Chicago and played with local bands as well as being manager of the professional department and Chicago retail stores of the old Storyville Clarence Williams Publishing Company. In 1923 he opened his own music store, at the same time leading his own band. In 1931 he took a band to his native town of New Orleans, but the following year saw him to front another band.. “Jazzin’ Babies Blues” (Tin Roof Blues) ; “Red Wagon”, “Riverside Blues”, “Trouble In Kind”, and many other classics, came from his pen.

With his own band Richard M. Jones made numerous sides for the Okeh, Paramount, Bluebird and Victor companies and laterly-—in company with Darnell Howard, clarinet, Bob Schoffer, trumpet, Baby Dodds, and John Lindsay, bass—he cut two sides for the Session label. . One of these was his famous “Jazzin’ Babies Blues”, which years previously he had made as a piano solo for the Gennett Company.

Reading through a list of the titles he recorded will stir the memory and make us realise what a notable figure has been lost to Jazz. Don’t such titles as “Black Rider” ; “Streetwalker Blues” ; “New Orleans Shag” ; “Dusty Bottom” ; “Dark Alley” ; bring to your mind vivid pictures of the New Orleans of 25 years ago ? If they don’t they should, but anyway they will stand as a nice epitaph for a great jazz-figure, Richard ‘My Knee’ Jones. '•

LEM JOHNSON—cont.

the comparatively recently-organised

Cincinatti company.

Unfortunately, however, your chances of hearing him on locally-issued wax are very limited. But then, the most valuable things are, naturally, very often the hardest to find. The poetic probability that the reward is well worth the trouble involved is, as every jazz collector will readily agree, no less applicable to the acquisition of hot wax than to any other pursuit; and—nominally, at any rate, Bechet’s “When It’s Sleepy Time” is still available................

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HÖRE FLOWERS IN THE WAYSIDE MIRE

By BRIAN RUST

Following my attempt last month to shed a little light on the records of the Benson Orchestra of Chicago, it occurred to me that some more remarks on various other obscure and too-often overlooked records might be of interest, the more so since a number of people have written to me during the course of the last two or three years, seeking enlightenment on various records, information which I am happy to give so long as I know it to be authentic.

I think that Stanley Dance’s poetic phrase about short but good solos on otherwise dull records being little flowers in the wayside mire is particularly apt; there are too few people nowadays who trouble to pick up a record of a commercial title.

Take Ted Lewis’s records for example. Not long ago I was invited to play some records of Muggsy Spanier and George Brunis to a gathering of enthusiastic young collectors. I think they expected all sorts of hard-to-get Commodores and outlandish Bucktown Fives to be played ; however, I brazenly put on Ted Lewis after Ted Lewis as examples of how Muggsy and George played together. There were some polite, titters at first as I announced the items solemnly ; then I began to notice that the audience was sitting back and relaxing as hot chorus followed good ensemble in the course of such classics as “Aunt Hagar’s Blues”, “San”, “Yellow Dog Blues” and of course “Dallas Blues”, where the smooth 'cello always sounds to me such a perfect introduction to the brutal trombone-dominated ensemble passage that follows.

But these are well-known as good records to the fairly well-established collector. How many, though, are familiar with the grand chorus that Brunis tears out in Ted’s “Where’d Ya Get Those Eyes ?” on Columbia 4089 ? Or with the same soloist doing wonders with that supremely banal tune “Hi-Diddle-Diddle”, which Heaven knows is common enough on Columbia 4033 ? Many hundreds of thousands of copies of these must have been sold, and I

for one would not be without a specimen, just to hear that rugged trombone coming forth amid all the corn and comedy. I often think we have more to thank Ted Lewis for than we realise ; he gave Spanier and Brunis jobs when jobs were really valuable, with the result that they are still with us and giving us grand sides like the Ragtimers and Wild Bills, instead of playing for peanuts in obscurity, or not playing at all, or.....

Mention of “Hi-Diddle-Diddle” brings me in my train of thought to the George Olsen version on H.M.V. B5121. No there’s no jazz on that side ; but play the other side if you haven’t done so already and get acquainted with Coon-Sanders' Original Nighthawk Orchestra of Chicago. “Deep Henderson” is the title, and it is practically a sequence of well-constructed solos, by trumpet, alto, clarinet, piano. I much prefer this version to King Oliver’s truly corny version on Brunswick 5-1014, though the Coon-Sanders lacks the fire and bite of Charley Straight’s version which “Gup” praised so rightly last month. There are one or two other Coon-Sanders discs which are worth taking for a few pence ; one is “Oh, You Have No Idea” on B5553 and another is “Hallucinations”, which is rarer, owing to its being on Victor, and in any case has a Red and Miff’s Stompers on the other side. (I prefer the Coon-Sanders, I might add.) "Stay Out Of The South” on H.M.V., however, has a very attractive trumpet featured, and so has the backing to the “No Idea” opus mentioned above. This has “Dusky Stevedore” on the back, played by Nat Shilkret and his Orchestra, of all things, yet I read in our American opposite number “The Record Changer” that a collector there had found it, and was wondering in print if Bix was responsible for the above-mentioned solo.

I well remember Percy Pring writing to me with great enthusiasm (and knowing how he hates writing letters, I knew it must be something special) telling me how good Oliver Naylor’s “Slowin’ Down Blues” on H.M.V. B2079 was. I quite agree ; it is very well-done considering the band was

{cont. overleaf)

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