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Above: Leon Abbey and his Orchestra
Montevideo and Rio de Janiero. Oddly, Sam Wooding’s orchestra was also touring South America at the same time, and according to Fernett they actually met several times. After his return to New York, Abbey organised another band which sailed to Europe in January, 1928. The personnel was that shown in Rust for the recording session at Hayes on January 17th (p. 16). Apparently the band moved to Paris shortly after making these regrettably unissued sides, playing first at the Embassy Night Club and later at the Florida Night Club, and in fact, for the next decade Abbey was based mainly in Paris. In April 1934 he played in The Hague and the January 1935 issue of the Dutch magazine Jazz Werelt contains a review of his second visit to that city, which probably took place in November 1934. At that time the personnel was: James Bell,
Photo courtesy of Orkester Journalen via Björn Englund
Leslie Thompson (tpts), Billy Burns (tbn), Peter Duconge (alt/clt), Castor McCord (ten/ clt), Abbey (vln), J. Riestra (pno), Ri Barbara (sbs), Florentino Frontella, later replaced by Oliver Tines (dms). In 1936 he made two trips to India, the second in November. The band now included Fletcher Allen and Castor McCord on saxes and ODJB veteran Emile Christian on bass and trombone. The latter showed great courage by being the only white musician (and a New Orleanian at that) in an otherwise all-coloured band. As far as I know, the band played mainly in Paris in 1937 and 1938. In the summer of
1938 Abbey toured Scandinavia and it was here that he was to make his only issued recordings under his own name, which were also to be his last. His orchestra played at the Stockholm Tivoli between July 18th and August 14th, 1938, but had apparently
toured other parts of Sweden prior to that. The orchestra was favourably reviewed in the jazz magazine Orkester Journalen which, however, stated that although Emile Christian was a regualr member of the band he was not present on the Scandinavian tour, but had remained in Paris (all discographies notwithstanding). The orchestra consisted of Henry Mason (tpt), Arthur Lanier (alt/bar), Antonio Cosey (ten/arr), Leon Abbey (vln/ ldr), Charlie Lewis (pno), Bobby McRae (tpt/ gtr), Florentine Frontella (dms/vcl). The record session took place on July 13th and produced four sides:
4454-S-S-B Tabou Sonora 3411
4455-S-S-B Amapola Sonora 3799
4456-S-S-B La Guajira Sonora 3799
4457-S-S-B La Conga de Jaruco Sonora 3411 As will be evident from the titles, these
are not jazz performances, however, with the confused reporting that has surrounded this session, I thought it was time to set the record straight. The accompanying photo was probably taken in Paris prior to the tour. Abbey probably returned to the U.S. in
1939 and then led a big band for some time in New York, but soon gave this up and started leading a combo playing “polite ’ music, mainly in Chicago.
As a final postcript, I might mention that the suggestion in the Allen/Rust King Joe Oliver (p. 107) that Abbey could be the violinist on the Clarence Williams session of 23 November 1928 is invalid for geographical reasons, and in any case in the latest edition of Jazz Records, Rust has come to the conclusion that it is Lang who fiddles.
Californians in Australia
by Jack Mitchell
Jazz came to Australia first via the Zono-phone pressings of the ODJB Victors, and no doubt, imported pressings on Victor and Columbia. Entrepeneur Ben Fuller had Billy Romaine organise a group known as Belle Sylvia And Her Jazz Band for a season at the National Theatre, Sydney, and in 1923, Linn Smith also had a jazz band on Fuller’s stages....and there were probably many other unheard of groups calling themselves “Jazz Bands”.
However, to those who had heard American jazz bands, these sounded pretty far removed from the real thing. One Australian who had heard, and had been converted to jazz, whilst returning from active service was Jim Benrodt. Back in Australia, he spread the message, and was responsible for a restaurant chain introducing jazz bands with Romaine as MD. Romaine, an American fiddler, had migrated to Australia in 1912.
Bendrodt then went into the entertain-
ment business himself, formed a company and opened the Palais Royal dance hall in October 1920, again with Romaine as MD. However, Bendrodt was not to be satisfied until he had an American group playing in Sydney. Apparently he had heard Art Hickman’s group whilst overseas, and tried to book them for his dance hall. Hickman himself was not available, but his band, or part of it, was, and this was contracted for the Palais Royal as Frank Ellis And His Californians.
Advertisements in the Sydney press in the last week of April 1923 proclaimed this band as a “Wonder Feature — direct from the Hotel St. Francis, ’Frisco. World Famous! You have heard them on their records, now hear the men themselves. No word describes their ability unless it be marvellous. No man could fail to dance to them unless he was dead.”
On May 3rd, the ads said: “Here they are
— they don’t jump over the piano! They