Storyville 063 0017
Pages 30 and 31 of Storyville issue 63, February - March 1976. Derrick Stewart-Baxter's regular Ramblin' Around column continues on both pages. Among the range of subjects he addresses are new records by Clyde Bernhardt and Mercer Ellington's band.
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|Creator||Laurie Wright [ed], Derrick Stewart-Baxter|
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give my HONEST opinion of the LP and the errors contained on the sleeve.
As I write, the new Clyde Bernhardt LP on the admirable Doctor Vollmerâs label is about to be issued. By all accounts, this is quite a sensational record, the result of three separate sessions with some superb jazz musicians. On some titles our own Dill Jones is on piano, with Jimmy Evans on the others. Among the dazzling personnel are Francis Williams and Doc Cheatham on trumpets, Charlie Holmes (returning once again, thank Heavens), George James, Miss Rhapsody and the 95-year-old singer Princess White.
Collector and writer David Griffiths has kindly sent me some quotes and comments from Doctor Vollmer which I feel are of interest: âSide 1. Somebody Stole My Girl â a great instrumental with some fine work by the two trumpets. Red Wing â a great instrumental. Peepin' Through The Wrong Keyhole â Princess White singing her own composition with great backing by Francis Williams and George James on soprano. Careless Love â a la the one with Sweet Emma, i.e. the theme is not instrumental until one is three quarters of the way through the tune. C.C. Rider â an up tempo number with Rhapsody. Bugle Call Rag â the trumpets again with some great alternating breaks. Side 2. Red River Blues â a fine vocal by Clyde. Sittin' On Top Of The World â Princess White again, this time with Doc Cheatham. A great track. How Come You Do Meâa fine instrumental with a stop time chorus by Williams and some fine breaks. Every Womansâ Blues â Princess Whiteâs composition where she reads a deck of cards. Gotta See Mama Every Night â a fine instrumental with Williams and the two saxes. Bye, Bye Baby â Rhapsody singing her own number with some fine instrumental solos.
Dill Jones plays marvellous piano on all the band numbers. I have a feeling that this record will be more exciting than my first one and it will make everyone in Europe sit up and take notice of Francis Williams.â
It all sounds so very good, and I for one can hardly wait. One thing is certain, every-
one is going to be amazed when they hear Princess White. I have heard some private tapes and can assure readers that this amazing woman does NOT sound anywhere near her age. At this point I would like to quote from a letter from noted critic and writer Sheldon Harris. Mr. Harris has long been associated with Miss Rhapsody, so he has no axe to grind when he raves most enthusiastically over this remarkable âyoung ladyâ. Sheldon writes, âLetâs put aside the fact that she is 94 (or is it 95? â D.S-B). It is difficult to imagine a performer at that age who is still active, still performing. It really breaks open the mind. Besides a person should not rightfully be judged by age, but by talent. And this woman has it. At the Mamaronack concert she broke it up (just as she had at her previous Connecticut Jazz Club concert a bit earlier). For me it was a personal delight as she brought back to me the music and personality of the blues shouter of the 1920âs. Here is this lady stepping out of the past, a contemporary of Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Ethel Waters, Black Patti, Butterbeans & Susie and other greats of her time. Her performance is that of an entertainer, a lost art in itself. As contrasted by some of our present day entertainers, who use a variety of gimmicks, the lady was a pure joy to watch. She is without doubt a pro. with many years of experience (almost 90 to be exact). Everything she does, the way she moves and handles her audience, shows her background. Her speciality seems to be the Lewis-Young-Henderson song of 1923, Iâm Sitting On Top Of The World. Hearing her sing that, you cannot doubt that she was and IS, a leading lady. She sings with all the authority of a star â something right out of Butterbeans & Susie is Every Womans' Blues (she knew Susie quite well and says she gave the team some songs). She had the audience eating out of her hands and laughing at every line.â
Notice that the numbers mentioned by Sheldon are all included in the new LP.
The first Mercer Ellington LP has now reached me, and it contains tracks from what was, sadly, Harry Carneyâs last session.
Above: Princess White, Dot Vollmer and Miss Rhapsody at the Meridan, Connecticut concert of the Conn. Trad. Jazz Club on 21 June 1975. Photo courtesy of Al Vollmer.
When the band played here last year, it met with a cool reception from the critics, but this LP proves what great potential it has. That the band, without all the great names of the past (excepting Carney and the ever-green Cootie) can sound this good, says a great deal for Mercerâs leadership and the quality of the new men. Of course, the great men are missed â such all-time greats as Hodges, Gonsalves and Camey are a grave loss â yet this orchestra is so good that I am tempted to say it sounds as good as ever it was. There is, at times, a slightly ragged edge to the brass, but this, I am sure, will soon be ironed out.
My only criticism is the lack of new Ducal material. Ellington left so many unrecorded compositions behind that it is a
pity that Mercer has not included some.
On the other hand, it is nice to hear such items as Drop Me Off At Harlem and Ko Ko back in the bandâs repertoire, and I look forward to hearing more of Mercerâs band.
Finally, a plea for help. Mr. George Smith is trying to trace the singer Freddye Marshall who appeared here before the war in the musical Jazz TYain and also recorded a few sides. So far no trace can be found of this very elusive lady (a fine singer, I would like to add). Is she still alive? Has she retired? For the moment she would appear to have vanished into thin air. If anyone has ANY information, would they please contact me (or Mr. Smith, c/o S.M.J. Cairstairs Junction, Lanarkshire, Scotland).
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