Monday, 19 August 2013

13. Jimmy McPartland

McPartland was another Chicago native, born in 1907. He was raised in a succession of orphanages, before finally being expelled for fighting.

Austin High Gang
Along with other members of the Austin High Gang of high school friends who got together over their mutual love of jazz, he would initially learn jazz by copying the records of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings:

“What we used to do was put the record on [...] play a few bars, and then get all our notes. We’d have to tune our instruments up to the record machine, to the pitch, and go ahead with a few notes. Then stop. A few more bars of the record, each guy would pick out his notes and boom! We would go on and play it”, McPartland remembered. (Shapiro & Hentoff, p120)

Victrola Time
 When McPartland was around 15-years-old - the age he took up cornet - their hangout was an ice cream parlour called the Spoon and Straw. “They had a Victrola there, and we used to sit around listening to a bunch of records laid on the table”. [A Victrola model released in 1921-22, when the Austin High Gang were hanging out at the Spoon and Straw].

Eventually, McPartland and the Austin High Gang would discover King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and would go to see them in person. The club boss, gangster-connected Joe Glaser, would let them in for free, knowing they’d be wanting to sit in and that he would get some free playing from them.

 As well as the NORK and King Oliver, the Austin High Gang admired Bix Beiderbecke, whom they first heard on the Gennett records Bix made with the Wolverines.

 “I was tremendously influenced by Bix, and hearing the Wolverines was a step forward for all of the gang. We got their numbers off, and added them to our repertoire”. (Shapiro and Hentoff, p144).

McPartland and the Austin High Gang were soon calling themselves The Blue Friars, after the speak easy club the NORK played at in Chicago, Friar's Inn, and were playing at the Cellar and the 3 Deuces, and falling into the circle of Eddie Condon and others.

Taking over from Bix
 Then Jimmy was offered his dream job, as Bix’s replacement in the Wolverines. He showed round the telegram offering him the job, and asked if it was a joke. It wasn’t. He accepted and moved to New York, where he shadowed Bix to begin with, learning the parts, both of them playing the gigs together. He roomed with Bix, and Bix bought him a new cornet saying the one Jimmy had been playing wasn’t worthy of the tunes.

Jimmy with the Wolverines:

McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans

Jimmy joined McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans in 1927, and with some of the old Austin High Gang and Eddie Condon, recorded a number of sides including China Boy:

Nobody’s Sweetheart:

In 1928, Jimmy was part of Benny Goodman and His Boys who recorded Room 1411, the first known composition by Glenn Miller (who co-wrote it with Benny Goodman, about whom more later).

Jimmy on CD:

Jimmy’s work with the Wolverines is included in the Complete Wolverines: 1924-1928, on the Off the Record label:

His later years are better served by CD issues, and we'll meet him again in later decades.

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