Tuesday, 10 September 2013

19. Chicago Era Sidemen

Zutty Singleton

Arthur “Zutty” Singleton was born in Bunkie, Louisiana in 1898. An influential drum stylist, he was the first to use brushes in jazz drumming, and has been credited as the originator of the extended drum solo (Carr et al).

Hi Hat Hate

 His percussive effects on Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings extended the jazz drummer’s vocabulary, although he was never keen on hi hat. A charismatic, extroverted personality, with a renowned sense of humour, he led his own bands before Louis Armstrong did, and he embraced new jazz styles alongside “classic” jazz, and worked with Fats Waller, Roy Eldridge, Slim Gaillard, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, amongst others.

 He continued to work on and off with Chicago names such as Eddie Condon, Max Kaminsky and Mezz Mezzrow, and toured extensively in Europe.

That's Like It Ought To Be, Face

 The recordings of the 1920s are not very good at highlighting drumming, so to hear his full range you’re better heading for later recordings such as the drum solo, “Drum Face” (he called everyone Face), or the 1940 recording of King Porter Stomp by the Zutty Singleton and his Orchestra, with Red Allen on trumpet and Lil Hardin on piano.

 But you can hear him as well as the technology of the day allows on this 1929 Jelly Roll Morton Trio recording of That’s Like It Ought To Be:

Warren “Baby” Dodds

Bad boy younger brother of Johnny Dodds, who was his senior by 12 years, Baby Dodds played professionally from the age of 16, and joined King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1922. He was an original and virtuoso talent, and although born New Orleans in 1898, was a firm fixture in Chicago for more than 2 decades. He became highly sought-after again during the traditional jazz revival, and toured Europe with Mezz Mezzrow during that time.

 George Wettling said of Dodds that “the way he played drums behind the band was a solo in itself”. Dodds played something different for each chorus, and experimented with long rolls. Although this approach was not wanted in swing, modern and avant-garde drummers admired Dodds for it (Carr et al).

 A heavy drinker from an early age (he tells of downing a whole bottle of gin on his 14th birthday in order to build up the courage to ask his brother Johnny for a place in Johnny's band), Dodds suffered a series of strokes later in life, but continued to play and teach drums until his death in 1959.

 The book, The Baby Dodds Story, by Larry Gara, was based on a long interview Dodds gave to the writer.

 Here is Dodds with brother Johnny and Jelly Roll Morton in 1927 (the Dodds brothers come in eventually, and tear the tune up):

Pee Wee Russell

Charles Ellsworth “Pee Wee” Russell was a highly original clarinet and saxophone player from Virginia with a hangdog expression, and a long, craggy face that was as recognisable as his sound. His early technique was fast and nimble, but as his heavy drinking took its toll, that soon gave way to a style based on cleverly chosen and often unexpected notes and an unusual harmonic sensibility. Charles Edward Smith says: “PeeWee is one of the five or so intelligent men on jazz clarinet and invented an alphabet and calligraphy for it peculiarly his own.” (Shapiro and Hentoff, eds, 1957, “The Jazz Makers”, p104, -my edition 1988). He is sometimes described as an early influence on free jazz.

 George Frazier wrote of the “bliss and the sadness and the compassion and the humility that are there in the notes that he plays”.

 He played with Red Nichols, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Allen, Jack Teagarden, Fats Waller and others, and was highly prized by Eddie Condon. Russell’s own sincerely held anti-commercial sensibility was in contrast with his marketability as a personality, and he came to be something of an unlikely poster boy for Chicago jazz. He disliked this attention, and believed it detracted from his seriousness as an artist.

 He continued to be interested in pushing the boundaries, and in later life played at Newport with Thelonious Monk, and recorded an album with Oliver Nelson.

 Here’s Pee Wee on clarinet with Red Nichols & His Five Pennies in 1927:

Zutty Singleton, Baby Dodds, and Pee Wee Russell on CD.

All three performers have already featured on this blog, and can be found playing on the records of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and in Pee Wee's case, with Red Nichols.  All of them go on to have recording careers in later decades, and we'll come across them later in the blog.  But for now, you could try the comprehensive 10-CD,  "Dixieland Jazz - This was the Jazz age" set from Membran Media.  It's a fantastic music selection - there's a smattering of low grade hokum thrown in, but there's more than enough good stuff to make up for it, although there are no session details at all.  No dates, no personnel information, just the bare title and band name.  But you get around 10 hours of early jazz for under £10.

Or the less comprehensive 2-CD "Jazz Age: Hot Sounds of the 20s and 30s" on the Past Perfect label.

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