Archive for the documents Category

Welcome to the Crown Propeller Lounge again!

Posted in 78 rpm, documents, jazz, King Kolax, Photographs, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2013 by crownpropeller

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(Click to enlarge) Sleeve for souvenir photographs from the Crown Propeller Lounge, unidentified date. From the Crown Propeller collection

The Crown Propeller Lounge – after which this blog is named – was one of Chicago’s most important venues for R’n’B and Jazz during the 1950s. You can read more about it on my old blog entry here. After reading that post, Mike Medina (aka WayoutWardell) contacted me and identified more of the people pictured in this gorgeous photo, donated to the Crown Propeller blog by the Schlossberg family (also check the comments section over there for more interesting information from Mike).

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(Click to enlarge) Dancer Lupita Peruyero, Joe Louis, Norman Schlossberg, Sarah Vaughan, King Kolax and Mitzi Mars at the Crown Propeller, probably 1952. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

I had recognized trumpeter King Kolax and boxer Joe Louis with Crown Propeller owner Norman Schlossberg and Mike added the name of dancer Lupita Peruyero (far left) who was a regular at the Crown Propeller and knew that the lady on the far right is singer Mitzi Mars – of which I had presented some music in my old blog entry about the CP.

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From Chicago Defender, May 31, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Mike also kindly allowed me to use the photo of this bautiful  foursome at the Crown Propeller in 1945 – a time when the main audience of the CP was still white.

8434880768_7eda29c458_oEnjoying an evening at the Crown Propeller Lounge, 1945.
From the collection of Mike Medina.

If you are interested in photographs from Chicago’s South Side, you definitely should check Mike’s Flickr page. It was also Mike who alerted me, that the sign of the Crown Propeller lighting up can be seen in the opening sequence of the old “Crime Stories” TV series. I managed to find that one on youtube. I edited the CP part and let it run backwards and forwards – the way it possibly was. I guess there was something in the middle as well (a crown, maybe?) – I leave it to your imagination.

Ending up our second visit to the famed Crown Propeller Lounge is photo of a young couple at the bar, probably in the 1950s.  This was stuck in the souvenir envelope pictured at the very top of the envelope.

happy couple crown propeller_2
From the Crown Propeller collection

Who might they have listened to on that evening? Rudy Greene maybe, the “King Of The Guitar”?


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From the Crown Propeller Collection

cpadChicago Defender, February 13, 1954

Enjoy!

Frank Foster Big Band at the Village Vanguard 1980

Posted in documents, Frank Foster, jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2013 by crownpropeller

As promised in this post, I am reposting the images from the performance by Frank Foster’s “Living Colours” Big Band at the Village Vanguard on April 4, 1980 – this time with some music.

About 70 minutes of music from this evening survive on a tape that has been digitally transferred to CD by Otto in the early 1990s. While the original tape box does not carry information at all, some information is attached to the CD.

frank_foster_cover(click to enlarge)

The rudimentary CD cover can not be trusted though. For example Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” which I am presenting you here, is not the second track on the CD, but the first. Likewise Title 5, “Joy Spring(s?)” is indeed a “Minor Blue Waltz”, at least in form and content. I will have to bring this in a meaningful order some day …


So here are all of Otto’s photos from the April 4 1980 concert again. If you can identify anyone for sure, to help get rid of the question marks on the CD’s listing, please let me know (but please check the comment section from the old blog entry about this event first).

(click to enlarge)

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Continue reading

Welcome to the Crown Propeller Lounge!

Posted in 78 rpm, Chicago Tenor Sax, documents, jazz, King Kolax, Photographs, R'n'B, Sax Mallard with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by crownpropeller

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Sleeve for souvenir photographs from the Crown Propeller Lounge, probably 1940s.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg Family

The Crown Propeller Lounge – after which this blog is named – was one of Chicago’s most important venues for R’n’B and Jazz during the 1950s. The town’s larger talent appeared here as well as every other  R’n’B star coming through town (and a lot of jazzers): Tiny Davis, Wynonie Harris, The Moonglows, Stomp Gordon, Jo Jo Adams, Big Maybelle, Ray Charles, The Flamingos, Andy Tibbs, Danny Overbea, Nellie Lutcher, Valaida Snow, Amos Milburn, Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Rushing, Al Hibbler, T-Bone Walker, Dizzy Gillespie, Arthur  Prysock, Bill Doggett, The Orioles, Illinois Jacquet …  A program quite to my liking, I must say, so that’s why this blog is named Crown Propeller’s blog.

Some weeks ago I was contacted by a lady, who is married to the grandson of Mildred “Mitzi” Schlossberg and Norman Schlossberg, who used to own the Crown Propeller Lounge. The lady asked me, if I had any material she might use for making a birthday collage for Mitzi who turned 97 (!) in January. I could help her just a little, since (other then say for the equally famous Club DeLisa) photographs and memorabilia from the Crown Propeller are rather rare.

cp_outsideOne of only two known photographs showing the Crown Propeller Lounge from outside (the other one is here). Judging from the cars in the picture, this photo was taken after the closing of the Lounge in 1959 (photo taken from Sandor Demlinger’s and John Steiner’s beautiful book “Destination Chicago Jazz”). To the right of the Crown Propeller one can see the entrance to Crown Liquors, another business owned by the Schlossbergs.

I asked her to be on the lookout for memorabilia from the Crown Propeller when she was going to her husband’s grandmother’s house and she promised to do so. Then some weeks later I could not believe my eyes when I got a mail from that lady containing some gorgeous photos, which I am presenting you here, courtesy of the Schlossberg Family. I have added some music typical of the Crown Propeller’s programming to go along with it as well as some advertisements featuring the people in the photographs.

cp 2(Click to enlarge) Norman Schlossberg (2nd from left), Mitzi Schlossberg
(center) and unidentified others at the Crown Propeller, possibly
late 1940s. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

The  – undated – photo above was contained in the beautiful souvenir cover seen at the top of this post. It is possible that this photograph was taken in the 1940s when the Crown Propeller  ran a  musical policy that was different from what the lounge later became known for.

Usually the time span for the Crown Propeller’s existence is given  as 1951–1959.  This  seems to be based on an ad from Chicago Defender of August 4, 1951 announcing the opening of the Crown Propeller (strangely enough regarding the newspaper’s date) on August 3rd with singer Ethel Duncan and violinist Leon Abbey’s trio.

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From Chicago Defender, August 4, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

But the Crown Propeller Lounge had existed before that. The earliest mention I could find is in Billboard of November 14, 1942, where Everett Hull and Victory Boys are announced to appear at the Crown Propeller for four weeks. Billboard of December 19, 1942 mentions Don Jacks as returning to the Crown Propeller on January 12.  Other acts mentioned in Billboard as playing at the Crown Propeller are in 1942 trumpeter Johnny Gibbs with singer Dolores Janis (December ), and in 1943 The Victory Four (Everett Mull, Leon Shash, George Mitchell, George Michaels), Don Jacks (March 20: “picked up another four month holdover at the Crown Propeller”).

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From the Billboard Yearbook 1943

The Billboard Yearbook 1944 mentions Don Jacks as having had a two-and-a-half-year engagement at the Crown Propeller, so the Crown Propeller may already have existed in 1941.

There are no mentions for the Crown Propeller in Billboard’s regular issues of 1944 and 1945. The issue of December 14, 1946 mentions Little Sans and Lee Trio at the Crown Propeller, in Billboard of January 15, 1947 the same aggregation is mentioned as having extended four weeks at the CP.

I do not know if the changing of musical policy at the CP came with a changing of venues or if it always had been on 868 East 63rd. From the mentions in Billboard during the fourties I can only gather that it had always been on the South Side of Chicago. Anyway after the (re-)opening on August 3rd, 1951, the Crown Propeller was never looking back to the days of accordeon-and-fiddle bands again.

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R’n’B and Jazz – the Crown Propeller takes a new direction.
From Chicago Defender, August 11, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

The next photo the lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson send me is also undated. It shows The 4 Tunes (also known as The Four Tunes), a very famous vocal group in the early 1950s about which you can find a lot of information in Marv Goldberg’s article.

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(Click to enlarge) The 4 Tunes (left) and some fans at the Crown Propeller,
date unknown. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

I can find no reference for a 4 Tunes appearance at the Crown Propeller, so the photo has to remain undated for now.

One of The 4 Tunes’ greates hits was “Marie”, recorded for Jubilee in 1953. It’s one of my favourite uptempo R’n’B vocal group pieces when I am appearing as DJ Crown Propeller at  the Klub Helsinki. Here is a nice clip from youtube user ilbmlb51 showing the original 78 rpm playing:

The next photo that the lady send me is really fantastic:

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(Click to enlarge) Dancer Lupita Peruyero, Joe Louis, Norman Schlossberg, Sarah
Vaughan, King Kolax and Mitzi Mars at the Crown Propeller, probably 1952.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

Second person from left is boxer Joe Louis, World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. Behind him is CP owner Norman Schlossberg and the man front right is local trumpeter and bandleader King Kolax (1912–1991) who is known to the wider jazz world for employing John Coltrane for a while in the late 1940s. There is a lot more to know about Kolax though, and you can find it all on the King Kolax page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation. The woman in the middle is Sarah Vaughan (see comments section) and the one on the right also looks familiar to me, she might be a singer or some other celebrity.There are several possibillities regarding the question when the photo above was taken. Judging from the known ads for the Crown Propeller, Vaughan never was part of the program there. But she was in town several times each year, mostly as part of some jazz package tour . As for King Kolax and his Orchestra: He played at the Crown Propeller in January 1952:

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   From Chicago Defender, January 19, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

And then again in March:

cd_52_03_22From Chicago Defender, March 22, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

In May 1952 Kolax was also at the Crown Propller, when Sax Mallard (about whom more later) was also on the bill.

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From Chicago Defender, May 31, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

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From Chicago Defender, June 14, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Then Kolax’ band was acting as house band from mid 1954 to January 1955. One of the CP’s main attraction at that time was still the “Aqua-Tease” of sea nymph Atlantis with whom the Croen Propeller had started in 1951. In 1954 Kolax joined Atlantis in the 500 gallon tank for a photo published in Jet magazine in September.

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Jet, September 16, 1954.

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From Chicago Defender, November 13, 1954.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Probably his success at the Crown Propeller lead King Kolax to record for Vee Jay in December 1954 (and later in Sepetember 1955). Parts of these sessions are said to having been arranged by Sonny Blount, later known throughout the cosmos as intergalactic band leader Sun Ra. “Vivian” from December 1954 is one of the tracks of which  some people – including me –  think they might be a Ra arrangement. The band consists of  Kolax (tp), Harold Ousley (ts), Prentice McCarey (p), “Cowboy” Martin (b),  and Leon Hooper (d,  perc).

In October 1956 King Kolax returned to the Crown Propeller for two weeks (Della Reese was followed by Louis Jordan and then by Charles Brown who brought their own bands):

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From Chicago Defender, October 20, 1956.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Kolax was also engaged by the Crown Propeller in February 1957, but it is not clear how long this gig lasted.

The next photo the lady send me send me shows another local Chicago legend: Saxophonist Oett “Sax” Mallard (1915–1986). This photo also could have been taken on different dates.

cp 4(Click to enlarge) Mitzi Schlossberg and Oett “Sax” Mallard
(with retouched glasses) at the Crown Propeller, exact date unknown.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

Sax Mallard, about whom you can find a lot more information on the Sax Mallard page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation, made his name recording blues with people like Roosevelt Sykes, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy in sessions for RCA-Victor in the 1940s. For a while in 1943 Mallard substituted for Otto Hardwick in Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Starting in 1947 for Aristocrat Mallard had the chance to record some tracks under his own name.

Here is a video of a copy of Checker 750  from my collection. “Slow Caboose”, a typical tenor sax fuelled piece of jukebox fodder, was recorded in January 1951 with Sax Mallard (ts) an unidentified trumpeter, probably Jimmy Bowman piano; probably Ernest “Big” Crawford on bass and Osie Johnson drums (Johnson also does some dramatic baritone singing on another side from this session). This one is so echo-filled that you might imagine yourself being in deep in dub land.

Mallard’s band was the Crown Propeller’s house band at different times, starting with some months in 1951 and 1952.

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From Chicago Defender, September 1, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

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From Chicago Defender, September 29, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

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From Chicago Defender, November 24, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

During the early fifties Sax Mallard backed quite a few singers and r’n’b vocal groups on records.

In March 1953 he went to Chicago’s Universal Recording studios where his group was backing Mitzi Mars in a session for Checker Records:

mitzi_mars2
From the Crown Propeller Collection.

One of Mitzi Mars’ tunes with Sax Mallard’s band backing her – “Roll ‘Em” –  was uploaded on youtube by youtube user Rosenda Moore:

From November 1953 to summer 1954, Mallard’s Combo was the Crown Propeller’s house band again. During this time the Crown Propeller’s main attractions were people like Jimmy Witherspoon, Billy Brooks, Scatman Crothers, Lowell Fulson, Ray Charles, Big Maybelle, Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn and Valaida Snow.

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From Chicago Defender, November 29, 1953.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

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From Chicago Defender, January 9, 1954.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

.

Sax Mallard’s last appearances at the CP took place in August 1957 (two weeks) and again from December 1957 on (length of engagement unknown) At that time the Crown Propeller was already in decline. The club closed in 1959 and by early 1960 the Schlossbergs had moved to Florida.

Finally the lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson send me another nice photo of Mildred “Mitzi” Schlossberg. Obviously this was taken in a year where January 17th was a tuesday which points to 1950 or 1956. Neither an “Amateur Night” nor a “Crazy Auction” is mentioned in the Crown Propeller ads for 1956. So I would say 1950.

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(Click to enlarge) Mitzi Schlossberg and probably not Cary Grant at the
Crown Propeller Lounge, probably 1950. Courtesy of the Schlossberg Family.

Again I have to thank  the Schlossberg Family for these beautiful photographs that allow a rare glimpse inside the Crown Propeller. The lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson has promised to look if she can find anymore memorabilia of the Crown Propeller Lounge. If she does, I will keep you all informed.

Enjoy!

Rashied Ali at the Boltax (1979)

Posted in documents, Photographs, Rashied Ali with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by crownpropeller

From 1978 to 1981 my friend, jazz researcher Otto Flückiger (1930–2006), went to the USA each year for up to three weeks to check out the jazz scene. Most of these trips led him to New York City where he checked out every jazz related event he could manage to visit – from gatherings of old swing veterans to extreme improvised loft sessions, documenting it all with a tape recorder and taking photos at every gig.

On Saturday, October 13th, 1979, Otto spent the evening at the Boltax Theatre in Soho, where drummer Rashied Ali’s Quintet  presented modal jazz, very much influenced by – of course – John Coltrane.

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 Cover of the MC on which Otto recorded parts of the Rashied Ali concert.

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The band consisted of Arthur Rhames  – misspelled by Otto – (ss, ts), Melvin Holder (ts), Tommy Smith (p), Radu (b) and of Rashied Ali (dr). Otto recorded some eighty minutes on that evening, but most of it is marred by talking and other background noise. But there is a piece which is a little bit more listenable, so I thought I could present it here. The name of the slow burning tune the band is playing here is unknown (at least to me):


As always, Otto took a handful of photographs (remember, the material was expensive then):

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Rashied Ali at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

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Tommy Smith, Melvin Holder, Rashied Ali and Arthur Rhames at the Boltax,
N.Y.C, October 13, 1979. Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

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Arthur Rhames at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

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Melvin Holder at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

Seeing the tape recorders besides pianist Tommy Smith on the next photos, I wonder if one of them was Otto’s. I guess probably not, because it would not have picked up so much talk most of the time. Maybe the band members were also documenting it?

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Tommy Smith at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

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Rashied Ali at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

On the above photo you will notice the neon letters “SRO”. Does anyone know what these letters stand for? It looks like “SRO” was a regular act at the Boltax. The “After Dark” section of “New York” magazine’s October 8 issue mentions “S*R*O” as “back again”. Strangely Rashied Ali’s appearance is not mentioned here;

afterdark_oct_8_1979

And to close our visit at the Boltax up, here is a photo of bassist Radu:

Radu

Radu at the Boltax, N.Y.C, October 13, 1979.
Photo by Otto Flückiger (click to enlarge)

Look forward for more documents from Otto’s travels at this place  in the near future!

Unpublished Interview with Arnett Cobb (1980)

Posted in Arnett Cobb, clips, documents, Lionel Hampton with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by crownpropeller

My friend, the late swiss jazz researcher Otto Flückiger, was a great fan of tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb (1918–1989). So when Otto went on a trip through the USA in spring of 1980 he took the chance to visit Cobb in his hometown, Houston TX.

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Arnett Cobb with Otto Flückiger in Cobb’s home, Houston TX, spring 1980.
Photo probably by Trudi Flückiger.

On that occasion Otto interviewed Cobb about his career,  playing with Frank Davis, going to Chicago with Milton Larkin to play at the Rhumboogie, joining Lionel Hampton, forming his own band and the auto accident that dramatically changed Cobb’s life. There are about 40 minutes from this interview on a C90 cassette tape which I found in Otto’s collection:

interview_tape

So I decided to digitize this – unpublished as far as I know – fantastic interview. I just edited out some longer passages of silence and some parts where the conversation is running in circles and into dead ends caused by translation problems. The female voice in the later parts of the interview is Trudi, Otto’s wife, who probably also took the photo of Cobb and Otto shown at the top.

I was always waiting to find the time to transcribe the interview, but I probably never will. So I am putting it up here for you all to hear and cherish yourself:


If you came here because you like Arnett Cobb. I got something more for you. First some nice photographs that Otto Flückiger took when Arnett Cobb appeared in Baden, Switzerland on May 4, 1974 (you can click to enlarge)

cobb_collage_baden_1974(Click to enlarge) Arnett Cobb at a concert in Baden, Switzerland, 1974.
Photos by Otto Flückiger

And here is some footage of Arnett Cobb featured with the Lionel Hampton Band in Nice, France in summer 1978.

 Enjoy!

Eddie Chamblee and some unidentified people

Posted in documents, Eddie Chamblee, Lionel Hampton, unidentified photographs with tags , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by crownpropeller

I love to look on ebay for jazz or early r’n’b related memorabilia from time to time. A few weeks ago, being a little bored, I started to browse to see if any interesting photographs would come up. Then suddenly I recognized tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee (1920–1999) one one of the stamp sized pictures you see in an ebay listing. The seller was offering the photo under the heading “photo of unidentified black musicians” and I had the luck to get it for the pricely sum of $5.

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Eddie Chamblee (left) and two unidentified persons, circa mid 50s.
Photographer unknown

Comparing with other photos of Chamblee I would say it is from the mid 1950s. The other two men look very familiar to me. Does anyone know, who these two might be? Maybe they are members of Lionel Hampton’s band, Chamblee played with Hampton around 1955/1956. They look familiar, but I am not able to place them.

You might as well have some music while thinking about who these men may be. Here is Eddie Chamblee and his band playing Julian Priester’s composition “Swing A Little Taste”.


This was recorded January 20, 1958 in Chicago for Mercury and the band members are:  Fortunatus “Fip” Ricard (tp) Julian Priester (tb) Eddie Chamblee (ts,vcl) Charles Davis (bar) Jack Wilson (p) Robert Wilson (b) James Slaughter (d). And it was released on this LP:

doodlin

“Swing A Little Taste” had been recorded 18 months earlier on one of the first recording sessions of the Sun Ra Arkestra , of which Priester was a member at that time. This version was originally released on the sampler “Jazz In Transition” on the Transition label (go to Robert L. Campbell’s page about Sun Ra’s early years for more information about that session).

jit

While the label on the Transition LP gives Julian Priester as the sole composer of this tune, the Mercury LP “Doodlin” adds one “Washington” to the composer’s credit. This “Washington” is obviously the person to the right of Chamblee on the cover of  the “Doodlin” LP (no prizes for giving her full name).

I also acquired another photo from the same seller, also for $5 (it said “photo of unidentified black musicians” again). Now does anyone have an idea who this lady could be? (And no: Just the fact she is holding a trumpet does not make her Valaida Snow!) Or where and when this photograph was taken?

female_trumpet_blog

Enjoy!

April 18, 1981: What’s happening in N.Y.C.?

Posted in documents, jazz with tags , , on October 30, 2012 by crownpropeller

In 1979, 1980 and 1981 my friend, the late Otto Flückiger, spent some days in New York City to check out the jazz scene and to document the concerts he witnessed. And as regular readers know, I am sometimes presenting some of the sounds and pictures he brought back here.

April 18, 1980 was a friday and when it got later in the day, Otto was eager to hear some good music. And if he started early, he would well be able to change clubs and maybe hear a second band.

His mind seemed set on something earthy played with a lot of blues feeling, so he made his way to the West End on Broadway near Columbia where guess who was playing. Maybe some of you are able to recognize the tenor player from this small excerpt? Unfortunately I do not have any of the other band member’s names.


Otto must have liked this band, as he had seen it already a few days earlier. I have the impression that Otto must have spend the last two photos on his roll of film on the sax player. There are two photos of him taken on this day in his files – and none of the other band members.

After having heard enough of this music, Otto was in the mood for something more out there. So he left the West End and made his way out to the Hurrah Club (most probably) where a large band was playing whose music he had been loving for years. Unfortunately there are no photographs of the goings-on at the Hurrah. But you will find out right away who is playing here:


And sorry, there are no points for guessing the second band.

Documenting Don Redman’s 1946 European Tour

Posted in documents, Don Redman, jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2012 by crownpropeller

Page 2 of Don Redman concert review in swiss  “Film, Radio Jazz” magazine No 1, 1947.
From the Otto Flückiger Collection

Ever since the day i wrote this post about the 1946 european tour by Don Redman and his orchestra, I had the pleasure to work with the very fine jazz researchers such as Leif Bo Petersen, Anthony Barnett, Howard Rye, Mario Schneeberger and Dieter Salemann to make the story complete. With the help of jazz fans and researchers from different european countries and the USA we tried to gather all the known information about this tour in one place. In doing so we were able to correct a lot of misinformation  – discographical and otherwise – that has been around for some years now. Private as well as institutional collections allowed us to use their material including many rare photographs, newspaper ads, concert reviews and other related articles.

Tyree Glenn in Geneva, Switzerland,  photo probably by Freddy Bertrand.
From the Otto Flückiger Collection

You can see the results of our work (and hear some very interesting music!) if you go to the Don Redman’s 1946 European Tour page. Of course this is a work in progress, If you feel that you have something to add to the story, it would be nice if you would use the comment section over there.

Ad for the Bern concert, unidentified newspaper.
From the Otto Flückiger Collection

Wendell Cull(e)y writes to Milt Buckner

Posted in documents, jazz, Lionel Hampton, Milt Buckner with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2012 by crownpropeller

Trumpet man Wendell Cull(e)y (1906–1983) played in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra from 1944 to 1949, a period in which Milt Buckner was Hampton’s pianist. Culley (as his name is mostly written) and Buckner seem to have kept in contact over the years. There is a letter in Otto Flückiger’s files about Milt Buckner that Culley wrote to Buckner in August 1971 (the letter arrived after a longer journey).

(click to enlarge)

I decided to present this very interesting letter in full, since I think it contains nothing of a too personal nature. In addition I have some very nice other documents to offer here that somehow have a connection to this letter.  But let’s start with a question first: Who is “your former vocalist named Jerald” (??)” on the first page? Although being quite knowledgeable about Buckner’s career, I have no idea.

Culley writes about Million Dollar Smile here. This gives us the opportunity to leave the letter for a while:

Since Wendell Culley writes about Eddie Jones buying the record, it’s clear that Culley is talking about the version Hamp recorded for Decca in October 1944:


Lionel Hampton: Million Dollar Smile (L3644 on Decca 18719, October 16, 1944)

But there were people who liked another version (also arranged by Buckner) much better (scroll a little down to hear that one). As Buckner remembered in a 1975 conversation with Otto Flückiger and Kees Bakker:

We got Dinah Washington out of Chicago where she was singing with a church group. Sometimes she was singing there in a club. Hamp heard her somewhere, and before I knew it, she was in the band. I made about all the arrangements for her in Hamp’s band, the first I made was My Bill. I always liked her voice. Gladys Hampton always tried to teach Dinah how to dress. You might remember Million Dollar Smile. I wrote that arrangement so that Dinah could sing it. We got into the Decca studio in Hollywood and we played the thing down and she sang beautifully. Hamp said: ‘Listen, Buck, there should be no singing on this arrangement!’.

This Million Dollar Smile was one of the best records Hamp ever made, because of the sound. The guy that wrote this tune is Porter Roberts. He wrote for a little newspaper in Toledo, Ohio and he is still living there [Buckner was talking in 1975]. Before I came over here, I talked to him on the phone.

I once made a deposition for Porter Roberts in Toledo in the 1950s against Lionel Hampton to describe the scene where Hapmton canceled the vocals. Well Dinah sat there and cried on that deposition and Roberts used it in a trial against Hampton. He was sure that the song was supposed to be a hit. He was sueing on the possibility that his song would have become a hit if Dinah would have sung on it.

An unsigned short article from Jet (dated July 8, 1954) also is related to unhappy feelings in connection with Million Dollar Smile:

Composer Sues Hampton For “Violating” Song Pact

Bandleader Lionel Hampton was sued in Toledo for failing to keep an agreement to record and publish a song titled Your Million-Dollar Smile (sic!). The action was filed by Porter Roberts, who contended he composed the tune and registered it for copyright, then gave half interest to Hampton. He claims Hampton promised to record and publish the song through his firm, Swing and Tempo Music Co., with profits to be equally shared.

I could not find out what the result of this legal hassles were (and I would like to know the publisher and composer credits on the original 78). But if you listen to the arrangement of Million Dollar Smile featuring Dinah Washington – recorded for the Jubilee series – you can in no way doubt its great potential for becoming a hit.


Lionel Hampton: Million Dollar Smile (Jubilee, recorded summer 1944)

There are not many sources on the internet that mention Porter Roberts, but it looks like Roberts was a very interesting person. In the thirties (exact date unknown) he had a column called “Praise And Criticism” in the Pittsburgh Courier, in the fourties this column probably appeared in the Chicago Defender.

Roberts probably had his home base in Detroit in 1945, because that is the place where he started “The Entertainer”, a magazine which was to supply “National Theatrical News Weekly”. In Otto Flückiger’s archives I found a copy of “The Entertainer’s” pilot issue. This is just a one-pager – on the flip there is just a list (how much advertising in future issues will cost).  Read the fierce editorial – also named “Praise And Criticism” here – Roberts is not holding anything back.

(click to enlarge and supersize)

The other texts on this page are more or less the usual PR announcements send out by the promoters. But note the blurb about Hampton, which means  a year after “Million Dollar Smile” was recorded there seem to no hard feelings between Hampton and Roberts. Have there ever been any regular issues of “The Entertainer”? I could not find out.

So back to the letter:


If Wendell Culley indeed writes about multiinstrumentalist Ben Kynard here, he was misinformed about this supposedly early death. Kynard, (pictured above in an undated, unsigned photograph) the alleged composer of famous tune “Red Top” passed on July 5th 2012, aged 92.  Kynard had played with Hampton from 1946–1953.



In the P.S. of his letter, Wendell Culley (as his name is mostly written – but note the signature!) mentions Milt Buckner’s “Fiesta” in Carnegîe Hall 1945. This most probably is “Fiesta de l’Amour” [sic!] a “semi-classical”  piece Buckner wrote in the mid-fourties. He had copyrighted it  on January 23, 1945 along with seven other compositions that apparently never were recorded.

The program for Hampton’s 1945 Carnegie Hall Concert on April 15th (front pictured above) unfortunately does not mention “Fiesta” among the compositions to be played:

As you see, Herb Quigley’s composition “Three Minutes With Three Notes” was to be the composition played with strings featured. The members of the string section are not known, since the program only mentions Eddie South:

So did Hampton change his mind and have the band with the string section play Buckner’s “Fiesta”? It will be hard to find the exact truth.

 Although no recording of “Fiesta” as played by the Lionel Hampton orchestra at the Carnegie Hall is extant, “Fiesta de l’Amor” can be heard on a very rare recording by Milt Buckner’s Orchestra from a “Band For Bonds” broadcast recorded two weeks after Buckner’s first session for MGM in March 1949. The broadcast (details in my Milt Buckner discography) was preserved on glass-based acetate records that were in Milt Buckner’s personal collection. It is not known what became of these glass records, but fortunately Kees Bakker or Otto Flückiger had the opportunity to dub them sometime in the 1970s.


Milt Buckner and his Orchestra: “Fiesta de l’Amour” (“Bands For Bonds” broadcast, recorded probably March 26, 1949)

This version has no strings but nice parts for Milt Buckner on vibraphone and unaccompanied Julius Watkins on french horn.

Enjoy!

The Sun Ra Arkestra in Poschiavo 2012

Posted in clips, documents, Marshall Allen, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by crownpropeller

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of last week with my friend Hubi and Hubi’s friend Dario in Poschiavo in the Graubünden part of Switzerland where the Sun Ra Arkestra under the leadership of  Marshall Allen supplied the on stage music for two theatrical plays at the Uncool Festival. I shot some video there – but in fact a lot of people did. So there is no need for me editing all this stuff now. Instead I have embedded some nice clips that I found on the youtube channel of local newspaper Giornale il Bernina. Here are some excerpts from the Wednesday evening performance of the play Oedipus: 

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