Doc Cheatham and Percy France at the West End (1980)
(Click to enlarge): Doc Cheatham at the West End, N.Y.C., May 1980.
Photo by Otto Flückiger
In the early 1980s in New York the place to be when you were in the mood to listen to some legendary swing and bop veterans was the West End on Broadway near Columbia, where Phil Schaap was curating the program.
During his 1980 trip to the USA my friend the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger went to the West End to see the band led by Doc Cheatham (1905–1997), who had been Cab Calloway’s lead trumpeter from 1932 to 1939. In the early 1980s Cheatham was said to play better then ever before, because he had started practicing again, in the process ridding his playing of any cliches that had crept into his work through the years.
As always Otto made some photos and recorded a little music at the West End.
Inlet for the CD onto which Otto copied his original tape. Unfortunately the original photograph does not seem to exist anymore.
I have not yet found Otto’s original tapes, but I found a CD onto which Otto had edited the concert down. Since all the announcements have been edited out, I can not tell which of the tracks was recorded on May 21 and which on May 22.
The tenor player with Doc Cheatham was the totally underrated Percy France. Interestingly, France is announced with his own group at the West End for May 23 and 24! Was Cheatham France’s trumpeter then?
(Click to enlarge): Percy France at the West End, N.Y.C., May 1980.
Photo by Otto Flückiger
Otto got to know Percy France a little (I do not know if they first met at this concert). France had been playing with Bill Doggett in the early 1950s. He told Otto that the band had already played Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” while he was there. But since it looked like this band will never have the success it deserved, France left. Half a year later “Honky Tonk” became one of the biggest R’n’B instrumentals ever!
Back to the West End in 1980, here is Doc Cheatham’s band playing “Indiana”:
Unfortunately audio quality is not that good, especially the pianist is hardly to be heard. Maybe he was not to be seen either? At least Otto has no photograph of him and added a “probably” to Sonny Donaldson’s name. Maybe the pianist’s name was announced and Otto was not sure if he heard it right?
If we take the “probably” on the cover as pertaining to the pianist only, then this must be a photo of drummer Ronnie Cole at the West End:
(Click to enlarge): Ronnie Cole (or is he?) at the West End, N.Y.C., May 1980. Photo by Otto Flückiger
The bassist can be seen in the back of a photo that prominently shows Cheatham:
(Click to enlarge): Peck Morrison (???) and Doc Cheatham at the West End, N.Y.C., May 1980. Photo by Otto Flückiger
(Click to enlarge): Doc Cheatham and unidentified trumpeter at the West End, N.Y.C., May 1980. Photo by Otto Flückiger
Finally here are Doc Cheatham and Band playing “Rosetta”: