Tom Archia (1919–1977)
It was around 20 years ago when my friend the late Otto Flückiger taught me that there were much more interesting things from the Chicago jazz scene of the 1940s and 1950s than the Sun Ra related stuff from that time and placethat I was so much interested in. On one day in the mid-nineties he played me several 78rpm records featuring a tenor saxophonist called Tom Archia to introduce me to the chicago way of playing the tenor sax: relaxed and way behind the beat. Of course the best known exponent of this style has to be Gene Ammons. I already knew and loved a bit the early Gene Ammons stuff. But Tom Archia thrilled me right away. What got me is that he was cool and relaxed and immensely sassy at the same time.
Around that time I exchanged Sun Ra related tapes with Ra researcher Robert L. Campbell and used some Tom Archia stuff Otto had taped for me as filler. And Robert was blown away just the same. So we had to know more about this man. Google did not bring up much about him in the mid-90s and so we started with dusting off old (non indexed mostly) discographies and collector’s lists. All the while we were stumbling over other artists from that place and period that we wanted to know more about. And that was the foundation of the Red Saunders Research Foundation. And one of the RSRF’s first projects was a page, dedicated to Tom Archia.
Most of Tom Archia’s playing on records is in an r’n’b context which is a pity as this format restricts him timewise. But in October 1947 at the Universal Recording studio in Chicago it was just him and a rhythm section (with Archia himself singing on one track). Tom is accompanied by Bill Searcy (p), Leo Blevins (eg), Lowell Pointer (b) and Robert “Hindu” Henderson (d). The four resulting tracks landed on three different 78rpm records.
The result is not only a fine session, it is a GREAT SESSION! Hey people, this DESERVES TO BE UNIVERSALLY HEARD!
To help this noble cause, I have put up clips playing the four tracks on youtube. If you listen to all four of them, you may notice that his set of licks is limited. But if you love these licks as much as i do, they’ll never get on your nerves.
The first track of the session was the jumping “Jam For Sam”. If you want to hear one of Archia’s favourite licks , check at 01:24-01:26. Also here as on the other three tracks listen to Leo Blevins’ guitar and the accents he sets.
The second track recorded that day was the boppish “Macomba Jump”. Here one of Archia’s favourite licks appears at 01:34–01:40.
The next track, “Downfall Blues”, was rereleased on a Chess Vintage Series LP in the early seventies (titled “Whiskey” on that occasion). But here you get it in original 78rpm sound to feed your nostalgic needs. The singer is Archia himself and the track unfortunately has some autobiographical notions. Starting with his most favourite lick, his playing is at its most laconic throughout here:
The final tune the band recorded that day is “Slumber”(also rereleased as “Minor Blues” on that Chess Vintage Series LP). Relax, lay back and enjoy this one – and if you wake up, tell me what you think.
Now would someone else please wake up and rerelease all of Tom Archia’s recordings for Aristocrat/Chess? In pristine quality? From the original master disks? Please? Universal? Charly? Some japanese company? Preferably on vinyl?
Until then, enjoy!