Archive for Vintage R’n’B

Chicago Tenor Sax (first installment)

Posted in 78 rpm, Chicago Tenor Sax, Gene Ammons, Leon Washington, R'n'B, Schoolboy Porter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by crownpropeller

jug_1950Gene Ammons around 1950. Photographer unknown.

Up to the late 1950s you could usually tell where a tenor saxophone player may come from geographically. This goes especially for tenorists from Chicago, where the dominant way of playing was very relaxed and way behind the beat. The most famous exponent of this school  who was also widely known outside of Chicago was of course Gene Ammons. But in the 1940s and 1950s this town had a whole lot of great or at least  very interesting tenor saxophonists – some of which are well known, some more or less obscure. Not all of them are members of the Lester Young school though: Von Freeman, Dick Davis, Sax Mallard, Claude McLin, Eddie Johnson, John Neely, Johnny Griffin, Clifford Jordan, Tom Archia – and the list goes on.

If I start to listen to tenor players from Chicago,I might end up  doing so for days. So I decided to let my readers in on the fun and present in a loose series some of the best jazz and r’n’b tenor saxophonists that played in the clubs of the Windy City in the 1940s and 1950s. I will try to use original 78 rpms for this purpose, but this probably will not work in very case, as there are some things of which I only have bad tape copies or the like.

The first installment of this series has to start of with Gene Ammons, of course. “Hey Mr. Freddy”on Aristocrat 8001 was recorded in February 1949 by group that included Ammons, singer and pianist Christine Chatman, Leo Blevins on guitar, bassist Lowell pointer and legendary drummer Ike Day. It was for the first time reissued in 2003 on a CD by the french company Classics, all the previous compilers of Ammon’s output for Aristocrat/Chess had overlooked this track.

Not really from Chicago, but from close enough Gary Indiana comes John “Schoolboy” Porter (born in 1926). Porter recorded for Chicago based Chance Records from 1950 to 1952. Then he appeared – as guitarist! – on a Roosevelt Sykes session for United, also in 1952. After that he opted for a career in the military. Porter has an interesting sound, most of his records pair jukebox groovers with sentimental ballads as was usual during these days. “Kayron”, recorded in 1950, was a fine piece of bop from Chicago with – I think – a really great solo by Schoolboy (search for it on youtube, someone has put it up). On the shuffling “Schoolboy’s Boogie” which was recorded in September 1950, Porter is accompanied by pianist Jesse Hart (who also sang, but not on this track), bassist Walter Broyle and drummer Carl Scott.

If you want to know more about John “Schoolboy” Porter, you should check the Chance Records page at the Red Saunders Research Foundation. On the other hand if you know anything about what Porter is doing nowadays, it would be nice if you would let me know.

Now for today’s third featured Chicago tenor man. After having recorded with Earl Hines in the mid 1930s saxophonist Leon Washington joined drummer Red Saunders’ house band at Chicago’s famed Club De Lisa in 1937, staying with Red until the late 1950s.

delisaSmiling Ladies at the Club DeLisa, unknown date.
From the Crown Propeller Archive (click to enlarge)

Leon Washington isa  totally overlooked saxophonist. Red Saunder’s band is mostly interesting not for Washington’s solos but for the fact that Sun Ra wrote arrangements for it. Understandably so, since the Saunders orchestra was essentially a show band and Leon rarely had an opportunity to shine. Elaborate boppish playing was not asked for in between singer’s verses.

In 1954 and 1955 Washington and McKinley Easton, Saunders’ baritone man, did some work for the very small Theron label. You can read all about Theron on the Theron page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation. On “Forward Blow” which was recorded in 1954, Easton and Washington show what they could do if let loose

Watch this space for further installments of this series!

Skeets Tolbert and his Gentleman of Swing (1944)

Posted in clips, jazz, R'n'B with tags , , , , on October 28, 2012 by crownpropeller

A figure almost forgotten today is clarinetist, alto saxophonist arranger and singer Campbell “Skeets” Tolbert (1909–2000).

Skeets  Tolbert (center)

According to his Wikipedia entry, Tolbert grew up in Lincolntown, North Carolina and first recorded with Dave Taylor’s Dixie Orchestra (Leslie Johnakins who later became known as Machito’s baritone saxophonist was in that band then).

In 1934 Tolbert moved to New York City, where he played with Charlie Alexander before joining the house band at the Savoy Ballroom.

In 1936 he played with Fats Waller, then joined a band fronted by Olympic athlete Jesse Owens in 1937. Shortly afterwards he joined Snub Mosley’s band and took control of it after Mosley’s departure. Freddie Green, Kenny Clarke, Red Richards, Otis Hicks, Carl Smith and Lem Johnson all played in the band, which first recorded in 1939 under the name  Skeets Tolbert’s Gentlemen of Swing.

It is said that his sales were poor when he was recording with his Gentleman of Swing for Decca from 1939 to 1942. Nonetheless the company recorded 40 sides with Tolbert. MCA who came to own Decca never bothered to reissue Tolbert’s 78s and fans of fine jump band music had to acquire obscure LPs drawn from 78 records of varying condition to get a taste of Skeetz style that settles somewhere between Johnny Hodges and  Louis Jordan. It was only in 1997 and 1998 that french company Chrono(lo)gical Classics issued to CDs worth of Tolbert’s wonderful jive music.

After his Decca recordings we meet Tolbert again in 1944 when his group was doing playback on four tracks (one of them featuring singer Lupe Carterio) for a “Soundies” movie production. These four tracks have appeared and disappeared on youtube over time. But never were all to be seen at the same time. So I decided to edit them all into one clip (which admittedly did not turn out as nice as it was supposed to).

Unfortunately it is not known (at least to me) who the members of Tolbert’s band are on this clip. You will see and hear them play “‘Tis You Babe”, “No No Baby”, “Blitzkrieg Bombardier”, and “Corn Pone”

Again following Wikipedia, Tolbert completed studies at Columbia University in 1946 and broke up the group to take a job in Charlotte, North Carolina as a high school music teacher. He became a faculty member at Texas Southern University in Houston in 1948. Later in his life Tolbert worked for the American Federation of Musicians and owned a music store. The Wikipedia article about Tolbert is based on Howard Rye’s article about Tolbert in Grove Jazz online. It is a shame that no more is known about such a musically interesting figure  and very good to know he was filmed.
So enjoy!

The Chaunteurs with King Kolax (1961)

Posted in 45 rpm, clips, Doo Wop, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2012 by crownpropeller

Twelve years ago I went to Paris for a week. One reason for my trip was to meet with Gil Petard of reissue label Chronogical Classics and the well known jazz, r’n’b and soul researcher Kurt Mohr.  I had a CD with me that held a lot of tracks by Chicago tenor saxophonist. Tom Archia (the resulting CD, “Tom Archia 1957–1948” was released in 2011). I was also hoping to get a glimpse of Kurt Mohr’s files on several artists from Chicago and have Robert Campbell add them to the pages of the Red Saunders Research Foundation.  At that time Mohr had basically given up research and two months before had given his archives to Soul Bag Magazine. I called up the magazine and was allowed to look through Mohr’s files for an hour on the next day.

Indeed I could gather some details we had not known before about different recording sessions. I also found an intriguing entry noting a record that the band of trumpeter King Kolax – on whom there is an entry at the Red Saunders Research Foundation – accompanied Chicago vocal group The Chaunteurs for drummer and producer Armand “Jump” Jackson’s own tiny label La Salle around 1961.

This was intriguing: How was I ever to hear that record? Now a while ago someone put one side of that record, the euphoria inducing “Wishin’ Well”, on youtube – but only for a hot moment, then it was gone again. A few weeks later a copy of this very rare 45rpm finally appeared on ebay. So I tried my luck – and won!

So here are the Chaunteurs accompanied by King Kolax and his Band doing “Wishin Well”. According to Robert Ferlingere’s Discography of Rhythm and Blues and Rock ‘n Roll Vocal Groups, (2nd ed., Vol. 1, 1992) and Bob Pruter’s Doowop: The Chicago Scene, the Chaunteurs  consisted of  Sollie McElroy (lead tenor, formerly of The Flamingos); Eugene Record (1st tenor); Robert Laster (2nd tenor); Clarence Johnson (baritone); Eddie Reed (bass). Besides King Kolax (heard only faintly here) and Jump Jackson the personnel is completely unidentified. I really wonder who the tenor saxophonist is and who is playing the organ.

Get ready:


Bo Diddley in Montreux: Mona

Posted in Bo Diddley, clips with tags , , , , on October 7, 2012 by crownpropeller

“Junp, Jazz, Jive, Vintage R’n’B” this blog is subtitled. So where has the R’n’B been lately, you might ask. The answer: It had to be digitized first. So straight from an old video tape from the Otto Flückiger collection here is Bo Diddley doing an uplifting version of Mona at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Shave and a haircut: Go, Bo!


Bross Townsend feat. Bubba Brooks 1995

Posted in Bross Townsend, clips, jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by crownpropeller

In March 1995 my friend Otto went with his friend from school days Aleardo Buzzi to New York. Buzzi was producing jazz records for the swiss record company Claves Records at that time, and Otto had persuaded Buzzi to produce a CD under the leadership of pianist and arranger Bross Townsend. The idea was to feature tenor saxophonist David “Bubba” Brooks (1922–2002, brother of the more well known Tina Brooks) in a set of classic jumping jazz-cum-r’n’b tunes from the 1940s.  Some days or hours before the recording (which took place on march 29 and march 30 1995) Otto was there with his camera when the band rehearsed for what was to becomes Claves Jazz 50-1095, Bross Townsend’s “I Love Jump Jazz”.

From Otto’s footage filmed at the rehearsal I am offering you Bubba Brook’s interpretation of “When I Grow To Old To Dream”.  It could well be that Otto – who is listed as coproducer on the CD sleeve – suggested this tune, as a memory to Arnett Cobb’s famous 1947 two-part-version  for Apollo. I know that Otto loved Cobb’s version, he used to sing along with it every time it was playing. Anyway this posting is not about Cobb but about the great Bubba Brooks, so here we go!

The band consists of: Irving Stokes (tp), Clifford Adams (tb) David “Bubba” Brooks, Reginald Woods (ts) Tom Olen (bar) Bross Townsend (p,arr,ldr) Bob Cunningham (b) and Clyde Lucas or Winard Harper (d)


Wild Bill Davis in Rheinfelden 1988

Posted in clips, jazz, Wild Bill Davis with tags , , , , , , on March 24, 2012 by crownpropeller

[Revision Note: The tune has been identified as “Ohh-Ah-De-De-De” (see comments)]

Here is another one of the little video clips my friend Otto Flückiger  made in the 1980s and 1990s. Here we have Wild Bill Davis’s quartet playing an unidentified  fast tune at the intimate Q4 jazz club in Rheinfelden, Switzerland on October 30, 1988. I especially like the playing of guitar legend Dickie Thompson here and the charming way in which Otto intercut photographs now and then to get rid of disturbing camera movements.

Besides Wild Bill and Thompson the other band members are saxophonist Dave Young and drummer Clyde Lucas.


Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk (Live 1978)

Posted in Bill Doggett, clips, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2012 by crownpropeller

[Revision note: Thanks to Ehsan Khoshbakht and Dani Gugolz the complete personnel has been identified.]

Bill Doggett (1916–1996) started out on piano. In 1947, he took Wild Bill Davis’ place in Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five and slowly became famous for his organ playing in this band. He started his own band in 1951, first as a trio, later with one or two saxophones and a guitar added. Up to the late fifties Doggett made a series of LPs for King Records, followed in the early sixties by albums on Warner Bros. and Columbia after which the spotlight turned away from his as his brand of organ playing fell out of fashion with the dance as well as the jazz crowd.

But Doggett kept on playing and in the mid-seventies he became quite popular in France, where Black and Blue records published a couple of LPs with Doggett.

So here is another clip from the July 1978 Newport Jazz Festival on tour in the Cimiez Gardens in Nice which was filmed by a french TV station. It’s Bill Doggett on organ, the legendary David “Bubba” Brooks on tenor, guitarist Pete Mays (he is also singing on other tracks from this gig), Larry Trott on electric bass and Howard Overton on drums playing Doggett’s 1956 megaseller “Honky Tonk”.


Jo Jo Adams with Tom Archia – and in person

Posted in 78 rpm, clips, Jo Jo Adams, R'n'B, Tom Archia with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by crownpropeller

Jo Jo Adams (circa 1918–February 27, 1988) was one of the most colorful persons on the R’n’B scene of post war Chicago. A short biography by Dave Penny can be found here. Adams recorded for small labels like Hy-Tone, Aristocrat, Parrot, he also worked as MC in different clubs in Chicago.

One of my favorite sessions by Jo Jo Adams is the one he did with almost forgotten Chicago tenor saxophonist Tom Archia in July 1947 (read more about Tom and this session on the Tom Archia page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation). Here’s Jo Jo singing “Drinking Blues” on a copy of Aristocrat 801:

Adams was mostly known for his flamboyant personality, his risqué songs and his colorful dresses – with long coat tails that he swung around while dancing. Here you get a chance to see Jo Jo in action as part of William Alexander’s 1949 movie “Burlesque in Harlem (sometimes dated as having been made in 1953 or 1954, but Alexander had moved to London in 1950). Unfortunately Adams is only accompagnied by a piano – and how I wish it would be Tom Archia’s Combo! And sound and video are slightly asynchroneous on my source.

But hey: Better Jo Jo Adams with a piano and asynchronous sound than no Jo Jo Adams at all!


R.I.P. Red Holloway

Posted in 45 rpm, clips, jazz, Red Holloway with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by crownpropeller

Red Holloway and Norbert Schneider, March 26, 2010.
Photo: © Armin Büttner

With sadness i received the news of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway’s passing yesterday, aged 84 (details can be found here). I met Red three or four times during the last fifteen years, as he was playing in Europe every other year. In the last ten years or so he was playing with the Blue Flagships band (look here for a video clip from 2002 with Jimmy Coe and Red Holloway). I remember Red Holloway as a very sweet gentleman. I fondly think of one afternoon in the mid nineties when Red was playing in Basel or some place near Basel – I guess with the Frank Muschalle Trio. Continue reading

Dallas Bartley with Bill Martin: You Fine And Healthy Thing (1945)

Posted in clips, King Kolax, R'n'B, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2012 by crownpropeller

In 1940 bassist Dallas Bartley (1916–1979) joined Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five. After he left Jordan in 1943 he formed his own band, Dallas Bartley’s Small Town Boys. With his band he recorded for Coral (September 1944), Cosmo (1946) and National (1947). His band also can be seen in a couple of soundies filmed in 1945.

Here they are playing “You Fine And Healthy Thing”:

The reason why I exactly choose this Dallas Bartley clip to present here, is my interest in Chicago trumpet player King Kolax who in jazz circles is mostly known because young John Coltrane played in his big band for a while in 1947 – you can find more about Kolax at the Kolax page at the Red Saunders Research Foundation. While googling around for Kolax material, I found out that it was composed jointly by Bartley and Kolax!

But what about the personnel?

Although different discographies say that the trumpeter player and singer is Walter Fuller, it definitely is Bill Martin, about whom you may learn more on the Hy-Tone page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation.

What about the alto player?

Les Fancourt’s and Bob McGrath’ “Blues Discography 1943–1970” suggests that it is Porter Kilbert. Below you see a picture of Kilbert taken from a 1961 Quincy Jones concert clip. I would say it is well possible that it is the same man – 16 years later.

“Blues Discography 1943–1970”  does not mention the tenor player:

Who can this be? A possibility would be Joshua Jackson, who according to “Blues Discography 1943–1970” recorded with Bartley for Cosmo. Does anyone have a photo of Jackson and could compare it to the one above?

Following “Blues Discography”, the pianist is Bob Mosely, is that true?

Unfortunately I can not extract a better picture from the clip. So what about the drummer?

According to “Blues Discography 1943–1970”  this is Jack Parker. But if you look  at the bass drum you see a logo that seems to be made from the letters H, L and B. This points to the drummer being Hillard L. Brown, who according to this page, was a member of Bartley’s band in 1945. He later had his own band, which Bill Martin joined later.