Date Posted: 2006-03-17
TREASURES FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
By Barry Martyn
It has always been one of the dreams of the GHB Jazz Foundation to "shake loose" some of the great vintage jazz sessions owned by the major companies, Decca, Victor and Columbia. They themselves have seldom had any reissue program involving New Orleans Jazz in place. The market would for them be too limited; the bootleggers, on the other hand, are content with issuing bad copies of the material that the major companies issued, mainly in the 1940`s, Nothing new, just a rehash of what was available at the time of a certain session`s original issue. Several times through the years George and I approached a major company only to find their department dealing with old jazz masters offered sessions to us that were completely prohibitive pricewise.
All that changed two years ago when Congress declared the USA would have a "Year of the Blues," dedicated to the American field of blues artists. The famed director Martin Scorsese set about making a seven-hour movie testimonial to the art form. In short, he found he needed something from us- our Paramount masters. We have owned these since 1970, when we bought them from John Steiner. Martin Scorsese`s office called me and offered to lease several Paramount masters for his movie project. I told him he could use them but for a trade-off, not a fee. We wanted from the Decca files the Bunk session (Alexander`s Ragtime Band/ Tishomingo Blues/ Maryland My Maryland/ You Always Hurt the One You Love). The deal would have to include the Bunk "Jazz Information" session and they would have to go back to the vaults and search for the March 20, 1936 Joe Robichaux session listed as four numbers: master 60838- When the Sun Goes Down, 60834- You Were Meant for Love, 60840- Head Stuff, 60841- Don`t Let Old Are Creep Up on You, that Decca rejected. They agreed and the stage was set.
We have issued the Bunk Jazz Information CD. There was nothing new but two second takes of Big Chief Battle Axe and Franklin Street Blues originally issued by Purist on a 78 rpm. Nevertheless the whole session made an important American Music CD (AMCD-119).
The most important thing of this whole exchange to me was the four 1936 Robichaux titles. Stuff from the 1930`s recorded in New Orleans has always been one of my "Top Draw" interests. There is so little in existence.
The bottom line is that only one of the four titles still exists in any form whatsoever. This is Master 60838- When The Sun Goes Down. In fact it is Leroy Carr`s blues classic In the Evening. The other three titles have gone to dust.
Master 60838 is beautifully recorded but :"Baby Briscoe/singer" is the only information listed on the Decca files. From my own research it is almost certain that Gene Ware is one of the trumpets, Frog Joseph is for sure the trombone, Sam Dutrey the clarinet and Willie O`Connell is the guitar. Robichaux himself is at the piano and the other trumpet is probably "Kildee"- Henry Holloway.
It was recorded at the Rhythm Club, Derbigny and Johnson, New Orleans.
I will add this track to AMVD-3, a film on New Orleans piano players I have been working on for the last five years.
Now to the Bunk Deccas.These came to me directly from Decca`s vaults, so the fidelity is first-class. It sounds like you are actually sitting there in the room. This listing preempts all previous discographies. There are three takes of Maryland, two takes of Alexander`s Ragtime Band, six takes of Tishomingo Blues, eight takes of You Always Hurt the One You Love, including all false starts, incomplete titles, and incidental talking. Some of the takes are very different, especially when Baby Dodds takes a woodblock tag on the last take of You Always Hurt. No doubt much to the annoyance of Bunk. As I said it is just
like you are sitting in the studio.
Also in progress is the resurrection of the magnificent 1946 Kid Ory session with Mutt Carey, Barney Bigard, et al, issued originally by Columbia. They are at the moment searching their files. Who knows what we`ll find.
FROM BILL RUSSELL`S DIARY:
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 1945:
There was a very poor group (for the first Stuyvesant Tuesday in the month), about forty at first half. They tried over Tishomingo Blues and Maryland, My Maryland, in preparation for the Decca date next day. Bunk had wanted to record Tishomingo, Mississippi and Beale Street Blues. Milt Gabler picked Alexander`s Ragtime Band, Maryland My Maryland and Wabash Blues. Later that night at home, Lawrence Marrero and I asked Bunk about Wabash Blues and Bunk said, "Well that`s an easy tune, we don`t need to try that, you know that. Everybody knows that tune."
Lawrence and Baby Dodds had a long talk about the rhythm of the band, and both were worried about how the record date might go. They both worried about the addition of the pianoforte.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1945
Slow Drag came early with his bass (at 11AM) and Baby had brought vital parts of his drum outfit home the night before, but forgot drum spurs, which Gene Williams went and got. Alton came but refused to help carry the drum outfit, and gave his share (the foot pedal) to Lawrence.
The band warmed up on Into Each Live Some Rain Must Fall, I Can`t Escape, and You Always Hurt the One You Love.
Milt liked You Always Hurt and decided to substitute it for Wabash Blues.
Maryland My Maryland didn`t go so well Gene thought, although Milt thought OK, but it wasn`t as good as they`ve done at Hall. George finally had to show Baby how the drum part went, and played it good too, with both snare drum and bass drum going. Baby was a little nervous at first probably and also afraid of Bob Stevens, who dropped in just to listen. He used to be recording supervisor at Okeh in the old days. Bunk wasn`t warmed up, or as strong as usual on Maryland.
The trial take of Alexander`s Ragtime and went wonderful and Milt said they`d do just as well on retakes, but as George said, "They keep getting worse the more they play a tune." But they still got a couple of good takes.
Tishomingo also went very well, with Bunk playing some wonderful trumpet, Lawrence and Gene said. Bunk and Jim each played a fine break on this tune. Bunk was anxious to get a copy for his granddaughter, who he said,"can do some fancy dancing."
You Always Hurt the One You Love went OK at first, but they broke it all up into half-chorus solos.
Once Milt stopped a good take because Bunk almost missed a note, another time because Bunk turned away from the mike too much.
They tried to use two mikes, one for pianoforte and told George to play softer when the other mike was on. Alton messed up a piano chorus or two, by using the pedal. And Alton complained because he couldn`t hear enough piano on some of the records. For a while they put George on a high stool, so he couldn`t pat his foot.
Lawrence started with a soft pick, until they decided they liked banjo and wanted more of it. George squeaked slightly on one note of You Always Hurt the One You Love, but Milt didnâ ™t even notice it.
The stuff was cut on 16" discs and will be dubbed for records. They had a lot of fine mikes around, one, a good large velocity directional mike they didn`t use.
Baby used Decca`s bass drum, but all the other traps were his own.
Milt stayed behind a table in the control room and made a lot of motions, telling them when to come in on You Always Hurt the One You Love, (but was all wrong usually) also made a lot of other wild motions that no one paid any attention to. He said,"the guys learned more about recording today than they ever learned so far." He thought all four sides were good and would be issued "next year" (in 1946) The engineer at first complained because Drag was snapping the bass and said that would make it hard to record and apt to ring etc, but it got OK.
They had plenty of intermissions.
Everybody seemed happy about the results when they got home, although Bunk didn`t say anything. Lawrence said the rhythm was good, and George liked the session and tone of the records.
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