Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem, Paris 1935

Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem (Paris, c.1935)

Freddy Taylor was an American tap dancer, singer, trumpeter and entertainer, who had come to Paris with the Lucky Millinder orchestra during the band's 1933 tour of Europe. Taylor stayed in Paris and soon formed his own band, which he named Freddy Taylor & His Swing Men From Harlem. At the same time Taylor was running his own club at Montmartre and often left the band on its own while he worked as a soloist throughout the Continent. In Paris Taylor recorded as a vocalist with Django Reinhardt and the QHCF in 1936 - these sides belong to his most well known, scholars of the QHCF recorded legacy probably will mention Nagasaki, Georgia On My Mind and I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby as core examples, all recorded 1936. However, Freddy Taylor also recorded with his own group, the Swing Men From Harlem, in March 1935.

Ultrphone AP-1489_Blue Drag
The two sides recorded by Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem in March 1935 contain Blue Drag (mx 77285) and  Viper's Dream (mx 77286), released on a 78 rpm disc by the Ultraphone label, Ultraphone AP-1489. Discographical listed personnel of the band as follows: Freddy Taylor (dir,vo,tp), Charlie Johnson (tp), Arthur “Chester” Lanier (cl, as, bars), Fletcher Allen (cl, ts), Oscar Alemán (g), Eugène d’Hellemmes (b), William Diemer (dm).

The recorded music on both sides features execellent moments of 1930s Euro-American swing with great contributions by the reeds, only Blue Drag has vocal by Taylor. These sides are also notable and worth mentioning regarding Oscar Alemán, although he does not solo in this session. These two sides are the first recorded sides featuring Oscar Alemán in a regular jazz setting, and if you listen carefully, you can hear his contribution as a solid rhythm guitar player behind the soloists - Alemán's prefered instrument at the time, the metal body National tricone guitar is audible as a propelling drive of the rhythm section.
Oscar Alemán (1930s)
You may listen to the recording of Blue Drag by Freddy Taylor and his Swing Men From Harlem at You Tube, here
Ultraphone AP-1489_Vipers Dream
The flip side of Ultraphone AP-1489 had the recording of Viper's Dream, you may listen to it at You Tube, here
Excerpt of Brian Rust's Jazz discography (click to enlarge)
According to info in standard discographies like Brian Rust's Jazz & Ragtime Records (see excerpt above) and Tom Lord's ditto another session from March/April 1935 featuring Freddy Taylor and his Swing Men From Harlem was recorded, however, only test recordings of the four performed tunes exist. These are Mama Don't Allow It, Blue Drag, Swanee River and How Come You Do Me Like You Do?. These test recordings have been a matter of discussion by collectors, especially regarding the question: Who was the guitar player to be heard soloing on Swanee River and How Come You Do Me Like You Do?. According to the standard discographies the guitar is played by Django Reinhardt (- with whom Taylor would record more sides in 1936), while other special discographies like Hans Koert's online Oscar Alemán discography have listed Oscar Alemán as the guitar player, see here 
Django Reinhardt c.1935
Now the question about the participating guitarist has come up once again thanks to the latest update of Jan Evensmo's Oscar Alemán solography March 2017, available here
Excerpt of Jan Evensmo Oscar Alemán solography
Evensmo holds that "... there is not doubt that OA is on guitar" (see above) and he may be right, of course. I have made my statement 9 years ago in the discussion referred at the Oscar Alemán blogspot, here and I still hold that the participating guitarist is Django Reinhardt. Well, I may be wrong, of course, but readers of this blogentry may have an opportunity to judge for themselves by listening to the two actual test-recordings with guitar solo. - To end this, here is the link to the recording of Swanee River uploaded at You Tube. And finally here is the link to the recording of How Come You Do Me Like You Do? at You Tube.

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  1. Hi! Thanks for the info! I am trying to produce a musical feature film or play about Freddy. His wife was my best friend. I'd love to be in touch with you as part of the research process. I can be reached at oliver.valerie@gmail.com, subject: Freddy Taylor Project.

    You know the Duke, the Count, now meet the Baron. Freddy Taylor was called the best bandleader of Swing Jazz in 1930s Europe. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Billy Holiday, Lena Horne, Coleman Hawkins, Bill Coleman, and Jean "Django" Reinhardt are among the music legends Freddy Taylor worked and played with while wining and dining with royalty, and pleasing his devoted fans from Harlem to Paris as the Baron of Swing."

    The project is set up on Slated.com to attract producers, cast, crew & investors: https://www.slated.com/films/206464/

  2. http://www.photos.gillesrea.com/Django-Reinhardt-Photos/1937/index.html#img=1937-1280x1280.jpg