Friday, April 28, 2017

The Bechet-Spanier Big Four - H.R.S. Sessions 1940

The H.R.S. Records label
The H.R.S. Records was an independent jazz label founded in 1938 as a devision of Steve Smith's Hot Record Society. Like Milt Gabler's Commodore Records, the H.R.S. Records produced new recordings with contemporary artists and reissued earlier recorded jazz from other labels, the 78 rpm discs were distributed from Smith's record shop in Midtown Manhattan, N.Y. and by mail order. The H.R.S. recorded 124 performances in 25 sessions between August 1938 and September 1947 before the company closed, some years ago Mosaic Records reissued all 25 sessions in a box-set (- unfortunately out of print)
Mosaic Box MD6-187

Sidney Bechet
At two sessions March-April 1940 clarinetist/soprano sax player Sidney Bechet  and cornetist Muggsy Spanier joined forces in some remarkable and memorable recordings for the H.R.S. Records in a quartet setting labeled Bechet-Spanier Big Four.
Muggsy Spanier
The two remaining members of the quartet were guitarist Carmen Mastren 
Carmen Mastren
and double bass player Wellman Braud 
Wellman Braud (courtesy Mosaic Images)
The first session by the Bechet-Spanier quartet was scheduled at March 28, 1940 and produced four recorded titles (see disc info below)
Excerpt of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
China Boy was recorded in two takes, but only mx 2776-1 was issued. Below I'll insert uploaded examples from YouTube of the recordings from the March 28 session, here is first Four Or Five Times

Next was recorded Sweet Lorraine 

Up the Lazy River by Carmichael was next

Finally, China Boy finished the March 28 session

The second session by the Bechet-Spanier Big Four was scheduled April 6, 1940 and again produced four recorded titles (see disc info below)
Excerpt of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
Three takes of That's A Plenty were recorded, only mx 2802-3 was originally issued. Below is inserted the music from uploaded YouTube videos of the four titles from the April 6 session, here is first If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight 

Next was recorded That's A Plenty, here's the originally issued version

H.R.S. 2003_ Squeeze Me
Squeeze Me was recorded next inclusive a tasty full chorus guitar break by Carmen Mastren

Finally, the last title recorded at the April 6 session was Sweet Sue, Just You 

The music recorded at the two sessions for H.R.S. Records by the Bechet-Spanier Big Four quartet has for a long time belonged to my favorite recordings of small band jazz. The chamberish atmosphere of the sessions does definitely not exclude hot playing by both reed and horn which mix perfectly supported by a solid rhythm provided by guitar and double bass. Classic jazz!

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Folke Eriksberg - Swedish Jazz Guitar Pioneer

Folke Eriksberg
Folke Eriksberg (1910 - 1976) was a pioneer in Sweden playing jazz on guitar, a skilled accompanist and chord style soloist. Until 1937, the year he turned 26 of age, he was called Eriksson in surname and then officially Eriksberger, his artist name was therefore an abbreviation. Born in Södermalm, Stockholm, he received guitar lessons from his mother, but in the 1920s he would rather play banjo. In 1926 he gained his first professional engagement, and 1928-33 he joined Frank Vernon's orchestra, from 1929 as a guitarist. In June 1934, he moved to Barcelona in Spain, where he worked in several orchestras, and at some point he had met and played with Django Reinhardt. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he returned to Stockholm in September 1936 and joined the Seymour Österwall Orchestra the next two years.
Sonora Swing Swingers
Folke Eriksberg was the obvious guitarist when studio groups in the thirties were put together to make discs under the name (Sonora) Swing Swingers. Here's an example of one of this studio ensemble's many recordings, I Never Knew recorded 1937

Dreaming Guitar, guitar solo by Folke Eriksberg
Eriksberg also recorded some discs in his own name, including some solos, and he was featured on discs with Thore Jederby, Alice Babs, Hasse Kahn and many others.
Svenska Hotkvintetten
Folke Eriksberg was a regular member of the Swedish Hot Quintet (Svenska Hotkvintetten) 1939-42, where he contributed solid accompaniment besides excellent chord solo spots while Sven Stiberg was the main single-string soloist. You have the opportunity to listen to a selection of recordings by this ensemble at YouTube, here - - The quintet was mainly a studio ensemble and the members had regular engagements in other orchestras, Eriksberg was with Sam Samson's orchestra at the same time. You can hear him in a short solo statement towards the end of Samson's recording of Ellington's Lost In Meditation 1939

In 1941-43 Eriksberg played with Thore Ehrling, and in 1943-44 he participated in Gösta Törner's dixieland-influenced ensemble. After that he ended up being a jazz and dance musician.
Eriksberg with Epihone acoustic guitar
Folke Eriksberg clung to the acoustic guitar, when power-boosted instruments began to become modern in the 1940s. For eleven years he had an engagement at the Blancheteater in Stockholm together with pianist Herbert Steen. In 1954, he finished his professional musician career, but late in life he made a come back, and in 1975 he recorded an LP.
LP front (1976)
Folke Eriksberg is said to have participated in about 3500 recordings during his career. Unfortunately, his solo work is not accessible at YouTube, but to end this small profile of a pioneer Swedish jazz guitarist I'll insert a recording by Thore Jederby's orchestra featuring vocalist Cecil Aagaard and a short hot chord style solo by Folke Eriksberg - Rhythm Is Our Business from 1941

The above info is excerpted from the Swedish periodical Orkesterjournalen, here 

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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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