As January 20 comes to a close, so does the 128th anniversary of the birth of that great song spinner Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly. I know of no better way to celebrate the life of such an important hero of American music than with this type of musical extravaganza. I’ll admit that I did not realize the date until this very day, and this is a bit of a rush job, so as not to miss the occasion entirely. I was lucky enough to find this great album set from Capitol Records at the same time as that home recording, and, featuring not only Lead Belly, but a variety of other great artists, I believe it’s perfect for the occasion. Now, I couldn’t tell you that this set is a historically accurate history of jazz music, but it does feature some fine tunes.
Capitol CE 16 was released in early 1945, and contains five discs, a step up from the typical four. The individual sides were recorded on the following dates: 10021 on October 4 and 27, 1944; 10022 on June 30, 1944; 10023 on June 30 and January 27, 1945; 10024 on March 7, 1944; and 10025 on January 27, 1945. These records feature a great number of fine artists, the highlights being Lead Belly, to whom this post is dedicated, Wingy Manone, Johnny Mercer (who founded Capitol), Zutty Singleton, and many others, whose names can be found listed on the album cover pictured above.
Capitol’s first volume of their “History of Jazz” series begins with a spoken introduction by Lead Belly, telling the story of the “Rock Island Line”, with zither backing by Paul Howard. On the reverse of the first disc, Lead Belly switches from his typical twelve string guitar to piano on “Eagle Rock Rag”.
On the next disc, Zutty Singleton’s Trio plays “Lulu’s Mood” and “Barney’s Bounce”, featuring Barney Bigard on clarinet.
Next up are two down home style tunes. First, Zutty Singleton’s Creole Band, expanded from the previous group, plays “Crawfish Blues”. On the flip, “Cajun Love Song” is a neat side with a Cajun vocal by Irvin Vennet, and some fine guitar playing from Nappy LaMare.
On the third disc, Wingy Manone and his Dixieland Band play two hot ones on “The Tailgate Ramble” and “(I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My) Sister Kate”.
The last time we heard “At the Jazz Band Ball” it was played by Bud Freeman’s Chicagoans on another album set, personally, I believe this one by Nappy LaMare’s Louisiana Levee Loungers is better. On the grand finale of this set, LaMare’s band heats up on “High Society”.
Updated on July 24, 2017.