My sincere apologies for the long delay in posting here, I was preoccupied with other matters and couldn’t find the time nor the inspiration to come up with anything good to say. But, in the words of Douglas MacArthur, I have returned, and I will do my best to keep things moving along once again, starting with this rather obscure and mysterious jazz record.
The overwhelming bulk of material commonly seen on the Grey Gull labels (Grey Gull, Radiex, Madison, Van Dyke, etc.) consists of relatively uninteresting popular songs and old standards by singers or their own studio band, usually released under pseudonyms. That isn’t to say they’re not good, I’m personally quite fond of the Grey Gull studio band with their wild and unusual arrangements, they’re just not terribly thrilling. However, don’t be fooled, there are a few exceptional jazz gems to be found on those labels. Many of these “sleeper” jazz tunes occupy the “B” side of popular songs. We previously heard Cliff Jackson’s Krazy Kats play their unbelievably hot “Horse Feathers” on the back of an ordinary dimestore rendition of “Confessin’ (That I Love You)”. This disc falls into the same category, featuring a hit pop song on the “A” side, and hot jazz on the reverse.
The “A” side of Madison 6002 was recorded in November of 1930, the “B” side was recorded on January 17, 1930, both in New York. The first side features a standard Grey Gull studio band, while the flip is a little more interesting.
The “Cosmopolitan Dance Players” version of “The Little Things in Life”, featuring a vocal by Irving Kaufman, is really quite nice, certainly nothing to complain about. A fine rendition of a fine Irving Berlin tune.
It is generally accepted that the personnel of the “Levee Syncopators” is unknown, aside from the tune’s composer Claude Austin, who likely serves as pianist. Brian Rust listed it as a studio group with Mike Mosiello and Andy Sannella, though the style doesn’t fit with theirs, and that hypothesis has often been dismissed. At least one source suggests that it (along with several other hot and unknown Grey Gull bands) may have been made up of Walter Bennett on trumpet, Alberto Socarras on alto sax, Walter Edwards on clarinet and tenor sax, Austin on piano, and an unknown banjo player, similar to the lineups of Bennett’s Swamplanders and Gerald Clark’s Night Owls around the same time. Listening to other sides featuring those musicians, it sounds plausible, but I cannot confirm one way or the other with any degree of certainty. With Grey Gull’s ledgers presumably no longer in existence, it will likely remain shrouded in mystery.