We’ve got yet another birthday to celebrate today, that of the great trumpeter Bubber Miley. Miley was a excellent player noted for his use of the plunger mute.
James Wesley Miley was born April 3, 1903 in Aiken, South Carolina, and moved to New York City at the age of six. After serving in the Navy, Miley formed a jazz band called the Carolina Five (much in the vein of the Memphis Five or the Indiana Five, except that Miley actually was from Carolina), and played around New York and Chicago. In Chicago, Miley was inspired by the muted trumpet of King Oliver, and developed his own muted style of playing. In 1923, he joined Elmer Snowden’s Washingtonians, of which leadership was soon assumed by the band’s pianist, Duke Ellington, after a monetary dispute. Miley, along with trombone player “Tricky Sam” Nanton, are credited for developing the band’s “jungle sound”. Bubber remained with Ellington’s band until 1929, when his alcohol issues and general unreliability led to his replacement by Cootie Williams. After leaving Ellington, Miley toured Paris in Noble Sissle’s band, and once back home played with Leo Reisman’s dance band, and a number of jazz groups (possibly including King Oliver’s Victor orchestra). In 1930, he fronted a band billed as “Bubber Miley and his Mileage Makers” for three sessions with Victor. Much like his contemporary, Bix Beiderbecke, Miley saw a decline in his health in the early 1930s, and died of tuberculosis at New York’s Welfare Island on May 20, 1932. He was remembered by former band-mates as a joyful and carefree character.
Brunswick 3526 was recorded in two sessions in 1927, the first on April 7 and the second on April 30 in New York. The band’s personnel features Bubber Miley on the first side, June Clark on the second, and Louis Metcalf on trumpet, Joe” Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone, Edgar Sampson on alto sax, Otto Hardwicke on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, baritone sax, and bass sax, and another unknown reed man, Duke Ellington on piano, Fred Guy on banjo, Mack Shaw on tuba, and Sonny Greer on drums.
Duke and his band recorded his famous “Black and Tan Fantasy” quite a number of times, this is the first one, and one of only two, I believe, that feature the distinctive muted trumpet of the song’s co-writer, Bubber Miley. I would also recommend a look at Ellington’s 1929 motion picture of the same name.
Bubber doesn’t play on the other side of the record, which contains an excellent rendition of Rube Bloom’s “Soliloquy”.