Okeh 40843 – Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra – 1927

This time last year, following much (internal) debate, we celebrated the day of Benny Goodman’s birth.  Now, come May 30th once again, it’s time to give Mr. Frankie Trumbauer his time in the spotlight, on his 115th birthday.

Frankie Trumbauer was born of Cherokee heritage in Carbondale, Illinois on May 30, 1901, the son of musical director.  Tram took up the C-melody saxophone, and played early on with Ray Miller and Edgar Benson, and the Mound City Blue Blowers.  He later became an important member of Jean Goldkette’s orchestra around 1926, and brought Bix Beiderbecke along with him.  While working with Goldkette, and later with Paul Whiteman, Trumbauer led his own orchestra on a series of legendary jazz records for Okeh, with Bix, Eddie Lang, and other important jazzmen often in the band.  Much of the music he recorded in that period is considered a predecessor to cool jazz.  After finishing his engagement with Okeh, Trumbauer’s orchestra recorded for a number of other labels.  During World War II, Tram took leave from music to fly for North American Aviation.  After the war’s end, he continued to record sporadically, but never so much as he had before.  Frankie Trumbauer died of a heart attack in Kansas City, Missouri in 1956.

Okeh 40843 was recorded May 13, 1927 in New York City.  The band features the astounding talent of Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, Bill Rank on trombone, Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody saxophone, Don Murray on clarinet and baritone sax, Don Ryker on alto sax, Irving Riskin on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar and banjo, and Chauncey Morehouse on drums and harpophone.

Perhaps one of the most important and influential sides by Tram and Bix is “I’m Coming Virginia”, with Eddie Lang’s distinctive guitar adding a great deal to the already outstanding ensemble.

I'm Coming Virginia, recorded

I’m Coming Virginia, recorded May 13, 1927 by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra.

On the flip, the Creamer and Layton standard “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” is given superb treatment by Tram, Bix, and the gang.  Unfortunately, this side is marred by a tight but troublesome crack that causes some thumps and clicks.

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, recorded

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, recorded May 13, 1927 by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra.

Updated with improved audio on October 14, 2017.

Black Swan 2005 – Lulu Whidby – 1921

In honor of Black History Month, I present to you a Black Swan phonograph record, from the first line “race records” made by and for African American people, featuring the early sounds of vaudevillian female blues, with an early appearance by Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra.

The story of Black Swan began during the Harlem Renaissance in 1920, when few black entertainers were afforded opportunities to record for any of the major record labels.  A man by the name of Harry Herbert Pace, previously a business partner of W.C. Handy, founded the Pace Phonograph Corporation in New York, and began to produce phonographs and records.  Pace also brought in a young song plugger from Handy’s company to serve as recording director and leader of the house orchestra, Fletcher Henderson.  Early on, Pace had difficulty finding a company that would agree to press records from the masters he recorded.  Eventually, Pace was able to contract his record pressing to the Wisconsin Chair Company of Port Washington, Wisconsin, makers of Paramount records.  From 1921 to 1923, Black Swan offered records recorded by black entertainers and intended for black audiences.  Some of the top artists on Black Swan included Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, and W.C. Handy’s Band.  Unfortunately, the company folded at the end of 1923, and all of their assets were purchased by Paramount Records, who began their 12000 legendary race records series shortly thereafter, reissuing many recordings from Black Swan on some of the earliest releases.

Black Swan 2005 was recorded circa April 1921 in New York City by Lulu Whidby with Henderson’s Novelty Orchestra.  It was later reissued on Paramount 12127, and also appeared on Claxtonola 40055.  The early Fletcher Henderson band includes Chink Johnson or George Brashear on trombone, Edgar Campbell on clarinet, probably Cordy Williams on violin, Fletcher Henderson on piano, and possibly John Mitchell or Sam Speed on banjo; the trumpet and tuba players are unknown.  It has been suggested that Garvin Bushell played clarinet at this session, but he did not recall participating.

It has been suggested that the standard 78.26 RPM is too fast for this record, and I can agree to that.  If anyone has a suggestion as to what the correct speed may be, I’ll add new transfers with it corrected.

First, Lulu Whidby sings the classic Harry Creamer and Turner Layton song, “Strut Miss Lizzie”.

Strut Miss Lizzie

Strut Miss Lizzie, recorded circa April 1921 by Lulu Whidby.

On the reverse, Whidby sings Irving Berlin’s “Home Again Blues”.  Henderson’s orchestra really shines on this one.

HomeAgainBlues

Home Again Blues, recorded circa April 1921 by Lulu Whidby.