Columbia 14258-D – Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band – 1927

Of all the hundreds of bands to record jazz, there were only a relative handful that stayed home in New Orleans instead of traveling away to Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York, and were recorded playing what might be described as pure, unadulterated jazz, perhaps akin to what was played by the legendary Buddy Bolden’s band.  Among the New Orleans hometown bands were those of Armand J. Piron, “Papa” Oscar Celestin, and among the finest of them all, Sam Morgan.

In spite of Morgan’s excellence in music, not much is known about his life.  He was born in Bertrandville, Louisiana in the late part of the nineteenth century—most sources state 1895, others offer the date of December 18, 1887.  Part of a musical family, his younger brothers Isaiah “Ike”, Al, and Andrew also turned out to be musicians.  Sam, like his brother Ike and so many New Orleans greats, took up the cornet.  Morgan grew up playing in the brass bands in Plaquemines Parish, and took up residence in New Orleans in the mid-1910s, where he became the director of the Magnolia Brass Band.  A stroke around 1925 forced a year of convalescence, but he soon returned to music as a member of Ike’s band, the leadership of which soon became his own.  With a sound characterized by a strong reed section at the forefront and a walking bass plucked out on the bullfiddle, Morgan’s band became a popular group in the Crescent City, as Morgan touted in his verse of the eponymous song: “ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout Sammy, ’cause Morgan’s got the best go here.”  Their repertoire consisted of both hot jazz tunes like “Mobile Stomp” and “Bogalousa Strut” (both of which incidentally drew their names from nearby towns) and traditional hymns and negro spirituals like “Over in the Glory Land” and “Down By the Riverside”.  On the side, Morgan ran some kind of a treasure-hunting service.  When the Columbia Phonograph Company made a field trip to New Orleans in April of 1927, Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band cut four sides at Werlein’s Music Store, followed by another four that October.  Morgan continued to lead his band until 1932, when he suffered a second stroke that put him out of music permanently.  Following several years of ill health, Sam Morgan died on February 25, 1936.

Columbia 14258-D—in the “race” series—was recorded on April 14, 1927 at Werlein’s Music Store on Canal Street in New Orleans.  The band consists of Sam Morgan and Isaiah “Ike” Morgan on cornets, Big Jim Robinson on trombone, Earl Fouche on alto sax, Andrew Morgan on clarinet and tenor sax, Tink Baptiste on piano, Johnny Davis on banjo, Sidney Brown on string bass, and Nolan Williams on drums.

On the first side—also the first recorded at Morgan’s first session—is “Steppin’ On the Gas”, a different piece than the 1925 tune of the same name that Jimmie O’Bryant recorded for Paramount.

Steppin’ On the Gas, recorded April 14, 1927 by Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band.

On the reverse, they play another hot Sam Morgan composition: “Mobile Stomp”.

Mobile Stomp, recorded April 14, 1927 by Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band.

Victor 19639 – Connie Boswell/Boswell Sisters – 1925

In 1925, the Boswell Sisters had made quite a name for themselves in their hometown of New Orleans.  Three years prior, they had won a talent contest for WAAB radio, which earned them a three day gig at the Palace Theatre.  They were regularly engaged around town, particularly at functions of the Young Men’s Gymnastic Club, whose promotive director had taken a shine to the Bozzies.  It was a YMGC function where the sisters were noticed by vaudeville headliners Van and Schenck, who were at the time playing at the Orpheum.  They loved the Boswells’ act, and promised to pull some strings in their favor when they returned to New York.  Very soon after that, they cut their first record.  E.T. King of the Victor Talking Machine Company was in town with mobile recording equipment, just in from Houston on the first such “field trip” they ever made (though not the first recording session held in New Orleans).  The Boswell Sisters were the first artists to record for Victor in New Orleans, they cut three sides, “You Can Call Me Baby All the Time”, “I’m Gonna Cry (The Cryin’ Blues)”, and “Pal o’ Mine” on March 22, 1925, followed by “Dad” and “Nights When I Am Lonely” on the 25th.  Only two of those five were issued.  Other artists to record on the historic New Orleans field trip were Tony Parenti’s Famous Melody Boys, Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.  Reportedly the Boswells’ record was mistaken for a “race” record, and as a result kept out of many record stores.  Nonetheless, the sisters were eager to head to Camden and cut a few more, though fate held them in New Orleans until 1928.

Victor 19639 was recorded on March 22 and 25, 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  These recordings were made acoustically, shortly before Victor commenced mainstream electrical recording (though they had made several prior to these).  It is the Boswell Sisters first record, as well as their only record made in the 1920s.

Tragically, this record arrived in my possession broken in three pieces, the result of incompetent packing (one of the worst jobs I’ve ever seen), and can be seen on the “wall of shame” on Old Time Blues’ guide to packing 78s.  I couldn’t allow a record this rare and this great to remain in pieces however, so I set about repairing it.  After warming up by repairing two other broken discs, I carefully lined up the grooves, setting the pieces as tightly together as possible, and superglued the edges and run-out to hold it together.  Fortunately, it tracked, and played with clicks.  After transferring, I painstakingly removed every click the cracks caused, and equalized out the rest of the thumps.  The end result exceeded my every expectation of what this broken record could sound like.  A few slight clicks still remain, but I believe you’ll find that it sounds quite clean, all things considered (seeing as it has the equivalent of four cracks to the label in it).

First, in the style of her idol Mamie Smith, seventeen-year-old Connie belts out “I’m Gonna Cry (Cryin’ Blues)”, accompanied on piano by her sister Martha.  Young Vet joins in later on to help Connie vocally imitate a hot instrumental break.

I'm Gonna Cry (Cryin' Blues)

I’m Gonna Cry (Cryin’ Blues), recorded March 22, 1925 by Connie Boswell.

Next, all the sisters join in on “Nights When I Am Lonely”, which features the Bozzies’ trademark style of scat known as “-ggling” (that’s pronounced “gulling”).  On this side, they are accompanied on piano by Vitaly Lubowski, who had recorded the previous day with Tony Parenti’s Famous Melody Boys.

Nights When I Am Lonely

Nights When I Am Lonely, recorded March 25, 1925 by the Boswell Sisters.

Columbia 636-D – Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra – 1926

Happy New Year 2016 from Old Time Blues!  January 1st also marks the 132nd anniversary of New Orleans cornet great Oscar “Papa” Celestin, so here’s some fine jazz by his Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, I believe from his first electric recording session, though he did make some acoustic recordings prior to this one.

Columbia 636-D was recorded April 13, 1926 on location in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The band includes Oscar “Papa” Celestin on cornet, August Rousseau on trombone, Paul “Polo” Barnes on clarinet and alto sax, Earl Pierson on tenor sax, Jeanette Salvant on piano, John Marrero on banjo, and Abby Foster on drums.  Charles Gills sings the vocal on “My Josephine”.

Charles Gills sings the vocal refrain on “My Josephine”, a composition by reedman Paul Barnes.

My Josephine, recorded

My Josephine, recorded April 13, 1926 by Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra.

“Station Calls” is a hot instrumental number composed by banjoist John Marrero; New Orleans jazz through and through.

Station Calls, recorded

Station Calls, recorded April 13, 1926 by Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra.

Vocalion 2796 – Joseph Robechaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys – 1933

Joseph Robichaux (spelled on the labels of his records with an “e”), born March 8, 1900, was a New Orleans jazz pianist noted for playing with fellow luminaries such as Oscar “Papa” Celestin, and Lee Collins.  First recording as a pianist for blues singer Christina Gray in 1929 in New Orleans, Robichaux organized the New Orleans Rhythm Boys in 1931.  After being “discovered” by a talent scout, the band traveled to New York to record with the American Record Corporation in their studios at 35 West 43rd Street.  In five sessions over five consecutive days, Robichaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys recorded twenty-four hot jazz sides, of which twenty-two were issued, ten Vocalions and one budget release with vocalist Chick Bullock fronting the band.

Robichaux’ Rhythm Boys were an excellent band and featured virtuosic musicianship, exemplified by the percussion work of Ward Crosby, who began each recording with a signature rhythmic “tap tap tap” that lent to the group’s unique sound.  After these sessions, Robichaux and his band would record again with Decca in 1936, but no records were issued.  Although the band continued to perform until 1939, and he performed on numerous recordings as a sideman, the 1933 sessions yielded Robichaux’ only commercially released records as bandleader.  After the group disbanded, Robichaux continued to play as an sideman until his death on January 17, 1965.

Vocalion 2796 was recorded on August 22, 1933 in New York City, at the New Orleans Rhythm Boys’ first of their five consecutive recording sessions for the American Record Corporation.  The band features Robichaux on piano, Eugene Ware on trumpet, Alfred Guishard on clarinet and alto sax, Gene Porter on clarinet and tenor sax, Walter Williams on guitar, and Ward Crosby on drums.

On the first side, Robichaux’ boys play “Saturday Night Fish Fry Drag”, of no relation to the almost identically named Louis Jordan hit of 1949, with two unknown band members doing the vocals at the beginning.

Saturday Night Fish Fry Drag, recorded August 22, 1933 by Joseph Robechaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys.

Saturday Night Fish Fry Drag, recorded August 22, 1933 by Joseph Robechaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys.

The hot jazz instrumental “Foot Scuffle” seems to be one of the less commonly reissued sides from Robichaux’ 1933 sessions, although I can’t imagine why, it’s a great number, and appears to have been the preferred side of this record’s original owner.

Foot Scuffle, recorded August 22, 1933 by Joseph Robechaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys.

Foot Scuffle, recorded August 22, 1933 by Joseph Robechaux and his New Orleans Rhythm Boys.