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.

Victor 21274 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra – 1928

Whiteman's famous "Potato Head" emblem.

Whiteman’s famous “Potato Head” emblem.

On this day, March the twenty-eighth, we remember the the “King of Jazz” himself, the eminent Paul Whiteman, on the 126th anniversary of his birth.  To commemorate the occasion, I present one of his finest records, from the height of his fame, a time when his band contained the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, and so many other great figures of roaring twenties jazz.

Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado to a musical family.  His father, Wilberforce Whiteman, was a music instructor at the Denver County public schools, and at one point had as a pupil a young Andy Kirk, who later became the leader of the Twelve Clouds of Joy in Kansas City.  As a youngster, Paul took up the viola, and played in several symphony orchestras, and led a band in the U.S. Navy during the Great War.  After the war’s end, Whiteman started his own dance band, and began recording with Victor as “Paul Whiteman and his Ambassador Orchestra.”  His first record, featuring “Whispering” paired with “The Japanese Sandman”, was a great success, and started him on the path to fame.

Over the next years, Paul Whiteman was a mainstay in the Victor catalog, and his records sold well, but he did not achieve his greatest fame until the last years of the decade.  In 1924, Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, which he premiered with his concert orchestra at An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall in New York.  In 1927, Whiteman was able to hire away some of the top musicians from Jean Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke, and he also picked up the Rhythm Boys: Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and Bing Crosby.  By that time, he was making his name as the “King of Jazz” (the legitimacy of which is hotly debated), and was among the most famous names in music of the 1920s.  In 1930, the Whiteman band starred in a grand technicolor motion picture vaudeville revue entitled King of Jazz.  Into the Great Depression, Whiteman maintained his status for several years, introducing talent such as the charming Ramona (and her Grand Piano).  Eventually, as swing became king, Whiteman’s time in the limelight began to fade.  Though he made several generally immemorable swing records, and appeared on the first issue of Johnny Mercer’s Capitol Records in 1942, he never returned to the fame he knew in the 1920s.  Whiteman continued to lead bands sporadically into his twilight years, and died of a heart attack in 1967.

Victor 21274 was recorded in two separate sessions in 1928, the first on February 18, and the second ten days later on February 28.  The band, featuring some of the top white jazz talent of the day, included Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, Eddie Pinder on trumpet, Bill Rank on trombone, Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody sax, Chester Hazlett on alto sax. Izzy Friedman on clarinet, Charles Strickfaden on tenor sax, Roy Bargy on piano, Min Leibrook on tuba, Mike Pingatore on banjo, Mike Trafficante on string bass, and Hal McDonald on drums.

One of the great classics introduced by Whiteman’s orchestra, and a mainstay of his repertoire was Harry Barris’ “Mississippi Mud”.  The outstanding vocals on this side are provided by Miss Irene Taylor, assisted by the Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker, and a second vocal trio consisting of Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, and Austin Young.  This is take “3” of this side, take “2” was later issued on Victor 25366.

Mississippi Mud, recorded February 18, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

On “From Monday On”, another Harry Barris composition, Bing takes the lead vocal, backed up by the same group featured on the first side.  This side is take “6”, take “4” was later issued on Victor 25368 and take “3” appeared on Victor 27688.

From Monday On, recorded February 28, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

Really fine tunes, both of them.

Updated on May 31, 2018.

Vocalion 3150 – Bix Beiderbecke – 1927


Bix Beiderbecke, circa mid-1920s. From Jazzmen, 1939.

March 10th marks the 113th birthday of the Patron Saint of Jazz, one of the greatest musical geniuses of the twentieth century, the one and only Bix Beiderbecke.

Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (some sources claim his full middle name was Bismark, others say it was properly Bix) was born March 10, 1903 in Davenport, Iowa.  Hearing the jazz music on the riverboats that ran from New Orleans to Chicago, Bix had an affinity for music from an early age, and played with a number of bands as early as high school.  Bix was inspired to take up the cornet after his brother Burnie returned from his service in the Great War, bringing home a phonograph and some records by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, at which point Bix was hooked.  He started recording with Dick Voynow’s territory band, the Wolverine Orchestra for Gennett, and later with the Bucktown Five and his own band, the Rhythm Jugglers.  In 1926, Bix was hired by Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra in Chicago, but was fired shortly thereafter due to his inability to read music.  He was rehired soon after, having brushed up on music reading, and played with many other jazz greats in Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer (his frequent collaborator), Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, and the Dorsey Brothers. As Goldkette’s orchestra fell on hard times, Paul Whiteman hired away many of his top men, including Bix, to play in his orchestra, the most popular dance band of the day.  All the while, Bix recorded hot (and sometimes cool) jazz tunes with Frankie Trumbauer’s and his own band for Okeh.  Bix had only two loves in his life, music and booze, and unfortunately, the latter was taking his life away.

In 1928, Bix suffered a nervous breakdown, brought on by an attempt to lessen his alcohol intake, and was forced to take leave of Whiteman’s band to recover at his home in Davenport.  He returned to Whiteman’s orchestra in 1929, and traveled to Hollywood to appear with the band in King of Jazz, though he instead took the opportunity to drink with Bing Crosby, and did not appear in the picture.  He once again returned to his home, and spent some time in a sanatarium, hoping to recover from his sickness. Paul Whiteman kept his chair in the band open, hoping for Bix’s return.  After that, Bix made only a handful more recordings with an assortment of different groups.  In his final recording session, on September 15, 1930, Bix played in Hoagy Carmichael’s band for the first recording of “Georgia On My Mind”.  On a hot summer night in his apartment in Queens, Death came a-rapping for Bix Beiderbecke.  On August 6, 1931, Bix practiced his piano into the night, around 9:30, he had a fit of delirium, believing that a gang of Mexicans under his bead was trying to kill him.  His screams alerted a neighbor, who hurried across the hall to see what was wrong.  Bix told him of what he saw, and dropped dead in his arms.

Vocalion 3150 was recorded September 9 and 17, 1927 in New York City by Bix Beiderbecke.  It was originally issued on Okeh 40916, with the Vocalion 3150 reissue released around 1935, though this pressing dates to around 1938 or ’39.  If anything, this late pressing, in exquisite condition, might well offer better playback than the original 1927 issue, as those pressings tend to develop lamination cracks around the edges, often causing a background rumble in playback.

On this disc, Bix plays “In a Mist”, also sometimes known (on the British issue, for instance) as “Bixology”, the only recorded piece of his Modern Piano Suite, which also included “In the Dark”, “Candlelights”, and “Flashes” (all of which can be found on Rivermont Records’ special edition 78 RPM release played by Bryan Wright.)

In a Mist

In a Mist, recorded September 9, 1927 by Bix Beiderbecke.

On the reverse, Beiderbecke is joined by Frankie Trumbauer and Eddie Lang to play “Wringin’ an’ Twistin'” in their three piece band, with Bix doubling on cornet and piano.

Wringin' an' Twistin'

Wringin’ an’ Twistin’, recorded September 17, 1927 by Tram – Bix and Lang.

Victor 25494 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra – 1930

This record, one I’ve been on the lookout for for quite a while, arrived just in time for Hoagy Carmichael’s 116th birthday, and I know of no better occasion to feature it here than that.

Hoagland Howard Carmichael was born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  One of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, he is remembered for many enduring compositions including “Washboard Blues”, “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia (On My Mind)”, “Lazy River”, and so many more.  Carmichael graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1926, but after playing with a student band, he soon turned to music instead. Hoagy made his first recordings for the Indiana-based Gennett Records with Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists in 1925.  Over his long career, Carmichael became one of America’s foremost songwriters, and worked with such personalities as Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.  Hoagy Carmichel died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Victor 25494 is a 1936 master pressed reissue made up of sides originally from two different discs, recorded on May 21, 1930 and September 15, 1930 in New York.  Both sides feature different, but equally star studded personnel in the band.  Hoagy does the vocal on both sides, and both feature the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, in two of his last recording sessions.

“Rockin’ Chair” was originally issued on Victor V-38139 and features the musical talent of Bix on cornet, plus Bubber Miley on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Arnold Brilhart on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Hoagy on organ, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Gene Krupa on drums.

Rockin' Chair, recorded

Rockin’ Chair, recorded May 21, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

On the original recording of Carmichael’s famous “Georgia (On My Mind)”, originally issued on Victor 23013, the musicians present are Bix on cornet once again, with Ray Lodwig on trumpet, Jack Teagarden and Boyce Cullen on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone (though I honestly don’t hear a bass sax here), and Chauncey Morehouse on drums.  This was Bix’s final recording session.

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded September 15, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.