Victor 21491 – Charles Johnson’s Paradise Ten/Lloyd Scott’s Orchestra – 1928

In honor of “King” Benny Carter’s birthday, here’s an outstanding Harlem jazz record featuring one of his earliest recorded appearances, as well as a taste of his arranging talent.

Bennett Lester Carter was born in Harlem on August 8, 1907.  As a child, he was taught piano by his mother, and was later inspired to by Bubber Miley to buy a trumpet.  When he couldn’t play like Miley, he decided to take up the saxophone instead.  Growing up playing jazz with the Harlem greats, Carter first recorded in 1928 with Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten, and played with Fletcher Henderson in the early 1930s.  In 1931, he took over leadership of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers from Don Redman, who left to form his own orchestra, and followed in his footsteps the next year with a band of his own.  In the 1930s, he began recording with a band under the moniker of the Chocolate Dandies, which had been previously used by a number of others.  In 1935, as Louis Armstrong and a number of other jazz musicians had done previously, Carter traveled to Europe, where he played with the Ramblers, Django Reinhardt, and others before returning to the States in 1938.  After returning home, he led another band and arranged prolifically.  In 1942, Freddie Slack’s Orchestra made a hit with “Cow Cow Boogie”, which Carter wrote with Gene de Paul and Don Raye, and he moved to the West Coast in 1943.  In 1973, Carter was a visiting professor at Princeton University for a semester.  He continued to play until his retirement in 1997, bringing an end to an eight decade career, and he died in 2003 at the age of 95.

Victor 21491 was recorded January 24 and 10, 1928, respectively, in New York City.  The Paradise Ten are made up of Jabbo Smith and Leonard Davis on trumpets Charlie Irvis on trombone, Benny Carter and Edgar Sampson on clarinet and alto sax, Elmer Harrell on clarinet and tenor sax, Charlie Johnson on piano, Bobby Johnson on banjo, Cyrus St. Clair on tuba, George Stafford on drums.  Lloyd Scott’s orchestra on the flip-side consists of Gus McClung and Kenneth A. Roane on trumpet, Dicky Wells on trombone John Williams and Fletcher Allen on clarinet and alto sax, Cecil Scott on clarinet, tenor sax, and baritone sax, Don Frye on piano, Hubert Mann on piano, Chester Campbell on tuba, and Lloyd Scott on drums.

Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten took their name from Small’s Paradise in Harlem, where they played.  Among their alumni were such luminaries as Jabbo Smith and Benny Carter, who made his first recordings with the band.  Their superb “Charleston is the Best Dance After All” was arranged by Benny Carter.

Charleston is the Best Dance After All

Charleston is the Best Dance After All, recorded January 24, 1928 by Charles Johnson’s Paradise Ten.

Lloyd Scott’s Orchestra was another excellent Harlem band, that featured John Williams (husband of Mary Lou Williams) and Dicky Wells.  Here they play trumpeter Kenneth A. Roane’s “Harlem Shuffle”.

Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle, recorded January 10, 1928 by Lloyd Scott’s Orchestra.

Madison 5098 – Lew Gold and his Orchestra/Tuxedo Syncopators – 1930

This record, a split release on Grey Gull’s Madison label, one of the later issues on the label, is interesting for a number of reasons.  The first thing that sticks out about it is the color.  Rather than the typical black, or slightly less typical red, it is pressed in dark brown shellac, one of several atypical shades used by Madison (though you can’t see that here thanks to the limitations of my format, so I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for that part).  Most interesting, though, is the unusual pairing of songs; popular fox-trot on one side, and hot jazz on the other.  This record is one of a handful of super hot jazz records made by Grey Gull in their later years, many of which could be considered among the hottest jazz put to record.

Madison 5098 was recorded in two separate sessions in New York City, the first side in December of 1929 (the precise date being unknown), and the second on January 30, 1930.  As was often the case with records produced by the Grey Gull company, the “B” side was also released on a number of other labels, appearing on Grey Gull and Globe 1839, Radiex 923, and Van Dyke 81839, while this one appears to be the only release of the “A” side.

On side “A”, you find an elegant sweet dance band rendition of the classic “Confessin’ (That I Love You)” by Lew (or more commonly “Lou”) Gold and his Orchestra, with a vocal refrain by popular studio vocalist Paul Small.  Turn the record over however, and you’ll find something quite different…

Confessin' (That I Love You), recorded December 1929 by Lew Gold and his Orchestra.

Confessin’ (That I Love You), recorded December 1929 by Lew Gold and his Orchestra.

Cliff Jackson, circa 1939. From Eddie Condon's Scrapbook of Jazz.

Cliff Jackson, circa 1939. From Eddie Condon’s Scrapbook of Jazz.

On the reverse, you’re greeted by a red hot roaring Harlem jazz number by a band under a rather typical Grey Gull pseudonym, “Tuxedo Syncopators”.  In actuality, it is stride pianist Cliff Jackson and his Crazy Kats (as their name appeared on non-pseudonymous record labels, i.e. not “Krazy Kats”), a band once considered one of the hottest in Harlem, who played at the Lenox Club on 652 Lenox Ave, a popular night spot for members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra.

“Horse Feathers” was the first recorded side at the first session by the Krazy Kats, who include, besides Cliff Jackson at the piano, Henry Goodwin playing exceptionally hot trumpet and singing the amazing scat vocal, Melvin Herbert on second trumpet, Waymon “Noisy” Richardson on trombone, Rudy Powell on clarinet and alto sax, Earl Evans on alto sax, Horace Langhorn providing tenor saxophone, Andy Jackson on banjo, Percy Johnson on the drums, and Chester Campbell providing the romping tuba bass.  This is take “A” of two existing takes.

Horse Feathers, recorded January 30, 1930 by Tuxedo Syncopators.

Updated on June 24, 2016 and June 13, 2018, and with improved audio on July 16, 2017.