Madison 6002 – Cosmopolitan Dance Players/Levee Syncopators – 1930

My sincere apologies for the long delay in posting here, I was preoccupied with other matters and couldn’t find the time nor the inspiration to come up with anything good to say.  But, in the words of Douglas MacArthur, I have returned, and I will do my best to keep things moving along once again, starting with this rather obscure and mysterious jazz record.

The overwhelming bulk of material commonly seen on the Grey Gull labels (Grey Gull, Radiex, Madison, Van Dyke, etc.) consists of relatively uninteresting popular songs and old standards by singers or their own studio band, usually released under pseudonyms.  That isn’t to say they’re not good, I’m personally quite fond of the Grey Gull studio band with their wild and unusual arrangements, they’re just not terribly thrilling.  However, don’t be fooled, there are a few exceptional jazz gems to be found on those labels.  Many of these “sleeper” jazz tunes occupy the “B” side of popular songs.  We previously heard Cliff Jackson’s Krazy Kats play their unbelievably hot “Horse Feathers” on the back of an ordinary dimestore rendition of “Confessin’ (That I Love You)”.  This disc falls into the same category, featuring a hit pop song on the “A” side, and hot jazz on the reverse.

The “A” side of Madison 6002 was recorded in November of 1930, the “B” side was recorded on January 17, 1930, both in New York.  The first side features a standard Grey Gull studio band, while the flip is a little more interesting.

The “Cosmopolitan Dance Players” version of “The Little Things in Life”, featuring a vocal by Irving Kaufman, is really quite nice, certainly nothing to complain about.  A fine rendition of a fine Irving Berlin tune.

The Little Things in Life

The Little Things in Life, recorded November 1930 by the Cosmopolitan Dance Players.

On the reverse, a different hot band plays “The Rackett”.  It is generally accepted that the personnel of the “Levee Syncopators” is unknown, aside from the tune’s composer Claude Austin, who likely serves as pianist.  Brian Rust listed it as a studio group with Mike Mosiello and Andy Sannella, though the style doesn’t fit with theirs, and that hypothesis has often been dismissed.  At least one source suggests that it (along with several other hot and unknown Grey Gull bands) may have been made up of Walter Bennett on trumpet, Alberto Socarras on alto sax, Walter Edwards on clarinet and tenor sax, Austin on piano, and an unknown banjo player, similar to the lineups of Bennett’s Swamplanders and Gerald Clark’s Night Owls around the same time.  Listening to other sides featuring those musicians, it sounds plausible, but I cannot confirm one way or the other with any degree of certainty.  With Grey Gull’s ledgers presumably no longer in existence, it will likely remain shrouded in mystery.

The Rackett

The Rackett, recorded January 17, 1930 by the Levee Syncopators.

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.