Brunswick 3526 – The Washingtonians – 1927

We’ve got yet another birthday to celebrate today, that of the great trumpeter Bubber Miley.  Miley was a excellent player noted for his use of the plunger mute.

Duke Ellington’s Washintonians with Bubber Miley (second from right). From Jazzmen, 1939.

James Wesley Miley was born April 3, 1903 in Aiken, South Carolina, and moved to New York City at the age of six.  After serving in the Navy, Miley formed a jazz band called the Carolina Five (much in the vein of the Memphis Five or the Indiana Five, except that Miley actually was from Carolina), and played around New York and Chicago.  In Chicago, Miley was inspired by the muted trumpet of King Oliver, and developed his own muted style of playing.  In 1923, he joined Elmer Snowden’s Washingtonians, of which leadership was soon assumed by the band’s pianist, Duke Ellington, after a monetary dispute.  Miley, along with trombone player “Tricky Sam” Nanton, are credited for developing the band’s “jungle sound”.  Bubber remained with Ellington’s band until 1929, when his alcohol issues and general unreliability led to his replacement by Cootie Williams.  After leaving Ellington, Miley toured Paris in Noble Sissle’s band, and once back home played with Leo Reisman’s dance band, and a number of jazz groups (possibly including King Oliver’s Victor orchestra).  In 1930, he fronted a band billed as “Bubber Miley and his Mileage Makers” for three sessions with Victor.  Much like his contemporary, Bix Beiderbecke, Miley saw a decline in his health in the early 1930s, and died of tuberculosis at New York’s Welfare Island on May 20, 1932.  He was remembered by former band-mates as a joyful and carefree character.

Brunswick 3526 was recorded in two sessions in 1927, the first on April 7 and the second on April 30 in New York.  The band’s personnel features Bubber Miley on the first side, June Clark on the second, and Louis Metcalf on trumpet, Joe” Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone, Edgar Sampson on alto sax, Otto Hardwicke on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, baritone sax, and bass sax, and another unknown reed man, Duke Ellington on piano, Fred Guy on banjo, Mack Shaw on tuba, and Sonny Greer on drums.

Duke and his band recorded his famous “Black and Tan Fantasy” quite a number of times, this is the first one, and one of only two, I believe, that feature the distinctive muted trumpet of the song’s co-writer, Bubber Miley.  I would also recommend a look at Ellington’s 1929 motion picture of the same name.

Black and Tan Fantasy

Black and Tan Fantasy, recorded April 7, 1927 by the Washingtonians.

Bubber doesn’t play on the other side of the record, which contains an excellent rendition of Rube Bloom’s “Soliloquy”.


Soliloquy, recorded April 30, 1927 by the Washingtonians.

Bluebird B-6415 – Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – 1927/1928

In celebration of fifty “likes” on our Facebook page, we’ll have a jubilee here at Old Time Blues, and what better way to than with the hot jazz of Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Orchestra on two of their hottest for Victor records.

Bluebird B-6415 was recorded on two separate occasions, the first side on March 26, 1928 and the second on December 19, 1927, both in New York City.  The “A” side was originally issued on Victor 21580 and “B” on Victor 21490 and again on 22985.

Given the two record dates, the two sides feature different personnel in the band.  The first includes Arthur Whetsel, Bubber Miley, and Louis Metcalf in the trumpet section, “Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone, Barney Bigard on clarinet and tenor sax, Otto Hardwicke on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, baritone sax, and bass sax, Harry Carney on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and baritone sax, Duke Ellington on piano, Fred Guy on banjo, Wellman Braud on string bass, and Sonny Greer on drums.  The second features  Miley and Metcalf on trumpets, Tricky Sam on trombone, Rudy Jackson on clarinet and alto sax, Otto Hardwicke and Harry Carney on all the same reeds as the first side, and Ellington, Guy, Braud, and Greer in the same positions as the previous.

One of Ellington’s best, “Jubilee Stomp” was played in 2011’s The Artist, albeit on a disgustingly inaccurate phonograph.

Jubilee Stomp

Jubilee Stomp, recorded March 26, 1928 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.

On “Blue Bubbles”, Ellington shares composer credit with Bubber Miley, and the piece bares some stylistic resemblance to another of Miley’s works, “Black and Tan Fantasy”.

Blue Bubbles

Blue Bubbles, recorded December 19, 1927 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.