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Monday, March 11, 2013

Jeep's Blues - Ike Carpenter & his Orch

The big band of Ike Carpenter was heavily influenced by the sound and style of Duke Ellington, even recording a cover version of that band's signature tune, "Take the 'A' Train," as well as other material heavily associated with the Duke, such as his son Mercer Ellington's nostalgic composition entitled "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." But the most famous record created by Carpenter and company during a decade of recording activity beginning in 1945 was "Pachuco Hop," a tribute to Mexican hipsters or hoodlums, depending on sociological perspective. Often treated to the Japanese-sounding spelling of "Pachuko Hop," this 1953 single originally released on the Alladin label features ear-withering trumpet soloing from a young Maynard Ferguson. Despite the assertion of some critics that the performances of Carpenter's bands lacked jazz content, excellent soloists were often showcased. The aforementioned version of "Take the 'A' Train," for example, highlights a fine tenor sax solo by Lucky Thompson. Carpenter grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and was apparently performing on piano in college bands during the mid- '30s when he would have only been about 13-years-old. Following his college graduation he performed with several bandleaders including Johnny Davis. From 1944, Carpenter worked as a pianist in bandleader Boyd Raeburn's first influential jazz outfit. This relationship lasted a bit more than a year, after which Carpenter started up the first of his own bands, basing himself on the east coast. He led an octet for the most part during this period, relocating to Hollywood in 1947. Carpenter crafted nearly two dozen different sides between then and the mid '50s. His large group was finally reduced to unwanted lumber in 1956; the pianist literally chilled out by going to work as accompanist for skaters in the Ice Capades for the next few years. Carpenter led some small groups in the late '50s, then basically seems to have shuttered his musical workshop. Record collectors from various camps of stylistic interest have in a small way kept the contents from going completely rusty. The band's output may have become too orientated toward pop music in the later years for serious jazz fans, yet these types of tracks have wound up appealing to a new breed of lounge and space age jazz fan. The Mothers of Invention, the first band to feature guitarist and composer Frank Zappa, would sometimes perform a cover version of "Pachuco Hop" in the '60s, particularly in the early Greenwich Village days when jazz heavies such as Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Archie Shepp would sit in. Carpenter's band is featured in two musical variety films from the '50s, Rhythm and Rhyme and Holiday Rhythm.   

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