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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Pee Wee Russell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pee Wee Russell. Show all posts

Saturday, May 11, 2013

When I Grow Too Old To Dream - J.C.Higginbotham w/ Coleman Hawkins

An extroverted trombonist with a sound of his own, J.C. Higginbotham was heard at his best during the late '20s and early '30s, when he was one of the stars with Luis Russell's orchestra. From that point on, he went gradually downhill due to being an alcoholic, but he had worthy moments along the way. He started his career playing in territory bands in the Midwest. Higginbotham was with Russell (1928-1931) for some classic recordings, including a few sessions backing Louis Armstrong, and two songs on which he fronted the orchestra under the title of "J.C. Higginbotham and His Six Hicks." Higginbotham was a featured soloist with the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb, and Benny Carter during the next six years, before re-joining Russell's band when it was playing a purely supportive role behind Armstrong (1937-1940); he had a few solos on Satch's better records of the period. Having teamed up with Red Allen while with Luis Russell, Higginbotham happily joined Allen's hot jump band for a long stint (1940-1947). Higginbotham spent a few years in obscurity, led his own groups in the mid-'50s, and re-joined Allen for a residency at the Metropole that lasted until 1963. He led sessions for Sonet (1962) and Jazzology (1966), but continued his decline until his death.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pee Wee Russell

Charles Ellsworth Russell, much better known by his nickname Pee Wee Russell, (27 March 1906 – 15 February 1969) was a jazz musician. Early in his career he played clarinet and saxophones, but he eventually focused solely on clarinet. With a highly individualistic and spontaneous clarinet style that "defied classification", Russell began his career playing Dixieland jazz, but throughout his career incorporated elements of newer developments such as swing, bebop and free jazz. In the words of Philip Larkin, "No one familiar with the characteristic excitement of his solos, their lurid, snuffling, asthmatic voicelessness, notes leant on till they split, and sudden passionate intensities, could deny the uniqueness of his contribution to jazz." Pee Wee Russell was born in Maplewood, Missouri and grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma. As a child, he first studied violin, but "couldn't get along with it",then piano, disliking the scales and chord exercises, and then drums – including all the associated special effects. Then his father sneaked young Ellsworth into a dance at the local Elks Club to a four- or five-piece band led by New Orleans jazz clarinetist Alcide "Yellow" Nunez. Russell was amazed by Nunez's improvisations: "[He] played the melody, then got hot and played jazz. That was something. How did he know where he was or where he was going?" Pee Wee now decided that his primary instrument would be the clarinet, and the type of music he would play would be jazz. He approached the clarinettist in the pit band at the local theatre for lessons, and bought an Albert-system instrument. His teacher was named Charlie Merrill, and used to pop out for shots of corn whiskey during lessons. His family moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1920, and that September Russell was enrolled in the Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois. He remained enrolled there until October the following year, though he spent most of his time playing clarinet with various dance and jazz bands. He began touring professionally in 1922, and travelled widely with tent shows and on river boats. Russell's recording debut was in 1924 with Herb Berger's Band in St. Louis, then he moved to Chicago, where he began playing with such notables as Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke. From his earliest career, Russell's style was distinctive. The notes he played were somewhat unorthodox when compared to his contemporaries, and he was sometimes accused of playing out of tune. In 1926 he joined Jean Goldkette's band, and the following year he left for New York City to join Red Nichols. While with Nichols's band, Russell did frequent freelance recording studio work, on clarinet, soprano, alto and tenor sax, and bass clarinet. He worked with various bandleaders (including Louis Prima) before beginning a series of residences at the famous jazz club "Nick's" in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, in 1937. He played with Bobby Hackett's big band, and began playing with Eddie Condon, with whom he would continue to work, off and on, for much of the rest of his life – though he complained, "Those guys [at Nick's and Condon's] made a joke, of me, a clown, and I let myself be treated that way because I was afraid. I didn't know where else to go, where to take refuge". From the 1940s on, Russell's health was often poor, exacerbated by alcoholism – "I lived on brandy milkshakes and scrambled-egg sandwiches. And on whiskey ... I had to drink half a pint of whiskey in the morning before I could get out of bed" – which led to a major medical breakdown in 1951, and he had periods when he could not play. Some people considered that his style was different after his breakdown: Larkin characterized it as "a hollow feathery tone framing phrases of an almost Chinese introspection with a tendency to inconclusive garrulity that would have been unheard of in the days when Pee Wee could pack more into a middle eight than any other thirties pick-up player". He played with Art Hodes, Muggsy Spanier and occasionally bands under his own name in addition to Condon. In his last decade, Russell often played at jazz festivals and international tours organized by George Wein, including an appearance with Thelonious Monk at the 1963 Newport Festival, a meeting which has a mixed reputation (currently available as part of the Monk 2CD set Live at Newport 1963–65). Russell formed a quartet with valve trombone player Marshall Brown, and included John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman tunes in his repertoire. Though often labeled a Dixieland musician by virtue of the company he kept, he tended to reject any label. Russell's unique and sometimes derided approach was praised as ahead of its time, and cited by some as an early example of free jazz. Coleman Hawkins, who considered Russell to be color-blind, at the time of the 1961 Jazz Reunion (Candid) record date (they had originally recorded together in 1929) dismissed any idea that Russell was now playing modern, saying that he had always played that way. By this time, encouraged by Mary, his wife, Russell had taken up painting abstract art as a hobby. Mary's death in the spring of 1967 had a severe effect on him. His last gig was with Wein at the inaugural ball for President Richard Nixon on 21 January 1969. Russell died in a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, less than three weeks later.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Wild Man Blues - Henry Red Allen

Coleman Hawkins on saxophone, Rex Stewart on cornet, Jo Jones on drums, Milt Hinton on bass, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Danny Barkerand on banjo, Vic Dickenson on trombone. This is taken from the Sound of Jazz, a CBS special which appeared in the 50s. Henry James "Red" Allen (January 7, 1906 – April 17, 1967) was a jazz trumpeter and vocalist whose style has been claimed to be the first to fully incorporate the innovations of Louis Armstrong. Henry James "Red" Allen was born in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of bandleader Henry Allen. He took early trumpet lessons from Peter Bocage and Manuel Manetta. Allen's career began in Sidney Desvigne's Southern Syncopators. He was playing professionally by 1924 with the Excelsior Brass Band and the jazz dance bands of Sam Morgan, George Lewis and John Casimir. After playing on riverboats on the Mississippi River he went to Chicago in 1927 to join King Oliver's band. Around this time he made recordings on the side in the band of Clarence Williams. After returning briefly to New Orleans, where he worked with the bands of Fate Marable and Fats Pichon, he was offered a recording contract with Victor Records and returned to New York City, where he also joined the Luis Russell band, which was later fronted by Louis Armstrong in the late 1930s. In 1929 Allen joined Luis Russell's Orchestra where he was a featured soloist until 1932. Allen took part in recording sessions that year organized by Eddie Condon, some of which featured Fats Waller and/or Tommy Dorsey. He also made a series of recordings in late 1931 with Don Redman, and in 1933 he joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra where he stayed until 1934. He played with Lucky Millinder's Mills Blue Rhythm Band from 1934 to 1937, when he returned to Luis Russell for three more years by the time Russell's orchestra was fronted by Louis Armstrong. Allen very seldom received any solo space on recordings with Armstrong, but was prominently featured at the band's personal appearances, even getting billing as a featured attraction. As a bandleader, Allen recorded for Victor from 1929 through 1930. He made a series of recordings as co-leader with Coleman Hawkins in 1933 for ARC (Banner, Melotone, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo, etc.) and continued on as an ARC recording artist through 1935, when he was moved over to ARC's Vocalion label for a popular series of swing records from 1935 through late 1937. A number of these were quite popular at the time. He did a solitary session for Decca in 1940 and two sessions for OKeh in 1941. After World War II, he recorded for Brunswick in 1944, Victor in 1946, and Apollo in 1947. Allen continued making many recordings under his own name, as well as recording with Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton, and accompanying such vocalists as Victoria Spivey and Billie Holiday. After a short stint with Benny Goodman, Allen started leading his own band at The Famous Door in Manhattan. He then toured with the band around the USA into the late 1950s. In December 1957, Red Allen made an appearance on the "Sound Of Jazz" television show. In 1959 Allen made his first tour of Europe when he joined Kid Ory's band. From 1954 until the club ceased its jazz policy in 1965, Allen led the house band at New York's Metropole Cafe. Allen returned to working under his own name making numerous tours of the United States and Europe. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 1966, and after undergoing surgery, made a final tour of England ending six weeks before his death on April 17, 1967 in New York City. He left behind his widow, Pearly May, and a son, Henry Allen III. If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!