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Another moment of Humph at 100 Oxford St.

Here is another selection from March 16, 1953, the night I brought my tape recorder to 100 Oxford Street. As usual, Mack's Restaurant had put its tables aside, morphed into The Lyttelton Club, and opened its doors to an enthusiastic crowd of young people who moved not so rhythmically to the music. Farewell Blues, the evening's last performance, became a little jam session when Archie Sempel—from Freddy Randall's band—mounted the bandstand, clarinet in hand. Unfortunately, I was late starting the tape and it ran out before the number was brought to an end, but it's a wonder that any part of this tape is playable almost 60 years later. The balance is not good—Johnny Parker's piano is distant and Bruce Turner is obviously standing closest to my single, stationary microphone.

The tape does capture the atmosphere of this popular club at a time when trad was all the rage in some of Europe's capitals. There is more tape from Lyttelton's hiding in my closet, possibly on unmarked reels. I have Neva Raphaello singing—though not so well—with Mike McKenzie's trio and Humph sitting in, but there should be more with the band and I will share anything when and if I find it. In the meantime, you can ease into Farewell Blues


Here are links to other recordings from that evening: Shake It and Break It, Chicago Buzz.


Lil Armstrong 1968

I previously posted  two parts of an interview I did with Lil Armstrong when she visited New York with Franz Jackson's Chicagoans in December of 1968. They played at the Village Gate and were on a tour that had taken them to the Caribbean, including Guantanamo Bay. The interview was done in my apartment, in the very room from which I am making this entry, and I knew there had to be a third reel lying around, somewhere in my tape closet. 

Click on image to enlarge it.
I was right, so here is the third and last part of this interview. I have not done anything to clean it up (i.e. remove rough spots), because I think it is what it is, and there is a better feel to it this way. I did, however add a piece of music at the end, Clip Joint, because Lil mentions it as being among her favorite recent recordings. It stems from one of the February 1961 Chicago sessions that I produced for the Riverside "Living Legends" project. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, that recording trip was an many ways a disaster, because my recording engineers were more familiar with capturing auto races, dripping faucets, and Shakespearian drama. They did, in fact, not care mush for traditional jazz. You will notice that the balance leaves much to be desired, although this was one of their better efforts.

To be fair, I had scheduled Lil to record with two different groups, but technical problems and inexperience delayed the first session to a point where I had to combine the two. Thus, this is a bigger band than we were expecting to record, so that may account for some of the imbalance. Hearing Lil's effervescent voice on these tapes reminds me of how much I miss her—she was one of the warmest and most wonderful people I had the good fortune to meet and become friends with as I moved about on the music scene.

A caveat: There is a book titled "Just For a Thrill" that purports to be a biography of Lil, but it is not worth the paper it is printed on. The author, James Dickerson, did an appalling job of research—shallow and rife with misinformation that is compounded by his peripheral knowledge of jazz and its history. To make up for that lack, he included pages of filler material about gangsters and other unrelated subjects. When he approached me in his search for material, I quickly concluded that his prime objective was not to document Lil, but to throw together yet another book. Assembly line authors have always bothered me, so I decided not to become his accomplice. The late Leslie Gourse ran a book factory, and I bet you can name a few more. This sort of exploitation puts a dent in jazz literature and invariably does more had than good. from never really works. 

This photo was taken by Steve Shapiro during the session:

The circle of horns (l to r): Franz Jackson, Al Wynn, Leroi Nabors, Bill Martin, Preston Jackson, Eddie Smith, and Darnell Howard. Pops Foster is on bass and Booker Washington on drums. That's me seated to the left of the drums. The date was September 7, 1961 and the place was a popular Chicago jazz club, The Birdhouse.

If you wish to hear parts 1 and 2 of this interview, here are the links: Part One, Part Two.