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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Miff Mole – Miffology. 24 original mono recordings 1927-44

LIVING ERA CD AJA 5632 [76.07]




    1. Slippin' Around
    2. Alexander's Ragtime Band
    3. Some Sweet Day
    4. Hurricane
    5. Davenport Blues
    6. Darktown Strutters Ball
    7. Imagination
    8. Feelin' No Pain
    9. Original Dixieland One Step
    10. My Gal Sal
    11. Shim Me Sha Wobble
    12. Crazy Rhythm
    13. You Took Advantage Of Me
    14. You're The Cream In My Coffee
    15. Wild Oat Joe
    16. I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling
    17. Moanin' Low
    18. Navy Blues
    19. Good Man Is Hard To Find - Mole, Miff
    20. Ballin' The Jack
    21. St. Louis Blues
    22. Peg O' My Heart
    23. Three Little Words
    24. Miff's Blues
    Red and Miff’s Stompers, Miff Mole and his Molers. Jam Session at Commodore, Miff Mole and his World Jam Session Band, Miff Mole and his Nicksielanders. Nick’s Dixieland Band

    I’d not heard Miff’s Blues for ages and did a double-take when I heard it in this fine compilation from Living Era. Who did that "wounded moose" trombone tone remind me of, that churchy-gospelly piano underpinning? None other than Gary Valente, Carla Bley’s awe-inspiring cavalier of the trombone, and his tour de force preaching on The Lord Is Listening To Ya, Hallelujah! in a live 1980s Bley album. The thought that the lineage might, even tangentially, run from Mole to Valente would have struck me as improbable, so ingrained has it become to think of Mole as a Nicksielander but the ways of jazz influence are always cloudier than is imagined.

    Mole’s earliest tracks here, when he was aurally influenced by Jimmy Harrison and Jack Teagarden, are however hamstrung by his flatly on the beat phrasing. The earlier 1927 tracks are obviously based on Beiderbecke’s small groups and there’s still just a touch of the Bill Ranks about Mole’s playing, yet to imbibe the rhythmic flexibilities that some of his contemporaries had already embraced. Arthur Schutt, always elegant, shared these rather stiff tendencies and allied to some mercurial (and to me always tiresome) drumming by Vic Berton this makes the earlier tracks musically constrained.

    But as things move on we become confronted with some surprising evidence of modernity. Fud Livingston’s Imagination is notable for his expert marshalling of lower voice counter themes – in places this sounds like West Coast modernism of the early fifties with its cool lines supporting main melodic voicings. Then there are the great colourists and tonalists who pepper these performances, Pee Wee Russell to the fore, and his hero Frank Teschmacher as well (on one track). Red Nichols was a long time colleague but Phil Napoleon is equally Bix-ish and Bobby Hackett’s later appearances are suitably elevated. More than can be said for Krupa’s bass drum disasters. But many of the titans of white Chicago are here and the piano stools in particular are teeming with talent – Joe Sullivan, Gene Schroeder, and Jess Stacy would fill anyone’s star team.

    Tracing Mole from his rather squarely phrased 1927 sides to his mature 1940s sessions has been an unexpectedly revealing experience. The transfers are full, with some shellac crackle retained to give us those important higher frequencies. Good notes. Most enjoyably done – and thought-provoking too.

    Jonathan Woolf


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