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NEW ORLEANS 1961 -
THE LIVING LEGENDS

Four Classic Albums

Avid AMSC 1046

 

 

CD1
Percy Humphrey's Crescent City Joy Makers
1. Milenberg Joys
2. Over in Gloryland
3. Lonesome Road
4. We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City
5. Weary Blues
6. Bucket's Got a Hole in It
7. All the Gals Like the Way I Ride
8. Rip `Em up Joe
 
Percy Humphrey - Trumpet
Louis Nelson - Trombone
Albert Burbank - Clarinet
Emanuel Sayles - Banjo, guitar
Louis James - Bass
Josiah Frazier - Drums
 
Recorded New Orleans, 24 January, 1961
 
Sweet Emma "The Bell Gal" & Her Dixieland Boys, featuring Jim Robinson
9. Bill Bailey
10. Chinatown
11. Down in Honky Tonk Town
12. The Bell Gal's Careless Blues
13. I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll
14. Just a Little While to Stay Here
15. Tishomingo Blues
16. When the Saints Go Marching In
 
Emma Barrett - Piano, vocals
Percy Humphrey - Trumpet
Jim Robinson - Trombone
Willie Humphrey - Clarinet
Emanuel Sayles - Banjo, guitar
McNeal Breaux - Bass
Josiah Frazier - Drums
 
Recorded New Orleans, 25 January, 1961
 
CD2
Jim Robinson's New Orleans Band
1. Ice Cream
2. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
3. Mobile Stomp
4. Bogalusa Strut
5. Jada
6. Bugle Boy March
7. Yearning
8. Whenever You're Lonely
9. When You Wore a Tulip
 
Jim Robinson - Trombone
Ernest Cagnolati - Trumpet
Louis Cottrell - Clarinet
"Creole George" Guesnon - Banjo
Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau - Bass
Alfred Williams - Drums
 
Recorded New Orleans, 24 January, 1961 (tracks 1, 2, 7-9)
Recorded New Orleans, 30 January, 1961 (tracks 3-6)
 
Billie & DeDe Pierce - Vocal Blues and Cornet in the Classic Tradition
10. St. Louis Blues
11. Goodbye Daddy Blues
12. Careless Love
13. Brickhouse Blues
14. Algiers Hoodoo Blues
15. Slow Tonk Blues
16. Gulf Coast Blues
17. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
18. Love Song of the Nile
 
Billie Pierce - Piano, vocals
DeDe Pierce - Cornet (except track 18)
Albert Jiles - Drums
 
Recorded New Orleans, 27 January, 1961

 

By the 1950s the traditional jazz revival was well under way. While New Orleans was generally credited with being the birthplace of jazz and those who had "emigrated" from there, such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, etc., had been given due recognition, those who had not left the city had gone largely unknown until after the publication of Jazzmen (1939) and the efforts by Heywood Hale Broun, Bill Russell, and others to locate and record them began in the early 1940s.

After the Second World War ended, recordings of New Orleans jazzmen such as Bunk Johnson and George Lewis, who gained recognition playing dates in New York, began to be issued on major labels such as RCA Victor, Decca, and Columbia. By the next decade, other labels began to see the mercantile opportunities in recordings of native New Orleanians, among them Riverside which, in 1960-1961, set out to record some of these artists still living in New Orleans but largely unknown outside of it for its "Living Legends" series, including those featured on this CD. Several LPs resulted from this endeavour, all recorded at the Hall of the Société des Jeunes Amis in New Orleans.

These included Emma Barrett (Sweet Emma "The Bell Gal" and Her Dixieland Boys, Jan 25, 1961-Riverside RLP 364), two by Jim Robinson (Jim Robinson's New Orleans Band on Jan. 24 and 30, 1961-Riverside RLP 369; and Jim Robinson Plays Spirituals And Blues RLP 393), and single albums by Percy Humphrey (Percy Humphrey's Crescent City Joy Makers, Jan. 24, 1961-Riverside RLP 378), and Billie & DeDe Pierce (Vocal Blues and Cornet in the Classic Tradition, Jan. 27, 1961-Riverside RLP 370), all of which, except for RLP 393, are included in this CD reissue. (Another LP, Riverside RLP 356/357, was a compilation dual album of tracks left over from these recording sessions and several others.)

All of these LPs were issued in both mono and stereo. Three of the Riverside "Living Legends" series albums reviewed here-RLP 364, 369, and 378-were reissued in the CD format under the "Original Jazz Classics" heading on the Fantasy label some time back. (RLP 370 was reissued under Fantasy's "Original Blues Classics" series.)

The musicians comprising the bands on this CD were at the peak of their performing abilities at the time these recordings were made. It was at this same time that Preservation Hall was founded in New Orleans, and the majority of the musicians in the bands featured on these discs appeared in one or another combination in the hall. Later, bands under the aegis of Preservation Hall began touring, and I was fortunate enough to see almost all of them as they passed through San Francisco.

The four sessions on this disc contain what some consider the definitive recordings of some of these tunes. Jim Robinson, for instance, made Ice Cream his own-it was always requested when he performed, and whoever witnessed him doing it will not forget the dance he did and the white handkerchief he waved at the audience. I recall being in an audience of some 20,000 people at an outdoor concert in Stern Grove, San Francisco, one summer when the Preservation Hall band was on tour, and Big Jim was a little surprised when it seemed the entire audience responded to his handkerchief waving by taking some pages from the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, folding them, and waving back. He loved it.

This recording was made some half dozen years before Sweet Emma suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side, and although she continued to perform thereafter, she was not the two-fisted piano player she was in 1961. But she never forsook her trademark red outfit, her beanie, and her bells.

In two of the bands, his Crescent City Joy Makers and Sweet Emma's Dixieland Boys, Percy Humphrey played trumpet, which, even when muted, was fiery. He was not averse to reaching for the upper register of his horn on occasion, as opposed to many revivalists who stayed in the middle and low registers. He frequently appeared in bands with brother Willie on clarinet. Percy was invariably focused on his horn, while Willie was more the entertainer, not being averse to getting up to dance a little or strut back and forth in front of the band, much to the audience's delight.

Billie and DeDe Pierce also headed up a Preservation Hall band on occasion, although here it is a small group with which they sometimes appeared. Love Songs of the Nile will forever in most people's minds be associated with Billie Pierce, who almost single-handedly rescued it from the oblivion that it, along with the 1933 forgettable picture The Barbarian with Ramon Navarro and Myrna Loy in which it was featured, had disappeared. She and her husband, blind cornetist DeDe, invariably appeared together, whether in a band setting or a smaller group one. Their repertoire contained many obscure blues, some of which are included here.

For those not having the Riverside CDs, this reissue on Avid again makes available these classic sides, which belong in every traditional jazz fan's collection. It also does so with superb transfers and at a price that will not require taking out a bank loan. With luck, Avid will also reissue the other Living Legends recordings.

Bert Thompson



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