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The Imaginative Johnny Windhurst; Jazz Trumpeter Extraordinaire, his 19 Finest 1945-56

RETROSPECTIVE RTR 4316 [78:41]

 

 

Eddie Condon & His Band:

A Hundred Years From Today

Johnny Windhurst and Quartet:

Sweet Georgia Brown

Lazy River

The Eddie Condon Band

Swing That Music

Walt Gifford and His New Yorkers:

I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me

Louisiana

Struttin’ With Some Barbecue

It All Depends On You

California, Here I Come

Jack Teagarden and Sextet

Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen

Barbara Lea with Johnny Windhurst and his Quintet

My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms

I’m Coming, Virginia

Johnny Windhurst and his Quartet:

Back In Your Own Backyard

You Do Something To Me

Memphis Blues

Strut, Miss Lizzie

Georgia On My Mind

Lover, Come Back To Me

Bonus Track - Sidney Bechet & His New Orleans Rhythm Kings

Nobody’s Sweetheart

 

This is one of Retrospective’s most valuable restorations yet. Johnny Windhurst’s is not a name known to most jazz lovers. I first came across him as a result of a ruinously expensive low-fi set of Boston aircheck LPs that featured him alongside Sidney Bechet; one of the titles is included as a bonus track in this CD. Even so, he has not generated the kind of interest and enthusiasm won by his almost exact contemporary, the long-lived and prolific Ruby Braff, for example. And indeed, I’ve not excavated more by him until the arrival of this disc.

Windhurst (1926-81) was born in the Bronx and was precocious. At 16 he was sitting in with Bobby Hackett at Nick’s and before long bandleaders like Les Brown, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman were offering him invitations to join their trumpet sections. At 19 he jousted with Bechet, by 20 he was playing alongside Edmond Hall and then in 1950 he made his first official studio recording with Eddie Condon, no less. He seems to have been unfortunate when it came to regular recordings and the number of broadcasts in this disc attests to his exiguous studio legacy. He joined and recorded a little with Teagarden in 1954 and continued on the circuit at a high level. Fame and lasting success, however, eluded him but drink didn’t.

Windhurst worshipped Condon and in A Hundred Years from Today – with Cutty Cutshall, Ed Hall, Gene Schroeder et al – he leads with a striking conflation of the influences of Armstrong, Beiderbecke, Hackett’s lyricism and a slice of Wild Bill Davison’s roughness. The live 1947 City Hall performances are from what was modestly billed as the ‘World’s Greatest Jazz Concert’. His quartet included Dick Wellstood who takes a neat solo on Lazy River which is just enough to persuade the ear away from the too too solid flesh of the foursquare drumming of Ed Phife.

Walt Gifford and his New Yorkers - Gifford was the drummer – included Windhurst’s old pal trombonist Ed Hubble as well as the ever-superior Dick Cary, who takes marvelous if brief solos. This little-known band had a tight ensemble and Windhurst’s lead is clear, inventive and commanding. He is sensitive in his soloing behind Teagarden on Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen - Wellstood is here again, and Ray Bauduc springs the rhythm. And there’s a decided bonus of hearing singer Barbara Lea – much underrated – in two standards penned in the 20s. The instrumental support is thoughtful and attractive. Windhurst’s 1956 Quartet sees out the album. On this evidence – but the recorded evidence, as noted, is patchy – he doesn’t seem to have been a blues player per se but does employ fine blues chops on Memphis Blues where the emulation of Armstrong’s upper register playing is at its most pronounced. Jimmy Andrews takes a good piano solo on a bad instrument, Buell Neidlinger’s bass moves things along and Windhurst’s erstwhile leader, drummer Gifford, is on hand. They stretch out on a seven-minute-plus Georgia on My Mind to good effect.

If only Windhurst had been given just some of the range of studio opportunities offered Braff or Hackett, perhaps his legacy would be more potent. He had all the makings: a firm, rhythmically flexible lead predicated on Chicago lines; lyrical embellishments; a fine tone; good technique. But at least enough survives to remind one – or alert one - to this forgotten player. Bravo to Digby Fairweather’s fine notes and the good restorations.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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