“Yes! I’m In The Barrel” – Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five (1925)

Okeh; Chicago, November 12, 1925: Armstrong-c/Kid Ory-tb/Johnny Dodds-cl/Lil Armstrong-p/Johnny St. Cyr-bj.

The “Hot Five” never played live in public. Louis Armstrong was playing with Fletcher Henderson (1924–11/1925) in New York when the opportunity to record sides with Okeh came up. According to Armstrong, he’d just “get together the band,” and worked on a few ideas beforehand and then played the songs live and unrehearsed and “made up them things.” (Jazz Casual episode 01-23-1963 with Ralph Gleason). The naming of the songs was even an afterthought.

“Yes! I’m in the Barrel” was the second song pressed from the first “Hot Five” sessions. I think it was fitting to have “My Heart,” written by Lil Armstrong as the first pressed single. I don’t know too many specifics about Louis Armstrong’s career without looking them up, but I do know that without Lil, we wouldn’t have had Louis Armstrong as we know him today.

Below is another “first” from a strong-willed lady, Annie Edson Taylor, who, like Lil, also got screwed over by a man.

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Photo source.

Annie Edson Taylor, in 1901, was the first person to successfully make it over Niagara Falls while inside a barrel.

“She earned fame, but not fortune. Her manager ran off with her precious barrel and sold it to a theatre in Chicago that was staging a play based on her exploits. Taylor hired a lawyer to reclaim it, and the lawsuit consumed what little money she had earned lecturing about her adventure. It was ten years before anyone else would be brave enough to attempt the barrel ride, but in the decade of her monopoly Taylor proved too dour and serious for the hyperbolic world of sideshows. The “Heroine of Horseshoe Falls,” as Taylor styled herself, died in poverty, having eked out a meager living by allowing tourists to have themselves photographed alongside her with a replica barrel; her grave doesn’t record the date of her death or birth—only of her stunt.” 

Read more about Annie Taylor, which includes the above quote–here.

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“Down-Hearted Blues” – Bessie Smith-with piano acc. (1923)

Columbia; New York, February 16, 1923: acc. by Clarence Williams-p.

Bessie Smith’s debut recording–thanks to the support and encouragement of Clarence Williams, who also helped obtained the record contract for her and plays accompaniment on this song.

The song sold 750,000 copies in 1923 alone. Do pop bands today even sell that many singles anymore?
Bessie Smith
Photo source.

Read more about Bessie Smith: Redhotjazz.com

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“Original Charleston Strut” – Thomas Morris Past Jazz Masters (1923)

Okeh; New York, February, 1923: Thomas Morris-Bubber Miley-c/Charlie Irvis-tb/unknown-ts-p-bj-d.

I’m not sure if Thomas Morris envisioned people doing the Charleston dance to this Charleston “strut” since this tune was recorded several months prior to the “Charleston” dance craze of late 1923. In other words, I’m not sure if the dance was even popular prior to the Broadway hit which exposed it.

And now that I’m thinking about it, is the act of strutting the same as the act of dancing anyway? I wouldn’t think so, but maybe it’s just semantics.

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“A primitive but often effective cornet soloist, Thomas Morris (the uncle of pianist Marlowe Morris) made quite a few records during the 1923-27 period although his style was considered quite dated after the rise of Louis ArmstrongMorris was based in New York from the beginning of the 1920s. He recorded with his Past Jazz Masters (eight titles during 1923) and his Hot Babies (ten songs plus nine alternate takes that comprise the best work of his career), Clarence WilliamsCharlie Johnson (1927), Fats Waller (1927) and many blues singers. However, Morris slipped away into obscurity in the 1930s. He worked as a red cap at Grand Central Station in the late 1930s and then became religious, re-emerging as Brother Pierre in Father Divine’s religious sect shortly before he passed away.” —Artist Biography by Scott Yanow

Photo of Thomas Morris and quote source.

“Everybody Loves My Baby” – George Wettling Jazz Trio (1944)

Black & White; New York, July 1, 1944: Mezz Mezzrow-cl/Gene Schroeder-p/George Wettling-d.

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Here’s Mezz Mezzrow, one of the co-authors of the above book, on clarinet. Like Pee Wee Russell, he also started off playing the sax. Somehow I get the feeling that Mezz was more of an “ideas” guy, or a scenester, rather than a sought-after session player or band leader. I’ll have to read more about him after I finish this book.

George Wettling’s signature drum rolls may sound easy, or rudimentary, but don’t let him fool you–those are hard to play and maintain for that length of time, especially with those consistant and solid rim shots thrown in.

Be sure to visit the link to read more about Mezz: Redhotjazz.com

“I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music” – Gene Krupa’s Swing Band (1936)

Victor; Chicago, February 29, 1936: Roy Eldridge-t/Benny Goodman-cl/Chu Berry-ts/Jess Stacy-p/Allan Reuss-g/Israel Crosby-b/Gene Krupa-d.

Chu Berry on tenor sax–and what a sound!

I’ve heard both vocal and various instrumental versions of this song and this take is by far my favorite. Even Benny Goodman is groovin’ as he lets out a squawk or two during his clarinet run.

Gene Krupa generously gives up the first solo slot and and almost a fifth of the song (0:42-1:16) for that unmistakable and distinctive buttery sax sound of Chu Berry as he could have easily used up that time to showcase his own drum work.

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(Left-Bud Freeman-ts/Center-Johnny Hodges-as/Right-Chu Berry-ts)

Photo source; date unknown.

 

“Fish Tail Blues” – Jelly-Roll Morton’s Kings of Jazz (1924)

Autograph; Chicago, September, 1924: Lee Collins-c/Roy Palmer-tb/”Balls” Ball-cl/Alex Poole-as/Jelly-Roll Morton-p.

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Issue Date: September 16, 1995

Wish I would have collected a few of these stamps when they were first issued.

The “Fish Tail” referenced in this song is not a braid, or a shirt or a long pleated skirt but rather a reference to a blues and jazz dance, which had originated in Africa. The main part of the dance included movements in which the dancer provocatively shakes their, well … “Fish Tail” in the form of a figure eights.

“Ornithology” – Charlie Parker Septet (1946)

Dial; Hollywood, March 28, 1946: Miles Davis-t/Charlie Parker-as/Lucky Thompson-ts/Dodo Marmarosa-p/Arvin Garrison-g/Vic McMillan-b/Roy Porter-d.

When acquaintances and family ask me what I’ve been up to lately, I invariably say, very casually, that I’ve been really getting into “vintage” jazz. And if they seem even slightly interested, I eagerly drop the blog address on them and enthusiastically ask, “do you like old jazz?”

Well, nine out of ten times I get, “sure, … I like Miles Davis.”

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“The Album That Changed Jazz: In 1959, jazz legend Miles Davis released Kind of Blue, an album that charted a completely new direction for the genre. Drummer Jimmy Cobb talks about the historic recording sessions.”

If you enjoy Kind of Blue, which was released 13 years after today’s song, then be sure to take a moment and read the short  January 7, 2015 article, with video, featured in the online edition of the BBC.