Saturday, October 31, 2015

Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962) - A Striking Musician, Part Two

Georg Lankester continues his survey of the career of violinist Eddie South. Below follows the second part of the article Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962)   -   A Striking Musician, Part Two. The first part of the article is accessible here  

Eddie South
Eddie’s Recordings In France

The first appearance of the violinist was planned in the Club des Oiseaux in the Pavillion d’Elegance. Hot Club’s president, Hugues Panassié hurried to see South performing and on the initiative of secretary Charles Delaunay it was immediately after the concert decided to make recordings with Django in the studio.
Swing, SW 8 A - Eddie's Blues
His Masters’Voice (France) gladly accepted their request, and was prepared to record several titles of the violinist and Django Reinhardt, sometimes with a guest player. On 29 September 1937 two titles were recorded: Eddie’s Blues (by both artists) and Sweet Georgia Brown with Wilson Meyers added on bass.
Wilson Meyers
Moreover a recording of Lady be Good was made of three violinists: South, Grappelli and Michel Warlop, accompanied by Django, Chaput and Myers.
Michel Warlop
It is highly interesting to listen to these records. Here are two continents united viz. an American jazzman and a Belgian gypsy guitarist who created a new European swing style.

These records prove Eddie’s excellent violin playing, calm and inventive, backed by a unique rhythm, never monotone but full of variations and nicely swinging. Because of the guitar accompaniment the blues theme came forward even better. The recordings belong to the most beautiful that Eddie had made so far. His playing was so inspired that the Hot Club managers got the impression that he was somewhat envious of Grappelli’s position in the quintet.

He preferred the slow themes in which he could express his beautiful tone and could display trills. Eddie did not like so much fast runs although he certainly had these under control.

As mentioned earlier a record of the three best violinists of those days was made titled Lady be good in an arrangement by Django. One can listen to Eddie, Stéphane and Michel accompanied on two guitars and bass. After a typical Django solo each violin player gets its turn: Warlop a bit nervous, Grappelli as usual fully in control and South with several blues chords. The final chorus shows all violinists together with an arranged break.

Delaunay now came up with the idea to combine jazz improvisations with J.S. Bach’s music, played on violin. Though Eddie thought that this was a ridiculous suggestion those recordings were indeed made since Grappelli was interested because of the money it would generate.

For Django this was something fully unknown, but they let him listen to recordings of Yehudi Menuhin. On basis of those he prepared the way how to accompany. The guitarist admired Bach’s harmonies!
Swing, SW 18 A
Under the supervision of Charles Delaunay – the founder of the Swing label -  these recordings were made on the same day. It was a good initiative because these records are of historical value and illustrate the level of the musicians.

For the Swing label Delaunay also recorded duets of South and Grappelli with accompaniment, titles: Dinah and Daphne.
Swing, SW 12 B Daphne
It is fascinating to hear the different styles of these two artists and the beautiful alternating solos of Reinhardt.

SW 31 A Somebody Loves Me
On 23 November 1937 La voix de son Maître recorded two tracks of Eddie, Django and Paul Cordonnier (bass), “Somebody loves me” and “I can’t believe that you’re in love with me”, two romantic ballads.

And, of course, Hot Club fans enjoy the interpretation of Bach’s ‘minor concert’ performed by South, Grappelli and Reinhardt on the same date, followed by the improvised version of it (which included a guitar introduction). Finally the nice theme Fiddle Blues was played in an up-tempo. 

Brunswick flyer
In 1938 Eddie stayed some time in Holland where he made a few records for Brunswick. It would be the end of his European visits.

Back Home

Then he left Europa and made the voyage to his native country together with Benny Carter. During the Forties he played in several clubs among which Kelly’s Stables, had his own group and toured around with bass player Billy Taylor (known from the recordings with Rex Stewart and Django in Paris in ’39). He further worked with studio formations in Los Angeles and New York for MGM and other companies. Because of his popularity he also had his own radio program. In the Fifties Eddie also could be seen on television presented by well-known persons such as Herb Lyons and Dave Garroway.

Despite a declining health he kept playing. However, on 25 April 1962 he died in Chicago, far too early. Although, being a great violinist, he never got the reputation of Stuff Smith and Stephane Grappelli.

Some Features

Eddie South is in fact the most sophisticated violinist we have known. His first appaeranc as a classical musician most likely has been the reason to create such a subtle swing. He played in a very melodious way and produced pure and often soft notes.

He was fascinated by gypsy music and although many critics assert that he could not make this style his own, several recordings prove to the contrary. But some blues elements are certainly also noticable in his performances. Anyhow Eddie South surely has been a significant jazz violinist

Recommended recordings: Two guitars (1929), Eddie’s Blues (1937), Sweet Georgia Brown (1937),  Stompin’ at the Savoy (1941), Fiddle Ditty (1956).  

Georg Lankester

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962) - A Striking Musician, Part One

Georg Lankester writes a survey of the career of violinist Eddie South. Below follows the first part of the article, the second part will be published later. 

Eddie South (1904-1962)

In my stories on jazz musicians who played with guitarist Django Reinhardt, this time the  focus on the great American violinist, composer and arranger Eddie South.

We have to go back to the USA where Edward was born in Louisiana on 24 November 1904.Growing up he proved to be highly talented, since he was able to play the violin rather well at an early stage.

Like many others from the South, his parents went to Chicago when he was still young. And the prodigy (that’s what he was) was soon registered at the Chicago Music College in order to follow a classical music study. Unfortunately he had to finish it after one year, because of his skin color. There was no place for a black person, independent how well you could play. Realizing this Eddie switched to the jazz scene which was fully under development then.

A New Direction

Darnell Howard
He meets clarinetist Darnell Howard who teaches him the principles of jazz playing and also Charles Elgar. With both musicians he starts to perform.

He then gets work by joining the well-known orchestra of Erskine Tate, as well as the band of Mac Brady. Somewhat later he becomes the leader of the Syncopators with trumpet player Jimmy Wade. He joins this orchestra which plays in the popular Moulin Rouge Café from 1923-1927. It is with this band that he made his very first recordings for the Paramount label (in 1923). 

Based on his experiences and full of enthusiasm he now forms a small group without brass players, not very common then, and he calls them The Alabamians. The line-up is violin, piano, clarinet, guitar and drums.

Eddie South and his Alabamians
The next year he also works with Erskine Tate and joins the quartet of guitarist Mike Mckendrick as well.
Mike McKendrick
After some recordings for Victor with his own formation Eddie leaves for Europe where he will stay from 1928 till 1931. Like many other Americans he makes a tour through the UK and visits France frequently where Paris is becoming the city of the European Jazz (due to the Hot Club de France initiatives).

South, however, always keeps his interest in classical music and during his European stay he registers at the Conservatory of Paris to practice violin. His teacher there is Firmin Touche. But he also frequently visits Russian cabarets where famous Roma musicians play such as Jean Goulesco. Eddie is highly fascinated by gypsy Music.

In the autumn of 1929 he travels to Hungary to follow a study at the Music Academy of Budapest, one of the leading colleges for violin. One of his teachers is Prof. Hubay – a friend of Franz Liszt – who is also strongly influenced by Hungarian gypsies.

In the Roma composition Two Guitars which Eddie recorded in Paris (1929) for HMV one can hear him switching to the gypsy style, sometimes showing blues influences as well.

Meeting Django in the South of France

A young Django Reinhardt
In the spring of 1931 Eddie can be found in the French ‘Riviera’ where he performs in Cannes in the popular Bianco’s Night Club.  And it is there that he meets Django Reinhardt who travels around with his wife Naguine in order to earn some money. This contact was organized through the intermediary of bass player and band leader Louis Vola.

Somewhat earlier the guitarist and his brother Joseph had, for the first time in their life, heard American jazz records after they had met painter Emile Savitry. Both brothers were excited when they listened to Louis Armstrong, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang.

Django was quite impressed by Eddie South’s violin playing which included both blues and gypsy elements. Maybe this experience was the basis for the long association between guitar and violin shown in the Hot Club Music in the years to come.

In Cannes they were performing several times together. But also Eddie was surprised to discover Django’s feeling for improvisation and his fabulous rhythm, so they enjoyed playing together.

After a few months Eddie South went back to the States and restarted his performances in Chicago with his Alabamians. Those years he also accompanied various American singers. But in 1937 he travelled again to his beloved France. Paris was full of musical events and had become a real European center for jazz, stimulated by the World Exhibition which was visited by 34 millions of people. Eddie was there officially invited by the Hot Club de France and….soon he would meet Django again.

Georg Lankester

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Josephine Baker In Holland, December 1933

When Hans Koert, Theo v.d. Graaff and I presented the El Redescubrimiento de Oscar Alemán/The Rediscovery of Oscar Alemán project at the IAJRC Convention in Copenhagen July 2005, Hans Koert had prepared a review of the career of Oscar Alemán based on the info available at the time. The review benefited from Hans Koert's own research as well as the documentary Vida con Swing (2002) by Hernán Gaffet. During this first-time presentation of Alemán's career for an international audience, Hans Koert also had collected a couple of surprises to wet the teeth of hungry collectors of Alemán's recorded legacy. The review was accompanied by audio examples and a Power Point presentation to illustrate Alemán's career. One of the audio examples was a just recently discovered private recording of Josephine Baker made at a performance during her tour of Holland in December 1933.
In the article Oscar Alemán in Copenhagen (2005), Hans Koert accounts for the background of the recording, quoted here:

"Being part of the Baker Boys meant a lot of travelling around Europe and Northern Africa with the revue of Josephine Baker. These tours were tiresome; Oscar loved to be in Paris, where he could play with visiting jazz musicians, like Freddy Taylor, Danny Polo, Bill Coleman and Frank “Big Boy” Goudy. The Baker tours were a tough job, indeed; two concerts in the evening and sometimes one in the afternoon, too. In December 1933 the Baker company played in Holland, eleven concerts within six days (Concertgebouw - Amsterdam, Concertzaal - Haarlem, Kunstmin - Dordrecht, Musis Sacrum - Arnhem, De Groote Doelenzaal - Rotterdam and Gebouw voor K en W – The Hague.). However, the tour through Holland was cancelled in The Hague due to technical problems after the first evening concert, although other sources speak about Josephine Baker being ill. It is a fact that the critics characterized Josephine’s act as “weinig om het lijf hebbend”, which means in English that the audience considered her erotic acts to be of minor importance."  (Hans Koert in: OSCAR ALEMAN in Copenhagen, p. 2 (2005))
I have not been able to confirm, if the recording was made at Kunstmin in Dordrecht, but the exact date of the recording is stated on the label shown above as 19 December 1933. The audio quality is not the best, however, this is nonetheless an interesting recording, as this is probably the only preserved live-recording of Josephine Baker with her 16 Baker Boys featuring Oscar Alemán on guitar in the ensemble. The guitar is barely audible, but you can hear it behind Md. Baker's vocal throughout, if you pay attention to the accompanying music of the song. The audio has now been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here to honor the magnificent work by Hans Koert to initiate The Rediscovery of Oscar Alemán in this part of the world, and of course further to remind us that today 35 years have passed since Oscar Alemán left us on October 14th, 1980.


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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autumn - 'Tis Autumn

Original sheet music
A jazz standard with reference to the present season is of course Autumn Leaves, but here I like to focus on another which may not be as well known as Joseph Kosma's tune, originally titled Les feuilles mortes in French.

The shown 'Tis Autumn was composed by Henry Nemo in 1941, and he also wrote the lyrics for the song. Henry Nemo (1909 – 1999) was a musician, songwriter and film actor, his songwriting comprised a collaboration with Irving Mills and John Redmond for the lyrics of I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart with music by Duke Ellington. Nemo himself composed the standards Don't Take Your Love From Me and the mentioned 'Tis Autumn.

Woody Herman and his orchestra
Woody Herman and his orchestra was one of the first popular jazz ensembles to record a version of 'Tis Autumn. Woody Herman recorded the tune on 13 November 1941 for Decca featuring his orchestra and vocals by the leader himself, Carolyn Grey and ensemble. This version has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here.

The Nat King Cole Trio had a hit with 'Tis Autumn in 1949, you can find it at YouTube by clicking here.  Below I'll concentrate on some instrumental versions of the tune. - Here is Red Garland's version of the tune recorded 27 November 1958 and issued on the Prestige LP All Kinds of Weather featuring Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Art Taylor (dms)

Another instrumental version of 'Tis Autumn is the following by Stan Getz, recorded 1952

The Chet Baker Septet also recorded an instrumental version of 'Tis Autum 19 January 1959, released on the Riverside LP titled Chet. The septet comprise: Chet Baker (trumpet), Herbie Mann (flute), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Bill Evans (piano), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums) 

'Tis Autumn is also the main title of a documentary by filmmaker Raymond De Felitta, who released 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris' in 2007 - a filmed protrait of the jazz singer Jackie Paris.
Original film poster
The Rotten Tomatoes website has this info about the film:
"In the 1950s and '60s, Jackie Paris was one of the most celebrated jazz vocalists of his generation; he collaborated with such giants as Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Dizzy Gillespie, he was a favorite of leading music critics, and recorded for such top jazz labels as Impulse and East-West. But ten years on, Paris had fallen so far off the radar that a major jazz reference work reported that Paris had died in 1977, even though he was still around and occasionally performing at the time. In the 1990s, filmmaker Raymond De Felitta heard some of Paris' recordings and became an instant fan, and was deeply curious about Paris' life and career, and how an artist with such gifts had become little more than a footnote in music history. De Felitta's search eventually led him to Paris himself, and a fascinating story of bad luck, a wildly dysfunctional family, dangerous pride, a hair-trigger temper, and a remarkable voice that somehow survived it all, even if his career did not. 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris is a documentary which chronicles De Felitta's search for the elusive singer."
Jackie Paris
The documentary was well received by the critics and the public, as the theme of the story transcends the individual fate of the protagonist:
"‘Tis Autumn – The Search For Jackie Paris is not just a documentary about a great but unheralded jazz singer. It’s a film that explores the very nature of what it is to live the life of an artist–any artist. Filmmaker Raymond De Felitta examines the life of cult favorite jazz singer Jackie Paris, but at the same time he might as well be exploring the life of any artist in any discipline, too many of whom share the same fate that Paris did; the explosive debut followed by the years of ups and downs, the constant hope that success, though out of reach, is around the corner, the private tragedies that grow out of artistic frustration, and the final, self-inflicted wounds which all too often cause the once promising to descend into bitterness and chaos, a prelude to vanishing completely." (qouted from this source).

To end this, here is Jackie Paris in his last public performance in 2004 singing 'Tis Autumn from the documentary by Raymond De Felitta


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