Connee Boswell and the revived "Original Memphis 5", 1957

Connee Boswell and the revived "Original Memphis 5", 1957

David Tenner
David Tenner

April 4th, 2017, 4:13 pm #1

Since there has been some talk here of Connee Boswell in the 1950's, I would just like to mention the album "Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five in Hi-Fi" that was made in 1957. She is on seven of the twelve tracks; the others are instrumentals with a new "Original Memphis Five" which included Billy Butterfield on trumpet, Gene Traxler on bass, and Tony Sbarbaro on drums and three survivors from the "old" Original Memphis Five: Jimmy Lytell, Miff Mole, and Frank Signorelli.

On paper, this looks like a great combination, and it has its champions: See Will Friedwald's praise, quoted by Albert at
http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... ell+to+Bix. "But after the partial success of the Oliver album, Boswell created her last important work, the apex of her entire career: 'Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five In Hi-Fi' (1956, Victor). It began as a project to record the ailing jazz giant Miff Mole. 'He was a great trombonist of the twenties,' she told Rich Conaty; he 'had been very sick and they didn't expect him to live. Finally he got a little better and [Victor] finally decided to ... call and ask me if I wanted to do this Dixieland album. They were going to get as many [of the Original Memphis Five] as they possibly could'...In a telephone conversation shortly before his death in 1972, Jimmy Lytell said that of the thousands of records he'd made, 'that one with Conne Boswell' was easily his favorite."

OTOH, I am aware that some in this forum do not care much for Connee Boswell's singing in the 1950's; and the Miff Mole of 1957 was not the adventurous Miff of 1927 or 1940. http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... Mole+solos He was, as mentioned, not in the best of health, and on some tracks where we might expect a solo from him, instead we get Sbarbaro's kazoo...

(Incidentally, if they really wanted as many of the "old" OM5 as possible, one wonders why they didn't get Phil Napoleon. Though I am certainly not going to complain about Billy Butterfield.)

But anyway all of the tracks are available online so that you can judge for yourself:

(1) When My Sugar Walks Down the Street (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leHgEz_pyx8

(2) Say It Isn't So (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGacXvAGcro

(3) At the Jazz Band Ball (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiMHEengZ0o

(4) Japanese Sandman (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3dA00Knj8I

(5) Make Love to Me (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y5jWr-bDhM

(6) My Honey's Loving Arms (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5wUGN8hyVk

(7) Pagan Love Song (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaR36rpDJmM

(8) Giannina Mia (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjH_5zZf1_0

(9) Singin' the Blues (instrumental this time...): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2r1qPpP15Q

(10) All of Me (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy01zRctwdU

(11) I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km0RO9kEGXk

(12) When the Saints Go Marching In (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fcSPBADz3A
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 4th, 2017, 8:11 pm #2

.... in the 30s and 40s when they played "Dixieland" style. I don't mind the swing and big band styles. It is the Dixieland a pseudo traditional style that makes me sick.

Albert
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Andrew J. Sammut
Andrew J. Sammut

April 4th, 2017, 9:56 pm #3

I'll admit that records like this one don't work for me either. Over the years I have purchased a lot of small group traditional jazz LPs made in the fifties and sixties and, on many of them, I hear an overly bright, brassy ensemble texture that doesn't have much variety of "color" to it. The rhythm is steady but never seems to pick up a groove, and the record companies sometimes seem to over-amplify very tinny banjos. Similar examples to my ears are Don Redman's <em>Dixieland In High Society</em> (which has some incredible players on it!) or some of Phil Napoleon's later albums such as <em>Tenderloin Dixieland</em>. It all just comes across to me as a stereotyped, brash approach to the music. Of course, there are also many examples of records from this period that show this does not need to be the case: Tony Parenti's albums on the Jazzology label and Jabbo Smith's "Hidden Treasure" sessions immediately come to my mind.

I try to give musicians the benefit of the doubt and ask what might have made them choose this style. For example, a versatile player like Billy Butterfield did not have to play this way. Was it a studio producer asking them to recreate or parody an earlier style? Were they just having fun? Or was there some aspect of this approach that I'm just not hearing?
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

April 5th, 2017, 1:42 am #4

The individual musicians, famous in the '20s, who played Dixieland in the '30s and '40s - guys like Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland et al - actually improved as soloists right into their dotage. BUT the music fell apart structurally in those years. By the late '30s, gone were the intricate arrangements and fine orchestral details, leaving most of the dixieland players falling back on their individual talents. It's obvious when you compare "Smiling Skies" by Benny Meroff (featuring Wild Bill Davison), or "Craze-O-Logy" by Bud Freeman and his Orchestra (both OKeh, 1928) to their work from ten years later on Commodore.

The great hot music of the '20s depended on innovative arrangers, crackerjack soloists, excellent "straight" men, orchestrally informed leaders, and of course the relentless competition of similar bands that kept the bar so high. At its best, there was a fine balance among all these qualities. By the late thirties, that fine balance had largely disappeared, and couldn't be re-created even by the original players. I asked Bud Freeman once if his arrangement of "Craze-O-Logy" took a lot of rehearsing back in '28. He said they worked like devils for days refining those three minutes. Dave Tough said that in the '20s, "Dixieland" was downright dangerous and subversive; by the late "40s, it had become "like the Republican party."

Here's "Craze-O-Logy." Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsBLhq_LCJg


-Brad Kay
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 5th, 2017, 2:34 pm #5

Since there has been some talk here of Connee Boswell in the 1950's, I would just like to mention the album "Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five in Hi-Fi" that was made in 1957. She is on seven of the twelve tracks; the others are instrumentals with a new "Original Memphis Five" which included Billy Butterfield on trumpet, Gene Traxler on bass, and Tony Sbarbaro on drums and three survivors from the "old" Original Memphis Five: Jimmy Lytell, Miff Mole, and Frank Signorelli.

On paper, this looks like a great combination, and it has its champions: See Will Friedwald's praise, quoted by Albert at
http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... ell+to+Bix. "But after the partial success of the Oliver album, Boswell created her last important work, the apex of her entire career: 'Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five In Hi-Fi' (1956, Victor). It began as a project to record the ailing jazz giant Miff Mole. 'He was a great trombonist of the twenties,' she told Rich Conaty; he 'had been very sick and they didn't expect him to live. Finally he got a little better and [Victor] finally decided to ... call and ask me if I wanted to do this Dixieland album. They were going to get as many [of the Original Memphis Five] as they possibly could'...In a telephone conversation shortly before his death in 1972, Jimmy Lytell said that of the thousands of records he'd made, 'that one with Conne Boswell' was easily his favorite."

OTOH, I am aware that some in this forum do not care much for Connee Boswell's singing in the 1950's; and the Miff Mole of 1957 was not the adventurous Miff of 1927 or 1940. http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... Mole+solos He was, as mentioned, not in the best of health, and on some tracks where we might expect a solo from him, instead we get Sbarbaro's kazoo...

(Incidentally, if they really wanted as many of the "old" OM5 as possible, one wonders why they didn't get Phil Napoleon. Though I am certainly not going to complain about Billy Butterfield.)

But anyway all of the tracks are available online so that you can judge for yourself:

(1) When My Sugar Walks Down the Street (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leHgEz_pyx8

(2) Say It Isn't So (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGacXvAGcro

(3) At the Jazz Band Ball (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiMHEengZ0o

(4) Japanese Sandman (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3dA00Knj8I

(5) Make Love to Me (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y5jWr-bDhM

(6) My Honey's Loving Arms (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5wUGN8hyVk

(7) Pagan Love Song (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaR36rpDJmM

(8) Giannina Mia (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjH_5zZf1_0

(9) Singin' the Blues (instrumental this time...): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2r1qPpP15Q

(10) All of Me (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy01zRctwdU

(11) I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (instrumental): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km0RO9kEGXk

(12) When the Saints Go Marching In (with Connee): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fcSPBADz3A
.... "Dixieland" band. It was a traditionalist revival band in the 1940s.

Here is an example:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fj-yN-S-4E

So was Turk Murphy in the 1970s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE3XEluz7f8

Albert
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David Tenner
David Tenner

April 5th, 2017, 9:46 pm #6

The individual musicians, famous in the '20s, who played Dixieland in the '30s and '40s - guys like Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland et al - actually improved as soloists right into their dotage. BUT the music fell apart structurally in those years. By the late '30s, gone were the intricate arrangements and fine orchestral details, leaving most of the dixieland players falling back on their individual talents. It's obvious when you compare "Smiling Skies" by Benny Meroff (featuring Wild Bill Davison), or "Craze-O-Logy" by Bud Freeman and his Orchestra (both OKeh, 1928) to their work from ten years later on Commodore.

The great hot music of the '20s depended on innovative arrangers, crackerjack soloists, excellent "straight" men, orchestrally informed leaders, and of course the relentless competition of similar bands that kept the bar so high. At its best, there was a fine balance among all these qualities. By the late thirties, that fine balance had largely disappeared, and couldn't be re-created even by the original players. I asked Bud Freeman once if his arrangement of "Craze-O-Logy" took a lot of rehearsing back in '28. He said they worked like devils for days refining those three minutes. Dave Tough said that in the '20s, "Dixieland" was downright dangerous and subversive; by the late "40s, it had become "like the Republican party."

Here's "Craze-O-Logy." Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsBLhq_LCJg


-Brad Kay
...was mentioned by Richard Sudhalter in Lost Chords (p. 298): It was " . . . hyped to death as good time party music by the promotional machinery of journalism and public relations. It takes only a brief look at the covers of 'Dixieland' LPs issued in the late 1950s and early '60s to see the result; straw hats and candy-striped blazers, such album titles as 'That Happy Dixieland Jazz' and 'Dixieland My Dixieland'; breathless sleeve notes likening bands playing this form of jazz to barbershop quartets, Stanley Steamers, and Fourth of July fireworks displays."

Even if the music itself had been good--and it was by no means all bad, especially where the soloists were concerned--that would have been enough to discredit the word Dixieland for younger listeners especially.
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hal smith
hal smith

April 6th, 2017, 6:24 am #7

.... "Dixieland" band. It was a traditionalist revival band in the 1940s.

Here is an example:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fj-yN-S-4E

So was Turk Murphy in the 1970s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE3XEluz7f8

Albert
firehouse 5 plus 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alWrxeEnmWw
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

April 6th, 2017, 2:21 pm #8

The Firehouse Five Plus Two were actually a pretty good traditional jazz band when they didn't overindulge the bells, sirens, whistles and other "firehouse" effects. But this isn't a good record to judge them by because the song itself is so silly. The versions actually recorded in the 1920's weren't much better!
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 6th, 2017, 2:55 pm #9

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Andy V.
Andy V.

April 6th, 2017, 8:37 pm #10

...was mentioned by Richard Sudhalter in Lost Chords (p. 298): It was " . . . hyped to death as good time party music by the promotional machinery of journalism and public relations. It takes only a brief look at the covers of 'Dixieland' LPs issued in the late 1950s and early '60s to see the result; straw hats and candy-striped blazers, such album titles as 'That Happy Dixieland Jazz' and 'Dixieland My Dixieland'; breathless sleeve notes likening bands playing this form of jazz to barbershop quartets, Stanley Steamers, and Fourth of July fireworks displays."

Even if the music itself had been good--and it was by no means all bad, especially where the soloists were concerned--that would have been enough to discredit the word Dixieland for younger listeners especially.
Good topic.

This makes me cringe:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UdBqYW_Tp_Y
But not this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gwE9q_x_pis

Both recorded in the 50's. Both groups call themselves Dixieland. Both have fine musicians. One is super corny. The other is musical.

Corny gets you on the Sullivan show. Musicality gets you a recording gig in Northfield, MN.

Regarding that Boswell album: I bought it after the glowing review mentioned earlier and was very disappointed. The same zeitgeist that favored the Dukes of Dixieland must have pervaded the production of that record. And I think it was probably difficult for the musicians to collectively forget 30 years of musical developments since the glory days of the 20's.

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