"Rollini is the great unsung jazz hero..."

"Rollini is the great unsung jazz hero..."

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 24th, 2015, 9:17 pm #1

John Altman Remembers
British film composer, music arranger, orchestrator and conductor John Altman discusses early jazz.
Written: 1976
Source: Jazz Professional

A well–known jazz critic once wrote: “The tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins possessed great powers of improvisation which, had they been canalised into a different medium of expression, e.g. the clarinet, might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” The critic in question has, I know, long since repented that remark, and I only quote it because it serves not one but two useful purposes in the writing of this article.

Firstly, it’s very easy to turn that quote into a valid statement by altering certain key words. Substitute bass for tenor, remove the clarinet reference, and change the name from Coleman Hawkins to Adrian Rollini. Now we’re beginning to make sense. For Rollini, tragically killed in a car accident twenty years ago, is the great unsung jazz hero, both as a player and as a major stylistic influence. The irony of the neglect of his true greatness stems from the accolades he won as a multi–instrumentalist and inventor of musical instruments. The records he made on vibes, piano, drums (and on hot fountain pen and goofus) have in some way tended to diminish his stature as a master saxophonist, while the choice (not initially his) of the rarely–heard bass sax seems to have confined his reputation to the novelty department of jazz history.

Perhaps it is the very unwieldiness of the bass sax that caused Rollini to evolve his unique approach to the instrument and to improvisation. At a time when most tenor and alto saxophonists were utilising tricky effects as their stock–in–trade (slap tonguing and triple tonguing, gimmicky, and ultimately empty, frilly runs) Rollini’s impeccable legato style, filled with emotion, cuts through the period corn in a way reminiscent of Armstrong on the early Fletcher Henderson sides.

Listen to any of the California Ramblers sides that feature Rollini—“Charleston”; “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune”, and especially ‘Stockholm Stomp”. In addition to his fluid, graceful
solos, one can’t help noticing the way he also functions as the bass voice in the ensemble and behind other soloists. The sensitivity of his accompaniments and total integration into the front–line makes me wonder why it took string bass players so many years to achieve this fluid interdependence between solo and ensemble playing.

Adrian Rollini was born in New York City on June 28, 1904, and by the time he joined the California Ramblers in 1922, at the age of eighteen, had achieved an impressive reputation as a pianist, in demand for recordings and accompaniments. ‘He was also a prolific maker of piano rolls. According to Ed Kirkeby, the Ramblers’ manager, it was he who spotted a bass sax in a music store, and suggested to Rollini that it might be a good gimmick for the band. Rollini agreed, Kirkeby bought the sax, and within a week Rollini was featuring it in the act.

Whether or not it seemed a novel gimmick at the time, Rollini’s five–year stay with the Ramblers, and recording career with Bix Beiderbecke and the various Joe Venuti groups in the year before he sailed for England to join Fred Elizalde amply demonstrates that he was, in fact, the least gimmick–conscious saxophonist of his time. If just one example of his moving, loquacious playing is required, I’d cite his work on Bix and Tram’s recording of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”. If you want to hear him really cut loose, try Venuti’s version of the late Rube Bloom’s “Man From The South” where, after the composer’s vocal chorus, Rollini charges in with what must be one of the most fiery solos on wax. As a group accompanist, you could listen to any Annette Hanshaw track with the Venuti Blue Four, or Lee Morse singing “It Ain’t No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones”.

Rollini’s influence on English jazz has always been acknowledged. I remember my uncle, Sid Phillips, telling me how impressed he was with both Rollinis, since Adrian brought younger brother Arthur (of Benny Goodman fame) along on tenor when he came to London to join Fred Elizalde’s band in 1928. The recording of “Nobody’s Sweetheart” that Rollini cut with Elizalde during his stay in London is a classic example of early British jazz—Rollini virtually erupts into a stunning bass sax chorus that overshadows all that has come before. However, his influence on the mainstream of American jazz has been underestimated.

Although there were never many bass saxists in jazz (the great Spencer Clark and Joe Rushton spring immediately to mind, then perhaps Boyd Raeburn, and that’s about it), the baritone sax was to become, through the medium of Harry Carney, the cornerstone of the large jazz band. And this is the great Harry Carney, talking about his magnificent baritone sound, “I actually tried to get a sound as big as Adrian Rollini, who was playing bass sax at that time . . . so I suppose whatever sound I get goes back to that.”

It’s fascinating, after that revelation, to sit down and listen to the early Ellington sides that feature the Carney baritone. There is an unmistakeable Rollini influence in the conception of the solos and in the timing, as well as the sound similarity. Would this have ever been noticed by anyone if Carney had not pointed the way himself? Rex Stewart tells a fascinating anecdote about Coleman Hawkins (we’re back with him and hit on the sound use for the opening quote). It seems that the great Hawk idolised Rollini’s playing (they can be heard together on some Jack Purvis sides) and at one point actually went out and bought a bass sax.

Flushed with pride he brought it to a Fletcher Henderson session, but only succeeded in producing some curious honks and squeaks and, to the accompaniment of hysterical laughter from his Henderson colleagues, Hawkins sadly consigned his career as a bass saxist to dreamland. Now, apart from showing how difficult an instrument the bass sax really is, this story throws an interesting light on Hawkins’ own tenor playing.

Listening to tracks like “Hello Lola”, with the Mound City Blue Blowers, or to any of his up–tempo excursions of the late ‘twenties and early ‘thirties, one can sense that he is, in effect, doing what Carney did—applying Rollini’s bass sax conceptions to the tenor. “Lola” in particular, if played on a lower sax would sound exactly like a Rollini solo of perhaps three years earlier. Conversely, even the earliest Rollini solos transposed to the tenor sax sound effortlessly modern.

When then did Rollini give up the bass sax in the mid–‘thirties to concentrate on vibes and piano, and on running his own club, Adrian’s Tap Room? Some have suggested that the new swing style was alien to the possibilities of the bass sax—that it had no place in the riffing, closely arranged jazz that had superceded the Dixieland style. However, a quick listen to some of the marvellous sides he made after his return from England is enough to disprove this argument. On the splendid recordings done under his own name with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, the Teagarden brothers, and Dick McDonough “Sugar”, “Davenport Blues”, “Somebody Loves Me”—Rollini easily settles in to the idea of a reed section, playing a baritone sax role, as well as soloing with his customary poise and assurance. And on sides like McDonough’s “Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, with Bunny Berigan, his style has changed, mirroring the rhythmic innovations of Swing.

Anyway, whatever the reason, in 1935 Rollini gave up the bass sax, and with it his role in jazz. He still functioned as an admirable vibes player in the pop field (his widow Dixie still makes Red Norvo’s vibes mallets), and was later to start a new career in Florida as a hotel manager, but his massive (in all senses) contribution to the development of the saxophone in jazz remains on innumerable recordings of the ‘twenties for all to hear and appreciate. So hunt out all those Venuti–Lang, Frankie Trumbauer and California Ramblers records—you’re in for a refreshing surprise.


Copied fromhttp://nationaljazzarchive.co.uk/stories?id=50

Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 24th, 2015, 9:37 pm #2

From the "Band Wagon," Nov 18, 1939.

"Bix's style affected almost everyone with whom he came in contact and, on the whole, this was a productive influence. It could be discerned in the work of Trumbauer, Lang, Nichols, Mole, McPartland and Teschmacher, to mention but a few."

Albert
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alex revell
alex revell

August 25th, 2015, 9:44 am #3

John Altman Remembers
British film composer, music arranger, orchestrator and conductor John Altman discusses early jazz.
Written: 1976
Source: Jazz Professional

A well–known jazz critic once wrote: “The tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins possessed great powers of improvisation which, had they been canalised into a different medium of expression, e.g. the clarinet, might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” The critic in question has, I know, long since repented that remark, and I only quote it because it serves not one but two useful purposes in the writing of this article.

Firstly, it’s very easy to turn that quote into a valid statement by altering certain key words. Substitute bass for tenor, remove the clarinet reference, and change the name from Coleman Hawkins to Adrian Rollini. Now we’re beginning to make sense. For Rollini, tragically killed in a car accident twenty years ago, is the great unsung jazz hero, both as a player and as a major stylistic influence. The irony of the neglect of his true greatness stems from the accolades he won as a multi–instrumentalist and inventor of musical instruments. The records he made on vibes, piano, drums (and on hot fountain pen and goofus) have in some way tended to diminish his stature as a master saxophonist, while the choice (not initially his) of the rarely–heard bass sax seems to have confined his reputation to the novelty department of jazz history.

Perhaps it is the very unwieldiness of the bass sax that caused Rollini to evolve his unique approach to the instrument and to improvisation. At a time when most tenor and alto saxophonists were utilising tricky effects as their stock–in–trade (slap tonguing and triple tonguing, gimmicky, and ultimately empty, frilly runs) Rollini’s impeccable legato style, filled with emotion, cuts through the period corn in a way reminiscent of Armstrong on the early Fletcher Henderson sides.

Listen to any of the California Ramblers sides that feature Rollini—“Charleston”; “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune”, and especially ‘Stockholm Stomp”. In addition to his fluid, graceful
solos, one can’t help noticing the way he also functions as the bass voice in the ensemble and behind other soloists. The sensitivity of his accompaniments and total integration into the front–line makes me wonder why it took string bass players so many years to achieve this fluid interdependence between solo and ensemble playing.

Adrian Rollini was born in New York City on June 28, 1904, and by the time he joined the California Ramblers in 1922, at the age of eighteen, had achieved an impressive reputation as a pianist, in demand for recordings and accompaniments. ‘He was also a prolific maker of piano rolls. According to Ed Kirkeby, the Ramblers’ manager, it was he who spotted a bass sax in a music store, and suggested to Rollini that it might be a good gimmick for the band. Rollini agreed, Kirkeby bought the sax, and within a week Rollini was featuring it in the act.

Whether or not it seemed a novel gimmick at the time, Rollini’s five–year stay with the Ramblers, and recording career with Bix Beiderbecke and the various Joe Venuti groups in the year before he sailed for England to join Fred Elizalde amply demonstrates that he was, in fact, the least gimmick–conscious saxophonist of his time. If just one example of his moving, loquacious playing is required, I’d cite his work on Bix and Tram’s recording of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”. If you want to hear him really cut loose, try Venuti’s version of the late Rube Bloom’s “Man From The South” where, after the composer’s vocal chorus, Rollini charges in with what must be one of the most fiery solos on wax. As a group accompanist, you could listen to any Annette Hanshaw track with the Venuti Blue Four, or Lee Morse singing “It Ain’t No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones”.

Rollini’s influence on English jazz has always been acknowledged. I remember my uncle, Sid Phillips, telling me how impressed he was with both Rollinis, since Adrian brought younger brother Arthur (of Benny Goodman fame) along on tenor when he came to London to join Fred Elizalde’s band in 1928. The recording of “Nobody’s Sweetheart” that Rollini cut with Elizalde during his stay in London is a classic example of early British jazz—Rollini virtually erupts into a stunning bass sax chorus that overshadows all that has come before. However, his influence on the mainstream of American jazz has been underestimated.

Although there were never many bass saxists in jazz (the great Spencer Clark and Joe Rushton spring immediately to mind, then perhaps Boyd Raeburn, and that’s about it), the baritone sax was to become, through the medium of Harry Carney, the cornerstone of the large jazz band. And this is the great Harry Carney, talking about his magnificent baritone sound, “I actually tried to get a sound as big as Adrian Rollini, who was playing bass sax at that time . . . so I suppose whatever sound I get goes back to that.”

It’s fascinating, after that revelation, to sit down and listen to the early Ellington sides that feature the Carney baritone. There is an unmistakeable Rollini influence in the conception of the solos and in the timing, as well as the sound similarity. Would this have ever been noticed by anyone if Carney had not pointed the way himself? Rex Stewart tells a fascinating anecdote about Coleman Hawkins (we’re back with him and hit on the sound use for the opening quote). It seems that the great Hawk idolised Rollini’s playing (they can be heard together on some Jack Purvis sides) and at one point actually went out and bought a bass sax.

Flushed with pride he brought it to a Fletcher Henderson session, but only succeeded in producing some curious honks and squeaks and, to the accompaniment of hysterical laughter from his Henderson colleagues, Hawkins sadly consigned his career as a bass saxist to dreamland. Now, apart from showing how difficult an instrument the bass sax really is, this story throws an interesting light on Hawkins’ own tenor playing.

Listening to tracks like “Hello Lola”, with the Mound City Blue Blowers, or to any of his up–tempo excursions of the late ‘twenties and early ‘thirties, one can sense that he is, in effect, doing what Carney did—applying Rollini’s bass sax conceptions to the tenor. “Lola” in particular, if played on a lower sax would sound exactly like a Rollini solo of perhaps three years earlier. Conversely, even the earliest Rollini solos transposed to the tenor sax sound effortlessly modern.

When then did Rollini give up the bass sax in the mid–‘thirties to concentrate on vibes and piano, and on running his own club, Adrian’s Tap Room? Some have suggested that the new swing style was alien to the possibilities of the bass sax—that it had no place in the riffing, closely arranged jazz that had superceded the Dixieland style. However, a quick listen to some of the marvellous sides he made after his return from England is enough to disprove this argument. On the splendid recordings done under his own name with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, the Teagarden brothers, and Dick McDonough “Sugar”, “Davenport Blues”, “Somebody Loves Me”—Rollini easily settles in to the idea of a reed section, playing a baritone sax role, as well as soloing with his customary poise and assurance. And on sides like McDonough’s “Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, with Bunny Berigan, his style has changed, mirroring the rhythmic innovations of Swing.

Anyway, whatever the reason, in 1935 Rollini gave up the bass sax, and with it his role in jazz. He still functioned as an admirable vibes player in the pop field (his widow Dixie still makes Red Norvo’s vibes mallets), and was later to start a new career in Florida as a hotel manager, but his massive (in all senses) contribution to the development of the saxophone in jazz remains on innumerable recordings of the ‘twenties for all to hear and appreciate. So hunt out all those Venuti–Lang, Frankie Trumbauer and California Ramblers records—you’re in for a refreshing surprise.


Copied fromhttp://nationaljazzarchive.co.uk/stories?id=50

Albert
What an excellent article by Altman. I wonder who the other critic was who thought that if Coleman Hawkins had played the clarinet it "might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” Hasn't he?
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Debbie White
Debbie White

August 25th, 2015, 3:48 pm #4

John Altman Remembers
British film composer, music arranger, orchestrator and conductor John Altman discusses early jazz.
Written: 1976
Source: Jazz Professional

A well–known jazz critic once wrote: “The tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins possessed great powers of improvisation which, had they been canalised into a different medium of expression, e.g. the clarinet, might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” The critic in question has, I know, long since repented that remark, and I only quote it because it serves not one but two useful purposes in the writing of this article.

Firstly, it’s very easy to turn that quote into a valid statement by altering certain key words. Substitute bass for tenor, remove the clarinet reference, and change the name from Coleman Hawkins to Adrian Rollini. Now we’re beginning to make sense. For Rollini, tragically killed in a car accident twenty years ago, is the great unsung jazz hero, both as a player and as a major stylistic influence. The irony of the neglect of his true greatness stems from the accolades he won as a multi–instrumentalist and inventor of musical instruments. The records he made on vibes, piano, drums (and on hot fountain pen and goofus) have in some way tended to diminish his stature as a master saxophonist, while the choice (not initially his) of the rarely–heard bass sax seems to have confined his reputation to the novelty department of jazz history.

Perhaps it is the very unwieldiness of the bass sax that caused Rollini to evolve his unique approach to the instrument and to improvisation. At a time when most tenor and alto saxophonists were utilising tricky effects as their stock–in–trade (slap tonguing and triple tonguing, gimmicky, and ultimately empty, frilly runs) Rollini’s impeccable legato style, filled with emotion, cuts through the period corn in a way reminiscent of Armstrong on the early Fletcher Henderson sides.

Listen to any of the California Ramblers sides that feature Rollini—“Charleston”; “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune”, and especially ‘Stockholm Stomp”. In addition to his fluid, graceful
solos, one can’t help noticing the way he also functions as the bass voice in the ensemble and behind other soloists. The sensitivity of his accompaniments and total integration into the front–line makes me wonder why it took string bass players so many years to achieve this fluid interdependence between solo and ensemble playing.

Adrian Rollini was born in New York City on June 28, 1904, and by the time he joined the California Ramblers in 1922, at the age of eighteen, had achieved an impressive reputation as a pianist, in demand for recordings and accompaniments. ‘He was also a prolific maker of piano rolls. According to Ed Kirkeby, the Ramblers’ manager, it was he who spotted a bass sax in a music store, and suggested to Rollini that it might be a good gimmick for the band. Rollini agreed, Kirkeby bought the sax, and within a week Rollini was featuring it in the act.

Whether or not it seemed a novel gimmick at the time, Rollini’s five–year stay with the Ramblers, and recording career with Bix Beiderbecke and the various Joe Venuti groups in the year before he sailed for England to join Fred Elizalde amply demonstrates that he was, in fact, the least gimmick–conscious saxophonist of his time. If just one example of his moving, loquacious playing is required, I’d cite his work on Bix and Tram’s recording of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”. If you want to hear him really cut loose, try Venuti’s version of the late Rube Bloom’s “Man From The South” where, after the composer’s vocal chorus, Rollini charges in with what must be one of the most fiery solos on wax. As a group accompanist, you could listen to any Annette Hanshaw track with the Venuti Blue Four, or Lee Morse singing “It Ain’t No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones”.

Rollini’s influence on English jazz has always been acknowledged. I remember my uncle, Sid Phillips, telling me how impressed he was with both Rollinis, since Adrian brought younger brother Arthur (of Benny Goodman fame) along on tenor when he came to London to join Fred Elizalde’s band in 1928. The recording of “Nobody’s Sweetheart” that Rollini cut with Elizalde during his stay in London is a classic example of early British jazz—Rollini virtually erupts into a stunning bass sax chorus that overshadows all that has come before. However, his influence on the mainstream of American jazz has been underestimated.

Although there were never many bass saxists in jazz (the great Spencer Clark and Joe Rushton spring immediately to mind, then perhaps Boyd Raeburn, and that’s about it), the baritone sax was to become, through the medium of Harry Carney, the cornerstone of the large jazz band. And this is the great Harry Carney, talking about his magnificent baritone sound, “I actually tried to get a sound as big as Adrian Rollini, who was playing bass sax at that time . . . so I suppose whatever sound I get goes back to that.”

It’s fascinating, after that revelation, to sit down and listen to the early Ellington sides that feature the Carney baritone. There is an unmistakeable Rollini influence in the conception of the solos and in the timing, as well as the sound similarity. Would this have ever been noticed by anyone if Carney had not pointed the way himself? Rex Stewart tells a fascinating anecdote about Coleman Hawkins (we’re back with him and hit on the sound use for the opening quote). It seems that the great Hawk idolised Rollini’s playing (they can be heard together on some Jack Purvis sides) and at one point actually went out and bought a bass sax.

Flushed with pride he brought it to a Fletcher Henderson session, but only succeeded in producing some curious honks and squeaks and, to the accompaniment of hysterical laughter from his Henderson colleagues, Hawkins sadly consigned his career as a bass saxist to dreamland. Now, apart from showing how difficult an instrument the bass sax really is, this story throws an interesting light on Hawkins’ own tenor playing.

Listening to tracks like “Hello Lola”, with the Mound City Blue Blowers, or to any of his up–tempo excursions of the late ‘twenties and early ‘thirties, one can sense that he is, in effect, doing what Carney did—applying Rollini’s bass sax conceptions to the tenor. “Lola” in particular, if played on a lower sax would sound exactly like a Rollini solo of perhaps three years earlier. Conversely, even the earliest Rollini solos transposed to the tenor sax sound effortlessly modern.

When then did Rollini give up the bass sax in the mid–‘thirties to concentrate on vibes and piano, and on running his own club, Adrian’s Tap Room? Some have suggested that the new swing style was alien to the possibilities of the bass sax—that it had no place in the riffing, closely arranged jazz that had superceded the Dixieland style. However, a quick listen to some of the marvellous sides he made after his return from England is enough to disprove this argument. On the splendid recordings done under his own name with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, the Teagarden brothers, and Dick McDonough “Sugar”, “Davenport Blues”, “Somebody Loves Me”—Rollini easily settles in to the idea of a reed section, playing a baritone sax role, as well as soloing with his customary poise and assurance. And on sides like McDonough’s “Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, with Bunny Berigan, his style has changed, mirroring the rhythmic innovations of Swing.

Anyway, whatever the reason, in 1935 Rollini gave up the bass sax, and with it his role in jazz. He still functioned as an admirable vibes player in the pop field (his widow Dixie still makes Red Norvo’s vibes mallets), and was later to start a new career in Florida as a hotel manager, but his massive (in all senses) contribution to the development of the saxophone in jazz remains on innumerable recordings of the ‘twenties for all to hear and appreciate. So hunt out all those Venuti–Lang, Frankie Trumbauer and California Ramblers records—you’re in for a refreshing surprise.


Copied fromhttp://nationaljazzarchive.co.uk/stories?id=50

Albert
Altman's article looks to have been written in 1976, and he refers to Rollini's solo in Venuti's version of "Man From the South" as one of the most fiery solos on wax. Over time, hasn't this solo now been attributed to Don Murray ?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 25th, 2015, 6:53 pm #5

Two pieces of evidence:

- The instrument played in Venuti's "Man from the South" is a baritone sax, not a bass sax.
- The number was recorded on June 14, 1928. At this time, Adrian was in England with Fred Elizalde.

Albert
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Coscannon
Coscannon

August 25th, 2015, 8:07 pm #6

John Altman Remembers
British film composer, music arranger, orchestrator and conductor John Altman discusses early jazz.
Written: 1976
Source: Jazz Professional

A well–known jazz critic once wrote: “The tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins possessed great powers of improvisation which, had they been canalised into a different medium of expression, e.g. the clarinet, might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” The critic in question has, I know, long since repented that remark, and I only quote it because it serves not one but two useful purposes in the writing of this article.

Firstly, it’s very easy to turn that quote into a valid statement by altering certain key words. Substitute bass for tenor, remove the clarinet reference, and change the name from Coleman Hawkins to Adrian Rollini. Now we’re beginning to make sense. For Rollini, tragically killed in a car accident twenty years ago, is the great unsung jazz hero, both as a player and as a major stylistic influence. The irony of the neglect of his true greatness stems from the accolades he won as a multi–instrumentalist and inventor of musical instruments. The records he made on vibes, piano, drums (and on hot fountain pen and goofus) have in some way tended to diminish his stature as a master saxophonist, while the choice (not initially his) of the rarely–heard bass sax seems to have confined his reputation to the novelty department of jazz history.

Perhaps it is the very unwieldiness of the bass sax that caused Rollini to evolve his unique approach to the instrument and to improvisation. At a time when most tenor and alto saxophonists were utilising tricky effects as their stock–in–trade (slap tonguing and triple tonguing, gimmicky, and ultimately empty, frilly runs) Rollini’s impeccable legato style, filled with emotion, cuts through the period corn in a way reminiscent of Armstrong on the early Fletcher Henderson sides.

Listen to any of the California Ramblers sides that feature Rollini—“Charleston”; “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune”, and especially ‘Stockholm Stomp”. In addition to his fluid, graceful
solos, one can’t help noticing the way he also functions as the bass voice in the ensemble and behind other soloists. The sensitivity of his accompaniments and total integration into the front–line makes me wonder why it took string bass players so many years to achieve this fluid interdependence between solo and ensemble playing.

Adrian Rollini was born in New York City on June 28, 1904, and by the time he joined the California Ramblers in 1922, at the age of eighteen, had achieved an impressive reputation as a pianist, in demand for recordings and accompaniments. ‘He was also a prolific maker of piano rolls. According to Ed Kirkeby, the Ramblers’ manager, it was he who spotted a bass sax in a music store, and suggested to Rollini that it might be a good gimmick for the band. Rollini agreed, Kirkeby bought the sax, and within a week Rollini was featuring it in the act.

Whether or not it seemed a novel gimmick at the time, Rollini’s five–year stay with the Ramblers, and recording career with Bix Beiderbecke and the various Joe Venuti groups in the year before he sailed for England to join Fred Elizalde amply demonstrates that he was, in fact, the least gimmick–conscious saxophonist of his time. If just one example of his moving, loquacious playing is required, I’d cite his work on Bix and Tram’s recording of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”. If you want to hear him really cut loose, try Venuti’s version of the late Rube Bloom’s “Man From The South” where, after the composer’s vocal chorus, Rollini charges in with what must be one of the most fiery solos on wax. As a group accompanist, you could listen to any Annette Hanshaw track with the Venuti Blue Four, or Lee Morse singing “It Ain’t No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones”.

Rollini’s influence on English jazz has always been acknowledged. I remember my uncle, Sid Phillips, telling me how impressed he was with both Rollinis, since Adrian brought younger brother Arthur (of Benny Goodman fame) along on tenor when he came to London to join Fred Elizalde’s band in 1928. The recording of “Nobody’s Sweetheart” that Rollini cut with Elizalde during his stay in London is a classic example of early British jazz—Rollini virtually erupts into a stunning bass sax chorus that overshadows all that has come before. However, his influence on the mainstream of American jazz has been underestimated.

Although there were never many bass saxists in jazz (the great Spencer Clark and Joe Rushton spring immediately to mind, then perhaps Boyd Raeburn, and that’s about it), the baritone sax was to become, through the medium of Harry Carney, the cornerstone of the large jazz band. And this is the great Harry Carney, talking about his magnificent baritone sound, “I actually tried to get a sound as big as Adrian Rollini, who was playing bass sax at that time . . . so I suppose whatever sound I get goes back to that.”

It’s fascinating, after that revelation, to sit down and listen to the early Ellington sides that feature the Carney baritone. There is an unmistakeable Rollini influence in the conception of the solos and in the timing, as well as the sound similarity. Would this have ever been noticed by anyone if Carney had not pointed the way himself? Rex Stewart tells a fascinating anecdote about Coleman Hawkins (we’re back with him and hit on the sound use for the opening quote). It seems that the great Hawk idolised Rollini’s playing (they can be heard together on some Jack Purvis sides) and at one point actually went out and bought a bass sax.

Flushed with pride he brought it to a Fletcher Henderson session, but only succeeded in producing some curious honks and squeaks and, to the accompaniment of hysterical laughter from his Henderson colleagues, Hawkins sadly consigned his career as a bass saxist to dreamland. Now, apart from showing how difficult an instrument the bass sax really is, this story throws an interesting light on Hawkins’ own tenor playing.

Listening to tracks like “Hello Lola”, with the Mound City Blue Blowers, or to any of his up–tempo excursions of the late ‘twenties and early ‘thirties, one can sense that he is, in effect, doing what Carney did—applying Rollini’s bass sax conceptions to the tenor. “Lola” in particular, if played on a lower sax would sound exactly like a Rollini solo of perhaps three years earlier. Conversely, even the earliest Rollini solos transposed to the tenor sax sound effortlessly modern.

When then did Rollini give up the bass sax in the mid–‘thirties to concentrate on vibes and piano, and on running his own club, Adrian’s Tap Room? Some have suggested that the new swing style was alien to the possibilities of the bass sax—that it had no place in the riffing, closely arranged jazz that had superceded the Dixieland style. However, a quick listen to some of the marvellous sides he made after his return from England is enough to disprove this argument. On the splendid recordings done under his own name with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, the Teagarden brothers, and Dick McDonough “Sugar”, “Davenport Blues”, “Somebody Loves Me”—Rollini easily settles in to the idea of a reed section, playing a baritone sax role, as well as soloing with his customary poise and assurance. And on sides like McDonough’s “Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, with Bunny Berigan, his style has changed, mirroring the rhythmic innovations of Swing.

Anyway, whatever the reason, in 1935 Rollini gave up the bass sax, and with it his role in jazz. He still functioned as an admirable vibes player in the pop field (his widow Dixie still makes Red Norvo’s vibes mallets), and was later to start a new career in Florida as a hotel manager, but his massive (in all senses) contribution to the development of the saxophone in jazz remains on innumerable recordings of the ‘twenties for all to hear and appreciate. So hunt out all those Venuti–Lang, Frankie Trumbauer and California Ramblers records—you’re in for a refreshing surprise.


Copied fromhttp://nationaljazzarchive.co.uk/stories?id=50

Albert
-- on THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH --

-- on this very forum --

-- in response to a link referenced here to the very same article by the same John Altman.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... a+lot+like+....

While we're at it, Rollini wasn't killed in a car accident.

And there's no evidence Don Murray died following a fall from a running board or contact with any other part of a car. No evidence he was intoxicated either. (Bonus corrections).
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 27th, 2015, 4:59 am #7

What an excellent article by Altman. I wonder who the other critic was who thought that if Coleman Hawkins had played the clarinet it "might well have secured him a permanent place in jazz.” Hasn't he?
I haven't looked it up, but I suspect the critic who thought Coleman Hawkins could have "secured ... a permanent place in jazz" if he'd only played clarinet instead of tenor sax was Rudi Blesh. I do recall that in his bizarre jazz history "Shining Trumpets" (the one in which he dismissed Bix as a poor imitation of Freddie Keppard, of all people) he said Jack Teagarden's "That's a Serious Thing" wasn't really a jazz record because "the instrumentation is faulty, omitting clarinet and substituting two saxophones."
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Jon Pytko
Jon Pytko

August 30th, 2015, 3:35 pm #8

-- on THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH --

-- on this very forum --

-- in response to a link referenced here to the very same article by the same John Altman.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... a+lot+like+....

While we're at it, Rollini wasn't killed in a car accident.

And there's no evidence Don Murray died following a fall from a running board or contact with any other part of a car. No evidence he was intoxicated either. (Bonus corrections).
I seem to remember a discussion several years ago as to Don Murray's death. Since I can only think of the customary "fell from running board/was recovering/drank while in the hospital/led to swelling of the brain(?) scenario, what, given your admirable penchant for detail, is your hypothesis for his demise? I'm always welcome to have prior notions corrected by evidence.
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Coscannon
Coscannon

August 31st, 2015, 2:57 am #9

I can fill you in though what I say will simply undo your prior knowledge.

Don Murray's death was covered more widely than one might expect. None of the coverage was particularly lengthy. But his death was considered mysterious by the press, and the musical connection provided just enough prominence to guarantee a few paragraphs in several newspapers. I've also found some documentary records.

Murray died in a hospital four days after a fall in the street fractured his skull and injured his brain. There were NO witnesses, no one knew for sure what provoked the fall. He was found unconscious, with over $100 in his possession, the amount he'd had before he left home. There was nothing to indicate assault or robbery had taken place. L.A. Medical Examiner Frank Nance held an inquest that ruled the death accidental. They really could determine no more. No further investigation seemed warranted.

Contact with a car was never mentioned in the proceedings or in any contemporary coverage. My guess is that Murray's friends tried to imagine how anyone could sustain such severe injury from a fall on a concrete street. (Actually, it isn't that difficult.) I think his friends invented the running board hypothesis. But remember there were no witnesses. The police saw nothing that suggested a car had played any role in his fall. If they had, they would surely have offered the hypothesis themselves.

As far as I know, the account attributed to Bill Rank in BIX: MAN & LEGEND was the first time the running board theory appeared in print. It was presented as fact. Rank said he'd spoken to others in Ted Lewis's band and learned Don was standing on a running board, talking to friends, when he fell. Here we ask ourselves: If there had been witnesses -- friends, no less -- to an innocent act with such deadly results, would they have kept that from the police? Would Murray have been left alone, abandoned, unconscious in the street?

Next question: Was Don Murray drunk when he fell? Well, he might have been. But at that time there was no reliable chemical means to determine an undoubted state of intoxication in a living person. Police made a judgment based on observation of behavior. Drunk or sober, Murray could only have been observed being unconscious. That could have been -- and was -- attributed to alcohol but no, it was a brain injury.

Murray never regained consciousness which also puts the lie to the story he was recovering when friends brought him booze in the hospital. In fact, and this is kind of disturbing, early on, some newspapers printed he wasn't expected to survive.

In 1927, a scholarly journal documented a test that could determine if someone who'd recently died had been highly intoxicated. (I won't go into the details here.) But whether or not Los Angeles autopsy surgeons were aware of the test, it wasn't performed and, four days after Murray was found, there wouldn't have been much alcohol in his brain.

During Don's hospitalization, there was little to be done beyond checking his vital signs and keeping him clean and what was considered comfortable. If his injury had been less traumatic, he might have recovered, partially or fully. That would have happened largely on its own.

Medical procedures today are very different. Actually, even then, there were some teaching hospitals that might have performed exploratory surgery to potentially alleviate pressure or discover some additional complication at work. But they were very few places doing that back in 1929.

It'a a tragic story made sadder because it happened to such a vivacious, talented and oh so young guy.






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Barb Wascher
Barb Wascher

September 1st, 2015, 5:24 pm #10

...if only in the negative, in the short piece about Don's death in the June 5, 1929 edition of Variety -- the source I consider the most likely way Bix first read about it while en route to California. The whole tone of the piece, in fact, hints heavily at foul play, telling us that "...police were inclined to believe he was struck by a blunt instrument rather than by a hit-and-run automobile...." and citing the over $100 in cash found on his person as an indication that theft was not a motive. The piece makes no mention of the ruling of 'accidental' by the medical examiner and tells us Don died in the wholly fictitious 'Dickey and Camp Hospital.'

I'd say a sidewalk or curb qualifies only broadly as a 'blunt instrument,' but those intimations in print, however sensational and erroneous, that Don may have been murdered must have weighed heavily on Bix's mind at the time, compounding an already tragic loss. It's no wonder, at least to me, that he drank himself sick that summer.

A minor quibble: If Don never regained consciousness, how do you know he left his house with all that money?
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