Jazz at 100 Hour 4: Chicago Jazz Roots (1922 – 1929)

Freddie Keppard

In the last hour we listened to the music of the first great jazz composer, Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet, only soloist in early jazz to seriously challenge Louis Armstrong.

In addition to King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, The Chicago scene bristled with black and white bands, initially dominated by more New Orleans musicians, but in time a home grown group of Chicago players emerged. In this hour, we’ll return to the Chicago of King Oliver. As the 1920s progressed the Chicago music scene attracted such early jazz luminaries as Louisiana born clarinetists Jimmie Noone, Johnny Dodds and Leon Roppolo, Earl Hines from Pittsburgh, pianist Lovie Austin from Chattanooga, and Georgia-born trumpeter Jabbo Smith. We will also explore the scant recorded legacy of Freddie Keppard, who reigned in New Orleans as Cornet King after Buddy Bolden, until unseated by Joe “King” Oliver.

Friars Society Orchestra /New Orleans Rhythm Kings.
Among the first Chicago bands to record, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, were characterized by Paul Mares’ King Oliver-influenced cornet and clarinetist Leon Roppolo’s linear melodic style, which was very influential on a generation of Chicago reed players. In his History of Jazz, Ted Gioia writes, “Leon Roppolo’s underappreciated recordings with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings … gave notice of the [clarinet’s] potential as early as 1922.”

Panama. Friars Society Orchestra
(Paul Mares-cor, George Brunies-tb, Leon Roppolo-cl, Jack Pettis-Cmelody/ts, Elmer Schoebel-p, Lou Black-bj, Steve Brown-b, Frank Snyder-d). 8/30/1922.
Wolverine Blues. New Orleans Rhythm Kings
(Paul Mares-cor, George Brunies-tb, Leon Roppolo-cl, Mel Stitzel-p, Ben Pollack-d) 3/13/1923.
This was perhaps the first Jelly Roll Morton song recorded. The outreach from the publishers, the Melrose Brothers, to Morton resulted in his relocation to Chicago. Leading to many more publications and his first recording sessions.
Mr. Jelly Lord. New Orleans Rhythm Kings
(Paul Mares-cor, George Brunies-tb, Leon Roppolo-cl/as, Jack Pettis-Cm, Glenn Scoville-as/ts, Don Murray-ts, Jelly Roll Morton, Bob Gilette-bj, Chink Martin-bb, Ben Pollack-d). 7/17/1923.
Another Morton composition with the composer on piano.

Jimmie Noone and Earl Hines.
Following an abortive attempt at running a night club with Louis Armstrong, as Ted Gioia writes, pianist Earl Hines “entered into a second musical partnership almost as fruitful as his work with Armstrong. Soon after joining New Orleans clarinetist Jimmie Noone at Chicago’s Apex Club, Hines participated in a series of recordings that rank among the finest combo sides of the era. Known as the Apex Club recordings, they reflect a combination of melodic fluency and hot rhythms that was rare at the time.” Noone, who years before had replaced Sidney Bechet in Freddie Keppard’s band in New Orleans, was a highly melodic player who influenced a generation of musicians from Benny Goodman to Nat King Cole (whose first singing in public was Noone’s featured “Sweet Lorraine”.) Noone’s playing is credited with inspiring Maurice Ravel’s contemporary composition, Bolero (1928).

Four or Five Times. Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra
(Jimmie Noone-cl/voc, Joe Poston-as/voc, Earl Hines-p, Bud Scott-bjo/g, Johnny Wells-d). 5/16/1928. (The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz)
Sweet Lorraine. Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra
(Jimmie Noone-cl, Joe Poston–as, Earl Hines-p, Bud Scott-bj/g, Lawson Buford-bb, Johnny Wells-d). 8/25/1928

Earl Hines.
Quoting Ted Gioia, Earl Hines’s “… rhythmic ingenuity – the complex interweavings of the phrases, his gamesmanship with the beat, the percussive quality of his attack – was unsurpassed. At critical moments in the course of a solo, Hines hands would nervously fly across the keyboard, letting loose with a jagged, off-balance phrase, a flurry of notes as agitated as a swarm of honeybees forced from their hive. In the midst of this chaos, the pulse of the music would disappear. Yet almost as unexpectedly as it had erupted, this musical anarchy would suddenly subside, and the measured swing of composition would reemerge, again solidly locked into the ground beat.”

Blues in Thirds. Earl Hines
Earl Hines solo (-p). 12/8/1928. (Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano)
According to Martin Williams from the notes for Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano, “Earl Hines was Louis Armstrong’s constant musical companion in 1928, and each man’s playing deeply influenced the other. Hines was also, along with Fats Waller, a dominant influence on jazz piano until Teddy Wilson’s arrival in the mid-1930s. But Hines was no blues man, his playing would never be described as ‘barrelhouse,’ ‘in the ally,’ ‘lowdown,’ or ‘funky’ – colloquialisms that range over the years but all mean pretty much the same thing. So it is particularly interesting that some of Hines’s best pieces are in the blues form… In Blues In Thirds, we hear gradual elaborations of the original melody, each growing more decorous, with a final movement into pure invention in the next-to-last chorus. All is supported by the gentle, sometimes varied movement of Hines’s left hand. This almost-classic structure makes his first [solo] recording a masterpiece, in a long career that included many another recorded masterpieces. It also introduces his way of using the blues form as a vehicle for personal introspection, thereby extending the blues quite beyond its previous emotional limits.”
Fifty-Seven Varieties. Earl Hines
Earl Hines solo (-p). 12/12/1928. (Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano)
In the Oxford Companion to Jazz, Henry Martin writes, Hines “focused on a more directed melodic line, often doubled at the octave with phrase-ending tremolos. This line was called the ‘trumpet’ right hand because of its markedly hornlike character, but in fact the general trend toward a more linear style can be traced back through stride and Jelly Roll Morton to late ragtime from 1915 to 1922.”
I Ain’t Got Nobody. Earl Hines
Earl Hines solo (-p). 12/12/1928. (Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano)
Martin Williams writes, “I Ain’t Got Nobody … introduces another aspect of Hines’s style, one that he shared with Louis Armstrong’s trumpet lines: the suspenseful double-time flights. Hines once claimed that he was just as worried as anyone else, during these passages, about whether he would return for a safe, musically correct landing. He seldom failed to. As with all his other resources, Hines employed these flights with taste and total musicality.”

Lovie Austin.
“Austin was an extraordinary figure whose status as one of the first women to make a contribution to jazz remains undervalued… Though it will sound primitive to modern ears, Austin’s music was a sophisticated variation of the barrelhouse style of the period.” – Brian Morton and Richard Cook

Traveling Blues. Lovie Austin and her Blues Serenaders
(Tommy Ladnier-cor, Jimmy O’Bryant-cl, Lovie Austin-p). 11/1924.
Frog Tongue Stomp. Lovie Austin’s Serenaders
(Bob Schoffner or Shirley Clay-cor, Albert Wynn or Kid Ory-tb, Johnny Dodds-cl, Lovie Austin-p, W.E. Burton-d). 4/1926.
Lovie Austin was an important influence on Mary Lou Williams (23 years her junior). Although formally trained she surrounded herself with New Orleans players like Tommy Ladnier, Johnny Dodds and Kid Ory.

Freddie Keppard and Johnny Dodds.
We will never know really how good Keppard was as he left New Orleans as a full-blown professional at 21 in 1910, passed up a recording opportunity in 1915 and didn’t record until 1926, when drink and life on the road had taken their toll. Many contemporaries list him in the pantheon with Buddy Bolden and Joe Oliver as early Kings, but the recorded evidence is spotty. Johnny Dodds, although just three years younger was a serious professional who never let drugs or alcohol interfere with his craft. He is at his peak on these recordings in 1926, having spent several years with King Oliver and in the middle of the remarkable string of Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings with Louis Armstrong.

Salty Dog. Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals
(Freddie Keppard-cor, Eddie Vincent-tb, Johnny Dodds-cl, Arthur Campbell-p, Jasper Taylor-woodblocks, Papa Charlie Jackson-voc). 9/1926.
Stock Yard Strut. Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals
(Freddie Keppard-cor, Eddie Vincent-tb, Johnny Dodds-cl, Arthur Campbell-p, Jasper Taylor-woodblocks, Papa Charlie Jackson-voc). 9/1926.
Stomp Time Blues. Jasper Taylor and his State Street Boys
(Freddie Keppard-cor, Eddie Ellis-tb, Johnny Dodds-cl, Tiny Parham-p, Jasper Taylor-woodblocks). 1/1927.

Jabbo Smith.
Ted Gioia wries, “Although he may have lacked Armstrong’s magisterial phrasing and sense of solo construction, Smith demanded the utmost respect for the speed and range of his playing. And, in many ways, his driving, energetic attack foreshadows the later evolution of jazz trumpet, as represented by Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, more clearly than even Armstrong’s efforts of the period.” As with many others, Smith’s great potential was squandered in the wake of alcohol-induced unreliability.

A Jazz Battle. Rhythm Aces
(Jabbo Smith-tp, Omer Simeon-cl, Cassino Simpson-p, Ikey Robinson-bj). 1/29/1929.
Take Me To The River. Jabbo Smith and his Rhythm Aces
(Jabbo Smith-tp/voc, Omer Simeon-cl, Cassino Simpson-p, Ikey Robinson-b, Hayes Alvis-bb). 3/1/1929.

In the next hour, we’ll move to New York to the listen to some of the great early jazz orchestras led by pioneering band leaders – Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Don Redman and Henry “Red” Allen.

The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Columbia P6 11891
Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 0391
Lovie Austin – Lovie Austin: 1924-1926. Classics 756
Johnny Dodds: 1926. Classics 589
Earl Hines Collection: Piano Solos 1928-1940. Collectors Classics COCD 11
Freddie Keppard, The Complete Set 1923-1926. Retreival RTR 79017
New Orleans Rhythm Kings 1922-1925: The Complete Set. Retrieval RTR 79031 2CD
Jimmy Noone: 1928 – 1929. Classics 611
Jabbo Smith 1929 – 1938. Classics 669
Classic Jazz: Vol. 030, Johnny Dodds – Group Recordings (1926-27). The World’s Greatest Jazz Collection

Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 3. The Jazz Age
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press.
“Hot Music in the 1920s: The ‘Jazz Age,’ Appearances and Realities” by Richard M. Sudhalter
“Pianists of the 1920s and 1930s” by Henry Martin
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Lovie Austin: 1924-1926
Johnny Dodds: 1926
Earl Hines Collection: Piano Solos 1928-1940
Freddie Keppard, The Complete Set 1923-1926
New Orleans Rhythm Kings 1922-1925: The Complete Set
Jimmy Noone: 1928 – 1929
Jabbo Smith 1929 – 1938

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