Max Miller is a long-forgotten Chicago piano man (and vibraphoneman) from the 1940s and 50s. Virtually everything he ever recorded and released came out in the 50s, and he wasn’t particularly prolific. Besides one album for Columbia in 1951, Piano Moods CL-6175, he released a handful of interesting and adventurous singles on a couple tiny Chicago 78rpm labels: L.I.F.E. and Gold Seal. And those singles sold very few copies, so finding any of his sides is rare. I have four of his L.I.F.E. 78 rpm singles and they all show a musician influenced by the jazz sounds of players like Dizzy Gillespie and Sidney Bechet, and also classical music giants, like Stravinsky and Bartok. He had a long career and played with the likes of Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, Chubby Jackson, and even played vibes with Benny Goodman for a spell.

Miller lived a long, interesting life, and eventually even opened up his own music club in 1956, “Max Miller’s Scene”, on the 2100 N. Clark block of Lincoln Park, on the exact site of the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre!

“(Jump for Al Benson) Lumbar Ganglion Jump” is a quartet recording from 1950 with his regular band during that time, and boy do they pop out a doozy of jazz jump:

Miller, piano

Earl Backus, guitar

Remo Belli (founder of Remo drum heads), drums

George Stahl, bass

 

 

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This version of Jelly Roll Morton’s classic “Wild Man Blues” by jazz clarinetist Johnny Dodds (1892-1940) and his Chicago Boys is my absolute favorite ever; its melody is a New Orleans blues if ever there was one, bub. He recorded this tune several times in the course of his career, all different takes with different approaches to the solos and the arrangements. This one is from a 1938 New York session and features the New Orleans legend towards the very end of his life still playing with so much energy and so much feeling for a song which was “a hit” for him and which he presumably played very often until his premature end. He died in 1940 leaving a tremendous legacy of music and recordings, and this is one of those songs which I will always love and never forget.

Thank you, Mr. Dodds, for this little heart & joy that you left the world.

Charlie Shavers (tpt) ; Johnny Dodds (clt) ; Lil Armstrong
(p) ; Teddy Bunn (g) ; John Kirby (bs) ; O’Neil Spencer (dr)

 

 

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