Johnny Hamp’s Kentucky Serenaders was a jazz and dance band that was active from the mid 1910s to about 1937 or so. They were popular, toured constantly and recorded around 100 tunes, virtually all for the Victor label. Their biggest hit was a 1926 cover of “Black Bottom”, a tune written by Perry Bradford in 1919 which became a national dance craze and which surpassed the popularity of the Charleston.

Recorded on November 9, 1927 in Chicago, at 952 N. Michigan Avenue, the address that used to be the home of the Victor Talking Machine Company and their Recording Lab, “What’ll You Do” is a slice of peppy early jazz with a nice little vocal chorus by Hal White and some terrific brass interplay. White was a ubiquitous pop jazz singer during those years, appearing on many Johnny Hamp sides, other bands’ recordings and leading his own groups. I am pretty sure, if my memory serves me at all, that this tune appeared in a Looney Tunes cartoon from back in the day, but I can’t find any proof so far…

 

 

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Trombonist Albert Wynne and his Creole Jazz Band recorded this wonderful jazz stomp in 1928 and I would say it’s a New Orleans classic, but it was recorded in Chicago! Wynne and the band were based in Chicago for their whole career, although they toured all of America and Europe. But no matter, this is indeed a very NOLA sound, for all time probably, and especially back then.

Features the little-known New Orleans hero, Punch Miller, on trumpet and scat singing solo. Although little-known in the wider world of jazz, he is a cult favorite of jazz 78s collectors. R. Crumb the comic artist and famous 78rpm record collector adored Miller’s many sides and even paid tribute to him by painting his portrait for one of his 36 Early Jazz Greats, a set of trading cards.

 

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Getting his start playing clarinet in Glenn Miller’s big band in 1921, Boyd Senter eventually moved to Chicago in 1923 and managed to make several recordings with Jelly Roll Morton’s Steamboat Four. Soon thereafter he struck out alone as the “Jazzologist Supreme” (sometimes with his band, the Senterpedes) and recorded a string of sides for various labels in the 20s and 30s, all in the hot jazz/New Orleans idiom that was the rage during those decades. Sometimes the playfulness of his approach, especially the “laughing” or “whining” phrasing that became a signature of his clarinet style, was criticized by some as gimmicky, but he sold a lot of sides and was very popular in the public nevertheless.

What makes this 1927 trio take of “Down Hearted Blues” (a Lovie Austin/Alberta Hunter tune) so great is the guitar playing of the iconic Eddie Lang, an innovator who really raised the bar on guitar approach and its place in popular music, and also paved the way for giants like Django, Lonnie Johnson and Wes Montgomery. This performance is just so beautifully toned and nuanced, and to my ears sounds like he was playing from about 15-20 years into the future. Lang’s genius was very unfortunately cut short at 30 years old, a bad surgery in New York in 1933 seeming the culprit. His impact on Jazz cannot be underestimated.

Boyd Senter left music in the late 30s after his popularity waned, became a sporting goods salesman, settled down, and lived into old age, retiring to Oscoda, Michigan, and finally giving up the ghost in 1982 at 84 years old.

This Velvet Tone 7070 is a reissue copy of the original Okeh pressing, matrix no. W81001.

 

 

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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 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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