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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Pastora Pavón Cruz, best known as La Niña de Los Peines (“the Girl of the Combs”), was born in Sevilla, Spain in 1890 and is probably the most important flamenco singer of the 20th century. She never learned to read or write, but began singing at 8 years old and was a prodigy. She was already celebrated in her teens and came to be regarded as a genius of many Spanish song-forms, or “palos”, including: tangos, tientos, malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras, granaínas, peteneras, and the bambera. Cruz has been compared to historical illuminators of music like Bach, and her mark on Spanish cultural history is indelible.

In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; the contribution of La Niña de Los Peines undoubtedly playing a large part in this distinction.

Here she sings an absolutely haunting “saeta”, a revered style of Spanish religious song, here simply titled “Saetas”, and she is joined by cornets, trumpets and a tambourine player. Stark and striking, her voice so thick and impassioned, this kinda of performance slows down time with it’s gravity and almost certainly evokes mortality. This is one of the great songs of all time, and I am so lucky to have found an impeccably clean copy of this Columbia-reissued classic.

 

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Born Alexandra Nicholas Badran in 1924, in Mersin, Turkey, to Lebanese parents, she changed her name to Nour el Houda (“Light of Guidance”) just as she was becoming a famous actress and singing star. During her long career, which began at ten years old, El Houda recorded a huge chunk of classical, religious and popular Arabic songs and is considered one of the greatest Lebanese singers. For her tone, intonation, power and control, she was hailed as “the Girl with the Golden Voice” and was a cultural sensation for almost 30 years.

“Ala Oum el Manadili” is mostly a big, insistent groove and melody which eventually open up into a slow, bare, and moody bridge section that allows you to really hear her incredible vocal talent, before taking it back to the top for a fierce finale. Besides the lead voice and backing singers, the instruments I hear are the mijwiz (a reed clarinet), tablah, the buzuq (strings, long-fretted neck and a tone like a viola), and handclaps. The arrangement and the sounds are pretty typical for middle 1950s, popular Arabic recordings.

This is a song on two sides, so I edited them together in Logic Pro.

 

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This is a Thai luk thung 78 I found in a flea market in Chiang Mai. Luk thung, which translates to “children of the field”, is the name of a folk/country genre of music that developed in the central rural areas of Thailand after WWII. The sound can be described as traditional Siamese/Thai elements combined with Western musical instruments (mostly brass and electronic) and styles emerging in 1940s and 50s America.

I had the great luck of having my friend Oraboon “Taeng” Imchai Bulut from Doisaket, Thailand, translate the writing on this very rare disc. So, the artist is called Fascination and the song is “Love You Girl (Thai folk dance); and it is catalogue number R.H. 2001 on the Hong Barge label, which is one of hundreds of tiny, obscure labels operating at the time. I am guessing this is from around 1959. That’s about all know at this time, unfortunately, wish I knew more…

“Love You, Girl” is a beautiful melody sung in a strong tenor voice on top of a simple arrangement of accordion and percussion. The moody, serpentine slow groove and harmonic flutters from the accordion are all that’s needed to float the lover’s passionate incantation.

 

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This is the other side of Tito Rodriguez, “Desert Dance” (on TICO #10-035A) from the last post, and it is a beautiful, medium-burning mambo called “Donde Estabas Tu?”, “where were you?” in Spanish.

 

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This side, “Desert Dance”, written by R. K. Mozian, is a characteristic mover-and-groover from his repertoire that features flawless execution from the horns and rhythm section, particularly the pianist who I can’t seem to identify, and of course Señor Rodriguez’s timbales sound crisp and solidly “in the pocket.” Such a hidden classic.

 

 

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This is a really swanky, swingin’ little instrumental number from 1955 on the TEEN label; it features piano and a drummer playing a small kit setup that includes one or two tambourines. It pulses along like a good-time get-together with the right party crowd, full of light-hearted merriment and boozy smiles all around.

“Dizzy Brown” was one of the many aliases of pianist, bandleader, orchestra leader, record producer and record company executive Bernie Lowe. He founded TEEN Records that same year, and also the Cameo label in 1956, both which were dedicated to rock, soul, doo-wop and folk rock groups. He also wrote or co-wrote many well-known hits in the 1950s and 60s, including Elvis’ “(Let Me Be) Your Teddy Bear”, Charlie Grace’s “Ninety-Nine Ways”, “Teen Age Prayer” by Gale Storm, and Chubby Checker’s “That’s The Way It Goes”, as well as many Bobby Rydell tunes that charted. Lowe was quite important to the growth of rock-n-roll during this era just as it was entering the true mainstream of American music.

 

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