by Bert Thompson
TED SHAFER'S JELLY ROLL JAZZ BAND—"NEW ORLEANS JAZZ" vol. 1 (Merry
Makers Record Company MMRC-CD-28). Playing time: 70 mins. 11 secs.
(1)Melancholy; (2)Messin' Around; (3)Someday, Sweetheart; (4)Bourbon Street
Parade; (5)Careless Love; (6)My Blue Heaven; (7)St. Louis Blues; (8)Lady Love; (9)
Tell Me; (10)Pasadena; (11)Oh, by Jingo; (12)Your One and Only; (13)Oriental Man.
Recorded in Benicia, Calif., in 1995, 1999, and 2000.
Personnel: Ted Shafer, banjo, leader (all tracks); Earl Scheelar, cornet (all tracks),
vocal (1, 4, 9, 12), clarinet (1, 13); Bill Bardin, trombone (all tracks), vocal (4, 9, 12);
Pete Main, reeds (all tracks except 7), duck-call (1, 13); Roy Giomi, clarinet (7); Don
Kidder, banjo (all tracks except 4); Tom Downs, tuba (7, 9) Dick Bowman, tuba (4, 6,
11), Jim Maihack, tuba (3, 8, 10, 12), Graham Rosenberg, tuba (1, 2, 5, 13).
Ted Shafer, owner of Merry Makers Records, musician, bandleader, and author, has
been around on the jazz scene for probably longer than he would care to admit. He
has led bands in both Northern and Southern California and endeavored to keep
them working, and for several years he organized a free jazz festival in Suisun City.
In addition, via his record label he has made available many recordings by a variety
of bands—some well-known, others not—of material that would otherwise not have
reached many ears. So it would be fair to say he has paid his jazz dues and
contributed in no small measure to the preservation of traditional jazz.
The same can be said of many of the others on this disc. Earl Scheelar has long
been a fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area, where today leads the Zenith Jazz
Band and the Zenith New Orleans Parade Band on clarinet, and in the past he led
the Funky New Orleans Jazz Band on cornet. On trombone is Bill Bardin, who goes
back to the days of the Lu Watters band, having played with the Yerba Buena Jazz
Band in 1942 and with other “name” musicians such as Bunk Johnson and Earl
Hines and who has been a member of many bands since then. Pete Main plays
with numerous bands today, including the Devil Mountain Jazz Band (of which he
was one of the founders). Multi-instrumentalist Jim Maihack also has impressive
credentials, having played with, among many others, Turk Murphy and Clyde
Shafer’s Jelly Roll Jazz Band comes in two flavors. There is the eight- or nine-piece
version with a two-horn lead, playing charts that are largely transcriptions of the
King Oliver and Lu Watters bands’ arrangements. Then there is the six-piece
version, which is “drumless” and does not play from scores: this is the aggregation
featured on this recording. It is an earlier configuration than today’s, having dual
banjos; the current edition has only one banjo, the other being replaced with a
As a glance at the tune list shows, many of the selections are standards in the
traditional jazz repertoire, indicative of the band’s catering to the requests of its
audience—a smart thing to do to keep ’em coming and extend a residency. While
all renditions are capable, there isn’t anything, really, that makes one’s head turn,
although they do provide some enjoyable listening. Scheelar provides a
commanding lead on cornet with just the right touch of vibrato, and his vocals are
pleasant enough. Bardin, who is not a loud player, is somewhat under-miked on
some of the dates, particularly in the ensemble passages, which is unfortunate as he
always has good ideas, but that is one of the ills to which live recordings such as
this are prone. There is also a certain “clunkiness” in the rhythm section, resulting
from the two banjos rather heavily stressing the offbeat to complement the tuba’s
two beats per measure.
More interesting are the tunes that are not war horses—Messin’ Around, Lady Love,
Tell Me, [Back Home in] Pasadena, and Your One and Only. Not many bands play
these five tunes today. The first, Messin’ Around, is the version composed by
Charles “Doc” Cooke and Johnny St. Cyr. (The other, a different tune but with the
same title, was composed by Jimmy Blythe). Lady Love was first recorded by
Johnny Dodds’ Chicago Footwarmers in 1928, but not often thereafter. The Original
Dixieland Jazz Band was first to record Tell Me in London, in 1920, and Your One
and Only is a ballad from the thirties. [Back Home in] Pasadena was published in
1924 and enjoyed a revival in 1961 when the Temperance Seven, a nine-piece(!)
British jazz orchestra, recorded it and turned it into a U.K. Top Ten hit. Since these
tunes are not heard that often, there is a welcome “freshness” about them.
For those whose tastes extend to hokum, Main can satisfy such, as he does on
Messin’ Around and Oriental Man where he plays a chorus in each on duck-call.
No doubt there are many jazz fans who are unfamiliar with the duck-call: a wooden
whistle-like pipe that, when blown, sounds a call that is appealing to ducks,
attracting them to the blinds where hunters await. Since Spike Jones and his City
Slickers are history, quite possibly Main is the only person in the U.S. today
playing this “instrument” in a band setting.
Finally, it should be noted that Merry Makers Company is now producing its own
CD’s, including the inserts. Accordingly the label on this CD is a paper one, which
one might want to keep in mind if contemplating playing the disc in a car CD
All in all, then, this is an entertaining seventy minutes of jazz and a good example
of the kind of thing that was (and still is) on tap in the San Francisco Bay Area. This
CD is the first volume of three scheduled to be issued, and it is available from Ted
Shafer at Merry Makers Record Company, 926 Beechwood Circle, Suisun City, CA
94585, tel. toll-free 1-866-563-4433) for $16.00, post paid, and possibly from World
Records or other mail order sources.