|NEW ORLEANS | 1961: THE LIVING LEGENDS – Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz
Percy Humphrey’s Crescent City Joymakers
Milenberg Joys; Over in Gloryland; Lonesome Road*; We Shall Walk Through the
Streets of the City; Weary Blues; Bucket’s Got a Hole in It*; All the Gals Like the
Way I Ride; Rip ‘Em up Joe.
Personnel: Percy Humphrey, tpt; Louis Nelson, tbn; Albert Burbank cl; Emanuel
Sayles, bjo, gtr*; Louis James, sb; Josiah Frazier, dr. Recorded New Orleans, 24
Sweet Emma “The Bell Gal” & Her Dixieland Boys, featuring Jim Robinson
Bill Bailey†; Chinatown; Down in Honky Tonk Town; The Bell Gal’s Careless
Blues; I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll†; Just a Little While to
Stay Here; Tishomingo Blues; When the Saints Go Marching In†.
Personnel: Emma Barrett, pno, voc†; Percy Humphrey, tpt; Jim Robinson, tbn;
Willie Humphrey, cl; Emanuel Sayles, bjo, gtr; McNeal Breaux, sb; Josiah Frazier, dr.
Recorded New Orleans, 25 January, 1961
Jim Robinson’s New Orleans Band
Ice Cream; In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree; Mobile Stomp; Bogalusa Strut; Jada;
Bugle Boy March; Yearning; Whenever You’re Lonely; When You Wore a Tulip.
Jim Robinson, tbn; Ernest Cagnolati, tpt; Louis Cottrell, cl; “Creole George”
Guesnon, bjo; Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, sb; Alfred Williams, dr.
Recorded New Orleans, 24 January, 1961 (first five tracks)
Recorded New Orleans, 30 January, 1961 (last four tracks)
Bille and DeDe Pierce – Vocal Blues and Cornet in the Classic Tradition
St. Louis Blues; Goodbye Daddy Blues; Careless Love; Brickhouse Blues; Algiers
Hoodoo Blues; Slow Tonk Blues; Gulf Coast Blues; Nobody Knows You When You’
re Down and Out; Love Song of the Nile.
Personnel: Billie Pierce, pno, voc; DeDe Pierce, cnt (out on Love Song of the Nile);
Albert Jiles, dr.
Recorded New Orleans, 27 January, 1961
By the 1950’s the traditional jazz revival was well underway. While New Orleans
was generally credited with being the birthplace of jazz and those who had
“emigrated” from there, such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, the Original
Dixieland Jazz Band, etc., had been given due recognition, those who had not left
the city had gone largely unknown until after the publication of Jazzmen (1939) and
the efforts by Heywood Hale Broun, Bill Russell, and others to locate and record
them began in the early 1940’s.
After the Second World War ended, recordings of New Orleans jazzmen such as
Bunk Johnson and George Lewis, who gained recognition playing dates in New
York, began to be issued on major labels such as RCA Victor, Decca, and Columbia.
By the next decade, other labels began to see the mercantile opportunities in
recordings of native New Orleanians, among them Riverside which, in 1960-1961,
set out to record some of these artists still living in New Orleans but largely
unknown outside of it for its “Living Legends” series, including those featured on
this CD. Several LP’s resulted from this endeavor, all recorded at the Hall Of The
Société Des Jeunes Amis in New Orleans.
These included Emma Barrett (Sweet Emma “The Bell Gal” and Her Dixieland
Boys, Jan 25, 1961–Riverside RLP 364); two by Jim Robinson (Jim Robinson's New
Orleans Band on Jan. 24 and 30, 1961–Riverside RLP 369 and Jim Robinson Plays
Spirituals And Blues RLP 393); and single albums by Percy Humphrey (Percy
Humphrey's Crescent City Joy Makers, Jan. 24, 1961–Riverside RLP 378; and Billie
and DeDe Pierce (Vocal Blues and Cornet in the Classic Tradition, Jan. 27, 1961–
Riverside RLP 370), all of which, except for RLP 393, are included in this CD
reissue*. (Another LP, Riverside RLP 356/357, was a compilation dual album of
tracks left over from these recording sessions and several others.)
All of these LP’s were issued in both mono and stereo. Three of the Riverside
“Living Legends” series albums reviewed here—RLP 364, 369, and 378—were
reissued in the CD format under the “Original Jazz Classics” heading on the
Fantasy label some time back. (RLP 370 was reissued under Fantasy’s “Original
Blues Classics” series.)
The musicians comprising the bands on this CD were at the peak of their
performing abilities at the time these recordings were made. It was at this same time
that Preservation Hall was founded in New Orleans, and the majority of the
musicians in the bands featured on these discs appeared in one or another
combination in the hall. Later, bands under the aegis of Preservation Hall began
touring, and I was fortunate enough to see almost all of them as they passed
through San Francisco.
The four sessions on this disc contain what some consider the definitive recordings
of some of these tunes. Jim Robinson, for instance, made Ice Cream his own—it
was always requested when he performed, and whoever witnessed him doing it will
not forget the dance he did and the white handkerchief he waved at the audience. I
recall being in an audience of some 20,000 people at an outdoor concert in Stern
Grove, San Francisco, one summer when the Preservation Hall band was on tour,
and Big Jim was a little surprised when it seemed the entire audience responded to
his handkerchief waving by taking some pages from the Sunday San Francisco
Chronicle newspaper, folding them, and waving back. He loved it.
This recording was made some half dozen years before Sweet Emma suffered a
stroke that paralyzed her left side, and although she continued to perform
thereafter, she was not the two-fisted piano player she was in 1961. But she never
forsook her trademark red outfit, her beanie, and her bells.
In two of the bands, his Crescent City Joymakers and Sweet Emma’s Dixieland
Boys, Percy Humphrey played trumpet, which, even when muted, was fiery. He
was not averse to reaching for the upper register of his horn on occasion, as opposed
to many revivalists who stayed in the middle and low registers. He frequently
appeared in bands with brother Willie on clarinet. Percy was invariably focused on
his horn, while Willie was more the entertainer, not being averse to getting up to
dance a little or strut back and forth in front of the band, much to the audience’s
Billie and DeDe pierce also headed up a Preservation Hall band on occasion,
although here it is a small group with which they sometimes appeared. Love Songs
of the Nile will forever in most people’s minds be associated with Billie Pierce, who
almost single-handedly rescued it from the oblivion that it, along with the 1933
forgettable picture The Barbarian with Roman Navarro and Myrna Loy in which it
was featured, had disappeared. She and her husband, blind cornetist DeDe,
invariably appeared together, whether in a band setting or a smaller group one.
Their repertoire contained many obscure blues, some of which are included here.
For those not having the Riverside CD’s, this reissue on Avid again makes available
these classic sides, which belong in every traditional jazz fan’s collection. It also
does so with superb transfers and at a price that will not require taking out a bank
loan. With luck, Avid will also reissue the other Living Legends recordings.
*One caveat—probably because of space limitations, the following tracks on the
originals are omitted on these reissues: Jim Robinson’s New Orleans Band -
Somebody Else Is Taking My Place; Percy Humphrey’s Crescent City Joymakers -
(Avid is an English label. This double CD can be ordered on their web site http:
//www.avidgroup.co.uk/ and it can also be found on Amazon.)