|THE TURK MURPHY JAZZ BAND—Recorded in Concert at the 1976 Inverness
Music Festival. (Merry Makers Record Company MMRC-CD-54)
Playing time: 74m. 40s.
Band introduction; Struttin’ with Some Barbecue; See See Rider; Doctor Jazz†°;
London Blues; I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You*; Yama Yama Man*;
Big Bear Stomp; The Cascades; I Am Pecan Pete; Back o’ Town Blues*; Easy
Winners♪; Bull Trombone♫; Gone Daddy Blues; Got Everything a Sweet Mama
Needs but Me†; Buddy’s Habits; Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home‡; Friendless
Blues; Fifty Miles of Elbow Room†**; Saint James Infirmary Blues* (part).
Turk Murphy, trombone, washboard♪, leader, vocal**; Leon Oakley, cornet, vocal°;
Bob Helm, clarinet, vocals†; Pete Clute, piano; Bill Carroll, tuba & trombone♫,
vocal‡; Carl Lunsford, banjo; Jimmie Stanislaus, vocals*
Recorded August 22, 1976, at Point Reyes Station, Marin County, California.
Turk Murphy (1915-1987) was one of the giants of jazz in the San Francisco area,
beginning with his tenure in the Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band and continuing
with his own band in the late 1940’s through the years that followed until the time of
this festival recording and, of course, beyond.
The disc opens with the festival chairman introducing the band, and then Leon
Oakley leaps out front leading the band into a powerful rendition of Struttin’ with
Some Barbecue, setting the tenor for the rest of the concert. In his liner notes Vince
Saunders alludes to Oakley’s reverence for Louis Armstrong, and no clearer evidence
of it could be found than his breaks on this tune, his phrasing, his nonpareil half-
valve technique, and throughout ensemble passages his bending notes in all
registers. Whether playing his horn open or muted, he does not let up on any tune
and drives the ensemble. Anyone who was dozing off before the band started had to
be up and alert well before they finished this first number
And so it continues throughout the rest of the concert. Murphy always seemed
fortunate in his choice of sidemen, this band being no exception, all of the men
having been with him for some ten or more years at this time. Helm was long an
associate of Murphy in the YBJB, and they dovetail well, as in Buddy’s Habit, for
example, and in their vocals on Fifty Miles of Elbow Room. Clute joined Murphy in
the mid fifties on piano, and like Wally Rose of the YBJB he was a ragtime enthusiast
and accordingly was featured in many solos or small segments of the band, as on
Easy Winners on this program, Murphy turning to washboard and, along with tuba
and banjo, accompanying Clute.
Murphy was always generous with the spotlight, allowing it to fall on each member
of the band during performances. It is often the case with other bands that one
doesn’t hear much from a rhythm section, the front line being given all the attention,
but this is not so here. Bill Carroll is featured on tuba on See See Rider and again on
trombone in a duet with Murphy on Bull Trombone, and Carl Lunsford on banjo on
Gone Daddy Blues. Clute, of course, takes frequent solos but is also given center
stage with the ragtime pieces, such as Easy Winners, mentioned above, and The
Cascades. Murphy himself takes center stage on his own composition I Am Pecan
Pete, playing it flawlessly and at an absolutely blistering tempo. Oakley, of course, is
always to the fore as the lead instrument, and it is a joy to listen to him as he
explores the tunes.
Also enjoying some exposure on this concert was the vocalist Jimmie Stanislaus,
vocalist with Murphy for about a decade. Murphy, to my knowledge, did not carry
any other dedicated vocalist as a band member, being content to allow the side men
to vocalize, occasionally taking one himself. On numerous occasions he had Pat
Yankee sing with the group. (There is also the story of how Murphy refused to allow
Janis Joplin, before she became a big rock star, to sit in for a couple of numbers at
Earthquake McGoon’s. I have heard some of her blues singing from that period, and
she wasn’t a bad blues singer.) Mercifully Stanislaus does not feel the need to imitate
Louis Armstrong on every song he sings, and his “signature” piece, Yama Yama Man,
is included in this disc’s play list. It is a song which he loved to direct toward any
children in the audience.
All in all this is a fine, hitherto unreleased, performance by the band, displaying just
how polished and disciplined it was. It surely was one of the best groups Murphy
led, possibly the best.
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94901, tel. 415-457-9080.