Tag Archives: Paul Whiteman

78: “At the Jazz Band Ball” b/w “The Jazz Me Blues” by Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang. Okeh 40923. Recorded in New York City, October 5, 1927.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

 

Born in 1903 to a well-off German American couple in Davenport, Iowa, Leon Bismark Biederbecke was the youngest of three children. He was playing the piano by ear at the age of three; according to his sister, he would play it standing up with his arms up over his head to reach the keys. His ability to mimic almost any melody he heard was noted in the local paper when he was just seven years old, and he would often go to the cinema as a child not to enjoy the films, but rather to dash home afterwards to see if he could accurately play what he had just heard from the silent films’ piano accompaniment. His older brother had returned home from military service in 1918 with a Victrola in tow, thus giving Leon—now known by all by his nickname “Bix”—the opportunity to hear his first jazz records. Supposedly, he taught himself to play Cornet by copying The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s recordings of “Tiger Rag” and “Skeleton Jangle.”

Bix was not the best student, and his parents sent him off to the Lake Forest Academy in hopes that he would be taught discipline and direction. They didn’t account for the fact that the Academy was a short train ride away from Chicago, where Bix would escape to listen to bands like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. For reasons both academic and alcoholic, Bix was expelled from the academy. He returned to Davenport to work for his father in 1923, but soon enough jumped at the opportunity to join The Wolverine Orchestra. Here he is with his recording debut, playing cornet on a beautifully restored recording of “Fidgety Feet.”

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“Borneo” b/w “My Pet” by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra. Okeh 41039. Recorded in New York City, April 10, 1928.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Frankie Trumbauer was born in 1901 to a musically-inclined mother who directed theater orchestras. His St. Louis childhood saw Frankie learning a number of instruments, including the cornet, clarinet, and bassoon. But he is perhaps best known for popularizing the C-melody saxophone, which is somewhere between an alto and tenor saxophone in size. His twenties were spent playing with groups like the Mound City Blowers, who gave “Tram” his first recording experience with some songs for Brunswick Records.

Frankie was the musical director for Jean Goldkette’s Victor Recording Orchestra when he first recruited Bix Biederbecke to play cornet.

They had a solid rapport, and kept it going through collaborations with Paul Whiteman and, by 1927, Frankie’s own recordings for Okeh. The first single was a cover of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s “Singin’ The Blues.”

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78: “You Took Advantage of Me” b/w “Crazy Rhythm” by Miff Mole and His Little Molers. Okeh 41098. Recorded in New York City, 07/27/28.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Irving Milfred Mole, a.k.a Miff Mole, was born in Roosevelt, NY, in 1898. He studied violin and piano as a child but switched to the trombone at the age of fifteen. The early  1920’s were spent playing with bands lead by Gus Sharpe and Jimmy Durante, and later with the Original Memphis Five. In 1923, Miff met cornet player Red Nichols, and they soon realized that they could make better music together than they could as bit players in other people’s bands. For the rest of the Twenties, these two played in each other’s bands, alternating between Miff as leader (Miff Mole and His Little Molers, Sophie Tucker and Miff Mole’s Molers) or Red as leader (Red Nichols and His Red Pennies, The Red Heads, The Charleston Chasers). It often depended on which label they were recording with; all of the Okeh records were under the name of Miff Mole and His Little Molers, or just Miff Mole and His Molers.

On “You Took Advantage of Me,” it isn’t immediately clear why Miff was so influential in the world of jazz trombone. Listen closely at 0:33, though, and you’ll get a hint of the kind of melodic sensibility that most trombonists were not encouraged to express. The coda that the band employs at 3:01 also shows a level of sophistication that was pretty high for its time.

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