Chapter 4 Early Milwaukee Jazz

Chapter 4

Early Jazz in Milwaukee

Jabbo Smith’s famous recording of “Black and Tan Fantasy” with Duke Ellington is easiest to find on The Okeh Ellington, a Columbia release.  Note that Ellington recorded this tune frequently; Smith plays only on this 1927 version.  There are a number of different releases of Smith’s 1929 recordings with his Rhythm Aces (all on small, mostly European labels).  The one set of recordings from later in his career (1961), known as the Hidden Treasure sessions, has been released by at least two labels, and is available on iTunes.  Not surprisingly, Smith was a much different player on these sessions than he had been in the 1920s.

Wild Bill Davison recorded prolifically, especially in the latter part of his career.  But he was probably recorded more as often as a sideman than as a leader.  And the late recordings were often live recordings, and not necessarily done under the best of circumstances.

One set of Davison recordings that is universally admired was recorded in the 1940s and re-released in 1997 on Commodore (GRP) is Wild Bill Davison:  The Commodore Master Takes.  Although currently out of print, one can still buy these tracks at iTunes.

Davison was associated with Eddie Condon for years, and made many, many recordings with various Condon groups.  A treasure trove of those can be found on the out of print Mosaic 6-CD set The Complete CBS Recordings of Eddie Condon and His All Stars.  (Mosaic sets might be found in some libraries.)  Davison plays on the vast majority of the tracks in this huge set.  Two albums with Condon (which are included in the Mosaic set) that are still available more widely are Bixieland and Treasury of Jazz, recorded in the mid-1950s.  These are on a single disc on the Collectables label.  Both sets are available individually on iTunes.  (Pianist Gene Schroeder (Chapter 5) is on both of these sets, almost all of the Condon All Star recordings, and the Davison Commodore set.)

One of Davison’s late recordings on which clarinetist Chuck Hedges (Chapter 10) appears is Wild Bill Davison In Europe, on the Jazzology label.

For the decades of playing that Sam Armato and Joe Aaron did, it is challenging to find recorded examples of their work.  Armato can be heard playing clarinet on couple of tracks (“Panama” and “Home”) on the privately released recording of live Dick Ruedebusch (Chapter 10) performances that was released in 1993.  (I was able to obtain a copy of the cassette (!) version of this release from the Mayville Historical Society.)  A glimpse of Joe Aaron’s playing, also on clarinet, can be heard on the 2002 recording of “Basin Street Blues” by the Paul Spencer Band Live @ the Northern Lights Theater, privately issued and released.  He can also briefly be heard on another blues (“Straight, No Chaser”) on the Spencer Band’s Hot Tracks:  Best of the Paul Spencer Band in Concert.  (Aaron’s son Rick, a jazz flutist, is also on these recordings.)