Swing and Mainstream Figures
Abe Aaron played on many collections by Les Brown and His Band of Renown, from the early 1950s into the mid- to late 1960s. Although not chronologically in the Swing Era, the Brown albums are certainly a continuation of that style. Not many of these albums are easily available, and among those that are, solo credits are mostly lacking. A pair of albums that are now on one CD are Play the Gershwin Bandbook and The Explosive Sound of Les Brown, recorded between 1961-63. Aaron is credited as playing soprano, tenor and baritone saxophone on each. There are numerous tenor saxophone solos on both albums, clearly by two different players. (John Newsome is listed as the other tenor player on one album, Tony Newsome on the other; one wonders if the two aren’t the same person). Since the author doesn’t really know Aaron’s style, he cannot identify which solos are by Aaron. Aaron also is prominent on what are apparently the only two albums under the name of Billy Usselton, who was Aaron’s section mate in the Brown band in the mid-‘50s. However, Aaron plays only parts on these records – beautifully, it might be added, and exclusively on bass clarinet. These still-fresh sounding recordings are available on Billy Usselton Sextet: Complete Recordings.
An excellent collection of Freddie Slack’s work is the two-CD set on Fantastic Voyage Down the Road A-Piece: The Definitive Boogie Woogie Collection. It includes his hits with his own bands (“Strange Cargo,” “Cow Cow Boogie”) as well as the records that made him famous (“Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” with Will Bradley) and a variety of other recordings, not all of which are boogie-woogie (such as “Riftette,” with T-Bone Walker).
Heinie Beau can be heard on Tommy Dorsey’s “Well, Git It!” probably on a number of different releases. But a good collection that has it is a Dorsey collection called Yes, Indeed! This was originally released on BMG; Jazz Heritage also released the identical collection. (There are other nice moments from Beau in this collection.) Beau recorded a jazz album, Moviesville Jazz, in 1958 for Coral Records with “his Hollywood Jazz Stars.” Those stars included prominent West Coast studio men. The twelve tunes are almost like little cinematic episodes, or perhaps TV themes, with clever punning names – and very clever arrangements. The author assumes that Beau is playing the swinging, very skilled clarinet solos on the album, but probably not the saxophone solos. I had no access to the album notes, as this long out of print album was only available as a download from iTunes or amazon. Beau’s arrangements for Frank Sinatra can easily be found at outlets online. As noted in the text, late in his career, in the 1980s after he had retired from writing, Beau made three jazz albums on his own label, Henri Records. These are relaxed outings of largely standards, with a few Beau original compositions, made by outstanding veteran mainstream players. The first was Heinie Beau & His Hollywood Quartet (1980). Heinie Beau & His Hollywood Quintet (1982), featured veteran tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller. Heinie Beau & His Hollywood Sextet (1984) featured the underrated trombonist Bob Havens and two different stellar drummers, Jack Sperling and Jake Hanna. Beau plays clarinet exclusively, with great control and taste. I found one of these online, and the others at an antique mall in Wisconsin.
Gene Schroeder appears on many Eddie Condon recordings, including most of the 1950s albums that can still be found in today’s market in various forms: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast, Jammin’ at Condon’s, Bixieland, Eddie Condon’s Treasury of Jazz, Dixieland Jam and The Roaring Twenties. All of these albums are on the big Mosaic set The Complete CBS Recordings of Eddie Condon and his All Stars. This might be found in some libraries. Schroeder’s excellent playing is especially prominent on Bixieland and Treasury of Jazz, which are currently available together on a Collectibles Jazz Classics release. As a trombonist, I appreciate his work with Jack Teagarden, as on the Teagarden/Bobby Hackett classic Jazz Ultimate, and with Miff Mole, as on several cuts on the collection Miffology. He also appears on numerous recordings by trumpeters Muggsy Spanier and Wild Bill Davison.
A representative example of Billy Maxted’s work with the Manhattan Jazz Band is The Art of Jazz (Seeco Records, 1959), which features a seven-piece edition of the band, on deft Maxted arrangements of such early jazz standards as “Sugar Foot Strut,” “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” and “High Society.” The leader’s considerable piano “chops” are demonstrated on such features as “Little Rock Getaway” and “Honky Tonk Train.” A similar album that I found is the Manhattan Band’s “Need It Be Named?” (1962, K & H Records). Reportedly, the most successful albums, at least commercially, by the band were cut in 1966 and ’67 for Liberty Records, some years after Maxted had left New York. The author has not heard these, Maxted Makes It or Satin Doll.
Cappy Lewis recorded extensively with Woody Herman, but many of his solos from that era are almost impossible to find. Two well-known ones, though are on “Blues on Parade” (on the Decca album Blues on Parade) and the Columbia version of “Woodchopper’s Ball”(on Columbia, Woody Herman – The Thundering Herds, 1945-1947, and two-CD set, Blowin’ Up a Storm! The Columbia Years 1945-1947).
On Lewis’s one album as a leader, Get Happy with Cappy (LP on Hi Fi; CD on Essential Jazz), on a series of standard tunes, he displays an swingingly ingratiating, irresistible style with West Coast veterans Jimmy Rowles, piano, Morty Cobb, bass, and Jack Sperling (veteran of Bunny Berigan’s later bands), drums.