Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jammin' The Blues

Here, in its entirety, is the classic Warner Bros. musical short Jammin' The Blues (1944), directed by Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili. The incomparable Lester "Prez" Young works his magic alongside Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), Marlowe Morris (piano), Red Callendar (bass), Barney Kessel (guitar), John Simmons (bass), Marie Bryant (vocals), two legendary drummers (Basie big band heartbeat Jo Jones and Louis Armstrong All-Star percussionist Big Sid Catlett) and a very young Illinois Jacquet, who takes us out with a hot screaming blast recalling his wonderfully orgiastic solo on Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home". And Marie Bryant and Archie Savage cut a mean jitterbug rug.

Mili's most stylish "midnight symphony" affected me personally. Upon my first viewing of Jammin' The Blues - in a 16mm print way way back when - I immediately sought out all recordings and info about Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet I could find. I was not disappointed. Still haven't been. It eventually led to an amazing night in a club listening to Illinois soulfully play "Round Midnight". . . ON BASSOON.

To this day, I still seek certain amazing recordings of these ying/yang saxophonists on CD:

  • Prez, in early 1946, riffing inspired chorus after inspired chorus on "Tea For Two", from a Jazz At The Philharmonic quartet appearance (and very ably supported by Kenny Kersey, Ray Brown and J.C. Heard).
  • And, possibly from the same concert, "I Can't Get Started" with Lester, Jacquet and Coleman Hawkins together.
  • Jacquet's red-hot 1965 live recordings, as part of a trio with Hampton Orchestra B-3 wizard Milt Buckner and "Mr. Boston", Alan Dawson, on drums.

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