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The Albert Nicholas-Art Hodes Quartet – The New Orleans-Chicago Connection
Delmark DE 207
Compact Disc (1997)
Legendary pianist Art Hodes was on the jazz scene since the late 20s, working with such stalwarts as Sidney Bechet, Frank Teschemaker, George Brunis and many more. Over the decades he recorded for numerous labels including many successful sides with clarinetist Albert Nicholas for Blue Note in the ’40s. Nicholas played with King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in the late ’20s, Louis Armstrong and Chick Webb in the ’30s, and was a major figure in the traditional jazz revival in New York in the ’40s. This 1959 session also features the rhythm section of Earl Murphy on bass and Fred Kohlman on drums.
Albert Nichlas, clarinet
Art Hodes, piano
Earl Murphy, bass
Freddy Kohlman, drums
1. Digga Digga Do (3:13)
2. Winin' Boy Blues (2:47)
3. Song of The Wanderer (3:43)
4. Ain't Misbehavin' (4:40)
5. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me (3:10)
6. Anah's Blues (3:44)
7. Lover Come Back To Me (2:36)
8. Etta (2:51)
9. I'm Comin' Virginia (2:59)
10. Rose Room (3:08)
11. Nick Warms Up (0:12)
12. Rose Room (3:12) alternate
13. I'm Comin' Virginia (2:57) alternate
14. Lover Come Back To Me (2:40) alternate
15. Winin' Boy Blues (2:50) alternate
16. Digga Digga Do (3:09) alternate
17. Careless Love (3:48) previously unissued
18. Song of The Wanderer (2:47) alternate
19. Ain't Misbehavin' (5:00) alternate
20. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me (3:15) alternate
21. Etta (2:27) alternate
Recorded July 19 & 27, 1959: Bill Hall, Hall Recording, Inc.
Since this is the first American LP those newly-axquainted with Traditional jazz may ask, "Who is Albert Nicholas?" So we'll drop a few names in an effort to sustain your interest. Major influence on Barney Bigard; one of the first jazzmen to tour Asia; a professional in his teens; with King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in his 20's; with Louis Armstrong and Chick Webb in his 30's; a major figure in the traditional jazz revival in New York in his 40's; records with other legends: Richard M. Jones, Alex Hill, Fats Waller, Sidney Bechet, and Baby Dodds; Familiar voice in the ensemble of the Blue Network show THIS IS JAZZ (probably the first worthwhile network radio jazz show).
Still with us? Then you'll probably want to know what he's been doing in more recent years. For almost a decade he's been away from the jazz scene in Paris, taking it easy and living the good life. Occasional recording dates, concert tours, and perhaps gigs on the left bank. No high-pressure, publicity-minded "star", he's just a guy who plays some of the best hot clarinet in the world without realizing it.
A couple of summers ago Nick decided to re-investigate the jazz scene back in the States. Just a holiday - he played only one two-week engagement at Jazz, Ltd. in Chicago, though he also visited New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles. It's an appalling indictment of the jazz record industry here that Delmark is able to pronounce its two albums as virtually the only Nicholas dates during his trip. We must, in all fairness, make mention of an Audiophile date with Doc Evans and Knocky Parker.
We ran into Albert one night at the Red Arrow where he was listening to the Lil Armstrong band. It was decided to do two albums when he returned to Chicago to open at Jazz, Ltd. The present album shows him in quartet format - "sort of a swingy thing" as the engineer on the date very accurately dubbed it. The other album (Delmark 209), presents Mr. Nicholas as a member of the classic New Orleans front line.
In selecting personnel for this date, Albert naturally thought of Art Hodes, with whom he had recorded several times in the past. And he wanted Art's bassist, Earl Murphy. "The guy at Jazz, Ltd." was chosen for drums - Freddy Kohlman. A "pickup" group with built-in togetherness. The studio was booked, the bottle purchased (Scotch), balance tests, rundowns, then the swinging performances you'll find inside this jacket.
Liner notes should inform. So follows information on the members of the quartet.
Albert Nicholas was, according to Sam Charters' Jazz, New Orleans - 1885-1957, born in New Orleans on May 27, 1900, began playing professionally with Luis Russell and Lee Collins. His association with Bigard began at virtually the same time. It was apparently an example of mutual education. Bigard played sax at that time, read well. Nick's clarinet playing interested Barney, who taught Albert to read better. Both went to Chicago in the mid-20's where Albert beat Barney to recording by 1925 sessions with R.M. Jones. Both played in the Oliver reed section and they even shared an apartment. Bigard left Oliver to go with Duke Ellington, Nicholas to tour China with the Jack Carter band in 1928 in company with pianist Teddy Weatherford. Returning he found pianist Luis Russell heading up a band in Harlem and remained with the organization for several years. Russell's band contributed itself in whole or in part to recording sessions fronted by Louis Armstrong, Red Allen, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. Albert went along as an indispensible part of one of the greatest reed sections in jazz history. For a while in 1933, Nicholas went with Chick Webb. By the late 30's he was back with Russell's group, then most often fronted by Louis Armstrong. Small-band dates with Jelly Roll Morton followed in 1939-40 - and isn't that Nicholas on those Three's A Crowd Bluebirds?
At about the time the world engaged in the second war-to-end-all-wars, Nick retired and became a subway guard.
The year 1946 must have been great for jazz in New York. Bop was establishing itself but there was still a lot of great traditional jazz to be heard. Bunk was in town with the George Lewis band and Baby Dodds. Davison had rejoined the Condon mob. Hodes had long since emerged from Ross Tavern's basement. The enthusiasm of the young revivalists ran high and the critics had only begun to split the jazz audience into warring camps. Nick came out of retirement and proceeded to record for virtually every trad jazz label in the city. With the Condon mob on Commodore, with Ewell on Circle, and with Hodes and Bechet on Blue Note. He did an album for Circle under his own name. He appeared on Blesh's THIS IS JAZZ. Later he enlightened an early Bob Scobey date. In 1949 he was in St. Louis at the Barrel on Delmar Blvd. with Ralph Sutton and Art Trappier - an event that, more than anything else, set off a jazz revival far out of proportion to the size of that city. (Nick's '49 gig very indirectly gave birth to this label.)
Then Nick decided to retire to Paris.
Art Hodes may be better-known to American trad fans than Nick is. He's been around for quite a while too. Briefly: A lot of time digging jazz and blues on the South Side, playing with Tesch and Wingy at the Cellar. The lean, jazzless depression years. To New York in '39. Waiting out his union card in Ross Tavern's basement. Records for then-microscopic jazz labels. Jazz disc jockey on WYNC. Concerts. Publisher of JAZZ RECORD, one of the first hard-core jazz publications in this country. His own label of the same name. More concerts. Gigs at Child's Paramount, Stuyvesant Casino. Then back to Chicago in the late 40's to lead the house band when the Blue Note opened (Collins, Brunis, Pee Wee, Zutty - smack! drool!). More concerts. More records. More gigs: solo, trio, band. Blues and jazz - and a lot more blues than a lot of guys put into their jazz. Funk is new? Soul? We'll leave it to the critics to decide if Art influenced Horace Silver or vice-versa. Art works in Chicago now, teaches at Lyon & Healy in Park Forest, plays gigs and concerts and record dates, goes on the road in the summer, and has a column in most issues of Down Beat.
Earl Murphy is kidded alot about all his recording sessions. He doesn't really have all the Chicago dixie dates sowed up. But he makes alot of 'em: Danny Alvin, Meet Me In Chicago, Doc Evans, Don Ewell, Miff Mole. His career parallels Art's through most of the war years. Two retirements have interrupted his career. He was a bartender in L.A. for a few years (he got the job waiting out his card, like it, didn't work as a musician for several years). Then he took over a nursing service formerly operated by his mother. But he's been back in Chicago jazz for several years now - more active than ever, usually in company with Art.
Fred Kohlman, like Albert, is from New Orleans, of a slightly younger generation. For several years he led his own jazz band in the Vieux Carre and on MGM, Decca, and Cook. Jazz Ltd. brought him to Chicago several years ago and, except for occasional vacation trips to the crescent city he has been there ever since.
- Bob Koester