Last Sunday's jam session at Symphony Hall was a distinct success. The music was above average for the most part, way above the previous session at the Bradford. The acoustics were superb, except for a slight echo which one soon got accustomed to.
Pete Brown and Frankie Newton were the heroes of the day, Brown working the hardest and longest, and playing better than ever before, Newton saving the concert at an awkward moment with superb showmanship. The finest music in the session came when they jammed together with three former members of Frankie's band, the Trottman brothers on piano and bass, and Billy Mason on drums. The outfit blended perfectly and the ensembles were terrific.
Coleman Hawkins was something of a disappointment. His tone was threadbare in the upper registers, his ideas frequently lapsed into blatant rifts. Worst of all, Hawkins' attitude toward the audience can only be called condescending. Still, there were moments when the old Hawkshowed through, and those were, worth the price of admission.
Wilson's band did not contribute too much, for a very good reason: they hadn't slept for more than twenty-four hours. Vic Dickenson was delayed by train and didn't show up until the last half hour. As a result he didn't have any time to warm up before the session was over.
One thing was plain. From now on, Newton should be allowed to supervise the sessions. There was a bad moment when the M. C. walked off the stage to look for Hawkins and Brown so that all could jam the final number together. Frankie saved the day by just tootling a few notes, and before you knew it, everyone was going full blast. At the conclusion, he got up and started walking off the stage, playing all the time, and everyone followed. It was tremendously effective.
Ellington's date at the Roseland broke all records for the place, with nearly 2000 people. The sax section was in very poor shape owing to the absence of Otto Hardwicke. From this engagement and the RKO Boston show, it is certain that Harold Baker and Betty Roche will be sensations just as soon as Duke can start making records again.
This Friday night at the South State Armory, opposite Back Bay Station, Earl Hines holds forth with orchestra. I haven't caught the band for over a year, but Hines is and will always be a fine pianist.