Records take a sharp upturn this week, and are much more interesting than they have been in a long while. Leading the list is Earl Hines' "Rosetta," a piano solo cut a few weeks ago on Bluebird with "Glad Rag Doll" on the other side, a solo that he made for Victor in 1929. As far as I am concerned, this disc settles once and for all who plays the most piano. Up until about two years ago, I' still thought that the "Father" was the top of them all, but after that he didn't do any recording and wasn't on radio at all so that the rumors that he had slipped badly seemed likely.
It certainly is sweet music to report that these rumors are all wet, that Hines is still the only man playing jazz who keeps up really original ideas, and does a great many of them in dynamics of rhythm rather than in strict melody. He does the weirdest off-beat stuff you would want to hear--climbs way out on a limb, counts the clever, but still manages to get back in time for the next eight bar sequence. This is piano that isn't pretty, pre-calculated, or trite. It's some of the guttlost and best jazz I have heard in a long time.
While on the subject of piano solos, there was a very good one turned out for Commodore Record Shop by Jesse Stacy, formerly the Goodman piano ace, now with Bob Crosby. Both sides are blues, one quite slow and the other in a faster, more clipped tempo. Slow side, like most of Jesse's blues, is strongly influences by the sort of changes that Bix Beiderbecke used in "In a Mist." The whole side is built up on variations on one or two ideas of this nature. While at times is is genuinely beautiful blues, a great deal of it is too much of an attempt to be pretty for prettiness' sake itself.
Reverse is much more Hinesish in style with Jesse giving drum accompaniment with his right foot. This one, called "The Sell Out", has much more to it in my opinion than the other. Its ideas are more original and have more life. His technique is a little spotty in places, but not enough to bother what is a very excellent record.
A short time ago, this column stuck its neck out to say that Gene Krupa's was the coming band of the year. We like our position even more after having heard his new record of "Three Little Words." As a matter of fact, after having heard him on the air the other night, we feel positively smug about the whole thing. Gene's band sounds more like Ellington than any other white band playing today.
He is playing three styles of tempos these days: his old fast killer style, softened down greatly--a fast Ellington bounce tempo-and a very slow Kansas City colored sock style that sounds a great deal like Andy Kirk only much more cleanly performed and with better phrasing. Best example of this style (which he is using on most of his pop tunes) is the theme song with which he opens his broadcasts. Listen especially to tenor saxman Sam Donahue, who is one of the best white men playing. Gene's playing has quieted down into good solid drumming for the band instead of for himself, so that things really swing most of the time.
Other records: Tommy Dorsey's two side version of "Milenburg Joys," made privately some time ago and then released to the public, has some fine clarinet on it by Johnny Mince . . . Woody Herman's "Blues on Parade" okeh, but not as good as had hoped it would be . . . Count Basie's "I Left My Baby" a swell side of blues with Jimmy Rushing doing better singing than he has done for quite some time. Lester Young on sax gives him good backing . . . This new bass player that Duke Ellington found is really sensational. Listen to "Plucked Again" wherein he plays a duet with the Duke. It's quite something. . . .
Lionel Hampden goes hog wild again on this two finger piano stuff in "I Found A New Baby." god help anybody who plays in his new band when it gets going this spring--he believes in the fastest tempos I've heard from a jam band in a long time. It isn't good saying, only attraction to it is the tempo.
As for as the piano work goes, you have to admit that Lionel's wrist action is marvelous--but nothing much else comes out . . . "I Can't Get Started" by the same band is much better, with Hampden playing some of the best vibes he has in years. Incidentally Dame Rumor has it that Chu Berry, Cozy Cole (both of Calloway's band), and Clyde Hart are going to be with Hampden in his new outfit. . . .
"Phonograph Record, Player Piano, and Carmen Lombardo," a satire by Alec Templeton is very, very funny, especially the first and last. Wish Templeton would do more of this instead of trying to play jazz (at which he is very bad) and classical (at which he isn't too good) His satire and musical sense of humor is better than anyone I have heard, and it would seem as though a little division of labor is necessary. . . .