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My suggestion that this department investigate the Art Hodes bend at the Hofbrau in Lawrence, Mass, was undoubtedly a partial violation of the cardinal Army axiom. "Keep your mouth shut and don't volunteer." Hence the fate that so often overtakes the sealous committee member who dreams up an idea and gets elected to the job of seeing it through.
The band is fine, but just how you'll get back to Cambridge is your worry (I hitched, but don't tell the War Department.) Art Hodes, an you probably know unless you're reading this just to deaden that wait on the chowline or because you're one of my room mates (noidle remark; at the last census in D-41 McKinlock we were ten, not including a mysterious joker who floats in now and then to read PM and The New Republic), well, Art Hodes is one of the old Chicago gang that learned its jazz from the great New Orleans musicians who floted up the Mississippi (a good trick, as Professor Kirtley F. Mather could undoubtedly point out) after New Orleans went on a purity kick following the last war.
Art's one of the very best jazz pianists in our midst, and an all around fine guy. (He runs a magazine called The Jazz Record and until recently had a daily radio program of records, Piano, and comment over new York's WNYC).
Possibly the most significant thing about Art's six-piece jam band (the boys don't bother with the formality of written music) is that it includes two Negroes. Mixed bands are nothing new on records, or even in a few New York spots, but what impressed me was that Joe Wagon bach, proprietor of the Hofbrau, and the polyracial population of Lawrence, a town busily engaged in defense work even as Detroit, Beaumont, and Mobile, accept the band strictly on its merit, with no comment one way or another on the fact that it is a black-and-white band and will stay that way. And business, incidentally is good.
The colored musicians are Jack Butler a Martinique Negro who played trumpet all over western Europe until 1940, when the Nazis, chased him to Canada, and William Jines, a youngster from Harlem who just joined the union as a drummer.
Butler who obviously follows the commendable pattern of Louis Armstrong's 1930-1931 Okeh recordings, draws more applause with his vocal and instrumental work during the floor show than any of the regular acts. (Oh, yes--the Hofbrau is a converted theatre and the floor show starts around 10).
The rest of the band includes Mezz Mezzrow (clarinet), Jack Bland (guitar), George Lugg (trombone), and of course Hodes at the keys. It is interesting to note that all are veteran Chicagoans of the old school (Mezzrow, who was the original ringleader of that crowd, is now pressing 44 but still plays that highly controversial clarinet as agilely as he did 20 years ago.
Bland was a member of the original mind City Blue Blowers whose records sold in the millions, and Mezzrow and Lugg were in the ill-fated band which Mezz started in the fall of 1937 at the Uproar House in New York--the only full-sized mixed dance band ever to work regularly at a night club. There were six Negroes and seven white musicians in that group, but the club was padlocked over an irregularity in the liquor license, and the band had to break up, never to reform.
So, The Art Hodes band is probably turning out the best music of any New England night spot. And in it you see democracy in action. A little more of this sort of thing and there'd be a lot less domestic manufacture of good news for the Nazi home front.
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