Honkers and Screamers, Be-Boppers and Doowoppers, Rockers, Rollers and Boogie Woogie Jukebox Chicks
Friday, 16 October 2009
Illinois Jacquet And His Tenor Sax
Honk starts with Illinois Jacquet, more or less. Born in 1922 in Louisiana into a French speaking family which migrated to Houston, Texas when he was only six months old, Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet started his professional music career playing alto sax in a band formed by his older brothers. In 1937 he graduated to the legendary (though sadly unrecorded) territory band of Milt Larkins which included Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Arnett Cobb in its reed section. Jacquet became an admirer of Count Basie tenor sax man Herschel Evans, who died at the tragically young age of 30.
Determined to make it as a jazzman, Jacquet moved first to New York and then to Los Angeles where he studied music at the City College, and more importantly fell in with Nat “King” Cole who secured him a place as tenor sax player in Lionel Hampton’s new band which formed in May 1940. Alongside Jacquet sat fellow tenor sax player Dexter Gordon and on baritone sax was Jack McVea. In May 1942 the Hampton band recorded a version of “Flying Home” which featured a soaring solo by Jacquet which is often thought of as the start of the honking saxophone phenomenon. Jacquet left the Hampton outfit in January 1943 and his place was taken by Arnett Cobb whose big, BIG tenor tone blasted out on a second version of “Flying Home.”
After a short spell with the Cab Calloway band, Illinois stopped in Houston long enough to pick up his trumpet playing brother Russell and the pair hot footed it back to LA where they immersed themselves in the local music scene, forming a small group and jamming at Billy Berg’s Swing Club in Hollywood. Illinois also took part in jam sessions organised by Norman Granz and when the latter staged a jazz concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in July 1944, Jacquet was among the musicians who took part. His solo on “Blues” was perhaps the real birth of honk – a screeching, squealing, howling epic that drove the audience wild. As Jim Dawson wrote in “What Was The First Rock ‘N’ Roll Record?” – “This was clearly something new, a mixture of stage antics and musical pyrotechnics that, in only a few manic choruses blew open the boundaries of jazz and rhythm and blues.”
Among those who witnessed the enthusiasm that Illinois could generate with such wild performances were brothers Eddie and Leo Mesner, owners of The Philharmonic Music Store who set up their own record label in 1945, naming it Philo. Six months later, following objections by the Philco radio company, the label would be renamed Aladdin.
All of which brings us to this 1983 Pathe Marconi reissue of an LP which originally appeared in 1954 as a ten inch disc (Aladdin 708) and was re-released in 1956 as a twelve inch platter Aladdin 803). Once again I must thank Joan for the scan of an EP with tracks from the LP:
The first four tracks are from the very first Philo recording session in July 1945, with the two parter “Flying Home” being the first single released on Philo. The band includes Russell Jacquet and Johnny Otis. The rest of the tracks are from four sessions recorded for Aladdin during 1947 with various backing bands. The January session is with a big band which includes Joe Newman, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, Leo Parker and Bill Doggett among its personnel. The other sessions are with the small group usually billed as Illinois Jacquet and his All Stars, a band which included Leo Parker on baritone sax, Al Lucas on bass, Sir Charles Thompson on piano and Shadow Wilson on drums. This was a busy time for Illinois, as in between the sessions on this LP he also recorded for Savoy and Apollo (including backing Wynonie Harris). There was even time for a spell in the Count Basie band.
This music is a prime example of that unnameable genre that treads the line between R&B and jazz, although perhaps in this case veering more heavily towards the jazz side. But in the end categories don’t matter. When I listen to this LP I know I’m hearing the very stuff of Be Bop Wino Done Gone!
1. Flying Home, Part 1 2. Flying Home, Part 2 3. Uptown Boogie 4. Throw It Out Of Your Mind Baby 5. For Europeans Only 6. Big Dog 7. You Left Me All Alone 8. Jivin' With Jack The Bellboy 9. Blow Illinois Blow 10. Illinois Blows The Blues 11. Goofin' Off 12. Riffin' With Jacquet 13. Don't Push Daddy 14. Sahara Heat 15. It's Wild 16. Destination Moon 17. For Truly 18. I Surrender Dear
Recommended purchase - it just has to be the Properbox 4 CD set, "The Illinois Jacquet Story" which deals in detail with his recordings from July 1944 (including "Blues") up to May 1951.
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This is a site dedicated to rockin' 1940s and 1950s music, ripped from vinyl. Some cuts are a bit on the rough side. If you're looking for audio perfection you're on the wrong site baby! If you like what you hear on this site please buy this kind of music. There are many reasonably priced reissues available from web dealers or perhaps from your local record shop, if it still exists. These reissues will be in far better sound quality than the vinyl rips on this site and they will usually have more up to date liner notes and info, so go out and splash a little cash now and again. Help keep those reissue labels going in these difficult times.
No in-print CDs will be posted here. In fact no CDs will be posted here. I will occasionally list recommended purchases to help you hear more from artists featured on the blog.
"The night is the corridor of history, not the history of famous people or great events, but that of the marginal, the ignored, the supressed, the unacknowledged; the history of vice, of error, of confusion, of fear, of want; the history of intoxication, of vainglory, of delusion, of dissipation, of delirium." Luc Sante - Low Life