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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Cootie Williams & His Orchestra - Echoes Of Harlem

Side 1
1. Echoes Of Harlem
2. Things Ain't What They Used To Be (vocal – Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson)
3. Tess' Torch Song (vocal – Pearl Bailey)
4. You Talk A Little Trash
5. Sweet Lorraine
6. Cherry Red Blues (vocal – Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson)
7. 'Round Midnight
8. Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? (vocal – Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson)

Side 2
1. Blue Garden Blues
2. Floogie Boo (vocal – Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson)
3. I Don't Know
4. Gotta Do Some War Work (vocal – Cootie Williams)
5. My Old Flame
6. Now I Know (vocal – Pearl Bailey)
7. Somebody's Gotta Go (vocal – Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson)
8. Honeysuckle Rose

Continuing our look at the big band roots of rhythm and blues, we come to the Cootie Williams Orchestra. This 1986 Affinity LP offers a fascinating mix of influences and trends with former Duke Ellington “growl” trumpet player Cootie Williams leading a band which included pioneer bop pianist Bud Powell, alto sax player and blues shouter Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, powerful tenor sax men Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Sam “The Man” Taylor, and future R&B bandleader Leroy Kirkland on guitar. And there’s the additional ingredient of the vocal presence of star of stage, screen and radio Pearl Bailey on what are among her earliest recordings.

Cootie Williams was born with the rather more mundane moniker of Charles Melvin Williams in Mobile, Alabama in 1910. The nickname “Cootie” originated in early childhood when his father got into the habit of calling “Cootie, Cootie” when young Charles was learning to walk.

Cootie began playing the trumpet in his early teens and at the age of 14 he spent summer touring with the Young family band. That’s Young as in young Lester Young who made his debut with his family group. Cootie turned pro in 1926, having spells with territory bands like that of Eagle “Eye” Shields and the Alonzo Ross Deluxe Syncopators. After a couple of years at this level Cootie moved to New York where he had brief spells with Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson. In 1929 Cootie began an eleven year association with Duke Ellington during which he came to be regarded as the foremost trumpeter of his generation.

At the end of 1940 the world of jazz was rocked by Cootie’s sensational move from the Ellington band to Benny Goodman’s orchestra where he recorded with the full band and small groups featuring Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian. Before 1941 was out however, Cootie was looking to lead his own big band. He took a trip down to Texas intent on enticing Arnett Cobb away from the territory band of Milt Larkin but instead it was Larkin's alto sax player Eddie Vinson who made the journey to New York to join the new band. Williams’ outfit was very much a blues-based dance band which suited Vinson who quickly became the star of the band’s appearances at the Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theatre.

The band’s first recordings were for Columbia / Okeh in April 1942 and included a version of Thelonius Monk’s “Epistrophy”, retitled “Fly Right.” Eddie Vinson was given a vocal outing on “When My Baby Left Me.”

The first AFM recording ban led to a delay before the next recording sessions were held on January 4th and 6th 1944 for the Hit/Majestic diskery. By now Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Bud Powell had joined the band. The sessions were split between small group and full band line ups and account for 12 of the 16 tracks on this LP. The remaining 4 tracks are from a full band session recorded for Hit/Majestic in August 1944, by which time Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis had been replaced by Sam “The Man” Taylor and Leroy Kirkland had joined the band.

The tracks include Ellingtonian swing (a revival of “Echoes of Harlem”), early bop (the first ever recording of Thelonius Monks’ “’Round Midnight”) and proto - R&B (Vinson’s “Cherry Red Blues” and a cover of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t?”)

In early 1945 Charlie Parker was brought in to replace Eddie Vinson who had been drafted but by the time the next recording session (for Capitol) came round at the end of May, 1945, Vinson was back for a rousing “Juice Head Baby.” Before the end of 1945 Vinson left to form his own big band and it has to be said that the Cootie Williams band was never quite the same again. And at this point the curtain falls on our humble post but you can follow the further fortunes of Cootie Williams and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson on subsequent posts. Stay tuned, you crazy swingsters!

Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps.

Download from here:

Recorded in New York City for Hit/Majestic in January and August 1944.

1. Echoes Of Harlem (January 6, 1944)
2. Things Ain't What They Used To Be (January 6, 1944)
3. Tess' Torch Song (January 6, 1944)
4. You Talk A Little Trash (January 4, 1944)
5. Sweet Lorraine (January 6, 1944)
6. Cherry Red Blues (January 6, 1944)
7. 'Round Midnight (August 22, 1944)
8. Is You Is Or Is You Ain't? (August 22, 1944)
9. Blue Garden Blues (August 22, 1944)
10. Floogie Boo (January 4, 1944)
11. I Don't Know (January 4, 1944)
12. Gotta Do Some War Work (January 4, 1944)
13. My Old Flame (January 6, 1944)
14. Now I Know (January 6, 1944)
15. Somebody's Gotta Go (August 22, 1944)
16. Honeysuckle Rose (January 6, 1944)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Boogiewoody! I learned so much from this posting. I also dig your creative new surveys. Marie

aroonie said...

Well thank you for Cootie and Cleanhead. Great tracks from a great blog. You the man!