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Friday, 1 April 2016

Al Sears - Ride The 'D' Train

Side 1
01. The Beautiful Indians Part 1 - Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
02. Searsy - Al Sears and his All Star Rhythm Section
03. Long Long Ago - Al Sears and his All Star Rhythm Section
04. Searsy's Blues - Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra
05. Castle Rock - Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra
06. Now Ride the 'D' Train - Al Sears and his Orchestra
07. Nell Don't Wear No Button Up Shoes - Al Sears and his Orchestra
08. Azores - Al Sears and his Orchestra

Side 2
01. Tweedle Dee - Al Sears and his Rock 'n' Rollers
02. Rock 'n' Roll Ball - Big Al Sears
03. Here's the Beat - Big Al Sears
04. Great Googa Mooga - Big Al Sears
05. So Glad - Big Al Sears
06. Teener's Canteen - Alan Freed and his Rock'n Roll Band
07. Teen Rock - Alan Freed and his Rock'n Roll Band
08. Right Now Right Now - Alan Freed and his Rock'n Roll Band

Download from:

My thanks to a German sax fan for donating this fine album. Unfortunately he was unable to send scans of the inner pages of the original gatefold sleeve. If anybody out there has the means to scan and send images of these missing pages please get in touch via the comments or the blog email.

I don't think I've ever come across an LP where there is such a contrast between the first and second sides. I suppose this was inevitable when you consider the nature of Al Sears's career which spanned the days of big band swing, then the era of small group jazz and R&B, and then on into the age of the Big Beat - rock 'n' roll as promoted by Alan Freed and a host of others.

Al Sears gained experience in a number of the top big bands, including an early lineup of the Chick Webb band, Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy, Lionel Hampton, and most famously The Duke Ellington Orchestra where he replaced Ben Webster in the featured tenor sax spot.

After leaving the Duke, Al spent most of the late 40s and early 50s (until summer 1951) in the small band of fellow ex-Ellingtonian Johnny Hodges. It was while with this group that Al had his biggest hit, "Castle Rock". After this success Al left off gigging with Hodges to concentrate on his music business career (he had taken business admin courses years earlier during a low point in music sales) but still kept recording, occasionally as leader and often as a session man. Among the R&B sessions he was involved in were dates with Screaming Jay Hawkins, Nappy Brown and Big Joe Turner ("Hide and Seek", "Flip Flop and Fly" in 1955).

Side 1 of this collection takes us through the jazz years with Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges. Following the success of "Castle Rock" Al recorded a brilliant session at King in September 1951. The band was virtually identical to the Hodges group from "Castle Rock" and it was long rumoured that Hodges was in fact playing on that session. The last 3 sides on Side 1 are from this session and although promoted as R&B sides by King, they lie squarely in the small group jazz style of the Hodges band.

A December 1952 session for RCA Victor saw Al moving more towards the rockin' R&B style which would soon be promoted as rock and roll. In 1954 he recorded an out and out rock 'n' roll single for Herald - "Tweedle Dee" / "Goin' Uptown". The latter track is a real sax killer which is unfortunately not on this collection but is available on the Bear Family CD "Sear-iously."

"Tweedle Dee" kicks off the second or "rock 'n' roll" side of this album. The rest of this side is made up of tracks recorded for RCA subsidiary Groove, Jubilee ("So Glad" in more R&B vein) and three records credited to Alan Freed's Rock'n Roll Band. Al had originally recorded the Freed band titles for Coral with a small studio group in 1955. "Teener's Canteen" was originally called "Tina's Canteen" but with Freed making a play for the teenage audience a re-titling seems almost inevitable.

Al was one of a number of ex big band, swing veterans Freed called on to form his own "rock 'n' roll" big band for stage, radio and film appearances. Other recruits included Al's fellow NYC session men Sam "The Man" Taylor and Freddie Mitchell. Both Freddie and Al can be seen blowing enthusiastically in the film "Rock, Rock, Rock", Freddie on an adaptation of his "Moondog Boogie" re-titled "Rock 'n' Roll Boogie", and Al on a storming version of his own composition "Right Now Right Now." The final three tracks on this collection were featured on 2 Coral LPs of Alan Freed's "Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party" and were also released as singles.

Al did have one more jazz recording session as a leader in 1960 on the Swingville LP "Swing's The Thing." He continued to play and record occasionally but in a jazz style rather than rock 'n' roll or R&B. Al remained active in the business side of music, retiring in 1980 at the age of seventy. He passed away in 1990.

The tracks on this LP and the recommended Bear Family CD owe their excellence to a large number of musicians. In particular the contributions of the following should be noted: Lloyd Trotman, Dave Marshall, Sonny Greer, Jesse Stone, Johnny Hodges, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Mickey Baker, Budd Johnson and Haywood Henry. Whether playing jazz, R&B or rock and roll, Al Sears was invariably in the company of the most accomplished musicians.

Recommended purchases:

Anyone who likes the big, rasping sax sound of 1950s NYC rock 'n' roll just has to have the Bear Family CD "Sear-iously." 25 sides recorded between 1949 and 1956 for Coral, Herald and RCA / Groove. The 1949 sides feature Clarence Palmer and his original version of "Brown Boy", adapted from Lil Armstrong's "Brown Gal." The front cover has a picture of Al on stage with Sam "The Man" Taylor and Red Prysock.

The Bear Family CD doesn't have the King sides from 1951. The whole session (8 tracks) was included on the 1999 Westside CD "Groove Station" along with tracks by Preston Love, Wild Bill Moore, Fats Noel and Jesse Powell, all in fantastic sound quality. The CD is still around on the Bear Family Website, eBay and Amazon Marketplace. Well worth hunting down. In fact your life is incomplete without it.

Happy sax blasting! And remember if you have the inner sides of the "Ride The 'D' Train" gatefold sleeve and can obtain scans, please get in touch.

Finally, thanks again to our anonymous donor. You are now admitted to the Mystic Order of the Wailing Sax.


malcee said...

thanks for this, I have a couple hours in the car tomorrow, guess what the soundtrack will be !

12vjoe said...

Thanks so much!

boogiewoody said...

Thanks for commenting guys. Hope the music enhanced your drive malcee!


Dave Penny said...

As far as I'm aware, BW, this album was never issued! I worked quite closely with Jonas Bernholm and I was led to believe it only reached the planning stage before JB decided to get out of the vinyl business

boogiewoody said...

I'm dumbfounded! Mind you it was posted on April 1st and on the back cover the producers are listed as A. Folley and P. d'Avril. And there's a special thank you to A.P. Rilscherz. I wonder if that explains the apparent existence of an album that was never made? :)


Dave Penny said...

I did the notes for this LP in 1987, Woody, but it was never issued. Coincidentally I'm rehashing the old notes for a Blues & Rhythm article and a possible expanded release on Jasmine

boogiewoody said...

Great to hear from you Dave. Yeah, I read in the "Blues & Rhythm" magazine articles on Jonas Bernholm that there had been an Al Sears collection due for release on Saxophonograph but somehow it remained in the can. I decided to "invent" a version as an April Fool's Day post complete with faked up cover and label shots. It did inspire me to make up a few home made comps on the not dissimilar looking "Saxophony" pretend label, which was a sort of tribute to Saxophonograph. In fact I've got a couple more "Saxophony" collections of Earl Bostic sides on Gotham which I put together but never posted.

I'm very much looking forward to your B&R article and the possible Jasmine release. The world needs more gritty jazz / R&B sax in these troubled times.


UncleB said...

Seariously, this is great. No, I mean it, no foolin' - Sears the ears with wild wailin' ... And just how do I know that? (There's no means to "hear" it here, sadly...).

This one's been given "new" life. By whom, you might say? Why, by a number of those slick sellers. Sears-ching will lead you to the same Interwebs bums who've also taken & moneytized what UncaGil usta offer, for free, on his now gone site. Grab & go... And sell it for pure profit, not even bothering to "redesign" or "re-title" anything. This one they've even used the "date of issue" of this created...erm, creatively curated gem:

"Date of release: 1988"

Of course, I was able to find a site where one could "Sample" the one song I was after.

There's no way I am gonna give ANY support of ANY kind to those highway robbers such as Spotify.

Oh, and, I am told by a reliable R&B maniac that..........

I am seeking the track ... "RIGHT NOW, RIGHT NOW" ...

It was issued on a Coral 45 in 1956 and billed to Alan Freed on the label. I have a beat up copy of the 45.

The track has been reissued on a number of CDs over the years, including MCA's 2-CD "Decca Rock & Roll", however, unlike the 45, all CD reissues feature a voice-over by Alan Freed on the ending of the track. That version originates from a 1956 Alan Freed LP "Rock & Roll Dance Party" on Coral which Jasmine have reissued.

It is also on . . . the Rhino CD "Blues Masters Vol. 13; New York City Blues"

All Music shows the track at the same 2:21 running time as the original Coral single, so it's almost certainly taken from the single master.

BTW, I should mention that Jasmine's recent Big Al Sears CD includes the song, however it's a completely different recording which first appeared on a Sears CD "Seriously" issued on Bear Family in the 90s. That is not the version I want.

UncleB said...

Hey, B.,

Glad to see that there is still someone (whom, we might well ask?) still steering the Good (not "Ghost"!) Ship B.B.W.!

Through ever-murkier waters, and by that I mean these "Uncertain Times," it's good to see that Somebody is Still Around.

Keep it going!

Happy holidays to you & yours!