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Wilbur Sweatman's 'Battleship Kate' & Duke Ellington

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  • Agustín Pérez
    Dear list: I am currently preparing an article on early Duke Ellington (1927- 1931) for the Spanish jazz website Tomajazz, as part of an Ellington special
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2006
      Dear list:

      I am currently preparing an article on early Duke Ellington (1927-
      1931) for the Spanish jazz website Tomajazz, as part of an Ellington
      special which started last November and will be adding items until
      late 2007:


      In my paper, I am mentioning that, shortly before the seven Blu-Disc
      sides from November 1924, there's still a reasonble doubt that
      Ellington may had taken part in the recording of "Battleship Kate" by
      Wilbur Sweatman And His Acme Syncopators for Gennett.

      I think this article by Sjef Hoefsmith in the Duke Ellington Music
      Society Bulletin (DEMS 05/2 August-November 2005) may be of interest
      for this list:

      << Steven Lasker mentioned in his article under "a." the newly-
      released Wilbur Sweatman 2-CD set on Jazz Oracle, one of the last
      reissues remastered by the late great John R. T. Davies. This
      Canadian release has number BDW 8046. It is number 46 of a series of
      Classic/Vaudeville Jazz CDs. The 44 -page booklet is written by Mark
      Berresford, who is hoping to see his biography of Wilbur Sweatman
      published this year. His liner-notes are fascinating. The double CD
      has 58 selections, recorded between 1916 and 1935. Among these are no
      less than five different recordings of Battleship Kate. The oldest
      one (on Gennett, label Ge 5584-B, matrix 9083-A) is the one which has
      stirred up so many discussions since Mike Danzi stated that he took
      part in this recording and that Duke was on the piano. Mark
      Berresford is not convinced that Danzi played on this session of
      18Sep24. According to his personnel listing he has on banjo Clyde
      Johnson or Mike Danzi. On piano were Duke or Walter Hall and not
      George Rickson as found by Arne Neegaard in The Red Hot Jazz Archive.
      The recording date in The Red Hot Jazz Archive does only differ by
      two days (20Sep24).

      Mark Berresford lists the remaining musicians: Eugene 'Bud' Aiken,
      Leslie (Leonard?) Davis on cornet; Calvin Jones on trombone; Wilbur
      Sweatman on clarinet and bass clarinet; Percy Green on alto sax;
      Raymond Hernandez on tenor; Jerome 'Romy' Jones on bass; no drums!
      The 18Sep24 recording of Battleship Kate was a remake. The first
      attempt, one month earlier, was rejected. It is not certain to which
      one Mike Danzi was referring. On 10oct24 another recording of
      Battleship Kate was made for Edison (label Ed 51438-L. matrix 9781-
      B). On this occasion only Walter Hall is listed as on piano, on banjo
      is Harry Batcheldor and on drums Maceo White. Vocal by Ada Rives and
      Wilbur Sweatman. All the other musicians are the same as on 18Sep24.
      Three later recordings were made: in cMar29 for Grey Gull; on 29Apr30
      for Victor; and on 26Mar35 for Vocalion.

      It seems a simple matter to compare the two piano players in the
      sessions of 18Sep and 10oct to try to decide whether or not they are
      the same. Unfortunately there is hardly any piano to be heard, and no
      solo whatsoever; what you can hear does not sound as if it was
      Ellington. It is unlikely (although not impossible) that Ellington
      took part in one of these recording sessions. He had his own band in
      the meantime after Elmer Snowden left the Washingtonians in Feb24.
      And if the date of 18Sep24 is wrong and should be early 1923, one
      wonders why Otto Hardwick and Sonny Greer did not take part in the
      recording session. Even a date such as 18Sep23 would be unlikely.
      Elmer Snowden opened on 1Sep23 at the Hollywood with Ellington on the

      So I cannot advise you to buy this double CD in order to complete
      your Ellington collection. You may on the other hand be interested in
      the music as played on the brink of the Jazz era. The liner-notes by
      Mark Berresford alone made this investment worthwhile for me anyway.
      Sjef Hoefsmit >>

      Best wishes,
      Agustín Pérez
      Madrid (Spain)
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