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Larry Shields on Tenor Sax

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  • Robert Smith
    I ve just finished checking H.O. Bruun s The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (publ. 1961), and nowhere does it mention that Larry Shields played
    Message 1 of 10 , Jul 3, 2005
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      I've just finished checking H.O. Bruun's "The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band" (publ. 1961), and nowhere does it mention that Larry Shields played tenor sax. There are two possibilities: In the fourteen piece band that made its debut September 2, 1936, Shields played alongside three saxes. It's possible he loaned a tenor sax for the photo. The second possibility is that Harry Shields (Larry's brother) who also played clarinet may have also played sax and lent it to Larry. All this is pure speculation, of course.

      Cheers

      Bob Smith


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Andrew Homzy
      As long as we are speculating - Shields would have only played clarinet on the ODJB big band sides. The ODJB was a sort of band-within-a-band - similar to
      Message 2 of 10 , Jul 3, 2005
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        As long as we are speculating -

        Shields would have only played clarinet on the ODJB big band sides. The ODJB
        was a sort of band-within-a-band - similar to Ellington's "Battle Of Swing".

        As well, four saxes were the big band norm in 1936.

        I suggest that Shields bought a tenor sax because it is pitched in the same
        key as the clarinet. He probably had pictures taken with both instruments at
        the time. Didn't the ODJB more-or-less disband in 1923? If so, Shields would
        want to increase his employability by at least showing he knew how to hold
        the new-fangled-to-jazz instrument.
      • David Brown
        Howard s report on the 1954 Record Changer obit. is indeed sobering and enlightening. I guess the reputation of ODJB would have been at its lowest at that
        Message 3 of 10 , Jul 3, 2005
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          Howard's report on the 1954 Record Changer obit. is indeed sobering and
          enlightening. I guess the reputation of ODJB would have been at its lowest
          at that time. Jazz P.C. labelled them as 'corny', imitative and 'stealing'
          the black man's music. Certainly this was so in 60s when I came into the
          music. The First ed. of 'Jazz On Record' Grey Arrow 1960 contains such as
          'robust, funny-hat, neurotic, jumpy, ragtime rhythm, vulgar, comic.' Only
          record in print then 10" UK Columbia of the British sides. Panassie, who
          does deign to mention uses 'corny'' compared to 'negro' bands of the time.
          What negro bands of the time, 1917 ? Rex Harris in 'Jazz' Pelican 1952 is
          kinder and Rust always was a staunch advocate. However, La Rocca's
          statements would not have helped. Thankfully the balance is now redressed
          maybe fully thanks to the work of Sudhalter. I also think that the speed
          issue may be relevant because I suspect that all earlier remasterings were
          too fast adding to the jerky staccato perception of the music. 'Crow Jim'
          may also relate to the desecration of Shield's grave that Linda reports--
          and thanks again Linda for a fascinating post. Maybe there are still
          black --or white -- racists who resent his position as the first recorded
          jazz clarinettist. Linda , do we have any idea of date of desecration ?

          So the photo on tenor likely dates mid/late 20s, when the saxophone was THE
          jazz instrument, symbol of 'The Jazz Age'. Was there any jazz musician of
          that era working solely on clt. ? They all doubled at least one sax. I
          exclude here the 'freak' players. The greatest black clarinettists had to
          double, even Dodds & Noone. Shields could not have survived as a musician
          purely on clt.and this must have contributed to the decline of his career.

          I assume he must have had some income from his composer royalties although
          La Rocca got his name alone on the really big one 'Tiger Rag.'



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        • Howard Rye
          ... The statement is particularly strange because there is no sign that Panassié had actually heard (or would have liked if he had though that s beyond proof)
          Message 4 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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            on 4/7/05 7:17, David Brown at johnhaleysims@... wrote:

            > Panassie, who
            > does deign to mention uses 'corny'' compared to 'negro' bands of the time.
            > What negro bands of the time, 1917 ?

            The statement is particularly strange because there is no sign that Panassié
            had actually heard (or would have liked if he had though that's beyond
            proof) the contemporary recordings of Wilbur Sweatman. These have been more
            thoroughly suppressed even than the ODJB's recordings ever were, not I guess
            primarily for racial reasons but because they threatened (and arguably
            destroy) the whole notion that jazz was a New Orleans invention!

            Reference to the Harris/Rust Recorded Jazz: A Critical Guide (1958) reveals
            that there was a Victor 'X' LP of the 1917 ODJB sides then still available
            on HMV, but the 'X' is not in Ramsey's Guide To Long Play Jazz Records
            (1957). Bearing in mind that the 'X' series was programed by the editors of
            the Record Changer........

            Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
            howard@...
            Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098
          • robertgreenwood_54uk
            Howard wrote: [T]he contemporary recordings of Wilbur Sweatman…have been more thoroughly suppressed even than the ODJB s recordings ever were, not I guess
            Message 5 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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              Howard wrote: "[T]he contemporary recordings of Wilbur Sweatman…have
              been more
              thoroughly suppressed even than the ODJB's recordings ever were, not I
              guess
              primarily for racial reasons but because they threatened (and arguably
              destroy) the whole notion that jazz was a New Orleans invention!"

              Does anyone still claim that jazz was exclusively a New Orleans
              invention? I do hope not. Rather than any claims regarding New Orleans
              being the birthplace of jazz, the more important point to make is the
              fact that the earliest intimations that jazz might develop into more
              than just a local, folk music came from certain individuals among the
              New Orleans men.
            • Michael Rader
              ... If there was any supression of the ODJB, it can t have been very enduring, since there have been reissues available since I ve been collecting (well over
              Message 6 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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                Howard makes a very strong assertion:

                > ... the contemporary recordings of Wilbur Sweatman. These have been more
                > thoroughly suppressed even than the ODJB's recordings ever were, not I guess
                > primarily for racial reasons but because they threatened (and arguably
                > destroy) the whole notion that jazz was a New Orleans invention!

                If there was any supression of the ODJB, it can't have been very enduring, since there have been reissues available since I've been collecting (well over 40 years). Assessments have of course varied a great deal from believing La Rocca and Brunn (like my countryman Horst Lange) to, what I have always thought was a very apt analysis by Humphrey Lyttelton, where he claims that they were minimally creative.

                I would personally say that they were lucky to have been recorded first. Without recordings, we have no way of knowing how good or important other NO musicians were - we only have stories which we can believe or not. Shields was a good musician and we are able to judge him quite well since he did record sufficiently and in a context which allows judgement. I would assert that Lorenzo Tio wasn't as lucky, unless we believe in all of the Tio sightings (the Morton, a possible Clarence Williams etc.)

                Howard's second point is rather more interesting. It sounds as if you are suggesting that Sweatman's recordings have been deliberately supressed because they challenge, or don't fit in with, conventional wisdom, but do you mean the pre 1917 sides as well as those post ODJB, which could be case of quick learning? This, after all, is what those claim who assert that the ODJB started it all: that everybody learned from their recordings.

                In the past there have been claims that similar music to NO jazz was played in many places in the South (e.g. Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City), but more recent scholarship (e.g. Starr) seems to have revived the New Orleans theory.

                Maybe you would like to expand your assertion, Howard?

                Best wishes,

                Michael Rader

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              • David Brown
                Howard yes, I think Pannassie would have been comparing to a black band of his imagination but definitely from N.O.Sweatman is interesting and by no means
                Message 7 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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                  Howard yes, I think Pannassie would have been comparing to a black band of
                  his imagination but definitely from N.O.

                  Sweatman is interesting and by no means well known to collectors of my
                  generation. A cursory listen to the 1917 Pathes reveals very nice, relaxed,
                  poised ragtime, Sweatman himself especially pleasant. I think these may have
                  been released after the ODJB hit big and that the 'Jass' label was added
                  later ? The 1918, post ODJB sides reveal a totally different band sound
                  and clarinet player. Surely this can only have been recorded in the wake of
                  the ODJB ? Sweatman seems to be parodying the worst excesses of Shields.
                  However, he moves on with fashion and on the 1924 Edisons reverts to
                  somewhere near his former ragtime mode but I think that the contemporary
                  Clarence Williams (a resident of N.O.from age of 8 ) records would be the
                  model for these ? The 1934 Vocalions are strange and show him switching
                  rather uncomfortably between a fluid ragtime style and freakwork. I find
                  nothing so far to suggest that Sweatman was anything but a conscientious
                  black professional musician playing what fashion required. Certainly not a
                  convincing jazz player. Nothing here either for me to question the position
                  as N.O. as the font of Jazz, which is not to say that jazz was 'invented'
                  there.

                  I therefore speculate that 'the French Bouffon' as once unfairly ridiculed
                  by Max Harrison would dismiss these 1918 Sweatmans as 'rédhibitoire' showing
                  as they do, black men copying whites.

                  Michael yes, I don't believe conspiracy either. The first generation of
                  critics were generally Negrophiles and would have jumped on the chance of
                  ODJB displacement by black musicians. The second generation such as
                  Harrison, McCarthy, Fox, Thacker, Schuller, Williams were honest and had
                  good ears. I can find about no ref.to Sweatman in the literature. Sudhalter
                  dismisses him as 'novelty'. The fact is he was ignored because he just was
                  neither historically significant nor very good ,as a jazz player, whatever
                  his ragtime credentials.




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                • Howard Rye
                  ... I m sure you re right about this. ... Well Sudhalter would dismiss him wouldn t he? This is hardly evidence of anything, any more than Panassié s view on
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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                    on 4/7/05 12:59, David Brown at johnhaleysims@... wrote:

                    > Howard yes, I think Pannassie would have been comparing to a black band of
                    > his imagination but definitely from N.O.

                    I'm sure you're right about this.
                    >
                    > Sweatman is interesting and by no means well known to collectors of my
                    > generation. A cursory listen to the 1917 Pathes reveals very nice, relaxed,
                    > poised ragtime, Sweatman himself especially pleasant. I think these may have
                    > been released after the ODJB hit big and that the 'Jass' label was added
                    > later ? The 1918, post ODJB sides reveal a totally different band sound
                    > and clarinet player. Surely this can only have been recorded in the wake of
                    > the ODJB ? Sweatman seems to be parodying the worst excesses of Shields.
                    > However, he moves on with fashion and on the 1924 Edisons reverts to
                    > somewhere near his former ragtime mode but I think that the contemporary
                    > Clarence Williams (a resident of N.O.from age of 8 ) records would be the
                    > model for these ? The 1934 Vocalions are strange and show him switching
                    > rather uncomfortably between a fluid ragtime style and freakwork. I find
                    > nothing so far to suggest that Sweatman was anything but a conscientious
                    > black professional musician playing what fashion required. Certainly not a
                    > convincing jazz player. Nothing here either for me to question the position
                    > as N.O. as the font of Jazz, which is not to say that jazz was 'invented'
                    > there.
                    >
                    > I therefore speculate that 'the French Bouffon' as once unfairly ridiculed
                    > by Max Harrison would dismiss these 1918 Sweatmans as 'rédhibitoire' showing
                    > as they do, black men copying whites.
                    >
                    > Michael yes, I don't believe conspiracy either. The first generation of
                    > critics were generally Negrophiles and would have jumped on the chance of
                    > ODJB displacement by black musicians. The second generation such as
                    > Harrison, McCarthy, Fox, Thacker, Schuller, Williams were honest and had
                    > good ears. I can find about no ref.to Sweatman in the literature. Sudhalter
                    > dismisses him as 'novelty'. The fact is he was ignored because he just was
                    > neither historically significant nor very good ,as a jazz player, whatever
                    > his ragtime credentials.

                    Well Sudhalter would dismiss him wouldn't he? This is hardly evidence of
                    anything, any more than Panassié's view on the other side. Each dismisses
                    as novelties what they don't like or understand. Neither is a worthwhile
                    source on what they don't like. Is anybody, come to that?

                    I certainly disagree profoundly with your final statement. Sweatman's 1916
                    recordings of Down Home Rag appear to be the first jazz improvisations on
                    record, though you have to ignore the inevitably dreadful accompaniment by
                    studio musicians who obviously hadn't a clue. (They are not to be blamed for
                    this, the blame lies with the studio executives who employed them, but
                    prresumably they didn't have a clue either.) If that isn't historical
                    significance, I don't know what is.

                    Evidently, I hear the 1917 Pathés quite differently from you too, but I have
                    to admit that what I look for in jazz is intense personal expression and I
                    find that in Sweatman's music and not in the ODJB.

                    Any further comment would fall under my own ban!

                    Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
                    howard@...
                    Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098
                  • Howard Rye
                    ... Please be clear I took up the suppression idea purely from the posting I was responding to, which in turn was responding to the rather strange lack of
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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                      on 4/7/05 11:20, Michael Rader at Rader.Michael@... wrote:

                      > Howard makes a very strong assertion:
                      >
                      >> ... the contemporary recordings of Wilbur Sweatman. These have been more
                      >> thoroughly suppressed even than the ODJB's recordings ever were, not I guess
                      >> primarily for racial reasons but because they threatened (and arguably
                      >> destroy) the whole notion that jazz was a New Orleans invention!
                      >
                      Please be clear I took up the suppression idea purely from the posting I was
                      responding to, which in turn was responding to the rather strange lack of
                      awareness of the original ODJB recordings in the 1954 Record Changer
                      obituary. The explanation of this could rather be antipathy to acoustic
                      recordings.

                      I do think Sweatman's recordings have been ignored because they do not fit
                      conventional wisdom. It was Mark Berresford who first pointed out to me many
                      years ago that Sweatman's 1916 recordings (and not the ODJB's) were the
                      first jazz recordings, but it's all a matter of definitions anyway.

                      > If there was any supression of the ODJB, it can't have been very enduring,
                      > since there have been reissues available since I've been collecting (well over
                      > 40 years). Assessments have of course varied a great deal from believing La
                      > Rocca and Brunn (like my countryman Horst Lange) to, what I have always
                      > thought was a very apt analysis by Humphrey Lyttelton, where he claims that
                      > they were minimally creative.
                      >
                      > I would personally say that they were lucky to have been recorded first.
                      > Without recordings, we have no way of knowing how good or important other NO
                      > musicians were - we only have stories which we can believe or not. Shields was
                      > a good musician and we are able to judge him quite well since he did record
                      > sufficiently and in a context which allows judgement. I would assert that
                      > Lorenzo Tio wasn't as lucky, unless we believe in all of the Tio sightings
                      > (the Morton, a possible Clarence Williams etc.)
                      >
                      > Howard's second point is rather more interesting. It sounds as if you are
                      > suggesting that Sweatman's recordings have been deliberately supressed because
                      > they challenge, or don't fit in with, conventional wisdom, but do you mean the
                      > pre 1917 sides as well as those post ODJB, which could be case of quick
                      > learning? This, after all, is what those claim who assert that the ODJB
                      > started it all: that everybody learned from their recordings.
                      >
                      > In the past there have been claims that similar music to NO jazz was played in
                      > many places in the South (e.g. Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City), but more
                      > recent scholarship (e.g. Starr) seems to have revived the New Orleans theory.
                      >
                      > Maybe you would like to expand your assertion, Howard?


                      Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
                      howard@...
                      Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098
                    • David Brown
                      Howard, yes I think we agree that the music of pre. ODJB Sweatman is fine, certainly expressive. What we call it, Jazz or Ragtime is not so important. I do
                      Message 10 of 10 , Jul 4, 2005
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                        Howard, yes I think we agree that the music of pre. ODJB Sweatman is fine,
                        certainly expressive. What we call it, Jazz or Ragtime is not so
                        important. I do think however, that he got waylaid into areas unfortunate
                        for him as an artist by his attempts to copy N.O. jazz and by his use of
                        freakwork in response to the work of ? You would know who ? Lewis ? Like the
                        three clarinets. However, he was a working musician and Ragtime was passé.

                        There are critics whose work I admire and I think that if a consensus
                        amongst them exists then I am likely to have to find a very good reason to
                        oppose it. The critics I mentioned I regard as scrupulously honest, however,
                        we must accept that they all carry certain subjective baggage. As does
                        Sudhalter, however, in the whole of 'Lost Chords' I find no errors of
                        judgement maybe only of emphasis and that is really just saying that
                        everybody's ears are different. I am at the moment belatedly reading a
                        review of this work by one of the greatest jazz critics of any time, Max
                        Harrison, and this is truly a meeting of profound jazz scholarship.

                        I make no exaggerated claims for ODJB, the merits and demerits of whom can
                        be clearly heard, but suggest that now, a balanced and objective response is
                        possible.



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