The jet lag is pretty much gone now, and I’m settling back into a normal routine, or as normal as routines get around here. Before memories begin to fade, I will post a few illustrated impressions of the Ystad festival that did not make it into the Rifftides posts from Sweden or my Wall Street Journal report, and perhaps a few of our visit to Copenhagen, which was too short. For the next day or two, however, I’m on deadline for liner notes to accompany Houston Person’s next album.
For the moment, I leave you with film from 85 years ago, a performance by Red Nichols and His Five Pennies. It’s a rare glimpse of a popular 1920s jazz band in action, professionally filmed with good sound. It shows us Nichols, Pee Wee Russell and Eddie Condon when they were in their early-to-middle twenties, years from becoming institutions. Those who think of Russell as an eccentric clarinetist may be surprised at his relatively straightforward playing here. The film showcases Condon’s singing, not to mention his lightfooted returns to the bandstand, but don’t miss the swing he generates on rhythm banjo. He was always much more than a curmudgeonly front man who ran a nightclub.
The musicians: Red Nichols (cornet), Tommy Thune and John Egan (trumpet), Herb Taylor (trombone), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Irving Brodsky (piano), Eddie Condon (banjo and vega lute) and George Beebe (drums).