Jazz Oracle: Portal to Antiquity
Standout tracks: Down Home Rag, Boogie Rag, Bluin' the Blues, Sweat Blues, Battleship Kate.
The Story of Joseph "Fud" Livingston
Joseph "Fud" Livingston was a "hot" clarinetist and tenor saxophonist, who also had uncanny arranging and composing skills. This triple threat penned the jazz standard "I'm Thru With Love" (featured in Some Like It Hot and Spiderman 3). Although he never really led his own band, his 1926-28 sides display modernism and brilliance that were slightly above his contemporaries at the time (Duke Ellington, Don Redman, Bill Chaliss). Everyone from Roger Wolfe Kahn to Jean Goldkette wanted use of Livingston's arranging skills in the 1920s, which he offered while still being an active member of Ben Pollack's Californians.
In 1924, Ben Pollack's band recorded a test pressing of "Red Hot" and while it was never issued, a tape of a test pressing survived. "Red Hot" finally makes its debut on this CD as Livington's very first recording84 years later. His clarinet style is heavily influenced by the New Orleans sound and is very reminiscent of Jimmie Noone or Leon Rappolo. He was also sitting in with Jimmy McPartland's Wolverines and was part of Red Nichols' Five Pennies, in which he solidified his own style of playing clarinet, that many would copy for years to come. All of these things, along with his talent and personality, propelled Livingston into the musical forefront of New York City by the ripe age of 21.
While "Feelin' No Pain" was Livingston's most popular instrumental composition, it was the dream-esque "Humpty Dumpty" and "Imagination" that were so futuristic in harmony. These two songs sound harmonically closer to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" than to any song around at that time. In fact, his theme to "Humpty Dumpty" sounds almost identical to the theme George Gershwin would pen a year later for the successful "An American in Paris." Livingston's "Sax Appeal" contains a lengthy quote from Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist" many, many months before it was published or recorded. This probably derived from the fact that Beiderbecke and he were lifelong friends since 1925.
At Nat Shilkret's suggestion, Beiderbecke wanted to team up with Livingston and Max Farley to come up with the "All-Star Orchestra" for Victor Records. This was a large orchestra that included Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman playing Livingston's arrangements. This group was playing very modernistic arrangements and was so successful that it made Paul Whiteman mad enough to abruptly leave Victor for their recording rival, Columbia Records (which offered Whiteman $100,000).
For all of Livingston's brilliance, he would get very frustrated at recording dates because he could not play everything he heard in his head, and turned to alcohol. This would turn out to be his Achilles heel. For more info on his hilarious "intervention," his encounter with Lily Pons, and his boss, ranked clarinetist, Jimmy Dorsey, check out Jazz Oracle's Livingston CD.
Standout tracks: Red Hot, Feelin' No Pain, Imagination, Humpty Dumpty, Sax Appeal, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Choo-Choo, I'm Thru With Love, The Blues Danube, Moo.
The easiest way to describe Ben Pollack, in a very generalized nutshell, would be to say that he was the Quincy Jones of his day. This guy worked with the best of the best and the best of the future best, and even had roles playing himself in Hollywood motion pictures. He had acute insight to what talents held great potential. This is one of the reasons why Jazz Oracle has dedicated multiple volumes to him. Although there's not a great deal of beefy information in this first volume of Pollack's catalog for Jazz Oracle, it still satisfies.
Besides having cats like Benny Goodman, Harry Goodman, Ray Bauduc, Glenn Miller, Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman, Fud Livingston and Jack Teagarden in his earliest bands, Pollack would also subject them to hilarious and unbelievable stunts. Jack Teagarden talked with Len Guttridge about how Pollack made Harry Goodman don a tiger's head for a performance of "Tiger Rag." He also made Ray Bauduc wear a Hawaiian grass skirt for a rendition of "She's One Sweet Show Girl" and he was known on occasion to pick up a megaphone in order to sing vocals a la Rudy Vallee.
Teagarden also recalled a mystical alley in New York City on West 47th St. and said that he, Pollack and a couple of other guys in the band dubbed this place "Dream Alley" because whenever someone wished for something in "Dream Alley" it would come true. Many musicians hung out there when jobless. Teagarden wished for his own band, and Pollack wished for his own restaurant someday, and both wishes came true.