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Jazz Oracle: Portal to Antiquity

By Published: October 8, 2010
As to how Ben Pollack launched his successful career, one word comes to mind: brazen. One night early in his career, Pollack was out listening to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings live and the drummer (Ralph Snyder) was begging to be let out of a Sunday session. So Pollack just walked up to the bandstand (after overhearing the conversation) and asked to sit in on the Sunday session. After going back and forth, the musicians hesitantly agreed, telling Pollack to just lay back, take it easy and keep things simple. That wasn't Pollack's style and upon hearing him throw everything he had at them, the band fired Snyder and hired Pollack that very day. This guy could make a wolverine purr.

Standout tracks: Deed I Do, He's the Last Word, Waitin For Katie, Singapore Sorrows, Sweet Sue—Just You.

Douglas Williams

1928-1930

Douglas Williams is a musician who is shrouded in a cloak of mystery. The CD offered by Jazz Oracle is by Douglas A. Williams. The early life of Douglas A. Williams has not been documented, but Dick Raichelson of Jazz Oracle gives some examples / findings of different men who could be Williams. This makes the search for and the music of Douglas Williams all that more interesting, alluring and rare.

Victor Records used to record artists at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. The Douglas Williams Trio traveled to Memphis with a few vocalists in a medicine show from Alabama. They were hired by Loren Watson to record for Victor. Williams recorded 26 sides for Victor there, and was even lucky enough to have a local newspaper on hand when he was recording to document the session. Even given all of this, Douglas Williams fell into the cracks of obscurity and as aforementioned, little is documented or known about him.

After the Victor session, the members of Williams' trio (Blaine Elliott and Sam Sims) stayed around and lived in Memphis, but the vocalists moved shortly after the session. Some info suggests that Williams could have been approximately 30-35 years old when he came to Memphis and recorded in 1928. It has been said that he was a jokester and a prankster and had the nickname "Flipper." He could have been the same Douglas Williams who played in Howard Yancey's Orchestra for society and local parties. In 1935, Douglas and his wife Sula sold their home and moved to St. Louis. In fact, his final city directory listing was in 1942. There is no info for Douglas Williams after this date.

As far as Williams' clarinet style is concerned, he sounds very similar (or at least influenced by) the New Orleans style of clarinet players. Although he may have lacked fluidity, he would on occasion incorporate gas-pipe / vaudeville techniques into his playing. For those with theoretical ears, most of the cuts on the CD are in familiar keys: Bb, Eb, C and F. As a testament to Williams' compositional skills, he composed 21 of the 24 cuts on the disc. The last three cuts on the disc include an unknown trumpet and alto saxophonist who bring a new level of maturity to the group. It is speculated that the trumpet player could be Punch Miller
Punch Miller
b.1894
, but recent evidence suggests that both were probably members of Clarence Davis' Rhythm Aces (a local band from Memphis).

Standout tracks: Slow Death, One Hour Tonight (If I Could Be With You), Clarinet Jiggles, The Beale Street Sheik.

Jack Linx & Maurice Sigler

Jack Linx & his Birmingham Society Serenaders / Sigler's Birmingham Merrymakers

Before everyone starts laughing and thinking about beef jerky and sasquatch pranks, this band actually has a good bit of intrigue attached to it. Believe it or not, an area of very limited knowledge (if any at all) is about white bandleaders in remote locations. Jack Linx is an example of this. Some research can tell us that Jack Linx only played around Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding region.

With this disc, Jazz Oracle has provided us with the only compilation known to exist of sides strictly dedicated to Jack Linx. Any information surrounding Linx (aside from recording info) is merely sketchy at best. We know that Linx was booked for 12 weeks at the Cascade Plunge, which happened to be Birmingham's leading dance resort. In 1930/31, Linx and his group were resident at the Thomas Jefferson Hotel.


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