Jazz Oracle: Portal to Antiquity
Jack Linx and his group traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where they recorded a couple of sides for OKeh Records. Although Linx had some success with the sides, the listener can hear some striking similarities between "Don't You Try To High-Hat Me" and Jelly Roll Morton's "Milenberg Joys." The same can be deduced even closer with Linx's "Oh Me! Oh My!" and the New Orleans Owls' version six months previous. A fun rumor had gone around that King Oliver himself had sat in with Jack Linx and his group for their record of "Beale Street Blues," but unfortunately that was false. The trumpet player on the date just apparently played with enough power, force and bravura that it made listeners think that it was King Oliver (which is a testament to that trumpet player's abilities for the time).
Later on, Linx must have retired from being a bandleader, in the 1940s or 1950s, because by 1961, he was found to be a partner of a musical instrument store in New York.
In addition to the 23 Jack Linx sides on this disc, there are four that are credited to Maurice Sigler as Sigler's Birmingham Merrymakers. This is because the band traveled to Atlanta the exact same day as Jack Linx and his group, and the Birmingham Merrymakers were comprised of members of Linx's group, the Original Alabama Dominoes and the Eddie Miles Orchestra.
Standout tracks: It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo,' Don't You Try to High-Hat Me, O Me! O My!, Beale Street Blues, Pardon the Glove.
Sam Manning's recorded sides are truly fascinating in their sound and in the subjects being discussed in the lyrics. This is really groundbreaking music in that it is truly one of the first jazz "fusions" to occur. It fuses a West Indian inspired vibe with the hot jazz that was popular at the time. In fact, some of Sam Manning's sidemen play "hotter" than leading jazz musicians of the day. Many of the songs on this disc contain little snippets of musical and sung quotes of older, more traditional songs from the West Indies. This type of mosaic effect made Manning's songs feel familiar with listeners and thus contributed to his popularity.
As stated above, the subject material for these songs is unbelievable for its day: economic survival, New York winters, longing for home, indulging in current fashion, displaying pride and self esteem, battered women, female adultery and sexual promiscuity, as well as lesbianism (take that Lady Gaga). "Amba Cay La" is about a young girl's early sexual experiences and "Baby" is similar in its adult content. "Mabel (See What You've Done)" talks about a female adulterer's husband literally cutting off the head of the man who had just slept with her. "The Bargee" (through its language) tells a story of calling prostitutes to perform oral sex on American sailors. The lyrics of "Lignium Vitae" discuss how certain tea can be made from the bark of lignium vitae wood and this helps increase blood flow and is used in herbal medicine as an anti-pregnancy tea (along with caraili bush and Ti-Marie), thus giving a young Trinidadian woman sexual freedom. "Sly Mongoose" has many references to Alexander Bedward and trickery, and uses a clarinet slide to express sexual innuendo. "Hold Him Joe" of course is the same song that inspired Sonny Rollins to do a cover. To hear a version that Rollins could have heard is quite fulfilling, when comparing how far Rollins took it.
Manning's reedmen were very, very good. They were not only versed in West Indian techniques but also the jazz techniques of the day. In fact, these could very well be the very first recordings of Trinidadians playing saxophone. This was a great foil for Manning because he was more of a showman and comedian than a crooner. It has been recorded that his favorite stage outfit consisted of a pink vest, white top hat and a checkered grey suit with trousers that weren't quite long enough. Unfortunately no film footage exists of Manning (the paparazzi occupation wasn't as trendy back then).