Condon-sation: Eddie's Reissues

David Rickert By

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Eddie Condon was one of the great organizers in jazz, able to round up any number of enthusiastic musicians to play his particular brand of Chicago jazz, a style that fell somewhere between Dixieland and swing. His best work was recorded in the thirties and forties at the Town Hall concerts; by the time of these recordings (the late fifties and early sixties) Dixieland seemed a bit old-fashioned to those weaned on Parker and Davis. However, although they lack the wisecracks and sarcasm of the live Town Hall concerts, these recordings feature the same mischievous charm and spirited improvisation of the earlier recordings, only with better sound. Since these recordings have already come and gone as part of a Mosaic set, the recent reissue is a service to those who missed them the first time. No jazz collection is complete without at least a sampling of Condon’s work, and these recent Collectables reissues are as good a place as any to start.

Jam Session Coast To Coast/Jammin’ At Condon’s
Eddie Condon

The biggest obstacle with the 78 format was the running time; what solos were allowed had to be brief and only crudely approximated the energy generated during a live performance. Thus Condon must have welcomed the LP era, which allowed him to indulge in the lengthy jam sessions allowed in clubs and concert halls. The two records featured on the first compilation, Jam Session Coast To Coast and Jammin’ at Condon’s, are filled with prime small group swing. The seasoned veterans like Peanuts Hucko, Bud Freeman, and Billy Butterfield could probably run through these changes in their sleep, yet make the most of the extended solo time, pulling from an endless supply of energetic licks. The group really digs into “Riverboat Shuffle” and “Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss”, each soloist feeding off the energy of who came before. Condon, as always, is barely audible, yet can be heard clearly announcing soloists and shouting encouragement from the sidelines. Perhaps the group was bolstered by the competitive nature of the session; half of the record belongs to the Rampart Street Paraders, a West Coast group (hence the title of the record). Although the second half is enjoyable enough, Condon’s group cuts everyone from California (which some would argue is as it should be). The second CD, featuring all of Jammin’ at Condon’s, is more of the same: extended jams on Dixieland warhorses. No tune is particularly memorable, yet the group does achieve a consistent level of playful musicianship throughout.

Midnight in Moscow/The Roaring Twenties
Eddie Condon

Another luxury afforded Condon on the LP era was the concept album, which he explored on the two releases featured on this collection. Midnight in Moscow has the more unconvincing gimmick of the two (songs pertaining to specific countries), but is really quite good, due in large part to the double threat of Peanuts Hucko and Bobby Hackett, who work together like a couple of linebackers. They really tear the lid off of a swinging version of Tchaikovsky’s “Theme From Swan Lake” and manage to make convincing music out of “Loch Lomond” and Londonberry Air”. Other tunes, such as “The Sheik of Araby” are comfortable versions of early jazz chestnuts. For once Condon can be heard, albeit faintly, and we get a glimpse of his prowess as a rhythm guitarist, suggesting that he was as much a leader behind the instrument as he was without it. The second session, The Roaring Twenties, comes off as more of a growl than a roar. Every song seems slightly lethargic, as if it was recorded on a Sunday morning, and tunes selections like “Minor Drag” and “My Monday Date” seem aptly titled. Given the consistency of the players involved, it’s hard to fault the musicians; it must just have been an off day. There’s still some good soloing and it’s hard to fault a disc that includes two complete sessions for the price of one.

Jam Session Coast To Coast/Jammin’ at Condon’s
Tracks: Disc 1: 1. Beale Street Blues 2. Emaline/Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me/ I Can’t Give You Anything But Love 3. Riverboat Shuffle 4. Jam Session Blues/ Ole Miss 5. Black and Blue 6. I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None O’ This Jelly Roll 7. Ja-Da 8. The Sheik of Araby 9. Squeeze Me 10. South Rampart Street Parade. Disc 2: 1. There’ll Be Some Changes Made 2. How Come You Do Me Like You Do 3. Blues My Naughty Sweety Gave Me 4. Tin Roof Blues 5. When My Sugar Walks Down the Street/I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me.

Midnight In Moscow/ The Roaring Twenties
1. Meadowlands 2. Dark Eyes 3. Theme From Swan Lake 4. Hindustan 5. The Japanese Sandman 6. Loch Lomond 7. Londonberry Air 8. La Via En Rose 9. The Sheik of Araby 10. Midnight In Moscow 11. Wolverine Blues 12. Chimes Blues 13. Put ‘Em Down Blues 14. Davenport Blues 15. What-Cha-Call-‘Em Blues 16. Minor Drag 17. China Boy 18. My Monday Date 19. Apex Blues 20. Heebie Jeebies 21. St. James Infirmary 22. That’s A Plenty.
Personnel on all tracks: Eddie Condon-guitar; with Peanuts Hucko, Bobby Hackett, Dick Cary, Lou McGairty, Billy Butterfield, Bud Freeman, and others.

Collectables on the web: http://www.oldies.com

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