Presentation Hopping: Journaling with Sally Fee and Shelley Wruk Finke

Article excerpt

Thursday, September 6th

Leading off today's sessions was Tom Hustad presenting "Ruby Braff at Avatar Studio: Looking Through the 4th Wall." Tom, author of the recent publication Born To Play, the story of Ruby's life, showed a video of a 1998 session at the studio, giving us an inside look at the way informal head arrangements become finished pieces ready for recording and ultimately a produced CD.

In Geoff Wheeler's presentation "Jazz Recording Made in New Orleans 1924-1929" he cites the unpublished and extensive work of Canadian collector Ron Sweetman and 40-plus other collectors and researchers. In 2001 they completed and posted a 55-page internet document Sweetman entitled "Jazz, Blues and Ethnic Recording Activity in New Orleans From 1924 to 1929." Geoff noted his amazement at the number of recordings made by major companies on rough field equipment to record local bands, and then sell to local buyers. The recordings were not made in the interest of posterity , but simply to capture the current sounds and styles of the time while the buyers were eager. These local bands would never have found their way to a major city to record.

Charles Suhor created a stir as attendees awaited his presentation "Jazzmen and Strippers in Postwar New Orleans." He apologized that the strippers would not be appearing per se, but that he would set the stage revealing the relationships between the strippers and the musicians of the day. His historical perspective on the jazzmen included personal experiences with his late brother Don Suhor who had played in various Dixieland groups. "It was a great time to be alive" he recalled.

That evening, Mark Cantor enthralled the group with selected jazz films, promising to keep them rolling until the last of the audience had toddled off to bed. (film list at end of article)

Friday, September 7th

On Friday morning, Sonny McGown presented "Irving Fazola - The Classic New Orleans Born Clarinetist." Fazola played the Albert style clarinet, and was representative of the very best. Though he died too early at age 36, he imprinted his style in the hearts of jazz history. Sonny's photos gave us an inside look at his life and his jazz history playing in Louis Prima's band and many others.

Trevor Tolley set out to question "The Early New Orleans Trumpeters: How Did They Really Sound?" He prepared a paper given to each of us outlining the research he'd done on numerous musicians including Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Manuel Perez, Freddy Keppard and others. This greatly enhanced the visuals and recordings he presented, as he relayed the fact that little was known about the music of New Orleans until the publication Jazzman in 1939. He feared "we shall never know quite how those New Orleans players sounded in the first decade of the twentieth century, before records were made."

Bruce Raeburn invited us into the life and music career of his father, the under-appreciated Boyd Raeburn. He noted the changing styles of Raeburn's bands as they made the transition from commercial recordings into modern arrangements in the early 1940's. Unfortunately Raeburn did not enjoy the support of a major record label or radio sponsor, and his bands repeatedly folded and re-formed over the years. Bruce shared a number of photos of his father and mother Ginny Powell, who sang with Boyd's band in the late 1940's.

Nina Buck and Lars Edegran, along with Nina's son and daughter-in-law, presented "George Buck and the Story of Jazzology." We learned about this legendary man whose early love of jazz and radio led him to represent, produce, and preserve the music and musicians for eternity. A shy man himself, he promoted others through recording opportunities and radio exposure. His integrity made him many friends among jazz musicians. The presenters shared memories so personal that we all felt as if we knew him.

Don Manning, a self-described "tribal elder" of the post-swing big band era, presented a compelling in-person memoir "My Life With The Big Bands," recalling his days as a drummer in the 1950's with such respected (and often under-recognized) bands as those of Claude Thornhill, Charlie Barnett and Charlie Parker, notably in a 24-piece orchestra in 1950. …