|KID ORY—“SONG OF THE WANDERER / DANCE WITH KID ORY OR JUST
LISTEN” (Upbeat URCD241) Playing time: 74 mins. 54 secs.
Song of the Wanderer
Song of the Wanderer; Tailgate Ramble; Mahogany Hall Stomp; Won’t You Please
Come Home; St. Louis Blues; Toot Tootsie (Goodbye); Sheik of Araby; Tiger Rag.
Dance with Kid Ory or Just Listen
Am I Blue?; Fidgety Feet; Hindustan; Twelfth Street Rag.
Recorded in Los Angeles on August 25 and 26, and October 27, 1957.
Personnel: Kid Ory, trombone, vocal*; Marty Marsala, trumpet, vocal*; Darnell
Howard, clarinet; Cedric Haywood, piano; Frank Haggerty, guitar; Charles Oden,
string bass; Earl Watkins, drums.
These tracks were originally issued on a pair of LP’s on the Verve label back in the
days when “Dixieland” was deemed commercially viable and most of the major
labels put out LP’s in the genre. However, two cuts from the Dance with Kid Ory or
Just Listen album, namely Ja Da and Dinah, were excluded, undoubtedly because
of time constraints. The original liner notes for Song of the Wanderer by Nat
Hentoff, jazz critic and former columnist for Down Beat and other journals, are
reprised in the booklet; and while there are also notes included for Dance with Kid
Ory or Just Listen, I assume they were added by Mike Pointon as my copy of the
Verve LP has none.
Kid Ory’s first retirement from the music scene occurred during the Depression, and
he did not emerge again until 1943 when a revival of Dixieland music was getting
underway. From then until his second retirement in 1966, Ory continued to lead a
band from his base on the West Coast. Although the personnel of his band varied
throughout this time, he always managed to achieve an “Ory sound,” regardless of
who was in the group. In part this was due to his own trombone style—what is
sometimes referred to as “tailgate”—comprised of a guttural tone, often achieved
through the growls he made, often through a mute, and the frequent glissandi
where he would slide both from the bottom up and the top down. On this disc,
Mahogany Hall Stomp nicely illustrates this Ory trademark style.
As to the rest of the front line, Marsala’s trumpet is clean and forceful, touching all
registers and range, but not dwelling for long in the upper. In similar fashion
Howard spends a good deal of time in the middle register on clarinet, but he can—
and does—handle the upper and lower registers where it is appropriate, as in Sheik
of Araby, for instance.
Another element of the “Ory sound” is the part played by the rhythm section. Ory
eschews the banjo and tuba, opting rather for guitar and string bass, and 4-beat
rather than 2-beat, the guitar chording rather than playing single string. The
resulting pulse is further complemented by Watkins drumming here, as he relies
almost entirely on playing softly on hi hat or ride cymbal, using the rest of the set
mainly for accents. While this rhythmic pulse can be heard on almost any track, it is
very clear on Baby Won’t You Please Come Home and Fidgety Feet, underscoring
the band’s facility with dynamics as they work on a rising volume in the out-
choruses leading to the coda.
The rest of the front line are, of course, also an important ingredient. Marsala’s
trumpet is clean and driving, touching all registers and range, but not dwelling for
long in the upper. In similar fashion Howard spends a good deal of time in the
middle register on clarinet, but he can—and does—handle the upper and lower
registers where it is appropriate, as he does in Sheik of Araby.
In this latter stage of his musical life, Ory did not stay with the ensemble approach
that is so central to the New Orleans style, the one on which he cut his music teeth
and followed largely until his first “retirement.” Instead in this second stage he
adopts the approach of his fellow New Orleanean, Louis Armstrong, who perhaps
more than any other musician introduced the soloing that became so prominent
thereafter. So on this CD we find the tunes being given the ensemble-solos-
ensemble treatment. That is not to imply that interest suffers as a result of this
pattern (as is too often the case). The front line musicians and pianist have
something to say; and that, coupled with the backing that soloists are often given by
the others, particularly where they take a second chorus, keeps up the intensity.
However, the ensemble choruses are so stimulating that I wish there were more of
them, even at the expense of solos.
Other than the piano, the rhythm instruments take very few solos or none. Watkins
does add a 4-bar drum tag to several tunes, e.g. Tailgate Ramble, Hindustan, and
others, but his only full-fledged solo is on the last tune, Twelfth Street Rag. Here
Watkins plays a typical New Orleans solo—all pressed rolling on the snare drum
with nice rim shot accents throughout, no tom tom patterns or cymbal crashes.
Guitar and bass are also given solos here, each backed by stop time from the other
instruments (as is the drum solo also). This last track neatly sums up the entire
performance provided by this CD as it gives everyone a moment in the sun and
includes just about everything that would make a blindfolded listener say, “That’s
the Kid Ory band.”
While the absence of Ja Da and Dinah is unfortunate, it is good to have available on
CD the rest of the tracks of the two LP’s—some 75 minutes of fine jazz. Perhaps
they will be included on a future CD release as there are several other Verve LP’s
that feature the Ory bands waiting for reissue on CD—especially if they are given
transfers as outstanding as those on this disc!
While Upbeat is an English label, this CD can probably be purchased in the U.S. at
Jazzbymail, www.jazzbymail.com, which stocks Upbeat releases, or at the Upbeat,
www.upbeat.co.uk, which provides for ordering by mail if one clicks on “New