THE TURK MURPHY JAZZ BAND—On Tour! Germany 1973 & 1974. (Merry Makers Record
Company MMRC-CD-55) Playing time: 78m. 31s.
Murphy Interview; Panama; 50 Miles of Elbow Room*; Band Members Introduction; Saint Louis
Blues; The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me‡; Doctor Jazz; Evolution Mama*; Trouble in
Mind*; Bay City; When the Saints Go Marching In*; Murphy Interview; I Am Pecan Pete;
Sugarfoot Stomp; Perdido Street Blues; Aunt Hagar’s Blues; Bull Trombone♫; Nobody Knows
You When You’re Down and Out; Helm Interview; Come Back, Sweet Papa; London Blues;
When You’re Smiling; When the Saints Go Marching In*; Radio Sign Off.
Turk Murphy, trombone, washboard, leader, vocal*; Leon Oakley, cornet, vocal°; Bob Helm,
clarinet, vocals*; Pete Clute, piano; Bill Carroll, tuba & trombone♫, vocal‡; Carl Lunsford,
banjo‡; Jimmie Stanislaus, vocals†
Recorded at several concerts and from radio shows in Germany, various dates and places in
1973 and 1974. All details available are given in liner notes.
The performances on this CD were taken from recordings made at several concerts during the
band’s tours of Germany in the early seventies and from radio broadcasts there. The personnel
of the band at this time was one of the best that Murphy assembled, and these tours were
designed to be two of a total of four; but for unknown reasons Murphy decided here would be
no tours three and four. Such decision was not made, according to Oakley, on the basis of the
reception the band got—it was outstanding. To this day the abandonment remains a mystery.
Some five tracks are given to speaking and contain no music. For the radio segments, a
certain PFC Craig Miller interviews some of the band members for his radio shows, giving it his
best shot but betraying an almost total lack of familiarity with the music. Murphy is asked to
differentiate between “traditional jazz” and “dixieland jazz,” for instance, (in a nutshell Murphy
points to trad. as being oriented toward the ensemble, dixieland toward the individual
musicians); and Helm to elucidate any changes between the instruments of “yesterday” and
“today” (and he replies, “Not too many that we use in this band”). So there isn’t a whole lot to
be gained from these verbal tracks.
The music, however, is a different story. It is rich, full bodied, Oakley playing as if on fire
and seeming to inspire the rest to do likewise, Doctor Jazz (track 7) exemplifying this perfectly—
such energy! Oakley’s lip is sure (there are advantages to being in one’s early thirties!) and he
has perfect control, flubbing no notes, providing the ideal backing to vocals and soloists. His
vibrato is so fitting of anything he does. His vocals, too, are on the mark, as are those taken by
Helm and Murphy. On these recordings Helm shows no trace of the “sour” tone (a certain
flatness) he so often had on the Yerba Buena Jazz Band recordings, especially when he plays
soprano sax. Murphy, as he did until the end of his life, plays a blustery trombone and
demonstrates an amazing tonguing technique, especially on numbers such as I Am Pecan Pete
(track 13), Murphy’s own composition, which charges at “take-no-prisoners” tempo.
The back line does not enjoy the best of acoustics and is, for the most part, barely heard
except for the odd solos, such as Clute’s on London Blues (track 21) or Lunsford’s and Carroll’s
on Saint Louis Blues (track 5). And that leads to the one flaw in this recording—there are so
many locations and probably most had less than top-the-line recording equipment, the result
being a lack of balance on occasion or a kind of “muddiness” to the overall sound.
But these are minor cavils. This disc more than makes up for any shortcomings by the sheer
exuberance, the fire, the joy of the playing. It is very fortunate that Leon Oakley made the
tapes available and Ted Shafer had them transcribed, then issued this CD.
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