Musicians are often asked to play favorites requested by audience members, but have you ever wondered what tunes the musicians themselves consider favorites? We find out on this edition of Riverwalk Jazz as The Jim Cullum Jazz band and guest vocalist Banu Gibson "play favorites."
The cornet was the instrument of choice for two seminal jazz figures in the early 1920s —Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong. Born only a few years apart, their lives could not have been more different: Armstrong grew up in squalor in the back streets of New Orleans but had a long life, a stellar career and is revered as a singular figure in 20th century jazz. Bix Beiderbecke grew up in comfort in a leafy neighborhood in white, upper middle-class Davenport, Iowa. And yet, Beiderbecke’s life was cut short and his recorded output limited. In spite of these differences, both men influenced generations of jazz performers through their daringly inventive solo work.
For our show this week, Jim Cullum selects a tune from the playing of each cornetist. "I'm Coming Virginia" is associated with Bix, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recorded "Oriental Strut" in 1926. The latter tune figured prominently in the repertoire of another cornetist, Lu Watters, who led the Yerba Buena Jazz Band of San Francisco, the progenitors of the west coast traditional jazz revival of the 1940s.
Clarinetist Allan Vaché played with Jim Cullum's band for over a decade in the 1980s-90s before embarking on a successful solo career. For this show, Allan lends his highly original and swinging clarinet style to a jazz standard composed in 1931, "Just Friends."
A long-time New Orleans resident, Banu Gibson entertains audiences with her high-energy singing and dancing at concerts, festivals and jazz parties. On this show, she interprets two standards: Walter Donaldson's "It's Been So Long" from the 1936 Oscar-winning film, The Great Ziegfeld, and bandleader Ray Noble's soaring "The Very Thought of You."
Two members of The Jim Cullum Jazz band show off their original tunes about culinary delights. Jim Cullum composed his hot, up-tempo "Enchilada Man" as homage to the spicy native South Texas specialty dish. Longtime band pianist/arranger John Sheridan performs a solo version of his "Butterscotch."
Jack Wyatt first signed on to play bass with the Cullum band in 1979. Before that he had a long career playing in bands led by iconic jazzmen including, trombone legend Jack Teagarden, the King of Swing Benny Goodman, the great Coleman Hawkins and bandleader Jimmy Dorsey. On this radio show, Jack Wyatt talks with host David Holt about how he got in with the Dorsey band. Jack said: “I started playing with Jimmy Dorsey at age 18 when Dorsey’s bass player got drafted into the army. After the first night, Dorsey asked if I’d like to go on the road. I was hesitant because I didn’t read music very well but Dorsey told me he didn’t care about that. He said I had a great feel with the band and that was more important than sight-reading. So I toured with the Dorsey band, playing all over the country and ended up in New York City where I met Walter Page, my favorite bassist, playing with the Count Basie band.”
Photo credit for Home Page image: Banu Gibson and Jim Cullum. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.
<p>Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©1990</p>