This week’s radio show Riverwalk Jazz All Stars 1995 highlights jazz greats who visited The Landing in the early years of the national broadcast series, sitting in with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on the club’s bandstand on the city’s tree-lined walkway along the San Antonio River. Blues shouter and balladeer Joe Williams, piano master Dick Hyman, trumpet giant Nicholas Payton and clarinet great Ken Peplowski among others are featured here in rarely heard tracks from the radio show’s archive collection.
New Orleans jazz singer Topy Chapman kicks off our show with a tune recorded live at The Landing in 1995. She began singing gospel music in her father’s church as a young girl and entered the jazz world when Vernel Bagneris cast her in the off-Broadway revue One Mo’ Time. Topsy has since appeared at jazz festivals worldwide. Here, she sings Irving Berlin’s “Always,“ composed in 1925 as a present for his sweetheart Ellin Mackay, Berlin gave her its lifetime royalties and the song itself as a wedding gift. He wrote “Always” in a romantic style, a sedate waltz in ¾ time; here Topsy and the Band heat it up as a medium up-tempo swing. To close the show, Topsy draws on her gospel experience with the traditional hymn “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.“
New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton developed his musical talent, like many other local musicians, playing in the streets of the Crescent City. At age nine, he performed with the storied Tuxedo Brass Band, marching in street parades throughout the city’s neighborhoods. Since then, he’s made a big splash in the jazz world with numerous recordings under his own name as leader. Nicholas is a great talent and a thoughtful and articulate individual. He says, “I don’t know why some people call classic jazz ‘old’ music; after all, it’s music of the 20th century.“ On this radio show, he performs two tunes made famous his musical hero Louis Armstrong— “Someday You'll Be Sorry“ and the immortal “Stardust,“ composed by Hoagy Carmichael, it’s the most recorded and requested song in history.
Blues and jazz singer Joe Williams first came to national attention singing with the Count Basie Orchestra in the early 1950s. Here, he performs two hit songs he recorded with Basie. “Ev’ry Day I Have the
Blues,“ his first hit recording with the Basie band won him international stardom. “Who She Do“ is an up-tempo blues on a slightly ribald theme. The rhythmic feel is very much in the Basie “pocket,” and the brilliant alto saxophone solo is by the Cullum band’s reedman Brian Ogilvie.
“A-Flat Dream“ from 1939 is one of few compositions by early 20th century stride piano master James P. Johnson with a “boogie woogie” feel to it. The fourhanded, two piano arrangement heard on this radio show is performed by frequent guest Dick Hyman in tandem with John Sheridan and The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Hyman is widely acknowledged as the world’s foremost interpreter of historical jazz styles, including ragtime, stride, boogie woogie and swing.
New Orleans jazz singer and bandleader Banu Gibson is a versatile and gifted performer who has appeared on the bandstand with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band at The Landing in San Antonio and on the road. She sings “What Kind of Man Is You?,“ composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1929 and recorded that year by Irving Mills’ Hotsy Totsy Gang and Eddie Lang and His Orchestra.
Southern California’s Dan Barrett is an outstanding trombonist and musical arranger, and a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the origins of jazz. Our show this week features Dan in a duet with Cullum Band trombonist Mike Pittsley on “Linger Awhile,“ recalling the playing styles of Cutty Cutshall and Lou McGarrity, the legendary trombone duo of the Benny Goodman Orchestra.
Barrett’s exploration of the history of jazz trombone has uncovered innovative uses of the instrument. During his stint with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, “Tricky Sam” Nanton developed one distinctive style Barrett discovered. Working with a combination of straight and plunger mutes, Nanton could mimic the sound of a human voice. Cornetist Rex Stewart described it a bit more colorfully, saying, “Tricky Sam could wail like a baby, howl like a hoot owl, and imitate the blood-curdling scream of a tiger.” Here, Barrett makes good use of Tricky Sam’s “vocal” mute technique on a Duke Ellington arrangement of “Chlo-e.“
Reedman Ken Peplowski has recorded and performed with Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman and George Shearing among other jazz and pop stars. Here Ken puts his clarinet through its paces on a swinging version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Jubilee.“
Jim Cullum Jazz Band pianist John Sheridan has been widely recognized as a gifted and prolific jazz arranger by many in the jazz world, notably saxophonist Benny Carter and pianist Dick Hyman. On this broadcast, Sheridan pays tribute to Swing Era pianist Teddy Wilson with his performance of George Gershwin’s “Liza.“
Photo credit for Home Page: Reedman Ken Peplowski. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©1995