Program : 
Hot Jazz on a Summer Day: A Backyard Jazz Festival

Midwest Allstars frontline featuring Chuck Hedges, Jim Galloway, Tommy Saunders and Russ Phillips. Courtesy of the artists.

Summertime is the season for jazz festivals around the world. Music for this festival broadcast was recorded live at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee on the stage of the art deco movie palace, The Crest Theatre, Memorial Day weekend 2003. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band shares the bill with Tommy Saunders Midwest All-Stars and Doug Finke’s Independence Hall Jazz Band. The radio audience listening at home is invited to pull up their lawn chairs, fire up the barbecue and enjoy a do-it-yourself jazz festival in their own backyards.


Jim Cullum and the Band kick things off with two tunes from their nightly playlist at The Landing in San Antonio—an extra hot interpretation of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Burnin' the Iceberg” and “Albatross,” a tune composed by Jimmy McPartland and Dick Carey, and long-associated with bands led by Eddie Condon.



Trombonist Doug Finke. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Next up, the Independence Hall Jazz Band from Philadelphia takes the stage at The Crest. This popular band led by trombonist Doug Finke recorded for the Stomp Off label for years. With Mike Walbridge on tuba, Bob Sundstrom on banjo, pianist Paul Asaro  and drummer Greg Sergo, the pumped up rhythm section gives a strong two-beat flavor to their material. The Independence Hall Band opens the set with Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin' Boy Blues” featuring pianist Paul Asaro and Chicago clarinetist Kim Cusack, and follows it up with “Chicago Rhythm” from the playing of Earl Hines, Chicago’s celebrity piano man cum bandleader of the 1930s. Rounding out the ensemble is Bob Neighbor on cornet.


Tommy Saunders Midwest All-Stars step up to the microphones. A Detroit native, Saunders had a long personal and performing association with cornet giant Wild Bill Davison and is known for playing in the fiery style of his mentor. Saunders’ edition of his band on this occasion includes clarinetist Chuck Hedges, Canadian soprano saxophonist Jim Galloway and Chicago trombonist Russ Phillips with Eddie Higgins on piano, bassist Paul Keller and Ed Metz Jr. on drums.



Pianist Eddie Higgins. Photo courtesy of the artist.

To begin their set, the band turns the spotlight on pianist Eddie Higgins who delivers a spectacular boogie-woogie on W.C. Handy’s celebrated tune, “St. Louis Blues,” accompanied by drums and bass. The Band jumps in with their performance of the 1929 Waller/Razaf standard “Blue Turning Grey Over You” with a nod to the style of Wild Bill Davison. Rodgers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me” dates from 1928 and in the performance here features reedmen Hedges and Galloway, two masters who display a special musical camaraderie and empathy for each other’s playing.


Our do-it-yourself backyard jazz festival continues as The Jim Cullum Jazz Band is joined by special guests: New Yorker Jon-Erik Kellso who makes frequent appearances with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks and trombonist Bill Allred, based in Florida, who was the bandleader at Rosie O’Grady’s in Orlando for decades and toured worldwide with Wild Bill Davison. Drummer Hal Smith—one of the most learned and swinging drummers specializing in early jazz drumming styles—adds an extra rhythmic spark.



"Limehouse Blues" 1924 sheet music. Image in public domain.

On their set list: “Limehouse Blues,” a jam tune dating from 1924, famously recorded by Sidney Bechet’s Feetwarmers in 1941. “Someday Sweetheart,” composed by the Los Angeles-based Spikes Brothers in 1919, is often associated with Jelly Roll Morton. The version heard here features Allred and Kellso with the rhythm section.


Jim Cullum introduces “Royal Garden Blues” as a prominent warhorse of early jazz. The Royal Garden was a café on the South Side of Chicago featuring King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong on second cornet. The sizzling version performed here features a massed conglomeration of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band with all their guests that catches fire and burns brightly with the eternal flame of swing and stomp.


Photo credit for Home Page: Tommy Saunders. Photo courtesy of Riverwalk Jazz.