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10" 1940s 78 rpm Jazz

Likeable rogue on guitar

Astonishing, the human stories which lie behind the neat gold lettering on a gramophone label. “Never heard of him,” I thought of Vic Lewis, placing this 1946 shellac disc on the turntable. Lowered the needle. And, wow. Lovely jazz guitar in front of a tight band. But not just tight, there’s real feeling in this. […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Gospel Jazz

The name suggests a gangster

Muggsy Spanier. The name suggests a gangster from the Al Capone era, but Francis Joseph “Muggsy” Spanier was a musician. Given that the mob controlled all the best nightclubs in those days, and that, like Capone, Spanier was a native of Chicago, they might have crossed paths. Muggsy played the cornet. The what? It’s a […]

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10" 1950s 78 rpm Jazz Pop

Five things I did not know about Ella Fitzgerald

Five things I did not know about Ella Fitzgerald She was born in 1917 in Virginia, but moved with her mother to New York State as a child, part of the Great Migration of African Americans seeking a better life in the northern states. Her mother died in a car crash in 1932, when Ella […]

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10" 1930s 78 rpm Jazz

Liquorice stick

On Sunday, my wife and I saw a jazz band, Sandra Tulty’s Swing Quartet. Australians all, and all stellar musicians: one of those jaw-dropping jazz ensembles, which sing, play multiple instruments, and take on solos without so much as raising a sweat. I was particularly impressed by the clarinettist, Michael McQuaid. He moved in and […]

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12" 1960s 33 rpm Jazz LP

A strange democracy

“Jazz is a team game”. This was said a few days ago by T. S. Monk, a stellar jazz drummer who is touring Australia. Monk (son of Thelonious) was chatting on community radio about his art. “In a jazz group, everyone gets to solo. No one is the star, because everyone’s the star.” I’d never […]

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12" 1950s 33 rpm Jazz LP Pop

Easter special

How many pop songs about Easter do you know? It’s is a curious thing. There is lots of lovely church music for Easter, just as there is for Christmas. But popular music? Every man and his dog has released a Christmas album – there are so many in the op-shops of Australia that they effect […]

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1950s 45 rpm 7" EP Jazz LP

Jamming with le dieu

Sidney Bechet was among the very first improvising soloists in jazz. He was a Creole, born in New Orleans in 1897, and so a contemporary of friend and rival Louis Armstrong. Bechet started out on the clarinet, but while touring Europe in 1919 he discovered the soprano saxophone, and made it his own. He pretty […]

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12" 33 rpm Jazz LP

Five things I didn’t know about Dave Brubeck.

Five things I did not know about Dave Brubeck. He studied for two years to be a vet, before his zoology professor told him: “”Brubeck, your mind’s not here. It’s across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours.” During the Second World War, while Brubeck was serving in […]

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10" Jazz Pop

Guitar man

To many musicians, the name Les Paul means “a Les Paul”, which is a line of electric guitars made by Gibson. Handsome things they are – that’s one below – and played by many of the greats. But first came the man Les Paul. He didn’t quite invent the electric guitar but was one of […]

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1940s 1960s 7" Jazz Pop

He’s making a list …

Bing Crosby’s version of the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas” is the best selling recording of all time. First released in 1942, various versions of the single sold more than 50 million copies. Add in appearances on LPs, CDs and EPs (like this one) and you have total sales of something more than 100 million […]