[Dixielandjazz] Jess Stacy

Jim Denham james@jiming.demon.co.uk
Sun, 17 Nov 2002 15:18:19 +0000

In message <3DD1D2D4.F09D57FE@earthlink.net>, Stephen Barbone 
<barbonestreet@earthlink.net> writes
>For those not familiar with Jess Stacy, the following bio comes from a
>google search just performed, and it is sourced from Scott Yanow in the
>"All Music Guide".  If you haven't heard this Stacy solo in the context
>of Sing, Sing Sing, by all means, give it a listen.
>Steve Barbone
>Alexandria Stacy
>BORN: August 11, 1904, Bird's Point, MO
>DIED: January 5, 1994, Los Angeles, CA
>One of the great swing pianists, Jess Stacy's greatest moment of fame
>was an unexpected one, when during the latter part of "Sing, Sing, Sing"
>at Benny Goodman's historic 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, the clarinetist
>motioned to Stacy to take a solo (which he never had previously on that
>song). The pianist constructed a remarkable impressionistic
>improvisation that stole solo honors and was fortunately documented (and
>released for the first time in 1950). A mostly self-taught player who
>performed on riverboats during the early '20s, Stacy was part of the
>fertile Chicago jazz scene of the 1920s
>with his style being influenced by both Earl Hines and Bix Beiderbecke.
>Still obscure when he joined Goodman's big band in 1935, the pianist
>soon became well-known as one of BG's top sidemen, working with him
>through 1939 and on-and-off during the next five years. Stacy also spent
>time with the bands of Bob Crosby, Horace Heidt, and Tommy
>Dorsey, recorded with Eddie Condon, did some solo recordings of his own
>(starting in1935), had a short-lived marriage to singer Lee Wiley, and
>tried twice to lead big bands of his own. He became fairly obscure after
>moving to California in 1947 (mostly playing in piano bars) and, in
>1963, Stacy retired from music altogether, only to return briefly on a
>few special occasions (and for two Chiaroscuro recordings) over the next
>20 years. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
>Dixielandjazz mailing list


As I understand it, Stacy was always frustrated by Benny Goodman's refusal to
let him work with the Trio and Quartet. He (Stacy) never said a bad word about
Teddy Wilson (or anyone else, come to that - except Lee Wiley!), but he let it
be known that he thought his strong left hand would give a propulsion to the BG
small groups that Wilson failed to provide. The final straw came when Wilson
left and BG started using Fletcher Henderson (fine arranger, weak pianist) with
the small groups: Stacy left the BG band and joined the more agreeable ambience
of the Bob Crosby Orchestra and Bob Cats.

Stacy was one of the great pianists, to rate up there with Hines, Waller and
James P. What a pity he more or less retired from music in later years. I have
a CD of a Marion McPartland broadcast "with guest Jess Stacy" from December
1981, where Jess plays and reminisces. His playing is very rusty and no-one
should judge him on the showing of this broadcast: but flashes of the old magic
are still there.

Jim Denham