[Dixielandjazz] Do records capture greatness?

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sat Jun 11 09:19:41 PDT 2005

On Jun 11, 2005, at 1:44 AM, Steve barbone wrote:
> ... Ask Jack Maheu about those
> days at Condon's. As he tells Dick Sudhalter in "Lost Chords": page 
> 298.
> "If you could only have heard it back then" clarinetist Jack Maheu 
> said,
> wonder edging in his voice. "You'd open the door to some little club 
> where
> those guys-Eddie and some of his cronies -were playing. And that music 
> would
> hit you like a fist, a blast of superheated steam. It was powerful. . 
> . I
> mean lots of guys today play well. But back then there was something 
> else -
> in Pee Wee, Bud, Wild Bill, Teagarden, George Wettling."
> The records? Yeah, some of them capture it a bit, but you should have 
> heard what it sounded like live. You wouldn't
> have believed your ears. It was the most emotionally powerful kind of 
> jazz
> I've ever heard. But that's gone now."

Records might not capture it all, but for my dough the greatest 
Dixieland-style sessions (i.e., post-early jazz) ever were the 1943 
Wild Bill and Brunis Commodore classics  (with Wettling, Pee Wee or 
Edmond Hall, etc.), resissued as Commodore CD 7011, though a listmate 
said a while back that they're no longer available. It's not just 
nostalgia to say that you don't hear jazz like that anymore.

I do, though, have my doubts about the idea that the greatest artists 
don't get their best stuff on record. Artists who've done a lot of 
recording probably are heard at their best or near-best on some of the 
sides. For example, I have the CD versions of the Charlie Parker 
Benedetti materials, all recorded on live gigs. Even allowing for 
diminished effect because of poor technology, I don't see that they 
exceed the Bird's best studio work. Possibly, the on-site listener's 
added aura of excitement comes from the magic of presence, from being 
in the room with all the attendant electric ambience, making the music 
seem a leap better in person than on record. On the other hand, some of 
Bird's recorded concerts where he stretches out more suggest that he 
burned more brightly when responding to an audience. This is an 
unprovable argument either way--e.g., I claim that I never heard a 
record that captured the excellence of Sharkey's under-recorded band of 
the late 40s, and I suspect that all listmates have heard some live 
performances beyond what's on record by a particular artist.

Charlie Suhor

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