[Dixielandjazz] Miff Mole

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Wed Aug 19 16:32:48 PDT 2009

Hi All,

There's been some interesting discussion about MIff recently. Just by chance, while looking for something else in Gunther Schuller's masterly tome, The Swing Era, I stumbled on this paragraph about Miff, which follows a warm appreciation of Red Nichols:

"Miff Mole was, if anything, an even more extraordinary musician. A pioneer trombonist who, beginning in 1921 and 1922, set standards of playing for years to come - indeed beyond the ability of many to equal or to accomplish - Mole possessed a technical brilliance and flexibility that remained uniquely his for at least a decade. His range was phenomenal, his slide work impeccably clean, his intonation flawless, his tongueing and rhythm lithe. He made everything sound easy, at a time when most trombonists could barely struggle to play some inane tailgate lick in tune and on time. And, again, the image of a robot-like technical wonder may be raised with such a description. And if he too - like his friend Nichols - lacked the depth of a Jack Teagarden, the soul of a Jimmy Harrison, or the breadth and warmth of a Lawrence Brown, he was nevertheless a complete master of his instrument whose work was marked by taste, a remarkable harmonic ear, and a clearly etched, unmistakeable musical personality."

Not a bad eulogy! It should maybe be on MIff's tombstone.

I'm not sure what non-musicians would make of Schuller's The Swing Era or his earlier study entiled Early Jazz, as they are full of insightful technical analysis of outstanding recordings, but for musicians they are fascinating books that never fail to send me scurrying to listen to the recordings in question. If you don't already have these books, I'd recommend them without reservation. You're unlikely to read them through from beginning to end, but you're guaranteed to return to them time after time to read about individual musicians and recordings.


Ken Mathieson

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