[Dixielandjazz] New Orleans Jazz Bands
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed May 9 14:16:12 PDT 2012
On May 9, 2012, at 4:20 PM, Marek Boym wrote: <polite snip>
> I have never heard of the OM5 issuing records under the ODJB name, but
> I am prepared (against my better judgement?) to take you word for it.
No need to take my word for it. Below is what Albert Haim wrote about
the OM5/ODJB record and the affiliation between Phil Napoleon, who had
moved to New Orleans as a young man, and Nick LaRocca.
Take (or not) Haim's word and his sources,.
First, some documentation of what you told us. From
“Their first record was actually released as an Original Dixieland
Jazz Band record with the blessing of Nick La Rocca.”
Second, to supplement what Gilbert told us, from the ODJB discography in
“NOTE: Some copies of Arto 9140 by the Original Memphis Five have been
reported anecdotally to be labeled as by the Original Dixieland Jazz
There is a slight difference in the language used by Mainspringpress
and by Rust. As Gilbert told us, Rust writes, “Some copies of Arto
9140 reportedly were issued as by ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JAZZ BAND.” The
one-word difference may be crucial: “anecdotally.” Does this mean that
there is no documentation, no image of an Arto 9140 that credits the
ODJB? Sometimes anecdotes are accurate, at other times they are part
of a mythology. In addition, there is the word “Some” qualifying the
phrase “copies of Arto 9140.” Is it possible/reasonable that the same
record on the same label had some copies issued as the “Original
Dixieland Jazz Band” and other copies issued as the “Original Memphis
Five”? I would be viewing this as mythology were it not for an
important piece of information in a footnote in the monumental tome
"Lost Chords" by Richard Sudhalter. Here is the relevant section of
“Bob Hilbert, “Long Live the Emperor! Memories of Phil Napoleon,”
IAJRC Journal, winter 1992, pp. 1-10. In April 1922 a band billed as
the “Original Dixieland Jazz Band” recorded two titles for the obscure
Arto label with Napoleon leading an entirely Memphis Five personnel.
They are among the rarest of early collector’s items.”
My speculation, in view of what Hilbert tells us, is that, indeed, the
April 1922 recording of “Gypsy Blues” and “My Honey’s Loving Arms” was
released on Bell P-140 as by the Original Memphis Five and on Arto
9140 (all issues) as by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
In mild support of my speculation, I point out that there is reliable
information that the beginning of the OM5 had strong ties to the ODJB.
First, as Gilbert told us, Phil Napoleon ran away from home in 1913
when he was twelve years old and ended up in New Orleans. Maybe he met
Nick LaRocca at that time. What is certain is that when the ODJB
played in New York’s Reisenweber’s Restaurant, Napoleon (and also Miff
Mole) was absorbing and metabolizing the new music. In the late 1910s,
Phil Napoleon (born Filippo Napoli) with another Italian-American
musician, Frank Signorelli (who made several recordings with Bix and
His Gang and with Bix and Tram in 1927) founded a band called “The
Memphis Five” –later, the Original Memphis Five- (in tribute to W. C.
Handy, who had a popular society band in Memphis).
I now complete the footnote above.
The association [between the ODJB and the OM5 also had something of a
social dimension.: Napoleon, Signorelli, and ODJB members LaRocca,
Edwards, Larry Shields, and Sbarbaro were among twenty-five persons
arrested for disorderly conduct at a May 15, 1921 party celebrating
the return of the Dixielanders from abroad.
More information from “Lost Chords” about the ties between the ODJB
and the OM5.
At first the group’s personnel and fortunes were closely intertwined
with those of the ODJB. New Orleans multi-instrumentalist Emile
Christian, who substituted for “Daddy” Edwards on trombone on the
band’s 1919 British tour, worked single jobs with Napoleon.
Signorelli, on the other hand, sat in for J. Russell Robinson with the
Dixielanders. On at least one occasion in 1922, Napoleon himself
filled in for Nick LaRocca. In later years, ODJB drummer Tony Sbarbaro
(or Spargo, as he came to be called) was a regular member of various
To document what Ray wrote, also from “Lost Chords.”
”If we played the ODJB tunes, people would say we were copying them,”
Napoleon told the host of a Florida radio station. “So we were smart
enough to go into the dime store and learn the new popular tues, like
‘Last Night on the Back Porch’ and ‘Down Among the Sheltering Palms.’
In a telephone conversation with the author, he [Napoleon] let slip a
tantalizing hint about how things were between his band and LaRoccca’s
in those early New York days. “We carved up the territory, he said. We
agreed that those guys would play their own stuff, their originals and
the jazzier novelties, , and we’d concentrate on the pop tunes. That
way we’d never be in direct competition with each other.” It brings a
smile, this image of two Sicilian-Americans leader-cornetists, meeting
like Mafia dons to decide spheres of influence, lines of musical
demarcation , in the interests of peaceful coexistence.”
In summary: in view of the friendly relationships between LaRocca and
Napoleon, it is plausible that the first recording of the OM5 in April
1922 produced, on different labels, one record under their own name
and one under the ODJB. But we need documentation. Unearthing a copy
of Arto 9140 would be crucial, of course. Also, I wonder if there is
additional information in Hilbert’s article in the IAJRC Journal,
Finally, according to Sudhalter, the first recording by Phil Napoleon
and the OM5 was in 1921.
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