Muggsy Spanier [trumpet]; George Brunis, Harry Graves, Ralph Hutchinson
[trombone]; Darnell Howard, Phil Gomez [clarinet]; Boomie Richman [tenor
sax]; Floyd Bean, Red Richards [piano], Truck Parham [string bass]; Billy
Mure [guitar]; Sid Catlett, Barrett Deems, George Wettling [drums]
Songs: Dixie Flyer, Lazy
Piano Man, Sweet Georgia Brown, Feather Brain, Home [When Shadows Fall],
It's A Long Way to Tipperary, Caution Blues, Alabama Jubilee, Sunday,
Blue Room, Tiger Rag, South, When My Dreamboat Comes Home, Careless Love,
Judy, Oh Doctor Ochsner, Washington & Lee Swing, My Wild Irish Rose
MUGGSY - Dixie Flyer 1950-54
Jazz Gazzette - world wide web
I think there is general agreement about Francis Joseph
"Muggsy" Spanier being one of the best white dixieland players
in jazz history. In 1939 he recorded 16 tracks with his so-called Ragtime
Band (which, of course, wasn't a ragtime band at all!) for RCA Victor
that became known as the "Great sixteen". These fine dixieland
recordings helped to restore the interest in the earlier jazz styles in
an era that was completely reigned by the big swing bands, an interest
that eventually led to the great New Orleans revival. Unlike most cornet
and trumpet players of his generation Muggsy was not so much influenced
by Louis Armstrong, but by Louis' mentor, Joe "King" Oliver.
Chicago born Muggsy heard Oliver first at the Pekin Café and later
at the Lincoln Gardens where he was one of the few privileged to sit in
with the band. In a 1960's television interview with Ralph Gleason he
credited Oliver as the origin of his famous plunger mute playing and showed
Gleason a mute he had received from the King. Muggsy's playing is free
of technical grandstands, but his firm, simple lead is exemplary and he
excels in the meanest kind of blues playing with the plunger mute. In
these recordings from the early fifties he was in great shape and they
are as good examples of his playing as any.
Muggsy's cornet playing is not the only attraction on this CD. It features
some great sidemen as well. Take Darnell Howard for instance, who is present
on 12 of the 18 tracks and solos on most of them. Howard started on violin
on which instrument he recorded already in 1917 with W. C. Handy. He was
in fact a great influence on the famous Eddie South. Later he became an
extremely fine reed player. In my opinion he is one of the very few clarinetists
of his generation who mastered completely the New Orleans creole style
of playing although he was born and raised in Chicago, his main influence
being Jimmie Noone. He did of course work with New Orleans bands like
Charlie Elgar's and King Oliver's. It may be my imagination, but I seem
to hear a violin like quality in his clarinet work. His beautiful playing
on this CD is a great asset.
Floyd Bean, the pianist on most of these tracks is an underrated musician.
Listen to his fantastic blues playing on "Lazy Piano Man", a
track on which he is heavily featured. The bass player on all the tracks
is Truck Parham, who studied with Walter Page. He worked and recorded
with a lot of famous jazz musicians like Roy Eldridge, Art Hodes, Earl
Hines and Jimmy Lunceford. I just read that at 88 years of age he was
still as strong a player as ever. His buoyant bass playing drives the
band along in great fashion. The first four tracks have the famous Big
Sid Catlett on drums, one of the greatest drummers in jazz history. Listen
to his breaks in the coda of "Sweet Georgia Brown".
Muggsy's justly famous blues playing with the plunger mute is heard here
on several tracks like "Lazy Piano Man", "Feather Brain",
"Caution Blues" and "Careless Love", the latter being
an extremely long and relaxed performance, originally meant to occupy
three 78 rpm sides, but never issued that way. It has a fine Bud Freeman
influenced solo by Boomie Richman. The doctor mentioned on track 16 was
the physician who treated Muggsy at the Touro hospital in New Orleans.
Muggsy devoted several numbers to him, another one being "Relaxin'
At The Touro".
If you care to have an excellent example of Muggsy Spanier's playing in
your collection, this is a very good CD to start with. The fine playing
of the better and lesser know sidemen are what they call in New Orleans
"lagniappe". By the way, if you want to learn more about Muggsy,
read Bert Whyatt's excellent bio-discography "The Lonesome Road"
published by Jazzology Press, now an established part of the George Buck
- Marcel Joly
Richard Bourcier - Major Jazz Critic
I'ts great to find a reissue of some fabulous Muggsy sides from the early
fifties. Most serious collectors of traditional jazz will have the "Great
Sixteen" album from Bluebird featuring Spanier's "Ragtime Band"
sessions of 1939. Material from later Muggsy outfits won't be on the shelves
of anyone outside the hardcore fans of the legendary cornetist.
One of the founding fathers of "Chicago Style", Muggsy played
in the rhythmic manner of King Oliver, a man who was Spanier's biggest
influence. The cornetist's punchy style simply cannot be mistaken for
any other player except, perhaps Mannie Klein. In retrospect there were
only three trumpet/cornet "stars" in the early "white"
school of jazz. They were Bix, Muggsy and Wild Bill. Each had his own
trademark manner of knocking the listener's socks off. Muggsy was never
impressed by "high note" trumpeters and, like Bobby Hackett,
usually played in low to mid-range. When asked once by a bandleader to
play a few high notes, Muggsy replied "Get a piccolo."
While there are four recording units on this CD, the band members don't
change all that much until the last few tracks when the sextet grows to
an octet with the addition of sax and guitar. The band starts out with
Muggsy, clarinetist Darnell Howard, trombonist George Brunies, pianist
Floyd Bean, drummer Big Sid Catlett and the common denominator, bassist
Charles "Truck" Parham. Drummers change from session to session
and include Don Chester, Barrett Deems and my favorite, George Wettling.
The trombone chair sees some changes too. In addition to Brunies, Harry
Graves and Ralph Hutchinson are also heard. Hutchinson at times could
be mistaken for Jack Teagarden. This is most apparent on the eleven minute
version of "Careless Love."
It's nice to hear so much good jazz from the underrated Darnell Howard
(1895-1966). Starting on violin, Howard played with W.C.Handy's orchestra
as early as 1917. As a clarinetist, Darnell was employed by dozens of
top leaders over the years including King Oliver, Erskine Tate, Fletcher
Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, Kid Ory and half decade with Spanier. In 1961,
Darnell Howard recorded some memorable sides with Lovie Austin's Blues
Serenaders in Chicago backing singer Alberta Hunter.
Another underrated player is pianist Floyd Bean (1904-1974). Like Muggsy,
Floyd Bean started as a drummer. His early years were spent with little-known
regional bands in and around Bix's home town of Davenport, Iowa. He found
work with Bob Crosby, Jimmy McPartland and the Seattle Harmony Kings during
the thirties. By the fifties, he was firmly entrenched in the Chicago
sound and playing with Spanier and George Brunies. Floyd Bean's piano
fits perfectly within Spanier's driving style and the pianist is a standout
on this album. He is "particularly perfect" on the bluesy tunes
such as "Lazy Piano Man", "Feather Brain" and "Caution
Blues." It has long been my opinion that Floyd Bean and Art Hodes
hatched from the same shell.
Truck Parham and Muggsy are the only musicians present on 100% of the
tracks presented on "Dixie Flyer." Parham was a big guy and
ex boxer and pro footballer. Starting on drums, he switched to bass and
tuba quickly.Parham played with dozens of big names including Zack Whyte,
Earl Hines, Zutty Singleton, Mildred Bailey, Art Tatum and Roy Eldridge
spanning a variety of jazz styles. A few decades ago, he recorded a wonderful
duo session with Art Hodes titled "Plain Old Blues."
"Dixie Flyer" is a perfect blend of Muggsy Spanier's most memorable
tunes featuring a collection of great jazz musicians. The music is well
mastered and very easy to listen to. It will sit on my shelf of 5 star
- Richard Bourcier
Boxell's Jazz Website - New Zealand
Surprisingly enough, I have little material by Muggsy, so I was delighted
when I can across this gem by Jazz Crusade. The tracks are from the early
1950s and have not been released on CD before. Jazz Crusade's boss, Big
Bill Bissonnette, says that he can think of only three great white jazz
trumpeters: Bix Beiderbecke, Wild Bill Davison and Muggy Spanier (he missed
out Ken Colyer, the father of European traditional jazz, for some reason).
Well I like all three, but when it comes to making a choice of whom I
like the best, I have to pick Muggsy. It is not just the 'punchy' style,
it not just his phrasing, nor his consummate skill with the mute, it is
all those factors and other less definable ones. So, with my favourite
white American jazz trumpeter and some brilliant recordings I am well
pleased with this CD. The music is a mix of fast (a little bit too fast
at times I think) and slower paced tunes, jazz standards and rarities.
Being from old masters, there is the odd pop and bang, but there is little
or no surface noise. The quality of the recordings adds to the pleasure
of listening to one of the originators of the Chicago style of traditional
jazz playing at his peak. This is a wonderful CD, go buy it, you deserve
- Geoff Boxell
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