Personnel Includes: Louis Armstrong, Henry “Red” Allen, Marty Marsala [tp], Jimmie Strong, Horace Eubanks, Barney Bigard [cl], Albert Wynn, Tommy Dorsey, Preston Jackson [tb], Earl Hines, Jelly Roll Morton [pn], Pops Foster, Leonard Bibbs [bs], Zutty Singleton [dm]
Songs: Drumface, Butterfinger Blues, Beau Koo Jack, Tight Like That, West End Blues. Smilin’ the Blues Away, Who Stole the Lock On the Henhouse Door?, Ubangi Man, Bugle Call Rag, Clarinet Marmalade, Look Over Yonder, Royal Garden Blues, Scunch Lo, Swing It, Heckler’s Stomp, Zutty’s Hootie Blues,China Boy
JCCD-3114: “Drum Face—Vol. 1” - Zutty Singleton
Jazz Review.com — Internet Jazz Publication
It’s always exciting to open a new disc from Big Bill Bissonnette’s Jazz Crusade label. Bissonnette, a trombonist and drummer, has long admired Zutty Singleton and logged him as the first New Orleans drummer he had ever seen in person. It was at the “old” Jimmy Ryan’s location and Zutty was playing with the Wilbur DeParis band. I’m guessing that it was about 1959. Bissonnette became friendly with the New Orleans drummer and sometimes sat in on Zutty’s drum kit at Ryan’s. Singleton was often booked to appear at various jam sessions in Bissonnette’s native Connecticut.
Arthur James “Zutty” Singleton (1898-1975) was born in Bunkie, Louisiana and acquired his nickname from an aunt when he was an infant. “Zutty,” in Creole patois means “cute.” As a youngster in New Orleans, Singleton was fascinated by his instrument. He had no idols but was influenced by drummer Louis Cottrell Sr. in many ways. Cottrell and his contemporaries, Henry Zeno and Paul Detroit impressed the young Singleton with their subtlety.
Unlike his contemporary Warren “Baby” Dodds, Zutty was never considered a great “New Orleans drummer.” He became simply a “great drummer-period” who went on to inspire the likes of George Wettling, Dave Tough, Big Sid Catlett and scores of others. Singleton crossed the barriers of style seamlessly and could fit into almost any band. As an innovator, he pioneered the use of wire brushes and the dampened ride cymbal within the recording studio. Zutty shunned the “hi-hat cymbal” and employed a rather slimmed down drum set consisting of snare, two shallow tom-toms, bass drum and a minimal set of woodblocks and cymbals.
In his autobiography, “The Jazz Crusade,” Big Bill Bissonnette discusses his experiences with Singleton. “Zutty called everybody “face.” This was usually preceded with a descriptive adjective so you knew who he was talking about. Jimmy Archey was “plungerface” because he used that mute so often. Parenti was “mustacheface” when addressed directly and “Hitlerface” behind his back, which Zutty said described both his appearance and his method of leading a band.” Big Bill was never too happy about being referred to as “Bigface.”
The career of Zutty Singleton spanned more than five decades and hundreds of recording sessions. This collection covers 1927 to 1969. Drum Face offers selected highlights along the way starting with the Charlie Creath recording of “Butterfinger Blues” through the Clarinet Kings session in the late sixties. The drummer is seen in the company of super stars like Satchmo, Bechet and Fats Waller to the likes of British clarinetist, Sammy Rimington, who was still making his presence known in America. during the 1960s.
The two volumes, sold separately, include a total of 34 tracks including hundreds of musicians and some great recording sessions. Generous sound samples can be heard at the label’s website. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other in-depth Zutty Singleton collections available today. Fans of classic jazz will appreciate both the music and the documentation. It’s fine jazz!
Boxell’s Jazz Website—New Zealand
Zutty Singleton: the name conjures up the image of jazz’s all time great drummer standing as a giant in his field standing way above his contemporaries. This man’s career started 1915 and didn’t end until the early 70s. You name the classic jazz band or famous name, black or white, and at sometime you can bet Zutty played with them. These CDs cover his recording sessions 1927-69 (though apparently his first recording was with Fate Marabel in 1924). As you can imagine the style of jazz played covers the spectrum from purist New Orleans to mainstream. He also recorded with bee-bop players, but we are spared that. Reading the covers tells you that the other jazzmen on the CDs are basically a Who's Who of American traditional jazz from the classic periods.
The sound quality varies from the pristine to the rather muzzy (surprisingly the worst is ‘Chinatown’ on volume 2 recorded in 1967. It is such a hot number though, you can understand its inclusion), but all shew the master at work and most feature him at some time; all, though, give an indication of the man’s genius. Myself I love the early recordings, especially those with Louis Armstrong (2 of which ‘Tight Like That’ & ‘West End Blues’ have conversations between Armstrong and Zutty leading into them. Armstrong also talks with others on ‘That’s a Plenty’ though that track has Mutt Carey on trumpet. They all really sound like back stage ‘chat’ and ‘reminisce’ rather than scripted chat show material, and help give some insights into the life of these black musicians and their gradual acceptance into a white world). But can I go past ‘Aunt Hagar’s Children’ and St James Infirmary Blues’ by the Omer Simeon Trio? Such tracks are what jazz dreams are made of.
Any serious collector of jazz needs these CDs for not only are they a tribute to the man that Orson Wells called ‘the world’s greatest drummer’, but also something of a history of American traditional jazz.
Just Jazz - British Traditional Jazz Magazine
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
That's my message to Big Bill Bissonnette for producing a double CD set (34 tracks) of one of New Orleans' maestros of the drum kit, Zutty Singleton. Not an easy task, as there are many memorable moments that Zutty recorded during his playing career. He could have gone for the obvious, those with Wilbur De Paris; those radio broadcasts with Dizzy Gillespie; those lovely tracks with Armstrong in 1940, but Bill has done an excellent job in representing Zutty's career from 1927 until 1969. There are some missing things prior to or after the event, but the collection put together is sufficient to prove that Zutty was one of the best drummers to come out of New Orleans and, in that style, probably one of the best, full-stop!
There will be arguments about whether Baby Dodds was the better, but although I admire Dodds tremendously, and he did have a great technique which others tried to copy but failed, I feel Zutty's particular style suited more than one occasion, as is proven by the tracks on these CDs.
As most of our readers know, I check out CDs for review by listening in the car going to gigs, and if they pass that test, I can usually give them the okay. Well, no problems with these, and I followed this up by playing them on the house P.A. at Bembridge just recently to Colin Bowden and Denny Illet and a few others. To hear the sound of Zutty's drum kit reverberating around the ballroom was just thrilling. The tonal qualities of his kit made them seem quite easy to play, but I expect they weren't. It was the man behind them that was doing the business, a joyous sound of drums making the bands swing.
If Big Bill ever decides he has enough material for volumes 3 and 4, then I hope I'm first in the queue for a review copy.
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