Lee Collins--Club Hangover Airshots Vol. 1
IAJRC Journal—U. S. Jazz Magazine
Two compact discs of very solid Dixieland jazz with plenty of playing time. The fidelity is rather low but the music quality is quite good. I am glad that Bill Bissonnette of Jazz Crusade made these sides available again. Most of these sides had seen life briefly on vinyl as Rarities LP 31 and 32. This music is valuable not only for its historical value but also for the fact that it is darn good music.
Lee Collins surely was not over recorded in his life. He had a few sides with Jelly Roll Morton in 1924, some work with blues singers a bit later on. Also he recorded those few but marvelous sides known as Jones and Collins Astoria Hot Eight and then some things with Mezzrow and a couple of other things.
A bit of explanation on the second volume is in order. Ralph Sutton is on the first date, the 4 tunes beginning this volume, and then Don Ewell is on the rest. Ewell does not appear on volume one at all. The band is very tight and shows the fact that they were working quite steady over a period of time. I wonder if they appeared any other places beside the Club Hangover in San Francisco? Anyway, if this type of music is your ilk, these are good recordings to add even though, as mentioned, the fidelity isn't all that good.
- Herb Young
Jazzreview.com - U.S.A.
Trumpeter, Lee Collins (1901-1960), is considered by many to be one of
the prime descendants of the style developed by uddy Bolden and Bunk Johnson.
Born in New Orleans a few short months after Louis Armstrong, the two
shared the same instructor, Peter Davis. Armstrong studied under Davis
at the Waif's Home while Collins attended evening lessons at the teacher's
residence. Lee Collins received additional training from Professor Jim
Humphrey, grandfather of Percy and Willie Humphrey, who were well known
through their appearances with the Preservation Hall bands. Collins recorded
sparsely under his own name but is heard in the recordings of Luis Russell,
King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and later with his own Jones and Collins
Astoria Hot Eight in 1929.
The recordings presented in this CD offering are air shots from broadcasts
originating from San Francisco's "Club Hangover" during the
late summer of 1953. The Club Hangover was immortalized in the late Joe
Sullivan's composition "Hangover Blues." The two volumes place
Lee Collins in the company of pianists Ralph Sutton (1922 - ) and Don
Ewell (1916-1983). Both pianists require little introduction to jazz enthusiasts.
Sutton was a stalwart of the bands of Eddie Condon, George Wettling, Jack
Teagarden and The World's Greatest Jazz Band. He still performs today
as a solo act. Don Ewell is a veteran of the bands of Muggsy Spanier,
Kid Ory and Sidney Bechet and later recorded solo albums for Good Time
Jazz and other labels. Add a couple of great reed players to the mix in
the persons of Pud Brown and Bob McCracken and the whole thing begins
The two CDs combine to include a total of 28 tracks, recorded before a
live audience and result in some of the hottest jazz on record. Collins
is a "young" 52 years of age at the time and is in fine form.
The influence of Louis and Bunk is undeniable and most welcome. In spite
of his few prior recordings, Lee Collins holds a major place in jazz history.
Some tunes must be mentioned specifically as they are quite outstanding.
Among them are West End Blues, After You've Gone, Original Dixie Jass
Band One Step, I've Found a New Baby, If I Could Be With You and I Thought
I Heard Buddy Bolden Say.
Lee Collins plays in a hot and punchy style and when working with the
backing of Pud Brown and the pianists, the music becomes breathtaking.
This is exciting material and highly recommended listening. Thanks to
Dr. Colin Bray for making his collected material available to Jazz Crusade.
- Richard Bourcier
Kings Jazz Review - England
A member of the Young Eagles band at the age of twelve, Lee Collins was
born in New Orleans at the turn of the last century, and in 1960 he died
in Chicago of a stroke after suffering badly a long period of illness.
In 1924, as Jimmy Lyons of CBS announces when introducing the West Ends
Blues track on this album, Lee joined King Oliver, and around that period
he, Collins, also recorded with Jelly Roll Morton. The West End Blues
number here is perhaps the Lee Collins version of it when he was with
the "King" all stars, and not the well-known version by Louis
Armstrong. Ralph Sutton, in 1968 was a founder member of the World's Greatest
Jazz Band, and during the prior decade when the air shots were recorded,
he was pianist at the Eddie Condon Club in New York, and who today can
be frequently heard at clubs and venues in London, England.
Although Lee Collins is undoubtedly the star of the recordings, special
note is merited for the Pud Brown period of clarinet playing with honk
sax on The Johnson Rag which is impressive, but if the tune is dedicated
to James P. then it's out of kilter.
The eight and a half minutes of I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say is
Influenced by Fats Waller and Earl "Fatha" Hines, Don Ewell
(Vol.2) in brief, led a five piece in St Louis, which included trumpeter,
bandleader Jewey Jackson, who in 1924, was with Fate Marable on the riverboats.
Don was with Kid Ory on the West Coast at time of these recordings. A
few years earlier he had moved to Chicago and played with Muggsy Spanier
and Sydney Bechet where he absorbed the blues into his piano style at
the time. An interesting facet of this Vol is to note the blues style
clarinet on the second version of Fidgety Feet. Chinatown is breathtaking.
Relax with Basin Street. ODJB One-Step; the longest tune brings a Dixieland
flavour to the hearings.
Few will be alive today having heard Lee Collins play live in his early
days, a few will be in possession of his 20s Jones and Collins Astoria
Hot Eight, Victor takes, and the 1932 Bluebird Race Label re-issues, and
so, much credit goes out to Jazz Crusade for giving us the opportunity
to listen to these historic CBS Air Shots. Listen to them.
- Ian King
AMG **** Review - U. S. Jazz Guide
Trumpet player Lee Collins has several things in common with Louis Armstrong,
including that they were both born in New Orleans within a couple of months
of each other. They were also given trumpet lessons by the same teacher,
Peter Davis. Armstrong got his lessons at the waifs' home, while Collins
went to Davis' residence to get his training. Collins followed Armstrong
in King Oliver's band. Like Armstrong, Collins possessed a broad, expressive,
and lyrical sound. His playing was exuberant and enthusiastic as well
as technically competent. These attributes are evident on this CD, which
captures performances carried live by CBS from Club Hangover in 1953.
The club opened in the 1940s and became one of the more famous venues
to host traditional jazz. The list of performers who held court there
reads like a who's who of traditional jazz players. Patrons were treated
to George Lewis, Jack Teagarden, Kid Ory, and Lizzie Miles. Blues and
straight-ahead performers like Jimmy Rushing and Earl Hines were also
welcomed. The club finally shut the door in the 1960s, being replaced
by a Japanese restaurant. This album is a companion to Lee Collins at
Club Hangover, Vol. 2, which features pianist Don Ewell. Their play lists
feature familiar traditional jazz favorites, with Vol. 1 honing in on
hot, fast-paced numbers that fit foursquare in the style of stride pianist
Ralph Sutton. Of all the tracks where he solos, "My Monday Date"
stands out, as Sutton and Collins recall the seminal version of this tune
by Hines and Armstrong. All the performers are well-established in this
music, where players rarely get a chance to rest during a tune. But it's
Collins' vibrant, hot trumpet that brings excitement to the music on these
albums. Listen to him ramble on such cuts as "Hindustan" and
"Muskrat Ramble," and one begins to understand why this musical
form has survived for all these years. A bonus is the interesting and
knowledgeable liner notes by Colin Bray capsulizing the life and times
of Lee Collins. This album is recommended.
- Dave Nathan
Jazz Gazzette - Belgium
With these two CD's Big Bill Bissonnette continues the release on CD
of important historical recordings by New Orleans musicians. The series
has become impressive. Previously we already had the soundtrack of the
movie "New Orleans" (JCCD-043), the Sidney Bechet broadcastings
with Bunk and Peter Bocage (JCCD-3036, 3039-3042), Wilbur DeParis at Jimmy
Ryan's (JCCD-3009) and The Harlem Hamfats with Herb Morand (JCCD-3015)
to name just a few. In addition to these we had older recordings in which
Bill had been involved himself and his new recordings, which are a running
documentary of New Orleans music today. The total number of issues on
his new Jazz Crusade label has reached 57 already, all still available!
It is my sincere opinion that we all should support such small independent
labels like Jazz Crusade. Without them lots of great New Orleans music
would have been lost and gone forever.
Lee Collins was somewhat overlooked by the so-called New Orleans revival.
The main reason was that he had left the city and had been active musically
elsewhere. In the twenties he was considered one of the best trumpet players
in New Orleans. When Louis Armstrong left King Oliver's band in 1924,
Lee followed in his footsteps recommended by no less than Lorenzo Tio
Jr. the famous New Orleans clarinet player and teacher. Lee was taught
himself by Professor Jim Humphrey, grandfather of Percy, Willie and Earl
Humphrey. He was one of the few musicians who were recorded IN New Orleans
in the twenties. We all know the magnificent 4 numbers recorded by RCA
Victor under the name Jones and Collins Astoria Hot Eight in 1929. Before
that Lee had already recorded in Chicago with Jelly Roll Morton's Kings
Of Jazz together with the legendary New Orleans trombonist Roy Palmer.
He was also supposed to be part of the Imperial Serenaders together with
George Lewis, who recorded in 1925 in New Orleans. The only known title
of this session was "Climax Rag", but it was rejected by Columbia
probably because of an excess of alcoholic beverage at the session. This
is a shame because it would have given us the opportunity to hear how
Lewis sounded in those days. Later on Lee recorded mostly accompanying
blues singers like Victoria Spivey, Bertha "Chippie Hill, and Lil
Johnson. He recorded a very interesting session in 1947 under leadership
of Little Brother Montgomery. Another New Orleanian present was Olivier
Alcorn, Alvin's clarinet and tenor sax playing brother. One of the numbers
recorded on that date was a composition by Lee called "El Ritmo",
a tune heavily influenced by what Jelly called the "Spanish tinge",
and recently revisited on a coming CD by a group led by Louis Lince.
In 1951 Lee went on a tour of Europe (including Belgium!) with Mezz Mezzrow.
The band was recorded in Paris by Vogue. Lee's playing, often close to
Louis Armstrong's, was met with tremendous enthusiasm. In 1953 he returned
to New Orleans for 8 weeks and recorded four titles for Joe Mares' Southland
label with an all white band led by trombonist Jack Delaney. In 1954 he
made another European tour with Mezz and some titles were recorded during
a concert at the famous Salle Pleyel in Paris.
In his entire musical career Lee recorded commercially only something
like 60 tracks, which is a rather poor total for such a great musician.
It goes without saying that these broadcastings from 1953 are a welcome
addition to his discography. Although not blessed with hi fidelity quality,
the sound is clear enough to hear that Lee was still in great
form on this regular job at the famous Club Hangover in San Francisco.
Before him George Lewis had been there and it was him who recommended
Lee for the job. The all white accompanying band is very good without
being spectacular. Outstanding is Pud Brown's work on the first CD. Pud,
who later moved to New Orleans and ended his long career there at Preservation
Hall and at Nina Buck's Palm Court Café, was really a musicians'
musician. Up to the end this man LOVED to play. Fortunately he made some
very fine recordings in his later days for GHB. His playing here on both
clarinet and tenor sax is full of fire and imagination. In those days
his version of "The Johnson Rag" recorded for Capitol was a
hit, so it's only normal he's featured on this tune at the Hangover too.
His tenor playing on this number shows influences of the rhythm &
blues style of saxophone playing, with honks and shouts. Later in the
eighties he would record the number again on clarinet as "Johnson
Rag Blues". Bob McCracken, the clarinet player on the second CD,
would later become a member of the Kid Ory band. He's a good player too
but he lacks the individuality of Pud Brown. I can't tell you anything
about trombone player Bert Johnson except that he is a hot and energetic
Both pianists are masters on their instrument. Don Ewell gained New Orleans
experience with no less than Bunk Johnson. Later on he would record some
marvelous stuff with Darnell Howard, George Lewis and with the Jazzology
Poll Winners under leadership of Kid Thomas Valentine, as well as numerous
solo recordings. He excelled in the Jelly Roll Morton New Orleans style
of playing as well as in Harlem stride. Ralph Sutton was, and still is,
a great stride player as well. Both play with enormous swing and drive
on these airshots. Both the bass player and the drummer perform well.
Listen to Smokey's dynamic drumming on Panama!
It is obvious that Lee Collins was an admirer of Armstrong (who wasn't!)
.and his repertoire included a lot of Armstrong associated tunes. Still
Lee was his own man with his own individual style, rooted in New Orleans.
My favorites on these CD's are mostly on the first CD, probably because
of the presence of Pud Brown: "West End Blues", "I Thought
I Heard..." and both versions of "After You've Gone", obviously
inspired by the 1944 recording James P. Johnson made for Blue Note with
Ben Webster, Sidney DeParis and the great Sid Catlett. The patrons at
the Club Hangover must have had a great time in those days...now almost
50 years ago! You can be part of the fun by adding these two CD's to your
- Marcel Joly
Jazz Journal International [for both
The importance of Lee Collins in the hierarchy of New Orleans trumpet
playing is such that the limited and fragmentary nature of his recorded
legacy is a frustration to those of us who find so much to admire in his
playing. Although these airshots from Club Hangover are by no means ideal
they are justified by the fact that, so close to the untimely termination
of his playing career by the disability of emphysema, he is on really
fine form. These CDs present a sequence of weekly broadcasts, with most
of the introductory talk edited out so the music can speak for itself
and, although the tunes are old standards, there is very little repetition
from eveing to another. Both pianists can be excepted from the lack of
distinction which characterises the backing group; Brown and McCracken
are both very squeaky clarinetists and although the the former is quite
effective in Bud Freeman-like mode on tenor sax, his over-excitement on
his regular feature The Johnson Rag is very hard to take. The sound varies
between acceptable and poor from session to session but Lee Collins rises
above it, his playing always interesting, exciting when appropriate and
often inspiring, very much his own man but with echoes of his mentors
Bunk Johnson and Buddy Petit. He is well worth the price of both these
- Christopher Hillman
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