Rare Cuts Well Done - Volume 7: Omer Simeon
Jazz Review. com - Internet Jazz Publication
In Volume 7 of a continuing series, Rare Cuts Well
Done, Jazz Crusade offers a glimpse of the career of Omer Simeon. Omer
Simeon (1902-1959) is one of those New Orleans names that people speak
in respectful tones. Simeon was always an underrated clarinetist. Perhaps
it was because he often found himself stifled by the constrictions of
the large orchestras he played with including Lunceford, Earl Hines, Fletcher
Henderson and Coleman Hawkins. His importance was, in part, certified
by Jelly Roll Morton who called Simeon his favorite clarinetist. Jelly
was not one to throw out compliments freely. Anyone who has heard the
Morton trio recording of Shreveport Stomp will admit that Omer Simeon
stole the show and overshadowed the leader.
An early student of Lorenzo Tio Jr., Simeon later fell under the spell
of Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone. Born in New Orleans, the young clarinetist
moved to Chicago with his family at the age of twelve. It was there that
he developed and was employed by Charlie Elgars Creole Orchestra
then made his first recordings with Jelly Roll in 1927 and 1928. The Jazz
Crusade CD takes over at this point in Simeons career.
The late summer of 1929 found Omer Simeon in the Brunswick studio with
Earl Hines, bassist Hayes Alvis and drummer Wallace Bishop. The quartet
turned out Smokehouse Blues returning the following month for a trio recording
of Beau Koo Jack. In the early days of jazz discography, the pianist on
the sessions was thought to be William Barbee or Earl Fraser. A later
session in 1929 finds Simeon in septet format with two cornets and another
reedman, Cecil Irwin. Omer doubles on alto sax and clarinet to turn out
Story Book Ball, Easy Riders, The Chant and Tiny Parhams Congo Love
Song. The latter piece features some nice cornet work by Shirley Clay
and George Mitchell.
Tracks seven and eight offer Novelty Blues and Tickle Britches Blues featuring
the clarinetist with Richard M.Jones Jazz Wizards. The 9th track
finds Simeon in full flight with a burning solo on Nagasaki in the Paul
Mares Friars Society orchestra. Its a piping hot band with great
solo activity by trumpeter Mares, clarinetist Simeon, alto man Boyce Brown
and the energetic Jess Stacy on piano. This band performs four great pieces
and its a nice opportunity to hear trombonist Roy Palmer show his
stuff on The Land Of Dreams.
In 1945 Omer Simeon, James P.Johnson and George Pops Foster
put a recording unit together for the Disc label. They called the group
The Carnival Three. All four sides produced in the studio
are included on this new CD. This is possibly the first time Lorenzos
Dream, Harlem Hotcha, Creole Lullaby and Bandana Days have appeared on
compact disc. Creole Lullaby is a particular gem.
Finally, all hell breaks loose! A final trio session places Simeon in
the studio with New Orleans born drummer Zutty Singleton and blues piano
specialist Sammy Price. Six classic 1954 performances resulted from the
happy association of these great musicians. Sammy Price is, as always,
a master of lowdown blues, Simeon tempts and tickles with his delicate
notes. Jazz Crusade kingpin, Big Bill Bissonnette calls Singleton one
of the most musical of drummers. Hes one of few drummers you
can sing along with! Its true. Just listen to his solo on
Bill Bailey. The final trio sides are alone worth the price of this CD.
The balance of Omer Simeons colorful career was spent with the remarkable
Wilbur De Paris band until his retirement in 1957 and subsequent death
- Richard Bourcier
Boxells Jazz Website - Internet
In his sleeve notes Big Bill Bissonnette lists his 5 greatest New Orleans
clarinettists of all time and puts Omer Simeon at number 2; above George
Lewis and below Johnny Dodds. Whilst some may argue over the position
BBB has placed these three gentlemen, I doubt anyone would disagree that
they are the 3 greatest clarinettists to come out of the Crescent City.
The list of bands that Omer played with from the 20s to the 50s is impressive
and I must admit that, till now, it was a as a band member of Jelly Roll
Mortons, Wilbur de Paris band or in a big band alongside Earl
Hines that I have heard Omer play. It was a but a taste of his talent
that I got, but on this album I got the opportunity to listen to him as
a featured player and I moved him from my top 5 New Orleans clarinettists
to the top 3 and in fact agree with BBBs placing of number 2.
The recordings cover 8 1929 recordings (the first tracks), 4 from 1935,
4 from 1945 and the balance from 1954. Whilst the 1929 recordings are
good quality they have just a slight flatness of sound typical of that
period, but the music is both sharp and hot. The later recordings are
of excellent quality.
The other musicians playing with Omer read like a whos who of classic
American jazz, and I will just throw in Earl Hines, Pops Foster and Zutty
Singleton to give you a feel. Of the tracks I think my favourites are
the 1954 ones, which I think shew the man at his best. But all the tracks
on this album, and what lost treasures some of them are, are excellent.
This is now a treasured CD in my collection and should be one your collection
- Geoff Boxell
Just JazzBritish Traditional
When one gets a slagging-off in print, it MU certainly puts you on your
toes and makes you more vigilant about facts, details, opinions etc. So,
just recently, when Big Bill Bissonnette took me to task over his Jazz
Crusade CD output, he mentioned that he was to release a CD featuring
Omer Simeon, one of my favourite clarinettists, but not because of Omer,
but because it would also feature the drumming of Zutty Singleton, another
of my No. 1s. I professed that I would look out for this release, but
low and behold, good old Big Bill has come up with trumps and posted a
copy to me, with a request that I say a few words about it.
As it turns out, this release is more comprehensive than I imagined it
would be. It features some wonderful clarinet playing in a trio format
with Zutty and Sammy Price, and Zutty is very well recorded, enabling
the listener to hear all the timbre of his drum kit. The CD also includes
some even rarer trio tracks with James P. Johnson and Pops Foster.
However, the first part of the CD, in fact the first eight tracks, feature
Omer in different settings, all recorded in 1929, shortly after leaving
Jelly Roll Morion's Red Hot Peppers. Four classic recordings of Smokehouse
Blues, Beau Koo Jack, The Chant, and Congo Love Song are among the eight,
and are great to listen to.
To top that we have the very hard-to-get-hold-of recordings of the re-incarnation
of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, recorded in 1935, which also features
Paul Mares, Santo Pecora, and Jess Stacey -excellent stuff.
I appreciate that Big Bill does a tireless job recording and presenting
on his Jazz Crusade label bands of today playing in the New Orleans idiom,
but his releases of Punch Miller, Edmond Hall, Wilbur De Paris, Wilton
Crawley and other jazz legends, are absolutely first class and far more
beneficial to the avid collector than some others. This release featuring
Omer Simeon likewise fits the bill, and with that wonderful pulse of Zutty
Singleton sitting behind the drums, it is the icing on the cake.
Many thanks for passing this CD on to me for review - excellent job, well
done -1 really do hope that the CD buying public go out and get their
- Peter Lay
Kings Jazz ReviewBritish
Internet Jazz Magazine
In his liner notes, Big Bill includes Omer Simeon among "... the
5 greatest New Orleans clarinettists of all time", and it will possibly
be so that ALL who acquire this CD will NOT, not agree with his statement,
meaning that I among them, wholeheartedly agree with the Bissonnette sentiment,
even as Id not as he had, had an esteemed pleasure and opportunity
as a young lad of having listened to this very fine clarinettists
playing in Jimmy Ryans Club in NYC.
Omer was born in New Orleans in July 1902, and died in New York, September
1959. When his family moved to Chicago at the beginning of WW I, he took
lessons from Lorenzo Tio jr during the 1918-20 period, perhaps not
entirely in Chicago as Tio was said to have lived there in 1917 for one
year only, and he, Simeon, recorded with Jelly Roll six years later -
1927, joining King Oliver the following year.
Smoke House the first number on this "Rare Cuts" album was perhaps
the first recording by Omer cut under his own leadership, surprisingly,
the professionalism in his playing shows that it was not marked to a great
difference from the beginning of this 25 years time span, however, one
can detect the slight nuances of progression in his playing from beginning
to end of this albums recordings over that quarter of a century.
This album with the famous jazz artists of whom Ill not attempt
noting their details such as pianist Earl Hines, cornetist George Mitchell,
trombonist Roy Palmer, pianists Jesse Stacy, James P. Johnson and Sammy
Price, string bassist Pops Foster, drummer Zutty Singleton and more, makes
this CD an unique treasure to own.
Out of the 22 tracks, Im familiar with only a small number of them,
of which in Reincarnation I detect a strong Stormy Weather
quote by trumpeter Paul Mares. Nagasaki and Maple Leaf Rag became popular
numbers with nearly all of the British "Trad" Bands, thus lending
themselves forerunners leading up to the growth of New Orleans, Dixieland
and Traditional jazz in the UK.
Did banjoist Claude Roberts record in more than the one tune, Beau Koo
Jack - for example, The Chant - or perhaps banjoist Johnny St. Cyr was
there alongside cornetist George Mitchell on this number? Of the six pianists,
even when one has a favourite among them, I feel certain that many will
have chosen differently after listening to, and picking one out, judged
on their performances on this album. The Qua-ti Rhythm is the longest
tune at 4.12 minutes. The Omer Simeon clarinet can be heard at its finest
on Grand Boubousse, but the choice is yours as to whether or not Lorenzos
Dream will warrant this claim.
For notable low register skills, seek out Bandanna Days and, with the
collection ending on Frankie & Johnny and Bill Bailey, doubtless inspired
by his illustrious jazz artist accompanists these Simeon renditions can,
Im sure, some 50 years hence today, gel well with the modern day
jazz music listeners - phenomenal.
- Ian King
All Music GuideInternet Music
Omer Simeon was one of the greatest clarinetists to emerge during the
1920s. His career can easily be divided into periods including a stint
as Jelly Roll Morton's favorite clarinetist, playing with Earl Hines 1930s
swing band, and in the 1950s as one of the stars of the Wilbur DeParis
"New New Orleans Jazz Band." A fluent player who always displayed
a strong sense of humor at times, Simeon was flexible and technically
While Big Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade label (www.jazzcrusade.com)
usually concentrates on recent recordings of New Orleans jazz-style groups,
it also puts out occasional historic releases including the seven discs
(thus far) in the Rare Cuts - Well Done series. Vol. 7 is the best and
even Bissonnette in his liner notes underrates some of the contents.
Simeon is heard on the two numbers from 1929 that he led with a small
group that includes Earl Hines, four selections with the Dixie Rhythm
Kings (also from 1929), two cuts with pianist Richard M. Jones' group
that teams him with fellow clarinetist Artie Starks, and the 1935 session
from former New Orleans Rhythm Kings cornetist Paul Mares. The latter
date, which has been long elusive (it has Mares' only post-1925 recordings),
is not even mentioned in the liner notes but is full of exciting performances.
Simeon also excels on four numbers from a 1945 trio date with pianist
James P. Johnson and bassist Pops Foster and six songs with pianist Sammy
Price and drummer Zutty Singleton.Ranging from classic jazz to dixieland,
from swing to even a bit of ragtime ("Maple Leaf Rag") and blues,
this CD is definitely "Well Done" and a must for 1920s jazz
- Scott Yanow
Jazz Journal International—British Jazz magazine
This is a mixed issue but, whatever the guise, Simeon is superb throughout. He shines most especially as the only horn in the company of piano masters such as Hines, Johnson and Price, although they do come close to matching his superb solo skills on the likes of Beau Koo, Bandanna Days and Lagniappe. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings type unit is the pick of the full sized combos, with Simeon's Noone-like horn being well complimented by Mares's assertive lead and by 'in character' solos from Brown and Stacey.
On the debit side, the sound quality on some of the earlier titles does leave something to be desired and The Chant hardly matches the Jelly classic. In the personnel listings Hayes is shown as a string bass player but plays mainly tuba while, on the musical side, neither of the cornets on the track lives up to their reputation. To balance the fact, the Hines-like Barbee compensates with some stunning piano and the over-all playing time is generous. One supposes that this release will fill gaps in the completist collector's shelves and it is certainly a reminder of Simeon's position in the outstanding New Orleans clarinet hierarchy.
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