Personnel: Muggsy Spanier [tp], Peanuts Hucko, Phil Gomez [cl], George Brunis, Ralph Hutchinson [tb], Floyd Bean, Red Richards [pn], Remo Biondi [gu], Cy Nelson, Truck Parham [sbs], Doc Cenardo, George Wettling
Songs: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, I Cried for You, Honeysuckle Rose, Muscrat Ramble, Tin Roof Blues, When the Saints Go Marching In, Darktown Strutter’s Ball, Sister Kate, Clarinet Marmalade, That’s A Plenty, Royal Garden Blues [1 & 2], Sugar, Panama, Jada, South, Jazz Me Blues, Someday Sweetheart, At the Jazz Band Ball, Chicago, Blue Turning Gray Over You, Memphis Blues, St. Louis Blues, Rose Room
JCCD-3113: “Mmm-uggsy” - Muggsy Spanier
Just Jazz Magazine—British jazz magazine
This wonderful CD introduces us to Muggsy Spanier playing with his band during a period between 1954 to 1956, just shortly before he joined forces with Earl Hines and co at the Hanover Club.
The bulk of the CD, in fact, eighteen tracks, was recorded in April, 1956, but issued commercially. They were known as the 'juke-box' sessions, which accounts for the rather short length of the tracks. He is accompanied on ten of those tracks by Peanuts Hucko on clarinet, and on all by that wonderful tailgate trombonist, Georg Brunis. As Brunis is one of my favourite 'tailgate' men, his addition is a big bonus. Big Bill, in his sleeve notes, questions why Georg is playing more in a style reminiscent of Kid Dry than his normal exuberant way. Bill states, 'Was it, a joke?' or 'A tribute?' I do not think so, it sounds just like Brunis to me, as I remember him from the 'Muggsy Ragtimers' session or the 'This Is Jazz' broadcasts. He is certainly not using the pyrotechnics that he had been using as part of his 'show; but surely that's due to his respect for Muggsy.
These tracks are my particular favourites on the CD, but the final six tracks that feature Phil Gomez (ex-Kid Ory) on clarinet and ex-pat Ralph Hutchinson on trombone still retain that particular Muggsy sound, with Blue Turning Grey and Rose Room being among the best of the tracks.
As Big Bill points out in his excellent sleeve notes, Muggsy never attained the respect that Wild Bill or Bobby Hackett acquired, but he certainly left his mark, musically, with a series of excellent recordings over the years, and his respect for the King Oliver cornet-style never far away.
Just sitting here writing this review has reminded me to go back and have another listen, especially to the 'spark' Georg Brunis gives out on the tracks on which he is featured. Great stuff!
Brian Harvey’s Radio Program—Internet
Until I saw this CD and read the liner notes I had no idea that Muggsy Spanier had been in the unlikely situation of recording tracks to be played on juke boxes. But it apparently happened in 1956 and on this CD - together with another session - are eighteen of the tracks. Muggsy had a unique sound and his muted work - his tone and delivery style - was unique which is one reason why many of his recordings are regarded as classic. On these very rare sides you get a good chance to study the man at his best and this is a wonderful opportunity to add some classic Muggsy to our collections.
The other session tracks included here - six of them - were an early stereo experiment which was partially successful. On them Muggsy is superb as ever and we have the bonus here of George Wettling on drums. On the juke box tracks the main suspects playing with Muggsy include George Brunies on trombone and Peanuts Hucko on clarinet. This is a very worthwhile CD and a valuable addition to what we know - and can now hear - of the great Muggsy. Well done Jazz Crusade.
Boxell’s Jazz Website—New Zealand
Muggsy Spanier is one of those great jazzmen that I have always admired but, for various reasons, have failed to obtain an awfully large collection of their material. However, I do have enough of Muggsy’s to recognise the difference between his normal playing and those on these tracks. Big Bill Bissonnette, owner and runner of Jazz Crusade, advises that tracks 1 – 18 recorded April 1956 are from records that were made only for use in juke boxes. The balance are tracks recorded in the summer of '54 were from an obscure session (BBB had never heard of the session, so it must be really obscure!) that tried out various experiments in Hi-Fi and stereo.
It is all rather interesting. Each of the three recording sessions are quite distinct, and you certainly are aware when one session ends and the next begins. Of the juke box sessions a couple of the tracks have poor sound quality at the beginning, though they soon clear up, but tracks from those sessions are in fact clearer and have better definition than the Hi-Fi sessions. As I said; interesting.
As one would expect, the juke box tracks are all those tunes those people with just a passing knowledge of traditional jazz would recognise as jazz tunes and, apart from ‘Rose Room’, the Hi-Fi session follows this pattern. It is worth noting that in America the juke box companies felt that there was sufficient market to have these tunes specifically recorded and issued. In the UK we had Trad through the late 50s and early 60s; before then – nothing and once the fad went the jazz was pulled.
So, that is the background; what about the jazz? Well, this is Muggsy with his fingernails cleaned, his neck washed, shoes polished and wearing his best suit, as is only appropriate when being introduced to the wider public. The jazz is more arranged than one would normally expect from a Spanier album, but it is good stuff none-the-less and I was especially pleased to hear Peanuts Hucko on clarinet on the first session, and in fact there are some very good jazzmen in the three session bands fronted by Muggsy. In many ways the music reminds me of the Dutch Swing College band; good enough to satisfy the jazz aficionado but not wild enough to frighten the uninitiated. I have played this CD a lot over the past few weeks without getting bored with it and I am sure you will too, and it is not often you can get your hands on un-issued tracks by an acknowledged jazz master. So, cleaned up the man may be, but you can still smell his sweat!
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