I interrupt my series on early topnotch jazz bands to report on Miss Lee Morse: the “Miss” was used on early records lest the public thought her deep voice was a man’s. Here she is in Torch Singer mode, with I’m Thru’ With Love.
Her early recordings in 1924 and ’25 saw her classified as a Blues singer: acoustic recordings were just about palatable for jazz bands but were pretty bad for any singer who didn’t have a strong voice – but she had, and quite a range too. She accompanied herself on guitar or ukelele, and a decent plucker she was, as demonstrated on I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight.
She often performed with jazz men, as here in ’28 singing Mississippi Mud.
Sometimes she sang from the jazz repertoire: here she is in ’30 with Fats Waller’s Blue Turning Grey, The lyrics are by Andy Razaf, purportedly a nephew of a Queen in Madagascar.…
That last pic is hugely evocative for me, not just because of its architecture but because of the vast coolness [temperature-wise and also figuratively] inside these buildings. Let’s face it, it’s hot outside on this rock called Sicilia. 40 degree hot day after day after day. One can’t survive without the constant cooling, the constant shaded al fresco cafes and so on.
And always this whiteness, the bleached rock, the fierce sun coming off that rock, even at 9 a.m.…
The first jazz band to issue records was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917, but greater critical acclaim is attached to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (aka the Friars Society Orchestra and the Friar’s Society Orchestra), formed in Chicago. Their first recording sessions were on 29-30 August 1922, their first track being Eccentric, written by J Russell Robinson, pianist with the ODJB.
Four of the band really were from Noo Awlins: Paul Mares (cornet), Leon Roppolo (clarinet), George Brunies (trombone), and Arnold Loyocano on bass. They were young, and new to recording, so you’d expect them to improve with time. There were also changes in personnel – for instance Ben Pollack joined as drummer. Moreover when they recorded for Gennett in ’23, Jelly Roll Morton joined them for some tracks. Here they are with Milenberg Joys where the composition credit goes to Roppolo-Mares-Morton.
Here are a couple more tracks from ’23: first their own composition Tin Roof Blues