Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 53 - Gene Ammons

There were two other autumn sessions for Prestige that seem to have sunk without a trace. On October 16, alto player Lem Davis, a swing specialist, led a quartet that resulted in three 78s. Also in October, pianist Al Vega made some trio recordings in Boston. Vega spent his career in Boston, where he played with many of the greats as they passed through town, and also coached Little League. The trio recorded ten songs that day, of which four were released, on two 78s.

I probably don't have a lot more to say about the Sonny Stitt - Gene Ammons Septet, except that they made a lot of really good music, and I'm always glad to come back to them. But at least one of the song selections is interesting. "Undecided" has a jazz history -- a New York jazz history, a 52nd Street history. It was co-written by Charlie Shavers, and originally recorded in 1938 by John Kirby and the Onyx Club Boys, a group that presumably coalesced at The Street's Onyx Club, and included Shavers, Buster Bailey, Billy Kyle and Russell Procope (there was also a group of Onyx Club Boys that recorded with Stuff Smith, with Buster Bailey the only member of both groups). Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald also made a record of it in 1939, and then it lay mostly dormant until 1951, when the Ames Brothers had a huge hit with it, riding the charts for 20 weeks. It was certainly not unusual back in those days for cover recordings of hit songs to crop up, but maybe not that many beboppers covering current pop hits.

We can assume it went out to the jukeboxes -- these four tunes were released on two 78s, and on a 10-inch LP. -- then not again until the Fantasy reissue days.

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