Posted By Dieselpunks.org on October 2, 2016
Another dozen sizzling platters to warm up your roost on these increasingly cold evenings of Octo- brrr!
This month I’m featuring one of the most unusual collaborations of the Jazz Age, the very unlikely one between “society” bandleader Leo Reisman and Duke Ellington’s low-down, growling trumpet star Bubber Miley (who was heard on last month’s playlist, wailing with the Duke’s band on their early Victor side “Flaming Youth”).
Miley, along with trombonist “Tricky Sam” Nanton, developed the Ellington outfit’s “jungle music” sound— a term that sounds racist today, but in the days when the Duke and his men were playing for the all-black dance shows at the Cotton Club (with its all-white audiences), it fit perfectly into the club’s whole entertainment concept. Which, yes, was completely “poltically incorrect” by today’s standards. The growling effect was produced with “plunger mutes;” Miley and Nanton had discovered that this sound could be created by using— plain old rubber bathroom plungers as mutes for their horns!
The Leo Reisman Orchestra, on the other hand, was the kind of “sweet” band that the real-life Jay Gatsbys of the time would hire for their elegant parties. Known as “the chamber orchestra of dance bands,” the Reisman ensemble was led by a classically-trained violinist, and played elegant, subdued, refined dance music, which usually had no trace of jazz in it whatsoever, much less the raunchy, definitely black sound of Bubber Miley.
So, how this brief partnership came about is a complete mystery, but it produced two 1930 Victor recordings (the other one is “Puttin’ On The Ritz”), and a Vitaphone sound short starring the Reisman band in a decidedly Ellington-influenced program.
I usually don’t go into so much historical detail about the music that I present, but the Reisman-Miley collaboration is unique and special. Not only for the music itself, but for the enduring enigma of how it happened in the first place!
Oh, and the rest of the playlist is pretty good, too, if I do say so myself…