(This review was published in Jazzline magazine,
Vol. 47 No. 1, Autumn/Winter 2014).
CD Review by Tim Harding
Album: ‘Way Down Yonder in New South Wales Volume 2* – A wide ranging selection of rare early jazz recordings in Australia’s oldest state’ (FJM-039). The Jack Mitchell Library, Lithgow.
This compilation CD has been put together by the Australian jazz collector and discographer, Jack Mitchell. It is an interesting cross-section of early Australian jazz and hot dance music, recorded in Sydney between the years 1926 and 1961, but mainly in the 1940s and 50s. The bands range in size from the traditional 6 or 7 piece groups led by Ray Price to the larger swing band format of Jim Davidson and his Orchestra.
The first thing a listener can’t help noticing is the low-fi audio on most (but not all) of the tracks on this album. Ironically, at least 6 of the tracks were recorded live on tape by the late Robert Parker. It doesn’t sound as if any of the original recordings have been remastered; and this detracts from the listening experience in some cases. Nevertheless, most of the tracks are likely to be of interest to jazz historians and collectors.
The obvious next question is whether the music is good enough to justify a future effort of audio restoration, which can be a difficult and painstaking exercise, as remasterers tell me. My answer would be ‘yes’; although some tracks are musically more worthy than others.
The star of the album is undoubtedly the youthful Bob Barnard on cornet. When he recorded the Louis Armstrong flag wavers Cornet Chop Suey and Ole Miss Rag** with the Paramount Jazz Band at the Sydney Jazz Club in 1957, he would have been only 24 years old. It must have been thrilling in those days for jazz aficionados to hear some of Louis’ hottest early solos played live. Bob also plays on six tracks with the Ray Price Trio and friends – these are Chicago, 2.19 Blues, Stardust, My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms, If I Could Be With You and Someday You’ll Be Sorry.
The other stand-out soloist, in my view, is Bob Cruickshanks on alto sax. Bob also plays clarinet on the album, but his alto solos with Ray Price on Chicago and Someday You’ll Be Sorry are beautifully melodic. Norm Wyatt places a lyrical trombone solo on If I Could Be With You, indicating some Jack Teagarden influences.
The two opening tracks on the album were acoustically recorded in 1926 by The Palais Royal Californians, who apparently were the first professional American jazz band to visit Australia. That Certain Party sounds datedly ‘ricky-tick’, and probably would not qualify as jazz without the ad lib solos by Australians Frank Coughlan on trombone and Ern Pettifer on baritone sax. The Paul Mares/Ferd Morton composition Milenberg Joys is played about twice as fast as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings version of 1923 and comes complete with barnyard novelty noises.
Jim Davidson’s Eventide – A Mood is vaguely reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, even down to the brief Duke-like piano interlude. It was recorded in November 1933 alongside Davidson’s far better known (and better sound quality) Original Dixieland One Step, which is also on the album.
There is a swinging 27-second excerpt from a film short by a wartime army bigband called the Waratahs. The track is titled ‘One O’Clock Jump’, but it sounds to me like Bugle Call Rag. Then a mainstream quartet featuring Merv Acheson on tenor sax plays Study on the Jump Notes apparently recorded for a 1943 radio broadcast. Lester Young and Count Basie have been obvious influences here.
The Port Jackson Jazz Band recording of I’m Nobody’s Sweetheart Now in 1947 features Ken Flannery on cornet instead of Bob Barnard. Bob Cruickshanks plays a decent solo on clarinet but I do prefer his alto playing. Ken Flannery later appears on trumpet in two tracks recorded by the Les Welch Orchestra. These are West End Blues recorded in 1951 and Back Back Baby of 1956, which includes a vocal by Les Welch and a clarinet solo by Don Burrows. (Les Welch was the founder of Festival Records, and claims to have pressed the first 78 rpm shellac disc and the first 33 rpm long-playing record in Australia).
Don Burrows and Errol Buddle (tenor sax) play some nice solos on the final track The Craven A Theme by Bob Gibson’s Dixie Group, which also includes George Golla on guitar. Apart from the solos, this track is not particularly memorable.
In its current form, this album is primarily one for jazz historians and collectors. However, after some decent audio restoration and remastering, it could also be an album enjoyed by the general jazz listener.
*The album front cover says ‘Volume One’; whereas the back cover, the spine and the disc itself are labelled as Volume 2.
** W.C. Handy’s Ole Miss Rag is listed as ‘Blues (Rent Party??)’ in the cover notes.