Clarinet Magic: Omer Simeon / Harlem River Drive LIVE / “Springtime for Hitler” (February 14, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Simply put: my friend Paul gifted me with a recording out of the blue earlier this week that reached out, slapped me across the face, and proceeded to delight the hell out of me for an hour. The name? A bit of a mouthful (and indeed it unnecessarily lowered my expectations): Rare Cuts – Well Done (Volume 7) – Omer Simeon – The Rarest and Greatest Tracks 1929 – 1954. Initially, I think I quit reading the title after “(Volume 7),” but it’s the last five that matter; I’m going to look into the other volumes now. Simeon was one of the greatest clarinetists in New Orleans history, which is saying something; trained by the legendary Lorenzo Tio, Jr., beloved and wonderfully employed by Jelly Roll Morton, ably matching solos with the likes of Earl Hines and James P. Johnson, he’s someone I should know better. In fact, halfway through this very well-selected compilation, I realized I’d seen a television segment in which Dr. Michael White, a bit of a skilled black-stick blower himself, talked about Simeon and Tio. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the clip, but here’s what it entailed.)

Paul, thanks: this collection is why they call it hot jazz!

Thanks also to Taylor at Hitt Records for alerting me to the existence of a live recording of Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem Drive project, Recorded Live at Sing Sing Prison–and to my ear and ass it’s liver than the studio release. Eddie and the band are muy caliente, but special notice goes to brother Charlie out of his mind on the organ, and reminding me that early ’70s Miles was not a little influenced by Latin sounds. Join the inmates in feeling at least momentarily liberated by a track from this explosive and politically charged LP!

Short-shrift Division:

Mel Brooks, words and music, “Springtime for Hitler” (from The Producers): Nicole and I watched the film for Valentine’s Day, died laughing during the climactic scene that features this song, and I was left wondering, “Did Dick Shawn’s ‘LSD’ help spawn Robin Williams?” It sure seems so!

Two songs for Parkland, Florida:

Blues ‘n’ Tonks from the Pierces (February 3rd, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Traditional New Orleans jazz (not otherwise known as Dixieland or ragtime) experienced a major if short-lived comeback, with local legends who’d been playing around town on a regular basis for years suddenly finding themselves recording for Atlantic. These records are hard to find these days, but they are warm and very wonderful. My favorite series is Riverside’s Living Legends of New Orleans Jazz, which featured trombonist Jim Robinson, legendary pianist Earl Hines (a Pennsylvania ringer), clarinetist and saxophonist Louis Cottrell, multi-instrumentalist Peter Bocage, and (my favorites, and also recorded by Atlantic) the husband-wife cornet-piano/vocal team of De De and Billie Pierce. The couple, who passed away in New Orleans within a year of each other in 1973 and 1974, are underrated in the general annals of American music and aren’t exactly the first names the gen-pop think of when New Orleans comes to mind. However, they made much dynamite, intimately raucous music together, with Billie’s lusty blues vocals and saloon-tinted tonk piano the spark riding down the fuse. Sometimes I think she’s major.

Try the full album (above) and, since it’s Carnival Time, seek out Les Blank’s Always for Pleasure, where you can glimpse the pair at work, though not in this clip.