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Red Nichols and His Five Pennies – That’s A Bargain!
Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, Red and Miff’s Stompers, Red Nichols and the Charleston Chasers, Red Nichols and His Orchestra
Recorded 1926-30
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5564 [77.38]


Washboard Blues
That’s No Bargain
Buddy’s Habits
Boneyard Shuffle
Alabama Stomp
Hurricane Davenport Blues
Bugle Call Rag
Five pennies
Mean Dog Blues
Riverboat Shuffle
Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider
Feelin’ No Pain
Nobody’s Sweetheart
Original Dixieland One Step
I Never Knew
Sweet Georgia Brown
China Boy
I Got Rhythm
Corrine Corrina

When it comes to Red Nichols, as Humphrey Lyttelton once said, History comes out backwards. Due to the vagaries of record company’s releases and to international distribution networks many of Nichols’ own discs arrived in Europe before those of Bix Beiderbecke. To ears unpractised in the chronologies involved it seemed that Beiderbecke was the copyist – whereas of course it was Nichols who was steeped deep in Beiderbecke’s stylistic lore. The arguments over such things tend to recur but it’s far better to listen to Nichols’ own recorded legacy unburdened by considerations of influence, if we can. His was a strong, confident lead and he led some superb bands.

Many of these tracks are deservedly famous but inspired by the centenary of his birth we have a tasty collection of twenty-six of them recorded between 1926 and 1930. The Nichols collegiate included luminaries such as Frank Teschmacher-inspired clarinettist Jimmy Dorsey and trombonist Miff Mole, pioneer jazz guitarist Eddie Lang and equally pioneer jazz violinist Joe Venuti. Alongside them was the leader of bass saxophonists in this period, Adrian Rollini, and a phalanx of other stars, Pee Wee Russell, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller among them. All are heard here.

Dorsey bustles on his on-the-beat alto playing in That’s No Bargain like a proto-jump player, only slightly hampered by the rather dodgy drumming of Vic Berton. Pianist Arthur Schutt contributes some tasteful quasi-classical moments along with some competent chording but it’s Mole who impresses most in the early tracks, driving all before him in Buddy’s Habits. By 1927 Dorsey has relaxed his more frenetic playing and Pee Wee Russell’s embryonic style is in well in place in Riverboat Shuffle. Nichols’ Five Pennies was a moveable feast with up to a dozen or so in the band at any one time and the later recordings see an increase in personnel (in some of the 1927 and 1930 sessions there was a three man trumpet section). One of the most easy going of the records was Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider whose relaxed rhythm is superb, despite the over-busy Burton behind the skins. Some of Nichols’ best playing is here – sample I Never Knew – and when he’s joined by Teagarden, the resident genius of the band, and by bluesy Joe Sullivan things go without any pain at all. It’s well worth sampling Fud Livingston’s Imagination, a clever and imaginative piece of writing, and one considerably ahead of its time. We even get Wingy Manone’s Corrine Corrina, recorded under Nichols’ auspices.

Fine copies are used and Vic Bellerby’s notes are unpartisan but admiring. Just as it should be.

Jonathan Woolf

Nichols was steeped deep in Beiderbecke’s stylistic lore - a strong, confident lead and he led some superb bands. Many of these tracks are deservedly famous ... see Full Review

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