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DISC ONE (1939-1940)

“The Great Sixteen” - Muggsy Spanier & His Ragtime Band

  1. Big Butter And Egg Man

  2. Someday, Sweetheart

  3. Eccentric

  4. That Da-Da Strain

  5. At The Jazz Band Ball

  6. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

  7. Dippermouth Blues

  8. Livery Stable Blues

  9. Riverboat Shuffle

  10. Relaxin’ At The Touro

  11. At Sundown

  12. Bluin’The Blues

  13. The Lonesome Road

  14. Dinah

  15. Black And Blue

  16. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind

“The Big Four”- The Bechet-Spanier Big Four

  1. Four Or Five Times

  2. Sweet Lorraine

  3. Lazy River

  4. China Boy

  5. If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight

  6. That’s A Plenty

  7. Squeeze Me

  8. Sweet Sue, Just You

DISC TWO (1924-1957)

The Bucktown Five

  1. Mobile Blues

    The Chicago Rhythm Kings

  2. There’ll Be Some Changes Made

    Ted Lewis & His Band

  3. Lewisada Blues

  4. Royal Garden Blues

    Ben Pollack & His Pick-A-Rib Boys

  5. My Wild Irish Rose

    Lee Wiley

  6. Down To Steamboat Tennessee

  7. Sugar, That Sugar Baby Of Mine

    Muggsy Spanier & His Orchestra/Ragtimers

  8. Little David, Play On Your Harp

  9. Hesitating Blues

  10. Two O’Clock Jump

  11. Weary Blues

  12. Snag It!

  13. Oh, Lady, Be Good!

  14. September In The Rain

  15. Memphis Blues

  16. Rosetta

    Muggsy Spanier & His Jazz Band

  17. Feather Brain Blues

  18. Muggsy Special

  19. When My Dreamboat Comes Home

  20. Judy

  21. Tin Roof Blues

    The Hine-Spanier All Stars

  22. A Monday Date

    RETROSPECTIVE RTS 4254 Total Playing Time: 2 hours 36 Minutes

Francis Joseph “Muggsy” Spanier (1901-1967), cornettist and band-leader, was born in Chicago to a large French-Irish family. He acquired the nickname “Muggsy” as a young baseball fan of manager John “Muggsy” McGraw. Muggsy Spanier was given his first cornet when he was about ten years old, a battered-but-playable instrument picked up for five dollars by his father in a pawn shop. He grew up listening to jazz bands around the Chicago area, including Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and Louie Armstrong, and was soon playing in their sessions, copying their styles while developing his own. Oliver became his musical mentor and gave him his first mute, which Muggsy quickly mastered and used throughout his career. From these beginnings, Muggsy became one of the originators of Chicago-style jazz.

This 2-CD collection contains 46 of Muggsy’s finest recordings. CD1 contains “The Great Sixteen”, originally recorded by Muggsy Spanier & His Ragtime Band from July to December, 1939 in four sessions for Victor Studios. The band personnel varied between sessions and included George Brunies on trombone, clarinetist Rod Cless, George Zack and Joe Bushkin on piano, guitarist Bob Casey, Pat Pattison on double-bass, Ray McKinstry, Nick Caiazza and Bernie Billings playing tenor saxophone, and drummers Marty Greenberg, Al Sidell and Don Carter. The arrangements are first-rate and interesting, and the band swings through each number with Muggsy setting the pace on cornet. “Relaxin’At The Touro” was written by Muggsy and Joe Buskin after Muggsy’s near fatal surgery at the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans in 1938 for a perforated ulcer. Another classic in the Great Sixteen has George Brunies singing “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” which Brunies didn’t know was being recorded at the time. The remaining eight songs on CD 1 are a set of recordings in March and April, 1940 at Reeves Sound Studio in New York City. The group is known as the Bechet-Spanier Big Four, with virtuoso Sidney Bechet on clarinet and his soprano saxophone, guitarist Carmen Mastren, Wellman Braud on double-bass, and Muggsy on cornet. Bechet was such a skilled performer that he generally overshadowed everyone he played with. With the Big Four, however, Muggsy and Bechet were marvelously matched , playing off each other with equal skill and musicianship. The song “China Boy” is a full-speed-ahead classic with both horns demonstrating power and finesse.

CD 2 has 22 songs take from other recordings during Muggsy’s career, the earliest being a 1924 Gennett recording of “Mobile Blues” with the Bucktown Five, and the latest a 1957 recording of “A Monday Date” when Muggsy played with pianist Earl Hines and the Hines-Spanier All-Stars. Interestingly, this song is not listed in another Spanier record compiliation, but there is another listing of a song titled “My Monday Date”, recorded by Hines and Spanier in August 1959. Some other highlights from CD 2 are a 1942 Decca recording of the Harry James hit “Two O’Clock Jump” played by Muggsy and his Ragtimers, and a 1945 Manhattan label recording of “Feather Brain Blues”, a Muggsy response and tribute to music critic Leonard Feather.

Muggsy Spanier was an incredibly gifted musician, equally adept at being a side man, soloist, or band leader. I would highly recommend this two CD set for those who love Chicago-style jazz from the 1930’s and 1940’s. A very fine 16 page liner booklet is included, written by noted author and jazz trumpeter Digby Fairweather.

Bruce McCollum

See also review by Jonathan Woolf.

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