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Jukebox Jazz! by Jimmy Rushing Coleman Hawkins

I have early memories of descending into the Eagle’s Club with my grandmother to bring home my grandfather who tended the bar. It was so dark that I grasped my Nana’s hands and stumbled until my eyes became adjusted. And when they did, I could see that the bar itself was bathed with a slight amber light and the bottles of hard liquor and several kinds of rose-tinted glasses on the wall were back-lit lime green. I’d gulp down a Torani soda given to me by my Papa. I’d swing around on the stool legs dangling and the emerging image of the metallic jukebox would appear out of the shadows outlined in scarlet. It stood alone surrounded by the empty, dark booths. I’d finish the soda and would be lured to the jukebox studying the unfamiliar names and bands that were lit by a slight white light. I’d ask for a coin so I could pick something for the jukebox to play. It’d be a random choice and perhaps decided by an intriguing name. The jukebox would play music that always sounded what I felt in this bar. It’d be mysterious and lonely and unfamiliar. The instruments and singing sounded strange. Mainly, this is what old people in suits listened to. The Eisenhower years are indistinct in my memory. Beneath the veneer there were a multitude of cultural shifts and there was a chasm between generations.

"Jukebox Jazz!" is a culmination of tracks from the Parrot and Blue Lake labels that included a range of well known to down right obscure musicians playing rhythm and blues and jazz from the other side of the sixties. This Chicago-based label decided to issue 45 RPM singles instead of long-playing records and compete with the then emerging rock n’ roll. These three minute wonders inevitably ended up on jukeboxes and played in bars. They have never appeared before on an LP, let alone a CD. Some of the pieces are trying as a whiff of stale perfume but many are lasting as a film noir classic. Every tune feels dipped and soaked in a double Manhattan.

The collection begins with Jimmy Rushing’s autobiographical ‘Mr. Five By Five’ followed by the suffering flipside, ‘Clothes Pin Blues.’ Both are gut-check gritty. Herbie Field’s ‘Harlem Nocturne’ is restless; the sax sounds other worldly and slightly eerie like a lost Twilight Zone episode. ‘I’ll Follow My Secret Heart’ features the always magnificent Coleman Hawkins but a vocal ensemble is the stumbling block; it may explain why rock eventually prevailed. Get me off this elevator. The Benson-Ogilvie Band on ‘Uptown Stomp’ is a brilliant and irresistible boogie-woogie. Red Saunders’ ‘Summertime’ has a pseudo-exotic pulse that is unusual and off-kilter. You can almost smell the hairspray on Saunders’ bouncing ‘Riverboat.’ Featuring the Lonnie Simmons Quartet, ‘Black Orchid’ opens with a solemn organ that is somewhere between a carnival and a funeral. Joe Williams’ ‘In the Evening’ features a guitar that sounds like T-Bone Walker. William’s baritone is rich as the trumpet is wild. The collection ends with King Fleming Quintette’s grand ‘One O’Clock Jump’ featuring a vocal trio including the sublime Lorez Alexandria.

"Jukebox Jazz!" may be the first of a series of reclusive hits from a jukebox era that has faded from popular memory. The Eagle’s Club is long gone, but this collection is enduring. The music is frequently dazzling, sometimes odd, always fascinating.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jimmy Rushing Coleman Hawkins
  • CD Title: Jukebox Jazz!
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Empire Musicwerks
  • Tracks: Mister Five By Five, Clothes Pin Blues, Harlem Nocturne, My Jump, Blue Blue Days (Goin’ Down Home), What A Difference a Day Makes, I’ll Follow My Secret Heart, I’ll See you Later, Uptown Stomp, Riverboat, Summertime, Riverboat, Jan Pt. 1, Jon Pt. 2, Black Orchid, I Can’t Get Started, Time for Moving, In the Evening, Williams Blues, One O’Clock Jump
  • Musicians: Jimmy Rushing, Herbie Fields, Coleman Hawkins, Benson-Ogletree Band, Red Saunders, Paul Bascomb, Lonnie Simmons Quartet, Joe Williams, King Fleming Quintette
  • Rating: Three Stars
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