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Bebop Spoken There

Dave Newton: "Having got my Grade 8 pretty early, it was only then that the piano was taking over. But this was happening outside of school really, as the music teacher at this particular school didn't like me or the kind of music I liked." (Jazzwise February 2019).

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Today Tuesday January 22

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Jam session - Black Swan Bar, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 222 9882. 8:00pm. House trio: Mark Williams, Paul Grainger, Russ Morgan.

Alter Ego - Fox Inn, West End Terrace, Hexham NE46 3DB. Tel: 01434 603681. 8:30pm. Free (donations).

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Friday, December 21, 2018

EXCLUSIVE! - Jimmy McPartland – Chicago Hot Cornet By Scott Black. Part 1

(Photos from Scott Black's private collection and are © Scott Black).
James Dugald McPartland was known as Dugald to his family and close friends. Born in Chicago, his father was a music teacher among other things. From all accounts, especially from Jimmy…he was one tough bastard. Jimmy said many times that his father wasn’t the greatest guy in the world. He said “My father made sure his sons could do two things, fight and play music.” Dugald did both well, in fact he used to spar with his brother-in-law in the late 1920’s. You may have heard of him…Jack Dempsey. At the time Jimmy was married to Dorothy Williams who had a singing act with her sister Hannah, who also happened to be married at the time to Dempsey. A few years later, both were divorced from the sisters but the friendship continued until Jack died in 1983.
So Jimmy and his brother Richard got their school pals at Austin High School together to form a band. A couple of them, like Bud Freeman, had never touched an instrument but wanted to learn the sax. Frank Teschmacher had studied violin as a kid but wanted to play clarinet. So the elder McPartland taught them the basics and they took off from there, practicing every day and night, generally driving the neighbors crazy so they had to switch from one member's house to the next while learning to play jazz. 

Jimmy’s father had many students, among them was James Petrillo on violin, who in later years became the head of the musicians union and is said by some to have killed off the big band era by imposing a recording ban in the 1940’s. 

The Austin High Gang were first influenced by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, whose Gennett recordings they listened to nonstop. Then in 1924, a new sound came out by a band called the Wolverines that shook up everyone who heard them. The cornet of Bix Beiderbecke still shines through on those old acoustical recordings that are almost a century old now.

In late 1924, Bix decided to leave the band and Jimmy, who was 17 years old, got the call to replace him. So Jimmy went from being a kid in high school to playing in a top ballroom on Broadway in New York City. He and Bix roomed together so Bix could teach him the band arrangements, none of which were written down. This was the beginning of a close friendship that lasted until Bix’s death in 1931. 

Some years ago, a guy who made a living by making up the stories about Bix’s family being ashamed of him and his music (total lies), also put into print after Jimmy’s death (of course) a quote from Jimmy saying that Bix “wasn’t one of us”, implying that Bix was always off in his own world, mostly by himself. In the 25 years I was with Jimmy, if not in person then always on the phone..he always spoke about how they often went on double dates, played tennis, baseball, bowling and went to clubs to hear Ethel Waters or Bessie Smith. And of course their common love for Louis Armstrong.  A little known fact was that Jimmy used to go to the Lincoln Gardens to hear King Oliver’s band when Louis had just come up from New Orleans. In fact, Louis would come to the McPartland home to have dinner with the family and hang out with the McPartland boys. It was a close friendship that lasted until Louis died in 1971.

My friendship with Jim started in 1968. One of my gifts at Christmas was a huge book called the Encyclopedia of Jazz, by Leonard Feather. It had biographies of hundreds of jazz musicians in it, and while going through it I noticed that it had the last known address of the musicians who were still living! At once I started writing to Jimmy, Eddie Condon and anyone who was associated with Bix and who was unfortunate enough to have their address listed in the book. Many wrote back, and were flattered that a kid in high school knew about them and their careers. Jimmy never wrote back, and neither did Eddie. But one day I got a letter that said McPartland on the envelope. It was from Marian McPartland, who informed me that Jimmy was in hospital due to a problem with his leg. But she also said that Jimmy had been reading my letters and enjoyed them very much, and suggested that I call him at home in a few days…and gave me his number, MA-6-4693. Finally, I called and that was the start of a close friendship that lasted until his death. I can’t guess how much I paid in phone bills in the 1970’s and 80’s. Dugald and I would watch boxing together, except he was in Long Island and I was in Atlantic City and later New Orleans.

He loved talking about Bix and his memory was just great. I would ask him some very off the cuff questions just to hear his answer. When I bought my first Getzen Eterna cornet, the same model that he played, he tried it out and we just chatted as I oiled the valves. I turned to Jimmy and said, “What kind of valve oil did Bix use?” He said “Hell, even if I knew I don’t remember that!”  About 20 minutes later he said, “You just reminded me of something! When I joined the Wolverines and Bix took me to get that new Conn Victor cornet, it came with a bottle of valve oil in the case, and Bix was always asking me if he could borrow it! I also saw him wipe his valves down with a napkin soaked in gin!” 

The angriest I ever saw him [Jimmy] was when that clown Ralph Berton wrote a book called “Remembering Bix”, of which not a single story was true. Berton claimed to have hung around the Wolverines, sitting in with the band on drums, taking Bix to a black cathouse where all the women knew Bix’s recordings…it was just endless. What set Jimmy off was the fact that they used quotes by him and others who knew Bix, from the 1955 book “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya”. Jim really wanted to hunt him down and give it to him “Chicago Style”, as he put it. Berton thought that if he waited until all of the members of the band were dead, he could write anything he wanted and get away with it. He forgot that in 1974, Jimmy was still very much alive.
Scott Black.
NEXT= Some Funny Times with Jimmy And Friends

3 comments :

The Live Music Specialist said...

Lovely post Scott, you write as well as you talk! Can't wait for more. Happy Xmas from Jeff Williams here in London!

Patti said...

And Scott plays the horn equally well! Happy Jazzy Christmas to all BSH readers - from West Jesmond, a leafy suburb of Newcastle.

Daniel Kassell JazzManDan said...

GREAT STORIES! Keepem coming.

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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