Saturday, October 4, 2008

Benefit Night for Monk Hazel - GHB Records

Benefit Night for Monk Hazel
featuring Pete Fountain

1996 GHB Records BCD-1421143 2 CD Set

Disc 1
1. With You Where You Are
2. South Rampart Street Parade
3. Tin Roof Blues
4. Bugle Call Rag
5. Basin St. Blues
6. Bill Bailey
7. All Of Me
8. Farewell Blues
9. Indiana
10. Sister Kate
11. Some Of These Days
12. Struttin' With Some Barbecue

Disc 2
1. Panama Rag
2. Milneberg Joys
3. Woodchooper's Ball
4. High Society
5. Blues
6. Dinah
7. Shine
8. That's A Plenty
9. None Of My Jelly Roll
10. When The Saints Go Marching In
11. No Place Like Home

Available for purchase on CD, New and Used at Amazon

Liner Notes:

Benefit Night For Monk Hazel
Parisian Room May 7, 1956
Master Of Ceremonies Joe Mares

Composite Personnel:
Trumpets: Tony Almerico, George Girard, Bugle Sam Dekemel, Sharkey Bonano, Mike Lala
Clarinets: Pete Fountain, Raymond Burke, Harry Sheilds
Trombones: Jack Delaney, Santo Pecora, Joe Rotis
Piano: Roy Zimmerman
Banjo And Guitar: Frank Federico
Basses: Joe Loyacano, Chink Martin
Drums: Johnny Castaing, Johnny Edwards

Production: Barry Martyn

The announcement in the New Orleans States-Item was simple enough:
A two hour jazz concert will be held this coming Monday, May 7, 1956 at the Parisian Room on Royal Street for the benefit of ailing jazz drummer Arthur "Monk" Hazel. The music is slated to begin at 8:30 pm.

Sounds fairly basic - not necessarily an unusual event. Benefits are not uncommon in show business - but this was New Orleans and it happened at the peak of the so called "Jazz Revival" in the Crescent City. The second generation of New Orleans dixieland jazz musicians were working steady and performing extremely well. There was a wealth of talent available in the city and a jazz tradition in full swing.

New Orleans jazz musicians are a somewhat contradictory group. They have always been a little different in their attitudes and temperaments from players in other parts of the country. On one hand they can behave defensively and jealously, always suspecting someone may be trying to take their job. At the same time, in spite of any insecurities they may have, they tend to regard themselves as a "family" and, in many ways, behave that way among themselves. Quick to squabble among themselves but even quicker to join hands against any perceived outside threats. The Musicians Union reflects this family attitude. Louisiana is a right-to-work state and there is no really logical reason for players to join a union - but the local has always been strong and the vast majority of the musicians belong. It's primary function is to set hours and pay scales and discipline erring members but its real reason for existing for many years so far has been its role as a unifying sense of identity for the members.

As the music business grew through the '20s and '30s and musicians left town to tour or play in other parts of the country, invariably they would tend to stick together whenever possible. They got along with everyone usually but, if there were two or more Orleanians in a band, they would hang out together. The Bob Crosby band was a good example of this.

So - a benefit for one of their own who was having problems could become - and in this instance did become - a truly great jazz program. Monk Hazel was an excellent jazz drummer - one of the best - and he had played with most of the jazz musicians in town through the years. He kept excellent time - backed the players well - and he had a strong understanding of the role of the drums in a jazz band. In addition, he could double on his old, beat-up silver mellophone. It was a little added extra lagniappe that audiences liked and it added another solo voice to the traditional six piece band. Sharkey Bonano always felt he played best when Monk was backing him. Other leaders - Santo Pecora, Tony Parenti, Johnny Wiggs, George Girard and others - preferred him to other drummers. He was virtually the "house" drummer of Joe Mares' Southland record label, with roots that went back to the great jazz players and New Orleans bands of the '20s, Hazel was truly a musicians' drummer.

Monk has a friendly, pleasant attitude and personality - he was cooperative on the bandstand - and he was well - liked by his cohorts. Monk had a tendency to imbibe spirits more than most and there were scores of stories related among musicians of his antics while under the influence. Funny though they were, few would bear repeating in print. without exception though, every musician was impressed with the fact that, no matter how many "sheets to the wind" Monk may have had, he always played superbly. Unfortunately Monk's thirst habits contributed to his failing health. He had been playing with Sharkey Bonano at the Famous Door on Bourbon Street when he fell ill and the benefit followed shortly after that. Fortunately he recovered and resumed playing until his death in April, 1968.

The well attended benefit was the idea of Joe Mares (Paul Mares of NORK fame's younger brother and record producer) and Joe Gemelli (a men's clothing store owner an avid jazz fan). Tony Almerico offered his Parisian Room on Royal Street for the show and recruited the musicians. Mares acted as Master of Ceremonies. A copy of the ticket to the concert is illustrated on the back cover of this CD.

It would take an involved listing of players to identify each player on each tune but, as announced, the concert kicked off at 8:30 in the evening with Tony Almerico (t), Pete Fountain (cl), Jack Delaney (tb), Roy Zimmerman (p), Joe Loyacano (b), and Johnny Castaing (d). As the concert proceeded other players would replace the starters. If you'll listen closely you'll hear Raymond Burke and Harry Shields in the clarinet chair; Santo Pecora and Joe Rotis with their trombones; George Girard and Sharkey Bonano and Mike Lala on trumpets; banjoist Frank Federico and bassist Chick Martin. As the concert progressed, Johnny Edwards replaced Castaing on drums.

This concert gives an exciting sample of the great jazz being played in New Orleans in the 1950s. This was about the same period when Eddie Condon and his cohorts were dominating the scene in New York and most of the country. Although it might be tempting to make comparisons between them and the New Orleans players, it would have to be too subjective to have any value. Both groups contained most of the best dixieland players of the time and all were sincere in what they were doing - yet there were differences that reflected backgrounds and experience that made subtle changes in their approach to the music. Listening to the jazz players in this concert will illustrate the talent and enthusiasm and excitement New Orleans jazz men projected - especially when they were playing for one of their own.

- Plato Smith 1996

Benefit Dance for Monk Hazel
Sponsored by Funds for Monk Hazel Committee
Monday, May 7, 1956 8:30 P.M.
Parisian Room, 116 Royal St.
Music by Dixieland All Stars
Donation $100

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