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As I am very loth to discard it at this difficult time, I am moving my Encomium for my friend and collaborator Richard Rains to the Associations and Friends Section below, where it will remain at least until our joint publication (with Charlie Crump) Dixieland Days is published later this year.

We very pleased to have the permission of the author, the distinguished jazz writer and trombonist Mike Pointon to print without editing the following review from Just Jazz which as well as being favourable, complements our efforts with much further relevant information.

 

THE ART AND CRAFT OF DISCOGRAPHY

by Christopher Hillman and Richard Rains

(Softback , 73pp. Ills. plus  CD)

 

The admirable team of Hillman and Rains has now produced another valuable monograph which will appeal to collectors of vintage jazz. This overview of the development of discography as an accepted form of research reminds us how much its pioneers contributed to our appreciation of jazz today.As a young collector I came across Charles Delaunay’s New Hot Discography(Edited by Walter Schaap and George Avakian and published in collaboration with Commodore Music Shop in 1948) I began to realise how indispensable such guides to this music were. So I ‘borrowed’ it on extremely long-term `loan’ from my local library. I confessed my youthful misdemeanour to the charming Delaunay many years later in his Paris office at Vogue records and he smiled graciously. The first edition of Hot Discography had originally appeared in 1938 but in fact Rhythm On Record by Hilton Schleman preceded it two years earlier, published in association with Melody Maker.It proclaimed itself as `A complete survey and register of all the principal recorded dance music from 1906 to 1936 and a who’s who of the artists concerned in the making’.

 At that time, when the swing era was dictating musical taste, many of the jazz pioneers were virtually forgotten. Schleman wrote of Jelly Roll Morton : `During the past few years little has been heard of him, and various enquiries concerning his life and history have been unsuccessful…He has written a number of pieces, while his brother, Ferdy Morton, wrote Shreveport Stomp, Shoeshiners’ Drag and others’. The author clearly didn’t realise that Ferd Morton and Mr Jelly were one and the same person! But one must remember that all this happened some years before Morton re-emerged and declared himself to be The Inventor of Jazz. All this was compiled in good faith long before personnels, dates and locations from 78s were widely-known, leading to the immortal  New Orleans Wanderers with George Mitchell, Johnny Dodds, Kid Ory and Lil Armstrong  being mistakenly listed as  `A coloured group said to comprise a number of leading  instrumentalists including Louis Armstrong, trumpet’, probably because `Armstrong’(composer Lil)was the only name on the label.  Schleman  became interested in `rhythmic music’ in 1932, just before the formation of the influential British Rhythm Club movement which led to early collectors getting together to learn more about the music they were trying to discover. Delaunay and Hugues Panassie were already taking a similar approach to serious jazz documentation in France and are credited by Schleman among his acknowledgements ; in his introduction John Hammond compares Rhythm On Record to Grove’s Dictionary of Music.

In 1948 New Orleans record shop owner Orin Blackstone also published his 4-volume Index to Jazz 1917-1944 in association with the Record Changer . Next, Dave Carey(owner of the Swing Shop) and Albert McCarthy with Ralph Venables(credited with `White jazz research’) in 1949 commenced their ambitious Jazz Directory in alphabetical format(A-B)  but, sadly, ran out of funds  by volume  six (K-L) in 1957 after stating presciently `We hope this volume will be a help towards a future definitive discography’.  But it wasn’t until all these disparate threads were pulled together by ex-BBC music librarian, the indomitable Brian Rust, in the early 60s with Jazz Records 1897-1942 that his magnum opus ,now accepted as `The Bible’ of discography, emerged. Rust’s trail-blazing work was to be complemented by Godrich and Dixon’s Blues and Gospel Records(1902-1943)and  Jorgen Grunnett Jepsen’s 10 volume 1942-1962 discographies, followed by Walter Bruyninckx’s series of volumes separating traditional and modern styles. The industrious Gerard Bielderman’s continuing series of Eurojazz Discographies are also a valuable source of information with separate volumes documenting the prolific output of such influential musicians as Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber and Ken Colyer as well as many lesser-known jazzmen.

Hillman and Rains remind us of some of the landmarks in the evolving field of discography. Among them must be included Tom Stagg and Charlie Crump’s New Orleans, The Revival, published as a limited edition in 1973 and to this day the standard catalogue of black post-war jazzmen on record in pre-CD days. Such key discographical works as Walter C.Allen’s monumental Hendersonia, devoted to Fletcher Henderson,  and his earlier King Joe Oliver bio-discography (in collaboration with Brian Rust) are inevitably mentioned. This definitive Oliver work was later updated by Laurie Wright, the dedicated founder of Storyville magazine, which became another essential source of discographical information.In 1976 Storyville published Tom Lord’s comprehensive Clarence Williams bio/discography with the assistance of their team which included such authoritative collectors as John R.T. Davies, Brian Rust(always generous with sharing his immense knowledge), John Chilton and Ron Jewson(the much-missed Ron co-founded the invaluable Fountain and Retrieval reissue labels with his respected fellow collector Norman Stevens) .  The ever-industrious Laurie also compiled an essential Morton bio/discography in 1980: Mr Jelly Lord , followed by a similarly detailed one of Fats Waller, Fats In Fact, in 1992.More recently Bo Lindstrom and Daniel Vernhettes have produced Traveling Blues, a fine bio-discography of Tommy Ladnier which also included a complete CD of his recorded output. An equally superb example of a discography entirely devoted to one musician is Jos Willems’ All Of Me(2006), which covers every aspect of Louis Armstrong’s recorded career on record, film and TV.  Guy Demole’s privately printed opus on Sidney Bechet- covering his musical activities from 1907 to 1959- is similarly complete and invaluable, as are Franz Hoffmann’s assiduous  `bio-disco documentations’ of Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham. Sid Bailey’s self-published Greatest Slideman Ever Born, dedicated to Kid Ory’s work, was another worthwhile contribution. Paul Swinton’s commendable Frog Annuals nowadays help to sustain the continuing interest in this ever-absorbing field of research. There have also been CD-Rom and website versions of discographies compiled from and supplementing many of these earlier works. 

 In their section The Growth Of Discography(According to Humphrey Lyttelton, it was Delaunay who  first termed such research `discographie’) the authors explain that `in the early days a number of apparently positive identifications were made which, once documented, gained the spurious authenticity of “fact” and that `some names have stayed in discography for years just on the  erroneous recollection of one musician…but once in the good book they are very difficult to erase and the relative qualifications of “probably” and“ possibly” continue to proliferate. We, personally, much prefer the use of italics for any personnel identification which is not is not absolutely proven’. Thus, discography is and will continue to be a matter of guesswork and sleuthing if no original listing of musicians is available via the record companies concerned. It always has been a matter of close listening and comparison with other recordings. But It’s a  revelation when, even now, a  `fresh light’ is thrown on early recordings.  Hillman and Rains give us many examples of such obscure items on the fascinating accompanying 25-track CD, providing food for thought and supposition, in many cases almost 100 years on. Such early favourites of mine as The State Street Ramblers and Richard M. Jones’ Jazz Wizards are included alongside less-known groups like Robinson’s Knights of Rest and the Kansas City Tin Roof Stompers.

This meticulously-researched study also gives a retrospective, detailed and informative view through discographers’ eyes (and ears) of the many previous monographs Chris Hillman has published, first in association with Roy Middleton and later with Richard Rains-most recently their New Orleans To Texas, also with its CD, which follows up many newly-unearthed musical connections. It concludes with an intriguing Discographical Conundrum.  (Sadly, Richard died recently after helping with their forthcoming book Dixieland Days, which will be dedicated to his memory.) Many illustrations of rare record labels are included for collectors to savour in this labour of love which offers a satisfying wallow in shellac to those who delight in such musical nostalgia . Veteran collector and author Derek Coller contributes an informative introduction.

 

The Art And Craft Of Discography(with its accompanying CD) is available from Chris Hillman Books,   2 The Halt, Whitchurch, Tavistock,Devon PL19 9SR for £20.00-£18.00 for regular readers. Postal charges available via website:www.chbooks.info

 

Mike Pointon