The recordings made in the year 1927 by trombonist Irving Milfred "Miff" Mole are precious and rewarding. Whenever Miff recorded for the Okeh label he called his band Miff Mole's Molers. When moonlighting with Harmony Records, the ensemble was billed as the Arkansas Travelers (no relation to the joke-riddled fiddling tune made famous by Earl Johnson's Clodhoppers). It was Miff's Molers who made the most strikingly handsome records. Arthur Schutt, remembered by Eddie Condon as the pianist who nearly always wore a carnation in his lapel, handled the instrument with gentlemanly candor. Vic Berton's approach to drumming was inventive and full of little surprises. These two men appear on five of the nine sessions included on this CD. Their mutually precise conduct provided the Molers with immaculate support. Red Nichols made his best records in the company of Mole. Jimmy Dorsey also distinguished himself on several of these sessions, as did guitarists Dick McDonough and Eddie Lang. There are few recordings in all of traditional jazz so sublime as the Molers' subtle, meditative "Some Sweet Day." Their beautiful rendition of Bix Beiderbecke's "Davenport Blues" is a masterpiece. Joe Tarto, remembered today as the "Titan of the Tuba," delivers fine solos on "Darktown Strutter's Ball" and "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," which unfortunately begins with a spoken introduction that is nothing more than a dopey imitation of blackface vaudeville. Brian Rust's discography reveals that some 78 rpm issues of this selection deliberately edited out the stupid patter, beginning instead with the gentle cymbal crash that leads so smoothly into the slow, elegant strut of the opening theme. The gutsiest jamming occurred on the session of August 30 1927, as Adrian Rollini drove everyone forward with great blasts on the bass saxophone. Also included in the front line were clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and reedman Fud Livingston, who contributed two of his own compositions. "Feelin' No Pain" is the smoker, bursting with explosive rhythms. Included in the chronology are four vocal tracks by a living historical edifice named Sophie Tucker, who sounds most natural during "I Ain't Got Nobody." As for the Arkansas Travelers, they seemed to always include alto saxophonist Fred Morrow among a small Molers contingent. Certainly the toughest tune they tackled was Duke Ellington's "Birmingham Breakdown," and everything they touched turned into first-rate hot jazz. Without question these are the best recordings left to us by the great Miff Mole.
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