Cliff Jackson


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None of this material has ever been easy to find. The selections by Cliff Jackson and his Krazy Kats are exceptionally rare. In addition to Jackson's occasional flourishes of dexterous Harlem piano, highlights include a trombonist named Noisy Richardson, trumpeter and scat vocalist Henry Goodwin and reedman Rudy Powell, who would make a lot of great records with Fats Waller in 1935. Some of these numbers are pleasantly frantic stomps, "Horse Feathers," "Torrid Rhythm" and "The Terror" sounding similar in some ways to recordings made between 1925 and 1930 by other large hot bands, such as Fess Williams, Charlie Johnson or Sam Wooding. Also issued bearing the names of the Tuxedo Syncopators and the Newport Syncopators, most of these early records came out on the Grey Gull record label under the name of Marvin Smolev and His Syncopators. Whoever the hell Smolev was, he had a hand in composing 8 out of 12 songs included here, and quite a number of these are quaint, conventional hotsy totsy stuff. It's a shame that this band didn't get around to making more records. The Krazy Kats (also billed as the Crazy Cats) first came on the scene in 1927 and were considered by other bands to be formidably awesome competition. Major phonograph companies apparently never figured this out. Like many worthy musicians, Jackson had to wait a long time -- March of 1944 -- before he could lead another band in a recording studio. Fortunately the quartet contained clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, bassist Bob Casey and drummer Jack "The Bear" Parker. They emitted a fairly rowdy number called "Quiet Please," Fats Waller's "Squeeze Me," James P. Johnson's "If I Could Be With You" and a wild rip through the "Weary Blues," with blistering runs on the piano and a good example of the Bear's percussive bravado. The eight remaining tracks are piano solos of great potency, allowing the listener to appreciate Jackson's Eastern Seaboard style in all its glory. "Royal Garden Blues" packs in just about everything that needs to be said in only a little over two minutes. "Limehouse Blues" is similarly hot, and places Jackson directly within the realm of what critics and historians call the Harlem Stride Piano tradition. "Who" and "Tea for Two" are dizzyingly executed, bringing on the inevitable question -- why wasn't this man given more opportunities to record?

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