Eddie Condon


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Eddie was one hard-boiled character. Dour, opinionated, set in his ways, and frankly suspicious of anything that deviated too wildly from the music he knew and loved. Critics and journalists invented a stylistic war between the 'Be Boppers' and the 'Moldy Figs', as progressive innovators and traditional jazz-heads were respectively dubbed. Condon was the archetypal Fig, deeply devoted to old-fashioned ideas of what music was supposed to sound like: melodies you could whistle and rhythms anybody could dance to. We Called It Music is the name of Eddie's excellent, hilarious, insightful, poetic, informative autobiography. It's also the title of a rather burlesque tune recorded in August 1947 by one of Condon's fine traditional jazz bands. While the book contains wonderful eyewitness accounts of hanging out with Bix Beiderbecke and Fats Waller, the song makes fun of musical categories, sneers briefly at "...something called Bleep Bloop," then demonstrates the individual and collective strengths of an authentic Chicago-style jazz band. What makes it work is Jack Teagarden, who could sing anything and make it good. His Texas drawl during the opening 'court room' dialogue might sound like Amos & Andy to those who are not accustomed to hearing this big exaggerated southern fellow acting the clown. Teagarden's other vocals are lovely; who else could sing so convincingly of tulips or sheltering palms? Ruby Braff once referred to 'The Adoration of the Melody'. That's where all of this music is at: each song is cherished and passed around the room. Eddie Condon's NBC Television Orchestra made two recordings for Atlantic in 1949. "Seems Like Old Times" is as beautiful as being alive. "Time Carries On," composed by Condon and arranged by Dick Cary, has a bit of the modernized Benny Goodman about it, particularly during those passages where Peanuts Hucko rides the current. Ralph Sutton is brought in for a couple of whole grain ragtime episodes. If the Dixieland revival wasn't full-blown yet, these records certainly must have helped to jack it up in a hurry. Cherry pie vocalist Jimmy Atkins should have gone on to work for Lawrence Welk after horning in over three otherwise perfectly good Dixieland tunes. Johnny Mercer's golly-gee lyrics to "At the Jazz Band Ball" might make you yearn to compose your own marginally obscene libretto. While we're on that subject: "Jazz Me Blues", which has been called the first X-rated song title to appear on a record (the Wolverines' version of 1924), didn't need lyrics anyway. Moreover: Peggy Ann Ellis sounds like one of them peroxide, lipstick and powder big band vocalists. What a relief when "Yellow Dog Blues" signals a blessed return to instrumental stomps. The band really pounds on it, with Gene Schroeder leading the way. Ralph Sutton assists in the execution of two wonderful relics: "Raggin' the Scale" and James Scott's aptly named "Grace and Beauty Rag." Then Cutty Cutshall takes the trombone out of his mouth and sings "Everybody Loves My Baby." Of course Cutty was no Teagarden but he's easier to take than 'powder and pie' were. And the band swings the hell out of the tune, which is what really matters.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:51
3 2:31
4 3:12
5 3:18
6 2:36
7 2:26
8 3:13
9 3:42
10 2:59
11 2:49
12 3:07
13 3:01
14 2:39
15 3:16
16 2:35
18 2:51
19 2:36
20 3:04
21 2:50
22 2:54
blue highlight denotes track pick