Eddie Condon

1954-1955

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Because it taps into two of the best Eddie Condon albums of the 1950s, this installment in the Classics Chronological Series is right up there with the finest entries in the entire Condon discography. The first five tracks come from Jammin' at Condon's, a studio album cut on June 24 and July 1, 1954. Unlike the earlier LP Ringside at Condon's, the selections are not interspersed with applause, cheers, and whistling. What's conveyed here is the essence of the house band at Eddie Condon's, a traditional jazz-oriented nightclub that opened in 1945 at 47 West 3rd Street and moved uptown to East 56th Street in 1957. Recorded under the supervision of producer George Avakian at a studio inside what had previously been a church on 30thStreet, Jammin' at Condon's was Eddie's second album for Columbia. The formidable front line of trumpeter Billy Butterfield, cornetist Wild Bill Davison, trombonists Cutty Cutshall and Lou McGarity, clarinetists Edmond Hall and Peanuts Hucko, and tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman was buoyed by the alto peck horn of Dick Cary. The rhythm section supporting this hard-swinging wind ensemble consisted of pianist Gene Schroeder, bassist Al Hall, drummer Cliff Leeman, and Condon himself, who was a steady rhythm guitarist. What makes Classics 1464 one of the best Chicago-style jazz compilations ever placed before the public is the addition of Condon's next Columbia LP, Bixieland. Obviously a tribute to his friend and idol Bix Beiderbecke, this delightful album is worth tracking down for the sake of Condon's humorous, insightful, and informative liner notes, which include an excerpt from his indispensable autobiography, We Called It Music. The band assembled for the Bix tribute album included some carry-overs from the previous date, in addition to the Condon Mob's ace drummer George Wettling and legendary Kansas City bassist Walter Page, as well as trumpeter Pete Pesci, who was co-manager of the nightclub. Condon also lists Chivas Regal in the credits, along with the "utterly silent" Bud Freeman; although he was not present at the date, Condon wrote that "it's nice to see his name in print, especially for Bud." While Condon emphasizes that these recordings were not made in order to imitate Beiderbecke, he cites Pesci's work during the last chorus of "I'll Be a Friend with Pleasure" as "about as close to Beiderbecke as it's humanly possible for a living man to get."

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