Hot Jazz Violin: 1930-1940

Stuff Smith

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Hot Jazz Violin: 1930-1940 Review

by arwulf arwulf

Violinist Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Leo "Stuff" Smith led one of the great hot swing bands of the 1930s. In 2004, the Legends of Jazz label revisited 21 episodes in the life of this remarkable individual, beginning with two Gennett recordings made in 1930 by Alphonse Trent and his orchestra, a Texas-based band which he joined while they were touring through Kentucky in 1926. For years, Smith was a mainstay of the Trent organization at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, and on the road throughout much of eastern North America including Canada. "After You've Gone" and "St. James Infirmary" are fascinating emblems of a bygone era when jazz and dance orchestras spent much of their time on the road between one-night engagements. Smith's colleagues in the Trent orchestra included trumpeters Peanuts Holland and Irving Mouse Randolph, trombonist Snub Mosley, and legendary southwestern percussionist A.G. Godley. Ultimately, Stuff quit the band in Syracuse and settled in Boston where he formed his own group, which featured trumpeter Jonah Jones. Their most joyously decadent numbers "Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug," "You'se a Viper," and "Here Comes the Man with the Jive," resurfaced on various drug-and-naughtiness-themed collections released by the Stash record label during the '70s. Smith's yodeling vocal on "Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug" is one of the highlights of his career, and of prewar jazz vocalizing in general. This entertaining collection combines selected examples of his Vocalion, Decca, and Variety recordings dating from the years 1936-1940. Cozy Cole did most of the drumming, and you'll want to listen for guitarist Bernard Addison on tracks 16-19. Stuff Smith made great music up until his passing in 1965. Hot Jazz Violin may serve as an excellent introductory taste. His later recordings are equally exciting and have the added advantage of extended playing time, during which he was able to stretch out and take longer solos.

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