Turk Murphy

Jazz Casual: Jazz Tradition

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This compilation of two broadcasts of Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual television series from the early '60s focuses on traditional jazz and Dixieland as performed by Turk Murphy's San Francisco Jazz Band and Mugsy Spanier. During each of their separate interviews with the host, they express dissatisfaction with the labels applied to their music: Murphy describes his as traditional jazz, but with it "being on the run," while Spanier dismisses the term Dixieland, describing his music as "jazz and swing." Murphy's set is quite interesting, because his band treats the trad jazz style as a living music instead of being a run-of-the-mill revival outfit. Highlights include the spirited opener, "1919 Rag" (adapted from a French march), a fine original ("Daybreak Blues") by clarinetist Bob Helm, as well as plenty of inspired interplay between the group's members in old-time favorites such as King Oliver's "Dr. Jazz," Clarence Williams' "Terrible Blues" (a feature for tuba player Harold "Shorty" Johnson), and Jelly Roll Morton's "Sidewalk Blues," though it omits the sound effects and comedy used by its composer, omitted by Murphy because "people would tab us as Spike Jones in a minute." Spanier's set is better recorded than the earlier broadcast (or at least the master videotape didn't deteriorate as much), and things get off to a potent beginning with a swinging take of "St. Louis Blues." Another Handy favorite, "Beale Street Blues," stumbles momentarily with a false start amid some humorous kidding by the band as to whose fault it was. Spanier especially shines with his muted solo in an extended workout of "Someday Sweetheart." Unfortunately, the sizzling finale of "At the Jazz Band Ball" is faded because of the time limit of the original program. Clarinetist Darnell Howard and pianist Joe Sullivan also stand out in this segment. Highly recommended.

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