Thomas Morris / Clarence Williams

The Alternative Takes, Vol. 1: Thomas Morris 1925-1926/Clarence Williams 1924-1929

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"Neatwork" is the name of a label that exists as a useful appendix to the Classics Chronological Series, in which most of the master takes from a given artist's entire recorded output were systematically reissued. There was a very sensible reason for combining leftover material from the discographies of cornetist and bandleader Thomas Morris and music publisher, pianist, bandleader, singer, and washboard percussionist Clarence Williams. Morris recorded as a member of Williams' Blue Five with Sidney Bechet in 1923, and both men enjoyed a good working relationship with Thomas Fats Waller. Whereas Williams' considerable output has been tapped for reissue in various exacting editions, Morris' complete legacy has yet to be fully recognized and properly presented. While several labels have managed to unearth a reasonable selection of the cornetist's recorded works (and Classics achieved a triumph by including eight examples by his 1923 Past Jazz Masters on their Thomas Morris edition), no one has honored him with the kind of meticulous session-by-session-, leader-accompanist-and-sideman thoroughness that has been granted to better-known musicians like Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.

Neatwork's Morris/Williams Alternative Takes compilation opens with two titles played by the Get Happy Band in September 1925. This group was composed of Morris, trombonist Joe Nanton (destined to become a prime element in Duke Ellington's orchestra); reedman Bob Fuller, pianist Porter Grainger, and banjoist Elmer Snowden. Tracks 3-12 are alternate takes from a series of Victor recording dates that took place in 1926.The records from these sessions appeared under the names of Thomas Morris & His Seven Hot Babies and the New Orleans Blue Five. This version of "King of the Zulus" beats the take included in Morris' Classics volume, and theatrically speaking, may even outshine the original by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five. The Clarence Williams portion of the package begins with two numbers dating from December 1924 with vocals by Williams' old friend from New Orleans, songwriter and comedian Clarence Todd. "Old Folks Shuffle" was recorded for the Harmony label in 1926 by the Blue Grass Foot Warmers, a group that was percussively propelled by washboard virtuoso Jasper Taylor. Other titles originally appeared under the names of Clarence Williams' Blue Five and the Dixie Washboard Band. Participants include vocalist Katharine Henderson (on "Baltimore"); banjoist Buddy Christian, cornetists King Oliver, Rex Stewart, Ed Allen, and Jabbo Smith; trombonist Charlie Irvis and reedmen Buster Bailey, Happy Caldwell, and Arville Harris. This fine anthology of rare jazz from the ‘20s closes with a spare rendition of Fats Waller's "Midnight Stomp" and "A Pane in the Glass," a piano solo recorded in 1929 by Williams, whose pianistic prowess has been unfairly maligned by narrow minded critics. Because Morris ceased recording after 1927, Neatwork's sequel to this compilation is entirely devoted to Clarence Williams.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
3 3:09
6 2:46
7 2:57
10 3:24
11 3:22
15 3:04
16 2:44
17 2:57
18 2:54
19 2:56
20 2:55
21 2:36
22 3:04
23 2:59
blue highlight denotes track pick