Charlie Lawrence, among many other accomplishments, concocted the arrangement for one of the most entertaining records in any genre of music, let alone jazz: [RoviLink="MC"]"I'm a Ding Dong Daddy
From Dumas"[/RoviLink] by Louis Armstrong. The silly song, sometimes known simply as "Ding Dong Daddy," was one of a series of sides Armstrong cut during a west coast sojourn in the '30s. California was where Lawrence, a multi-instrumentalist who played reeds as well as keyboards, spent practically all of his career. He was born in Los Angeles where he became involved with groups led by tenor saxophonist Paul Howard such as Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders. This outfit is hardly as well-known as Armstrong, although tracks on the Rhino reissue box-set entitled Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles (1921-1956) have resulted in some well-deserved attention.
The liner notes accompanying the latter release claim that Howard's outfit was "one of the most thoroughly underrated in the history of jazz," establishing what is essentially an aesthetic paradox. Jazz, after all, is about neglected geniuses if it is about anything, and with throngs of such talents to choose from, how could Howard attain the status of "most neglected" unless somebody, presumably an influential critic, was paying attention? Lawrence's arrangements for pieces such as "Harlem" or his own composition entitled "The Ramble" were of the 'big bang for your buck' variety, making Howard's band sound much more populated than it really was. Lawrence effectively raised the bar and admission quota for more popularbig bands that would follow. Since many of these outfits would not have access to his talents, more musicians would have to be hired to fill the holes. Perhaps the musicians' union encouraged the neglect of Howard and his associates in order to preserve this status quo.
Lawrence's work with large groups took place in the early periods of his career, then dwindled down, his crucial professional opening an opportunity to co-lead the Sunnyland Jazz Orchestra with pianist Buster Wilson. Both Howard and well-known bandleader Les Hite made steady use of Lawrence as both a player and arranger for their groups in both the '20s and '30s but in the '40s he left the saxophone and clarinet cases at home, sticking to the piano. Fans of classic jazz began to notice him as a sideman during this period, touring nationally with bandleaders such as New Orleans jazz legend Kid Ory and midwest vocalist and composer Noble Sissle. Total hipster status was granted to Lawrence during the '50s, a perfect era in which to become the house trio at the Bamboo Club in Hollywood. Even this minimal grouping, no doubt drowned out by the chatter of celebrities and scenesters, was eventually too much for Lawrence -- his last known performances were as a solo pianist. He also worked as a teacher and continued to write arrangements until retiring in the mid-'70s.