This outfit was credited with being the first Texas big band to score national attention, and did very well out of its San Antonio base for a period of five years beginning around 1928. Close and careful study of the group's name might lead to the conclusion about where the band's main job might have been. It was indeed at the Alamo City local landmark Plaza Hotel that the roving OKeh records talent scouts walked in on this 12-piece unit blasting away in full swing. As in the manner of many black jazz groups in this era, this band featured a rhythm section with tuba, banjo, drums, and piano, and reportedly had gussied up its sound just a tad in order not to start a riot in this white hotel. The OKeh men sniffed commercial potential and sent down a recording engineer hot on their heels. He recorded several sessions from which the two-part "Dreamland Blues" was released. The band fell apart for economic reasons, but perhaps might have had more success if it had come along a few years later, when the nation's radio stations were more developed and had begun spreading the gospel of big band music. As it was, despite positive attention paid to the band by jazz critics on a national level, the money pools provided by royalties and existing gigs were too shallow a wade for most of the players involved. The leader himself dropped out, apparently to open a pool hall. He may have preferred waxing cues to cueing musicians, but many of the players from the band carried on playing swing jazz on the local scene, while tenor player Herschel Evans went on to the highest profile career of the bunch, eventually becoming a regular sparring partner of Lester Young, a gig most saxophonists would drool over. The music of this band, considered unusual as well as important by jazz fans, is available on several compilation releases such as Sweet and Low Blue, a collection of material by big bands and territory bands of the '20s on New World.
Share this page