Alphonso Trent: Clementine




Alphonso Trent (piano)


Richmond Rarities (Jazz Oracle BDW 8008)

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Alphonso Trent (piano),

Herbert ‘Peanuts’ Holland, Chester Clark, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison (trumpets), Leo ‘Snub’ Mosely, Gus Wilson (trombones), James Jeter, Charles Pillars, Lee Hilliard (alto saxes), Hays Pillars (tenor sax, baritone sax), Eugene Crooke (banjo, guitar), Robert ‘Eppie’ Jackson (bass), A.G. Godley (drums)


Arranged by Gus Wilson


Recorded: Richmond, IN, March 24, 1933


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The Alphonso Trent band worked mostly in the South and Midwest during the 1920s and early 1930s, disbanded during the Depression, and reformed during the Swing Era. Trent's bands included many musicians who later became world famous besides Holland, Edison and Mosely, Stuff Smith and Charlie Christian were Trent alumni. The band made a handful of recordings (of which "Clementine" was one of the last) during a very bad period for live music; the band struggled to stay on tour for fewer and fewer gigs. This last session was for Champion Records, a subsidiary of the once-prominent Gennett label. Hardly anyone was buying records of any type during this time, so few people heard this recording. Gennett would soon be out of the pop and jazz business and would transform into a label supplying sound effects!

Heard now, it is clear that "Clementine" is a pioneering souvenir of the very early days of the Swing Era. Within seconds, the loose rhythm and clever harmony draws us into this excellent arrangement by Gus Wilson, Teddy Wilson's brother. Brief solos and clever arranging touches (a two-bar modulation based on whole tones is a standout) are overshadowed by the fire of the ensemble; if you listen closely, you can hear one of the musicians (perhaps Trent himself) yell "Hey," further telling us how the band enjoyed making this side. It reminds us of the excellent bands that were heard only in rural parts of the country, who were as good and sometimes better than well-known ensembles that recorded for major labels, broadcast and made stage appearances in important theater chains. Thanks to specialist labels, these so-called territory bands will continue to be rediscovered.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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