Sam Morgan's Jazz Band: Sing On


Sing On


Sam Morgan's Jazz Band


Breaking Out of New Orleans: 1923-1927

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Sam Morgan (trumpet),

Isaiah Morgan (trumpet), Jim Robinson (trombone), Earl Fouche (alto sax), Andrew Morgan (clarinet), Tink Baptiste (piano), Johnny Dave (banjo), Sidney Brown (bass), Nolan Williams (drums)




Recorded: New Orleans, April 14, 1927


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

If you judge by the locations of the recording sessions, you would be forgiven for thinking that New Orleans jazz took place mostly in Chicago. For all the splendor of its homegrown music scene, the Big Easy sent its star players packing—and they needed to leave home if they hoped to make their name in the jazz world.

How sad to see Sam Morgan's amazing jazz ensemble left behind in obscurity because it stayed in New Orleans. The ingredients here are not promising: Sam hired two of his young brothers and the trombonist brought in his cousin to play string bass. None of these artists ever became a star or even moderately well-known beyond the inside circles of New Orleans music. But take my word (or better yet, listen yourself and discover): this was one of the finest jazz bands in the world, circa 1927. The ensemble sound is perfectly balanced, and the rhythm section is more advanced than any you will hear in New York or Chicago groups from this period. Why Sidney Brown isn't revered by bass players is a mystery to me—he was laying down supple and driving 4/4 time when almost everyone else was two-stepping. This is Kansas City rhythm before Kansas City discovered it. The call-and-response among the horns is also noteworthy, and only a step away from big band jazz. Yet the jubilant spirit of the New Orleans tradition permeates every chorus.

Thanks goodness Columbia Records captured this band on wax during a field trip down south. The fact that musical riches of this caliber were hidden away back home while the world got to know Armstrong, Bechet, Morton and others tells us much about the depth of jazz talent In New Orleans in the 1920s. It begs the question: how much music of this caliber is totally lost to us because no one thought to record it?

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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