Fate Marable: Frankie and Johnny


Frankie and Johnny


Fate Marable's Society Syncopators


Breaking Out Of New Orleans: 1922-1926 (JSP)

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Fate Marable (piano), Zutty Singleton (drums),

Sidney Desvignes (trumpet), Amos White (trumpet), Harvey Lankford (trombone), Norman Mason (alto sax), Walter Thomas (alto sax), Willie Foster (banjo), Henry Kimball (tuba)




Recorded: New Orleans, March 16, 1924


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

Fate Marable (1890-1947) is a magical name in the annals of New Orleans music—he was the most famous of the riverboat bandleaders who spread the sound of jazz up and down the Mississippi. Marable was also an early employer of Louis Armstrong and other New Orleans jazz pioneers, and mostly remembered by them as a stern taskmaster. Marable's fans were legion, and even Teddy Roosevelt was seen dancing to his band's performance of "Turkey in the Straw." Yet few alive today have heard Marable's music, and even fans who recognize his name may be unaware that the pianist left behind two tracks from a 1924 session.

These sides represent his complete recorded output, and Armstrong had left the band several years before. Even so, "Frankie & Johnny" gives us a taste of authentic riverboat music. This performance is lighthearted, danceable, swinging but not too hot—one can understand how this type of music captivated listeners from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul. The quote from Wagner in the intro is a reminder of the popularity of "jazzin' the classics" during this period. The opening melody statement sounds more like rag than jazz, but the stop-time trumpet solo is real New Orleans jazz. One wonders what a young Louis Armstrong would have done with this arrangement; perhaps it was even written with him in mind. In decades to come, jazz would go on the road, traveling to every corner of the globe, but this jazz proselytizer of the waterways will always be the remembered—rightly or wrongly, don't matter; the romance of the river is too potent to deny—as the one who started it out on its journey. Fate indeed!

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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