In he lost his trumpet and front teeth when a fight broke out at a dance in Rayne, Louisiana , putting an end to his playing. He thereafter worked in manual labor, occasionally giving music lessons. In and the writers of an early book of jazz history, Jazzmen , interviewed several prominent musicians of the time, including Louis Armstrong , Sidney Bechet , and Clarence Williams , who spoke highly of Johnson in the old days in New Orleans.
Johnson stated that he could play again if he only had new teeth and a new trumpet. A collection was taken up by writers and musicians, and he was fitted with a set of dentures by Bechet's dentist brother, Leonard, and given a new trumpet. These first recordings propelled Johnson along with clarinetist George Lewis into public attention, attracting a cult following. Johnson's work in the s shows why he was well regarded by his fellow musicians—on his best days playing with great imagination, subtlety, and beauty—as well as suggesting why he had not achieved fame earlier, for he was unpredictable, temperamental, with a passive-aggressive streak and a fondness for drinking alcohol to the point of impairment.
Johnson suffered from a stroke in late and died in New Iberia the following year. Although in recent years, new evidence has appeared in jazz historian Vic Hobson's Creating Jazz Counterpoint.
New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues , in which is stated that Buddy Bolden's band member Willy Cornish - who is seen on the only surviving picture of the Bolden Band - affirmed Bunk Johnson as a member of the early jazz group.
This puts Johnson's own statements and recordings, in which he actively recreated the Bolden tunes, in a plausible and positive light, making them of great historical and musicological importance to the study of jazz and New Orleans Jazz in particular.
The majority of his recordings remain in print on CD reissues, and his playing is an important influence on many contemporary traditional jazz musicians. Johnson plays a small, but significant, role in Alan Schroeder's picture book Satchmo's Blues. In that book, Johnson serves as a source of musical inspiration to the young Louis Armstrong.
The following records were recorded June, , and released on Jazz Man Records. The following records were recorded October, , and released on Milt Gabler 's Jazz Information label, distributed by Commodore Records. The band gradually shrinks to a quintet, with drop-ins from Turk or Clancy.
New 4. It was the only club he rated five stars: "The number of asterisks after a club is an indication of how good a time I had there. It was set back from San Pablo Avenue and had ample parking in the rear. It had lots of shrubbery, part of which was illegal. Before the Watters band moved in, the place had been operated by Sally Rand.
A county line bisected the club. On slow nights, Watters might rumble musical advice from the next bar stool: Play big, not loud. Play right through it. The Watters band had charts for about jazz tunes. They could play upwards of tunes. I suppose so, but I was in the Boy Scouts then.
Frisco Jazz Band was later run by Bob Scobey. Probably , Scobey vocal , Turk doubles on washboard. Yet another line-up of Frisco Jazz Band c. Note on the Discs: The 24 extremely rare Yerba Buena air shots and private recordings in this collection were amassed over decades by Bill Reynolds, and are currently in the possession of Frank Selman who has made them available.
Recorded between c. Clarinet players are Bob Helm or Ellis Horne. Despite my restoration efforts a great deal of disc noise remains audible in these historic musical artifacts. He played predominantly on the woodblocks a variety of them, in different pitches and, to a lesser extent, on choked cymbals and non-tunable tack-head tom-toms. The sound of the blocks, cymbals and toms blends perfectly with the various pianists, banjoists and bassists who comprised the YBJB rhythm section.
Dart had a good instinct for which instrument to use behind the soloists -- for instance on the West Coast recordings, he tended to play blocks behind Wally Rose and Turk Murphy, choked cymbal behind the trumpets, tom-tom behind Bob Helm.
Wayne Jones another great Traditional Jazz drummer once said to me, "I wish I could tell Bill Dart that he was exactly the right man for the job. A clerk responded, "Oh. You mean Lu Watters and his musical tick-tocks? After the first take, hoping that he approved of the way I mixed woodblock, cymbal and tom-tom I asked, "Was that o. Dart would have played woodblock through everything!
The restrictions on the drumming came to a head in One night Dart mounted the bandstand at Hambone Kelly's only to see that the cymbals, tom-toms and bass drum pedal had been removed from his set. The woodblocks had been left on the bass drum and there was a round plywood insert inside the snare drum rim -- with four additional woodblocks! Scobey and Murphy had left to form their own bands, and banjoist Harry Mordecai had retired from playing.
The sound of the band had changed quite a bit, as Watters was the only trumpet, and trombonist Don Noakes was much less aggressive than Turk. In the rhythm section, Mordecai's propulsive strumming was replaced by the easygoing twin banjos of Pat Patton and Clancy Hayes. Amazingly, the drumming on all these records indicates that Watters wanted to hear something besides woodblock as the dominant percussive sound. That "something" turned out to be the choke cymbal.
With precious few exceptions, Dart played choke cymbal not only on the commercial recordings, but on the broadcasts from Hambone Kelly's and the live recordings which were made by Bob Helm.
Though choke cymbal is great for marking the time and driving a band, it takes a lot out of a drummer. The angle and height of the left arm can become tiresome and so can the repetitive motion of damping and striking the cymbal. Dart is not known to have suffered from bursitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, but some photos of his drum set at Hambone Kelly's show that the cymbals were lowered to a height where he would not have to raise his left arm so high.
See the full article and more on Dart, here. Though penniless he was beloved and revered, conducting himself in the demeanor of a royal personage. Advanced Search. Genre Jazz. Track Listing. High Society. Milenberg Joys. Daddy Do. Fred Longshaw. Hot House Rag. Muskrat Ramble. Jelly Roll Morton. Tiger Rag. Fidgety Feet. Come Back Sweet Papa. Sunset Cafe Stomp.
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