SIDNEY CATLETT TAKES A SOLO, AND A TRIP

First, something delicious for the ears:

Chu Berry And His “Little Jazz” Ensemble: Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Chu Berry, tenor saxophone; Clyde Hart, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums.  New York, November 10, 1938.

That is a compact way to introduce you (or remind you) to the joyous mastery of Sidney Catlett — Big Sid to many — not only in his dancing solo, but in his subtly powerful propulsion throughout.

That recording is well-documented: “46 West 52” was the address of the Commodore Music Shop at the time, and the improvisation is based on SWEET GEORGIA BROWN.

The eight photographs that I share with you below came to me without equally detailed documentation.  Each one is stamped “BY-LINE FEATURES” on the back, and someone had penciled in SID CATLETT.  As well, pencil notations may be “cleared 46” and “tkn 45,” but I am not sure.  They emerged on eBay over a month or so from a company apparently based in Iceland, and, Reader, I bought them.  The company applied numbers to them, which I have followed below, although this sequence may be arbitrary.  What I can presume is that a photographer caught Sidney in a solo . . . gorgeously, both his body and his facial expressions making these photographs both intimate and dramatic.

Right now, the question I am enjoying is how to hang them on my wall or walls.

89:

90:

91:

92:

93:

94:

95:

96:

And that’s not all.

In May 1948, Sidney took what I believe was his first overseas trip (Mel Powell recalled that Sid was terrified of flying) to appear at the first Nice Jazz Festival with Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars: Louis, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Velma Middleton — which resulted in these three pictures, recently shared with the world by Jean Labaye: they come from the archives of the Hot Club of France:

Upon arrival:

The recipient, properly, of flowers:

and onstage:

I presume “Hot-Revue” was a jazz magazine, thus . . .

and

As they say, “this just in,” thanks to my friend, the jazz scholar-guitarist (who is one-third of a new YouTube series with Loren Schoenberg and Hal Smith on the early recordings of the Benny Goodman band) Nick Rossi — from a 1942 DOWN BEAT.

“Tub thumper,” my Aunt Fanny, but it’s a lovely photograph:

Back to the ears again, for a favorite recording.  James P. Johnson’s Blue Note Jazzmen:  Sidney DeParis, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; James P. Johnson, piano; Jimmy Shirley, guitar; John Simmons, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums.  New York, March 4, 1944:

and this, from June 22, 1945, with the Modernists of the time, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, at Town Hall in New York City, in concert, with Al Haig, piano; Curley Russell, string bass; Symphony Sid Torin, MC.  The crowd doesn’t want to let Sid go:

More than once, I’ve had a non-jazz friend ask me, “What so fascinates you about this man?”  I said, “In no order.  He led a Dionysiac life and died young — surrounded by friends and he had just told a good story.  He made his presence known and was instantly recognizable as himself, but he selflessly made everyone sound better.  He is missed.”

May your happiness increase!

SIDNEY CATLETT TAKES A SOLO, AND A TRIP