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Marshal Royal: Jazz Survivor by Marshal Royal & Claire R. Gordon

The first part of this autobiography is unusually valuable for information on the early jazz scene in Los Angeles, particularly the part played by such black musicians as Charlie Echols, Paul Howard, Alton Redd, Jack McVea, Curtis Mosby, James Porter, Baby Lewis, Lawrence Brown and his brother Harold (a pianist), Les Hite, Lionel Hampton, George Orendorff, Paul Campbell, Teddy Buckner, Bumps Myers, Red Callender, Lorenzo Flennoy, Harvey Brooks, Cee Pee Johnson and many others. Anecdotes and descriptions of these men and their abilities give greater depth to the existing picture and indicate richer musical resources. This is true, too, of Sebastian’s Cotton Club, where we meet Valaida Snow again, producing a show as at the Grand Terrace, Royal worked eight years at this Cotton Club and really began his career as band director and straw boss there when bandleader Hite was absent.

Subsequent chapters detail his important role with Lionel Hampton (of whose businesslike wife, Gladys, he writes very appreciatively), with a wartime Navy band, and with Count Basie. Because he was a disciplinarian and something of a perfectionist, he made enemies from time to time. During nearly 20 years with Basie, for example, he apparently had an abrasive relationship with Lockjaw Davis, himself an individual of strongly held opinions. His encounters with Duke Ellington, his “favorite band leader of all times,” are told more happily, although he erred in stating that Ivie Anderson first came to Ellington’s attention in Los Angeles. That that happened in Chicago is a well-documented fact.

Howard Rye’s “recording chronology” of nearly 40 pages omits the Basie sessions already provided in Chris Sheridan’s magnum opus, but includes many relatively obscure recordings on which Royal played.

Originally Published