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Various Artists: Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here, 1928-35

Each of these remarkable collections (the first subtitled Strutting the Dozens, the second Rent Parties and Good Times) contains 23 rare titles by pianists from what might be termed the early jazz sub-strata. Primitive techniques and syncopation, rushed tempos and rough vocal exhortations are encountered. But also the invention of untutored players with sharp ears and nimble fingers. Cow Cow Davenport is a powerful presence on the first disc with six titles, but Turner Parrish’s “Trences” and “The Fives” make a strong impression. Speckled Red of “Dirty Dozen” fame does his rude stuff, while Blind Leroy Gernett and Will Ezell show how blues and ragtime met in the barrelhouse. Two numbers by Arnold Wiley reveal more schooling and experience of jazz.

The second disc contains three of Pine Top Smith’s influential sides, Meade Lux Lewis’s famous “Honky Tonk Train Blues” and Jimmy Yancey’s “Jimmy’s Rocks,” which together more or less demonstrate objectives hinted at in the first set. Here, too, are Montana Taylor and Romeo Nelson, whose discovery on records was a cause of much excitement 60 years ago! And here they are now, in excellent sound on CDs admirably produced by Francis Wilford-Smith and informatively annotated by Bob Hall. Besides rarity and rent-party hilarity, these records have exceptional value in documenting jazz roots.

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