Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Four Spades

On June 24, 1924, pianist, composer, and record producer Clarence Williams took a four-piece band into Columbia Records' New York studio and recorded two sides. The Columbia files listed the group as "Williams Instrumental Four," but when the record was issued, the labels called the group "The Four Spades." Yes, there can be four spades in a hand of cards, but the intent - "humorous" racism - is obvious.

Unfortunate label copy aside, the record is pretty interesting. The instrumentation is clarinet, alto saxophone, piano, and banjo, and the identity of the clarinetist is one of the things that make this record so intriguing. The Rust discography lists the personnel as Lorenzo Tio or Bob Fuller - clarinet, Ernest Elliott - alto sax, Clarence Williams - piano, and Buddy Christian - banjo. If it is indeed Tio on clarinet, this is one of the legendary New Orleanian's most prominent appearances on record.

Tio was in New York with A.J. Piron's New Orleans Orchestra at the time, and recorded with Williams on one other occasion, about a month earlier, when Williams' Blue Five backed up singer Eva Taylor (Williams' wife) for an Okeh record date. To my ears, it doesn't sound like Fuller on clarinet; although this clarinet plays a few "novelty" licks, Fuller's work was generally far more "over the top" in that regard.

In any case, here's a nice little obscure serving of early jazz, "Squabblin' Blues" and "Making Up Blues" by The Four Spades.

Squabblin' Blues

Making Up Blues

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