Turk Murphy - trombone; Bob Helm - clarinet, soprano sax; Leon Oakley - cornet; Bill Carroll - tuba, trombone; Carl Lunsford - banjo; Pete Clute - piano; Jimmy Stanislaus - vocals
As part of a "New Orleans, Ragtime and Stride" program at Philharmonic Hall, Dixie-lander Turk Murphy was featured with his Frisco Jazz Band, consisting of fellow trad jazzers Bob Helm on clarinet and soprano sax, Leon Oakley on cornet, Bill Carroll on tuba, Carl Lunsford on banjo and Pete Clute on piano. Together they revived the classic jazz sounds of New Orleans jazz from the 1920s.
They open this 4th of July set with a New Orleans classic, "Panama," a tune written in 1911 by William Tyers and popularized by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in a 1922 recording. The solo order here is Helm on clarinet, Oakley on cornet and Murphy on trombone. And in typical New Orleans jazz fashion, they solo simultaneously at the end of the spirited piece. Next up is a recreation of Scott Joplin's ragtime composition "Euphonic Sounds," a charming turn of the century gem which features pianist Clute in a virtuosic turn on the keyboard alongside elegant three-part horn harmonies on the front line. The rousing "My Heart" is a tribute to Louis Armstrong's Hot Five band. Written by his wife, pianist Lil Armstrong, this invigorating, toe-tapping romp opens with a spirited duet between cornetist Oakley and banjoist Lunsford before the full band enters. Clarinetist Helm and pianist Clute also turn in potent solos on this hot jazz classic from 1928.
Clarinetist Helm follows with some earthy vocals on the slow blues "Railroad Blues" written by pioneering female blues diva Trixie Smith. (Catch the reference to Asbury Park on this vintage blues nugget from the early '20s). "Bull Trombone" is a rousing novelty number from the early '20s that features the two-trombone tandem of Murphy and Carroll in tight unisons upfront. Oakley and Helm also kick in energetic statements on this lively tune associated with the circus. The animated vocalist Jimmy Stanislaw, a one-time professional lightweight boxer, is then featured on two songs. The slow blues "Yama Yama Man" has him delivering the playful lyrics in mugging, gravelly-voiced fashion while the exuberant closer, a take on Armstrong's swaggering 1928 hit "Save It, Pretty Mama," has him channeling his inner Satchmo. Cornetist Oakley and clarinetist Helm both turn in stellar solos on these two earthy blues numbers to conclude this set of classic New Orleans jazz by Turk Murphy's Frisco Jazz Band.
San Francisco native Murphy was born Melvin Edward Alton Murphy on December 16, 1915. In the mid 1940s, he recorded with such classic jazz icons as Lu Watters, who founded his Yerba Buena Jazz Band in 1939, and trad jazz trumpeter Bunk Johnson. He formed his own band in 1952 and over the next ten years became an institution around San Francisco's North Beach. The group appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" twice, in 1959 and 1965. Murphy continued to front different bands through the '60s, '70s and into the '80s. He performed at Carnegie Hall in January 1987 and died four months later on May 30. A street in San Francisco has been named in Turk Murphy's honor. (Bill Milkowski)