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The Complete Hidden Treasure Sessions

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Album Review

The Complete Hidden Treasure Sessions of Cladys "Jabbo" Smith were reintroduced on the digital format by Lone Hill Jazz in 2008. The source material was a small stash of rehearsal tapes recorded informally in an empty auditorium at the University of Illinois in June and October, 1961 by a group put together by guitarist Marty Grosz that included clarinetist Frank Chace. After languishing in the private collection of producer John Steiner for 22 years, the recordings were made available to the public by Lorraine Gordon (wife of Village Vanguard proprietor Max Gordon) as "Hidden Treasure" on the Jazz Art Productions record label. Prior to this, Jabbo Smith's main body of recorded work consisted of 19 exceptionally solid sides cut in 1929 with a protean little group billed as his Rhythm Aces. Other great moments were captured on record when he sat in with Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Claude Hopkins, but his career faltered during the Great Depression when he resisted any kind of managerial influence and insisted upon basing himself in Milwaukee while many of his fellow jazz musicians either hunkered down in Chicago or gravitated to New York City. As good as he was in his prime, this trumpeter's career unraveled steadily over the years, so much so that by the late ‘50s he was mainly working for the Avis automobile rental agency, and had given up blowing the horn entirely after his teeth went to hell. Amazingly, Smith sounded great when he popped up at a traditional jazz workshop led by Grosz, whose remarkable fortitude and buoyancy resulted in numerous collaborations with pianists Dick Wellstood and Ralph Sutton. Like an exercise in cinema veritè, everything is included here. There are multiple takes, often incomplete, including four passes at "These Foolish Things" and three at "Rosetta." Only snobs and fussbudgets could object to the way this feisty veteran sounded at these sessions; he expresses himself wonderfully and Lorraine Gordon's use of the phrase "Hidden Treasure" seems entirely appropriate. Yet Smith would not enjoy anything resembling a real comeback until the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when as an increasingly frail old man he enjoyed belated popularity on the East Coast and in Europe, even collaborating with creative modern trumpeter and multi-instrumental world music scholar Don Cherry. When considered in that light, Jabbo's brief emergence from obscurity and inactivity in 1961 seems like a heartwarming sequel to past glories laced with premonitions of later developments.


Born: 24 December 1908 in Pembroke, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Jabbo Smith had one of the oddest careers in jazz history. A brilliant trumpeter, Smith had accomplished virtually all of his most significant work by the time he turned 21, yet lived to be 82. He learned to play trumpet at the legendary Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, and by the time he was 16, Smith showed great promise. During 1925-1928 he was with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten, a top New York jazz group that made some classic recordings. Smith was on a recording session with Duke Ellington...
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The Complete Hidden Treasure Sessions, Jabbo Smith
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  • $35.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 17 November 2008

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