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Makin' Friends

Mezz Mezzrow

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Album Review

Clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow's dedication to African American culture is best understood and appreciated through a careful reading of his autobiography Really the Blues and by listening to the records he made within his carefully chosen circle of pals and heroes. Makin' Friends, EPM's Jazz Archives tribute to Mezz, is mainly a bundle of tunes played by different incarnations of his swing band during the 1930s, prefaced by half-a-dozen hot numbers by groups affiliated with Eddie Condon in the late ‘20s. Mezzrow's often stubbornly traditional sensibilities were roundly subverted by his anarchic personality, which was colored and shaped by his notorious predilection for cannabis. Participants heard on this satisfying collection include cornetist Muggsy Spanier, trumpeter Sy Oliver, trombonist Jack Teagarden, saxophonists Benny Carter, and Bud Freeman; drummer Chick Webb, as well as pianists Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, and Willie "The Lion" Smith. Mezzrow also collaborated with two accomplished composer/arrangers: Edgar Sampson (who wrote "Don't Be That Way" and numerous other swing standards) and Larry Clinton. "Sweetie Pie," a joyously rowdy and somewhat naughty exercise by Fats Waller & His Rhythm, sits like a cherry on a trifle atop this titillating tribute to "The Mighty Mezz".

Biography

Born: 09 October 1899 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

Mezz Mezzrow occupies an odd and unique place in jazz history. Although an enthusiastic clarinetist, he was never much of a player, sounding best on the blues. A passionate propagandist for Chicago and New Orleans jazz and the rights of blacks (he meant well, but tended to overstate his case), Mezzrow was actually most significant for writing his colorful and somewhat fanciful memoirs, Really the Blues, and for being a reliable supplier of marijuana in the 1930s and '40s. In the 1920s, he was part...
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Makin' Friends, Mezz Mezzrow
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