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Big Charlie Thomas 1925-1927

Big Charlie Thomas

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Album Review

So dicey is the discography of cornetist Big Charlie Thomas, it's amazing that anyone tried to assemble an entire album's worth of recordings on which he might or might not have played. To their credit, the folks at Timeless did just that, releasing a collection of 25 rare jazz recordings from the years 1925-1927 that are well worth experiencing regardless of personnel. "I'm Gonna Hoodoo You" and the two tunes that follow are sung by Sara Martin, a no-nonsense blueswoman who also made records with Fats Waller. "Shake that Thing" and "Get It Fixed" is sung by Eva Taylor with backing by her husband, Clarence Williams' Blue Five. "I Want Plenty of Grease in My Frying Pan" and its flipside, "Come Get Me Papa, Before I Faint," feature the voice of Mandy Lee, apparently a different individual from a woman by that name who made records during this time period with Ladd's Black Aces. "The Skunk" and "South Rampart Street Blues" are credited to Buddy Christian's Jazz Rippers, while the marvelous "Georgia Grind" (with vocal by pianist Mike Jackson) and two takes of "Ham Gravy" are among the best records ever made by Thomas Morris & His Seven Hot Babies. Like some of the other tracks on this collection, Charlie Thomas' involvement with the Seven Hot Babies session is conjectural, and some sources name Rex Stewart as Morris' deputy cornetist. "Look Out, Mr. Jazz" was played by the Okeh Melody Stars; the only other instrumentalist that has been identified is trombonist Charlie Irvis, and the vocalist was Clarence Todd. Unfortunately, we don't get to hear the flipside, "A Glass of Beer, a Hot Dog and You." Originally issued on the Banner label, "Nobody But My Baby is Getting My Love" and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" are performed by Bessie Brown & Her Jazz Band; on Oriole she was billed as Sadie Green. "Papa If You Can't Do Better" and "I'm Saving It All for You" come from the expansive Rosa Henderson discography, and anyone smitten by this woman's voice should look into her complete recordings as reissued by Document and Blues Classics. The last verifiable instances of Charlie Thomas' presence in a recording studio are four titles cut for Columbia in October 1926 by the Dixie Washboard Band, another Clarence Williams outfit with John Mansfield blowing trombone, Bruce Johnson stroking the rub board ,and vocals by Williams' old cohort from New Orleans, the aforementioned Clarence Todd, who was billed on the two "Zulu" tunes as Shufflin' Sam. As for "Shut Your Mouth" and "What Do You Know About That?" these comedic routines feature vaudevillian vocals by Williams and Joe Sims, with piano accompaniment by Fats Waller. Let's not let the fact that Big Charlie Thomas was almost certainly not the cornetist on this date detract from your enjoyment of these entertaining skits. Theories abound as to the identity of the cornetist, who might have been Louis Metcalf, Ed Allen, Addington Major or Big Charlie Thomas. This fascinating collection which appeared on compact disc some seventy years after the original records were waxed is recommended for anyone who loves early jazz or would like to explore intriguing and unfamiliar territory.

Biography

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s

Big Charlie Thomas was one of many cornetists who recorded as sideman and accompanist during the 1920s, and have since drifted to the margins of jazz history. Like Ed Allen, he worked in groups that often had something or other to do with pianist and music publisher Clarence Williams. If Thomas' brief recording career is mapped out in discographical relief, the details are sketchy but fascinating. During the years 1925-1926 he is believed to have recorded with vocalists Rosa Henderson, Bessie Brown,...
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Big Charlie Thomas 1925-1927, Big Charlie Thomas
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